friend of mine wants to be famous. That is to say she wants to profit from her own popularity. Literally make a career out of simply being her. In public. It’s the new definition of fame and it’s happening all the time. Started with reality TV. Now it’s vloggers. People recording their lives on cellphones, releasing it on YouTube and cultivating a following. Sometimes a massive following. To the point where some of these vloggers have quit their cubical jobs and now earn their living simply by existing in front of a lens.
To the envy of my friend. The career of simply existing. As far as she’s concerned, the fame – that is to say the public life – is inconsequential.
To this end, she began vlogging her life well over a year ago. Her spouse’s life. The lives of their children. Day and night. Inside the house, outside running errands. Everything. The monotony of American existence. For your viewing pleasure.
But here’s the thing: My friend’s life – the lives of her family – were just that. Monotonous. Ordinary. Boring. What’s more is she was editing out even the notion of conflict. Of drama. Anything that was too real. Too private. She wanted reality television style fame without giving anything up. A year later and the video view counter was still in the single digits.
But I had to admire her. She stuck to it. Camera always there. Always rolling. A webisode every day for over a year. Filtered and self-censored as it was. Emotionally devoid of any empathy. She kept at it. Thinking if she just put in the time, the public would grow to love her and her family. Thinking she’d eventually be rewarded with the massive following she so desperately wanted. Like; share; follow.
It was never, ever going to happen.
Then her brother in law shot a cop and locked himself in his house with an arsenal of guns.
The stand off lasted two days. The drama much longer. There was a media frenzy. The gun debate reignited. Controversy. Anger. Fear– It ended in tragedy.
My friend didn’t need to carry around her own camera anymore. They were being thrust in her face. Her family’s faces. That mass of followers? They were right outside her door. Finally interested in her mere existence.
How many people are ever personally affected by such a spectacular event? An event so pertinent to the socio-political climate? So charged with controversy? A few. True. No doubt. But how many of them just spent 18 months video taping their lives 24 hours a day? The lives of their family– My friend was suddenly sitting on a case study in the breakdown of modern western civilization! What seemingly innocuous comment could be found on that cutting room floor? What background action at some family picnic would shed light on the ticking time bomb that was the gun nut who finally snapped? This was so much more than a vlog now. This was fascinating. An unprecedented look into the lives of the family of a shooter before, during and after a shooting. The spin off potential was incredible: Books, talks, guest appearances. All the fame you’ve wanted times a thousand. Do you realize just what an incredible opportunity you’ve been handed?
She did. In fact, she stopped vlogging. Put away the cameras altogether. Stopped cold.
See, what she’d wanted more than anything was something she’d never truly understood. Something too big for her to handle. She’d been chasing the car to chase the car. Didn’t know what to do with it once she caught it.
I’ve been chasing cars a lot longer than her. I’d be lying if I said this story didn’t make me reflect on whether or not I’d balk given the ultimate opportunity. (And make no mistake, crisis is opportunity if you can keep a clear head). I have confidence that I wouldn’t flinch. I wouldn’t freeze. But it’s impossible to say. Until it happens.
The dust has settled. The story cooled. Society has moved on to the next shooting. Scratching our heads about the latest gun nut next door. My friend’s now putting together a fashion vlog.