Eight teens from Florida are facing possible life in prison for the alleged kidnapping and beating of a 16 year old classmate. According to a CNN report, their homemade reality TV episode was video taped with the intention of posting it on YouTube for millions of people to view. Six of the eight teenagers are girls who range in age from 14 to 18 who were seen on video doing the beating while the boys involved acted as lookouts. CNN
Dozens of lives are being permanently altered by a new kind of addiction that's sweeping across the globe at an alarming pace. Attention is an equal opportunity addiction that does not hook only teenagers but puts many adults at risk as well. I'm convinced that the videotaped beating in Florida is only the tip of more significant iceberg. The most frightening reality about this new drug is that access is available 24 hours a day to anyone willing to pay an internet service provider (ISP).
Attention has been elevated as one the most actively traded commodities on the world wide web, worth it's weight in imaginary gold. With the sudden rise in popularity of sites like YouTube, Myspace, Facebook and Flickr anyone can produce and post content of any kind with access to millions of eyes within seconds. One popular video, photo or "post de jour" can garner hundreds of thousands of hits in less than an hour. A distinction that has become the new online currency. Anyone who has been the recipient of such global attention can confirm how addicting that kind of exposure can be. One taste of instant popularity can prove to be a lethal dose. For teenagers, the promise of short-term celebrity is approached with reckless abandon focused only on the rush rather than on the reality of consequences. This week another case of a video taped beating in Clarksville, Indiana was reported involving middle school girls ages 12 to 14. One girl is seen being beaten while others stand by laughing, the clip was posted on PhotoBucket a popular video-sharing site. [CNN]
Attention which equals acceptance, has become a valuable currency that thousands trade daily. Especially so for teenagers who can be found on YouTube often posting video ramblings because they can [link]. Never before in history could we experience so many nobodies finding their identity as a perfect somebody in cyberspace. Cable television has paved the way with their own scripted versions of reality programs making mega-stars out of average people only serving to heighten the lust for micro-celebrity. In 1968 Andy Warhol said; "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes." Warhol may have foreseen this age coming by understanding the uncontrollable human desire for attention coupled with the rise of mass media. The internet, social networks and cable TV have provided the perfect launchpad for short-term, disposable celebrity. These broadcast mediums may very well have positioned our culture for the perfect storm, mainlining a dangerous street drug of a different kind. Supported by portable media devices like the iPhone and video iPods that no longer tie us to our television sets. A mico-media revolution that I believe is still in its infancy. It's 7:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night, do you know what your teenagers are doing online? I do.
"In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people." A quote attributed to Scotish artist Momus