If the internet’s taught us anything, it’s that anyone can become famous, so long as they find their niche. In the past few years, pretty nobodies have made lucrative careers as Instagram models. Average funny people in the office decide to put their material out there and transform into YouTube sensations. A painfully mediocre lounge singer rises to fame with his song “Haven’t Met You Yet” and sustains a career destroying all of Sinatra’s hits. There’s no question that technology is changing the definition of talent, but what does that mean for us?
While online entertainment exposes us to a wider range of styles and interests, it has also lowered the bar for what is considered entertaining or even intelligent. Social media has enabled us to construct our ideal personas laden with humor, filtered professional-looking photographs and trivial accomplishments that warrant the praise and affection of relatives, friends and a host of fake friends. Through this, we achieve a microcelebrity status. Before social media, no one really cared what everyday folks had to say. No one besides our parents would be interested in a black-and-white photo of ourselves in a gymnastics position. No one in their right mind would watch a man in a pink suit playing with garbage in a self-indulgent marathon or read a somebody’s page-long Facebook diatribe about the previous election.
As social media has allowed a slew of average people to pervade the realm of importance, it has also left us with a more tangible record of our personalities, desires, politics and priorities. Our generation will be the first generation subjected to this intricate posthumous scrutiny of our tweets, Facebook accounts and whatever weird brain chip we’ll be wearing in 30 years. Although digging through Ellis Island archives, censuses and arrest records can help me construct a better picture of my heritage, I am forced to rely primarily on oral traditions to determine the narratives of ancestors, which may not be entirely accurate. Your Great-uncle Gino, whom your grandmother calls a God-fearing man, was actually a notorious cattle thief in your homeland.
People yearn to be remembered. The surface area on which an average person can now make a stain has augmented. And so each joke attempted by a mediocre comedian or disgruntled political tweet launched by a pseudo-intellectual is just our human compulsion to feel special. We’ve taken this validation to a new level, inciting entire careers based off of a meager or invisible presence of talent.
And so I beseech you, my brothers and sisters in averageness, to strive for higher in what we accept as beautiful, entertaining or funny. Refuse to elevate garbage excuses of parents, “MommyOFive” and “DaddyOFive,” who broadcast the abuse of their five children under the guise of comedy. Reconsider following amateur Instagram models or wannabe celebrities. Use your social media to scout legitimate talent, don’t delude yourself into thinking the pathetic dribblings of some pathetic YouTuber are of value. I know this is coming off as rather elitist, especially since I consider poop jokes to be Emmy-worthy, but if we settle for humor and entertainment that is of a lower caliber, we risk dulling our sensibilities and our sense of what it means to have talent.
Kristen DiPietra is a junior double-majoring in English and human development.