Celebrities and social media

I had never seen this site until yesterday - I saw it mentioned on Facebook and clicked a link:

It is interesting how our world has changed… Celebrities used to be people you would only see in a movie or on television.

I doubt I would EVER pay for a message from a celebrity. Not really my thing. But, I will say that in 2019, it is crazy that you can pay anywhere between $25 to $100 or more (some of these guys charge a fortune) for a short, personalized selfie video directed at you by the celebrity of your choice. That’s pretty wild!

Honestly - it is kind of amazing that something like this caught on… I watched a few video clips from a few of the people on the site as I browser around. Just the concept is pretty crazy. I assume the website keeps a % of the take. But still… There are quite a few people on the site, and many are $100 or less…

I spent the last 15 min looking thru the site at the various actors and celebrities on it. Who was the genius who came up with the site and got the first few people to sign on? Maybe it’s been around for a while - one of ya’ll might know. I had never heard of it before, though…

Anyone here ever heard of it before? It’s kind of a crazy concept I think. But, very interesting take on how times change…

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What does it say about me that “Word Up” came into my mind when I saw Cameo? :smiley:


That song was on the radio last night - hahahaha. My son had never heard it before


I find it interesting how something can seem wild and out of nowhere from one perspective, and then from another feel like simply a next logical step. (My formal training is history, and this was kind of the crux of a paper I sent as a writing sample for graduate school applications–though not related to social media, since it didn’t exist when I wrote the paper.) Basically, this is weird…

…until you look at Comic-Con culture, where celebrities of various degrees charge that much for personalized autographs or, if you’re lucky, fan-directed photo opportunities so it can look like you’re palling around with Ron Perlman or Lucy Lawless or Death Star Technician #3. I saw one kind of bizarre photoset some guy did where he went to these Comic-Con photo ops and asked celebrities to look annoyed at him in the photos.

So, I think it’s actually just a tiny step on in that sort of culture. And I don’t think it’s such a bad thing, so long as no one’s getting exploited or forced into it on the actor/performer side. I have my reservations about what this culture does on the fan side, and its impact on art, but that’s a subject for a lengthier post.


I find the concept sad, creepy, disturbing, and dangerous: sad that we’re celebrating the live-auctioning of social status and the actual time/life of some of the most publicly prominent members of society; creepy that its performative nature is more valuable the less distinct it is from the individuals involved; disturbing in its abasement of individuation free of influence transactional and status exchanges inevitably, perhaps unconsciously/subliminally exert over the formation of identity (both within and without the self); dangerous in promoting a level of exposure prone to exploitation especially in an era of deep fakes and such. Anonymized options, for example, to host a Twitch stream are not yet up to privacy par, animoji being the closest but then also needs audio masking for the voice which can be reverse-engineered much more easily than an animoji… Those growing up in this transition period where connection is available but safeguards and respect for its limitations’ importance aren’t yet are incentivized by the feeling of having nothing to lose and everything to gain by hurling themselves into the limelight.


I’ve never found the attraction of autograph hunting, selfies with celebrities etc. I know I’ve met them and that is all that matters to me, I don’t need to prove I’ve met them. On the other hand, I don’t go out of my way to meet celebrities - we had a post about celebs you’ve met a while back and I recounted there those I had met. A vast majority were people I had just bumped into in normal settings. I never treated them any differently than anyone else, never pestered them for a photo or autograph or pushed to hear any celeb gossip from them.

I certainly wouldn’t pay for a photo or autograph, let alone a “personalised” video.


This is the way to post a link. You really got me thinking. Once I signed up for a message from time to time from one of the flashy young tech pundits. Thought it is less than one message a month, I still quickly found it creepy. I can’t imagine having “personal” video messages from a stranger.

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I mentioned on that celebrity thread that I do collect autographs. But, this is not my thing. I found the whole concept of that website unusual.

I would never be interested paying for a video. But, I think if you had a close friend who was having a birthday or something… And they were crazy for a particular star. Think about how amazed they would be to have a short, personalized video from that star.

That is about the only thing I could see as a purpose for that website in my life.

