A few years ago I was sitting at Musso & Frank's Grill in Hollywood waiting with some friends while our students were doing field research on the streets when a Southerner (I would know that accent anywhere) stopped with pen in hand and asked, "Are you someone?" My friends thought it was funny though the tourist thought less so when I responded, "Isn't everyone?" Andy Warhol coined the phrase "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes" in 1968, so I guess I have 14 minutes left after that encounter.
While Warhol's phrase has since passed into popular culture, today, a more recent study by Seth Godin (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/) suggests that everyone is famous to at least 1500 people and some are famous to 3,000 or more.He explains the popularity of social media has created "followers" whom he identifies as "tribes." People who take their lead from someone else.
Evidently the race to be slightly famous is on, and it’s being fueled by the social and tribal connections permitted by the net. We give a lot of credit and faith to the famous, but now there are a lot more of them/us. When you are famous that changes things. You are given a great deal of trust and the benefit of the doubt more quickly. That is a lot to carry once you realize its truth.
Those people know you. And because of your place in their lives most of them trust you. That’s a heavy thing when you think about it.
No matter how you may feel about famous people, and, many of us are reluctant to grant them any special stature, they are accorded a special audience in our circle of followers. Now you and I must realize that we have met the famous and them is us! Our words, actions, and, decisions are accorded a higher level of acceptance as well as a heightened level of scrutiny.
Is it important to know to whom you are famous? You bet it is. Your “tribe” (group of followers) is always chewing on the next thing, discussing the next idea, processing, absorbing and moving on. Is it any wonder that a new idea, action, or, decision will be moved to the top of your tribe's list? You are famous to them.
If this theory turns out to be true, and, I believe there is certainly more than a grain of truth in it, our words must be chosen with extreme care. No longer can we blurt out what flows through our minds without reviewing it for accuracy, clarity, and, grace. No longer can we choose an activity simply because it pleases us, but, rather we must consider the consequences on our followers.
Over time, says Seth Godin, once everyone is famous, the pressure will fade, but right now, the trust and benefit of the doubt we accord the famous is quite valuable and not a little frightening.
A good time to remember the words of our Lord in Matthew 18:6, “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” After all, many of our followers will be the children in our families and in our sports, music, drama, and, school groups, and many others who, like the less mature, make decisions based on their feelings, especially, their feelings about us, the famous.