Follwers-Fame-Fortune: The future of the Internet Stars

Article and photographs by Elif Doganyigit
Pictures by Pixabay

The Internet has developed a new category of personality – the Internet Star. Internet fame can last from 15 minutes to a lifetime. All of a sudden, one can find themselves on the news or a late-night show. It’s even possible to build an entire empire out that fame. Many do not consider vlogging or blogging as a job, but it has developed into an industry that provides a career for many. How long can one make it last? Does it have an expiration date?

Internet fame is different than what we consider to that of a movie star, singer or model. The traditional understanding of fame depends on a celebrity’s popularity; how many TV or print features they have or how many people gossip about them on a daily basis. For instance, there is no scientific explanation of how Kim Kardashian has built an empire. She made a sex tape, had famous parents and used social media very well at an early stage, however, there is no empirical evidence. She did realise that internet fame had taken over the traditional rise in public appreciation. That is why she promoted her make-up line by a throwing a launch party that only famous YouTubers and bloggers were invited to. She featured on their YouTube channels, as the model for their make-up tutorials. It was a success for her line, and it helped YouTubers get more views.

We even see ex-celebrities starting YouTube channels to gain back their popularity. For example, former Disney star, Ashley Tisdale, started singing along with famous friends getting millions of views on each video. A successful attempt at reclaiming her old fame. Internet fame is much more intimate because the viewer feels a personal connection to the person on the screen. Where they appear more relatable and down-to-earth, other celebrities’ lifestyles seem extreme or dream-like, something that would not happen to ordinary people. The views may just be numbers, but they help the vloggers make a living. Every click on the play button takes them a step forward in their fame and fortune.

Ece Targit, a Turkish lifestyle YouTuber with almost a hundred thousand subscribers, says that she opened up her channel a year ago because she was not happy with her career path. “I was watching more online than I watched TV,” she says. “My friends kept encouraging me to open up a channel, that’s how I started.” Soon after Ece quit her job, starting to focus only on her channel.

She believes that fame through vlogging will last for a long time. She thinks at some point, YouTubers will stop making videos and will instead establish creative projects, “YouTube is a great platform to open new doors or a path that you have been looking for.”

In the past couple of years, we have started to see many Internet Stars collaborating with brands to launch products that Youtubers have designed. Despite products that seem to cost twice as much, loyal viewers are willing to spend their money on them. It’s a way to support that Internet Star. The viewer must have it because the YouTuber made it.

On the other hand, there are stars like vlogbrothers who make educational videos on topics like science, maths or history. Their ‘Project of Awesomeness’ encourages viewers to make videos about a small charity of their choice; the viewers then vote on the most deserving charities to get a fundraiser. The relationship between the star and the viewer is a support system, and mostly includes interaction which makes the Internet Star’s fame and fortune special.

Some Internet Stars have stopped making videos to move to a different career path, like television or acting. Michelle Phan (30 years old) dropped their careers because they couldn’t handle it. After ten years of uploading on YouTube, Michelle Phan had 8 million subscribers. Then suddenly, she disappeared and moved to Switzerland because she started feeling like a product rather than a person. As she explains in her ‘Why I Left’ video, “Money buys happiness they say, but all dreams come to an end.”

Ece sees a bright future for Internet Stars, but she has not planned her career path on YouTube. “For now, I always try to create new content for my viewers, try to find a way to interact with them to most.” Although she is hoping to use the people she meets during this process and her experiences as a YouTuber to make a new platform for her followers, she states that “I don’t think that I will be still on YouTube in 10 years.” Viewers might see future Ece on a different platform. Like her, other Internet Stars may create a new platform for their viewers or just move on to a different career they would like to do.

As a result, making the best of the platform now is all one can do.