I feel like this is the ugly side of one of the internet's best features: the ability for anyone to directly share their work, their talent, and their story with the world, without the need to sign their souls away to publishing companies.
Once upon a time, celebrities tended to be people who had risen to the top by "playing the game." They had to not only be special in a marketable way, they also needed to convince someone in the content industry to invest in them and put on TV, in movies, on the radio, etc.
The internet changed all that. Between Youtube, the blogosphere, and other forms of social media, everyone was given a DIRECT platform to share themselves and their work with the entire world. In most ways, this was a fantastic thing. It was likely the biggest blessing to artists since the phonograph. Suddenly, musicians could distribute their music without having to sign an album deal with someone who would change their lyrics, their image, and take the lion share of the profits. Comedians, actors, and amateur writer/directors could make videos and share them without risking everything to make it in Hollywood. All a person needed was a good product and word of mouth. Without a doubt, this was a blessing.
But like all blessings, there's another side to it, as well.
The ability to become famous (or at least “internet famous”) has made people - particularly young people born into the first generation for whom the internet, and it’s ability to make you popular has always been there – increasingly attention-hungry. Look at some of the stuff that people throw up on Youtube. People hurting themselves, humiliating themselves and others, and some of the stupidest acts I can ever imagine a person doing – all for the chance to gain that all-important popularity. And as the phenomenon of the internet celebrity grows, people get more and more desperate and determined to be the next big thing. And while most people just try to make something, one look at Tumblr will illustrate the fact that other method people use to gain popularity and attention is “the sympathy persona.”
The sympathy persona is simple – you create a persona that is struggling with something difficult – anything from the type of struggles people are dealing with every day - being gay, being transgendered, dealing with a disease – to increasingly questionable, invariably self-diagnosed, and sometimes completely made up, issues such as being an “Otherkin” or having a “headmate.” Then you share your “struggles” with a crowd, trying to pull as much sympathy as possible. Usually, this just manifests itself in the form of talking about how society doesn’t understand you, share articles about discrimination against people with your “condition,” etc.
But more and more; these people are going beyond simply creating a persona and making up experiences. Now, they’re going to elaborate lengths to create hoaxes to further their personas. At least twice that I can remember in the past year or so, we’ve been treated to stories that went viral of a waitress being stiffed on a tip, with some sort of hateful message left on the receipt – both of which turned out to be fake. I’ve read at least three stories now of women who have either fabricated an ex-boyfriend/stalker/misogynist, complete with fake social media platforms, or else actually recruited someone else to play the part; in order to convince people that they were either rape victims, or under threat of becoming rape victims.
It seem to me that Spears began by simply creating a blog with the persona of a widowed mother dealing with the death of her fabricated KIA police husband. As she got more into it, she started using her little boy to gain further attention; and ultimately killed him in the process.
It makes me wonder; is this the other shoe dropping? Is this the second edge of the sword?