I find this reaction totally fascinating, in part for the reasons I outlined above. Do you feel the same way about those Comic-Con photo opportunities, or even personalized autographs? Or fan mail responses, for that matter? Social media interaction? Those are all earlier, sort of lower resolution version of the same thing, and are equally if not more prone to counterfeiting, exploitation, etc. And I’m super curious about the other concerns, about how this affects the formation of identity, for instance, or how you see anonymization through something like animoji being relevant to this?

I know something of the struggle of working actors, and personally I think this is not a terrible way for them to monetize the lulls between projects to some extent and smooth out the hills and valleys of gig work compensation. It’s far from ideal, I think, but not in and of itself a threat to the fabric of society or anything.

I think you’ve lost the plot with the humans involved: it’s the tokenization of identity and social status into transactionalism animating all of these exchanges that I find most disturbing throughout. The reasons such exchanges happen and are treated as valuable are all corrosive ones to art, artist, and fan alike, IMO (and, yes, to society as well). I think you are gravely mistaken in seeing a continuum between fan mail and a video “shout-out” or mini-film for the material differences and their liabilities mentioned above (animoji anonymizing a livestream I mentioned as mitigating such liability, not as a foil to identity formation).

The impact on working actors and other artists/producers/creators is better mitigated, IMO, by direct support from fans not filtered through the lens of objectification’s self-abasement, such as through a Patreon sponsorship where rewards do not and are not meant to equivocate occasion for interaction with compensation therefor but rather revolve around the actor’s actual work and the fan’s appreciation thereof and support of the artist as an independent individual distinct from their ability to produce such work, even as the fan’s contributions facilitate its production.

I disagree, to a certain extent. I mean, for starters, I wholly agree that a model like Patreon sponsorship is a good, positive, and healthy way to enable art. But I will also stand by my thesis that this is not some sudden and pernicious “tokenization of identity and social status” and that, yes, it is indeed on a continuum with fan mail, personalized autographs, and photo ops. But you mistake me if you think I don’t recognize the tokenization, I’m just puzzled by why this in particular triggers that observation, which is why I asked if you felt the same about my other examples. Such tokenization as you say has been with humanity since practically the beginning of the concepts of public identity and social status. It’s baked into the very concept of celebrity. You’re essentially just asserting that their fame, itself, is a market commodity.

What I personally find refreshing about things like Cameo is that, in theory, it puts the power to capitalize on that fame commodity more in the hands of the artists and allows them to find their own long tail. They don’t need a Comic-Con, and they don’t need to be ready to greet hundreds of people an hour, or sign thousands of autographs at a go to benefit from it. This assumes, of course, that Cameo is up-and-up and that everyone involved is able to set their own price point, etc.

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I never said it was sudden; was it not clear enough from what I said that I view celebrity culture to be pernicious, tokenized, and status-commodification? It’s on a continuum from a fan’s perspective and culturally, not materially, which is where my stated critique focused; that said, exchanging support from production to fan interaction is IMO a Faustian bargain for art in rewarding the erosion of fans’ (and the artist’s) identity in favor of constructed ones that fakery directly underwrites, a chilling self-reinforcing dynamic, and it is from that perspective I view it to be corrosive of identity, art, and society. Fame as a commodity has nothing to do with creativity.

Artists and other creatives as well as their fans are better served, IMO, by direct gifts or tips; small-scale collaborations incidentally are fine. Yoking one to the other in a tit-for-tat predicating the artifact of the exchange upon that link and that artifact’s value as a commodity and social status token is where it goes wrong, IMO. Fans and artists should be loathe to associate the two; instead, social media’s pay-for-attention metrics incentivize both sides of the equation to erase all distinction between them, and that again I find pernicious, immolative of individuation, and corrosive to both identity and society.

Perhaps an analogy might prove helpful (though it could just as easily mire us in allusive harranguing, so fingers crossed, here…): imagine a watercolor landscape artist finding time only ever to do portraiture as essentially a busker. It may be virtual so not actually out on the street, but really the trend toward direct fan token works is IMO roughly equivalent.

My apologies on misunderstanding. I read in the acuteness of opposition to this service a certain feeling of it being a bridge too far, which is why I was curious about your feelings toward precursor tokenization. I don’t disagree that celebrity can be corrosive to both art and identity, but I also know that it has ever been thus. How many rich Italians are immortalized as apostles and mythic heroes because they provided room, board, and allowance to Renaissance masters, for instance? Likewise, the subjugation or erosion of personal identity of a consumer/fan has always been a thing and would continue to be a thing if it did not have art and artists to focus on. This, again to me, seems somewhat fundamental to human nature in an indelible way.

