Further down the News Feed

I’ve been working on a series about the Lady Gaga phenomenon.  Part of it is to be published in the Queensland Baptist Magazine and the extended off-cuts will get a gig on this blog when the magazine goes to press.

Something I’ve addressed is the cheap comparisons made by commentators between Lady Gaga and Madonna.  I think it’s a lazy comparison because there are significant differences in the messages between the two. 

She ain't the "new" Madonna

Another profound difference between the two is the age in which they have risen to prominence – after all there have been twenty-five years of significant technological advances since Madonna first reached public consciousness. 

In pondering the difference between the media ages fueling the rise of these two pop icons it did provide me the opportunity to think how technology and social change makes a profound impact on all of us.

Madonna’s early trajectory was in 1983/4.  Her notoriety was broadcast by print media, radio and television.  She participated in the first global television concert, Live Aid, made possible by the wonder of new technology – the satellite.  In many respects her message, image and personal predilections reached her audience of fans via interpretation by old media.

Gaga’s trajectory has been the past 18 months, a time that has seen Facebook become a staple of life (crossing from early adopter status to necessary accessory for the broad populace).  In that time Twitter has emerged as the “new” phenomenon. 

Twitter has been shamelessly hijacked by celebrities to circumnavigate traditional media where the message is controlled by media owners and journalists.  Fans love it because it gives them a sense of direct connection to their celebrity of choice – the thought that within seconds they can digest information tweeted by their hero on the other side of the globe. 

Madonna gained her notoriety because she courted traditional media and became an easy headline or magazine cover. 

Lady Gaga enjoys a direct feed of communication to her fan base (11,500,000 on Facebook and counting).  Gaga has a level of connectedness to her fans that was impossible for Madonna in the 1980s, even when she was releasing her own movies (In Bed with Madonna).  Her message gets to her fan base with far less filtering or third-party interpretation.  And she’s exploiting it ruthlessly with several themed websites catering to different audiences, twitter feed and Facebook presence).  

Blond Ambition. Madonna circa the release of Like a Virgin (1984)

But the Facebook/Tweet phenomenon does create its own pressure that is not only felt by celebrity.  The ability to enjoy connectedness also creates a pressure to maintain it, and an expectation that it should happen.

My observation is that modern life has recently gained an additional pressure – the need to frequently update one’s “status” on Facebook and/or Tweet thoughts and whereabouts on Twitter. 

It’s not all bad – it’s kinda interesting to see what legitimate friends are up to and to connect with others who geography and time had rendered distant before the social media phenomenon.

But I wonder how many people are out there who fit the profile of having an ongoing obsession with their place on the News Feed in Facebook? 

In an era of constant, global updating, and “friends lists” running to hundreds of vague acquaintances, are we starting to see a condition best described as a hell-bent desire to keep one’s name up in lights by staying at the top of the News Feed?   

And what does that tell us about ourselves?

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