Now, that said, I do believe that there is a direct benefit to art and artists both in the opportunity for artists to interact with fans, and I know artists, writers, and actors who derive benefit from interactions with fans. It can inform and humanize their work in a way that a more sterile, arm’s length patronage would not. It’s not zero sum, in other words, because the artist does not make art in a vacuum, and needs interaction beyond their art and remuneration for it in order to produce more art.

Do I believe that a watercolor landscape artist should be required to spend the bulk of their time on portraiture? No, of course not, but this opens up a whole other discussion of what artists must do to pay the bills in general, and communal support overall for anyone to pursue their passions. All artists must and, again, pretty much have always had to deal with this tension between what pays the bills and following their true art’s path, whatever that may be. See again the Renaissance masters and direct patronage. The tension between “money pictures” and “art pictures” in Hollywood. Ran across a lovely article not that long ago, as it happens, profiling actors David Dastmalchian and Karen Gillan talking about the personal projects they’ve been able to get going and get support for directly due to their involvement in Marvel movies. Or a writer like Lawrence Block subsisting on writing smut before his mystery and thriller novels caught on. Those are directly analogous to the watercolor landscape artist doing portraiture to pay the bills.

And again, I suggest that this sort of thing can inform and improve the artists’ “core” work and passion. Artists often benefit from working in various and disparate genres and even forms of art, and the one which is their passion can even shift over time, so that perhaps at one time they were making money at their passion, but now it is just the thing they do to pay the bills and support their other, less successful art.

In terms of Faustian bargains, then, this is the one that literally everyone makes in order to provide for their needs. I enjoy working in IT for the opportunity to solve problems and learn new things, but if I didn’t need to do it to provide for me and my children, I certainly wouldn’t subject myself to the depredations of corporate worklife. And while it might inform and enable my hobbies and other passions, I could certainly do with less of it. But, my skill in IT is like a celebrity’s fame–it is the commodity with which I have to trade in the present socioeconomic environment. It is far from ideal, but short of a massive paradigm shift in how humanity views work and reward and subsistence, it’s what we’ve got.

Now, again, perhaps I’m misunderstanding because we started narrowly discussing this one model of commodifying fame, but it does seem to me that you’re actually frustrated with the entire system as it stands. The problem isn’t celebrity qua celebrity, but larger, deeper, more fundamental concepts of value and worth and work and so on. Is that correct, or am I barking up the wrong tree?

I think a litle bit: most of your argumentation revolves around art, whereas I’m more concerned with creativity, understanding, and enlightenment that can come about through artistic work, and so my opposition is less to transactions per se and more to any influence that would promote their primacy, let alone cultural acceptance—let alone embrace—thereof, which I see you to be doing enthusiastically, albeit out of economic desperation; celebrity culture wedded to the attention economy of social media is so far as I’m concerned a new breed of hellspawn predicated upon divorcing value from meaning while generating value from that destruction as a counterfeit or rival thereto and preoccupation/distraction/rejection of self-reflection and the understanding and enlightenment which I consider to be the point of art. Is it possible for fan side-jobs to be clever and interesting for the artist and amusing to fans? Sure. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to claim that the vast majority of its noise will outweigh any signal, even for the artist’s own reputation, and that’s where I think it’s a Faustian bargain. That’s why it’s possible to be a sell-out even to your own fans, and not just to big studios, in my book.

Removing pay-for-play makes fan interaction sterile? I quite disagree. Part of an artist’s living I think is for there to be an intellectual point to the work, otherwise they are a craftsperson (whom I do not mean to disparage, but for craft there is no cultural meaning to be derived from the work). Interactions driven by meaning rather than economics or status are so much more meaningful because of the sacrifice of time on balance which they therefore represent to the participants.

I reject the applicability of those citations to my argument, though: Eric Barone who single-handedly created the smash “indie” hit game Stardew Valley making him now a multi-millionaire did so working part-time for 4 years as a local theater usher with the additional support of his girlfriend. It’s a cliché that actors work restaurants on the side. The impact of “paying the bills” on the artist has nothing to do with their work from a cultural perspective and shouldn’t lead to acceptance of compromised artistic and cultural standards. That smut writing paid better than Block’s work says more in favor of my argument, I think, than against, inthat I indict fans perhaps even more than I do artists in social-media chicanery. If you as a friend of working artists argue on their behalf that fan tomfoolery is better than grinding anonymity, I think you’ve drunk the Kool-Aid of fame-as-industry and that they don’t deserve to call themselves artists; that said, a celebrity or artist paling around with fans and getting paid to do so as a public rent-a-friend is, I guess, kind of fine, but only insofar as it’s never regarded to be anything more (artists whose time is already valuable, though, could legitimate charges for spending it on individual fans from a completely different position, like a lawyer’s billable hours (another analogy…), but that’s still entirely different than those hours’ being both why they exist and supplying their value, again that self-reinforcing “progress”-trap).

Fame being a calling-card often occasioning opportunity has nothing to do with the artistic integrity of how those without it get by; I think you’re just used to friends complaining to you about the injustice of the industry and public’s limited capacity to process and reward art, and that’s a problem of the culture even deeper-seated than art itself. You also seem jealous of artists for their work being less unpleasant than how you make your living while angling to become one of them in spirit to some degree, which I find to be introducing some self-contradiction in your argumentation vis a vis arguing for pimping oneself out to fans over soul-sucking drudgery work such as IT, as though unaware of the contradiction between your call for supporting artists through earnings of such as your current work on the one hand, and on the other advocating that fans devote time away from whatever work they do to earn how they support artists in order to pay them directly for interaction. Furthermore, the prospects for a sub-class of supporters who are neither artist nor interacting fan subsidizing both those classes IMO only bolsters my point.

Wow there’s a lot of worldview to unpack here, but let me give it a try. First, I suppose, let’s establish some baselines, because I think we are talking at cross-purposes to some extent or another and we regard artistic expression through different lenses.

  1. To what “artistic and cultural standards” do you hold art and artistic expression?
  2. Is the “meaning” in art tied to its impact on the individual consumer, or some larger scale impact?
  3. At what threshold is an artist considered a “sell-out”?
  4. In what way is “grinding anonymity” a qualitatively better experience for an artist than engaging in “fan tomfoolery”?
  5. What qualifies someone to call themselves an artist?

Because I think, fundamentally, we regard art and artistic expression rather differently. Art and artistic expression serve an array of functions, publicly and privately, and to me are not limited to fostering creativity, enlightenment, and understanding (unless you define those words rather more broadly than I suspect you do). I mean, for starters, you leave out “entertain” which I think is a crucial and inescapable aspect of art.

Moreover, I’m a bit flummoxed that you think I am suggesting fans must necessarily deprive themselves of a living to engage with artists in such a way. Can you pinpoint where you think I have implied such? My assumption in all of this is that the monetary cost of fan engagement in this situation is done from whatever reasonable excess-to-needs they have and would otherwise spend on such things. My further assumption is that the art itself would still be a higher economic priority than this interaction and thus would not detract from whatever earning the artist could otherwise hope for from their art. Perhaps that might be true for some small percentage of individual cases, but not sufficient to move any particular needle in terms of it being zero sum. Perhaps that’s also part of your point that I’m losing in the verbiage. Are you suggesting that fans will perforce prefer this kind of interaction to consuming art, and thus the artist will find it more lucrative to prioritize such “fan tomfoolery” over their art? Because, I gotta tell ya mate, that ain’t how fame works. Especially not in the Comic-Con continuum.

I’m really not sure it’s productive for either of us for me to fully address all aspects of our erstwhile discussion, howevermuch I’ve been misunderstood (esp. point 4, which was the opposite: what I found you to be saying, effectively, even as your argument was the inverse) and I suspect no one else is reading this thread, at this point. Suffice to say yes, we view art very differently.

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Yeah, I’m feeling equally misunderstood here. And puzzled. So, perhaps letting it be is for the best.

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Wow. @philodygmn @DayKay Huge round of applause for the effort here. I have no clue what point(s) either of you were trying to convince the other of. And that’s on me, not either of you. Also impressed with the exit strategy.


I’ll add my name to yours! The topic sure went deep pretty fast but interesting nonetheless!:joy:

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