Digital Narcissism and The “Me-Brand”,

One of the more facinating aspects of Web 2.0 these days, is the emergence of self made online stars, and social media experts. Or for that matter, self-created personas.  Not that it’s something that has appeard overnight, but it is something that seems to be growing at  an exponential rate.

Let me explain. Part of the reason that YouTube, MySpace and Facebook, to name a few, have become so popular is the freedom to express oneself in creative ways. The tools that these sites provide empower the user. 7 years ago we wanted to package these tools and sell them as “content managment solutions”. Someone beat everyone to the point and said, why don’t we just release these tools as a  free web service that users can use to communicate and share and interact with others.

What this has fostered though, is the desire for people to show the world or their web audience what they’re all about.  In some cases, with all it’s flaws, cracks, and boorish moments. It’s their way of creating their own star vehicles without the assistance of PR companies, 8×10 glossies and breakout movie roles. All it takes is for someone to virally pass the message, the image, the  words or whatever of that person on to another, and it spreads faster than dead grass burning in the summer. It will appeal to someone. In some cases, it will appeal to a lot of people.

If that happens, some web savvy individuals take that to the next level and parlay their instant web street cred stardom in dollars.

It’s perpetuated though by the users, the audience and the readers who for whatever reason have this voyeuristic thirst for this type of content. Amateur content if you will, thrives online because it’s real. Why do you think Americas funniest videos was able to thrive? Because, we were seeing people as they really were. In their worst and best moments. That same premise exists today currently with the social networking sites, and historically with online chat. The package isn’t packaged, it’s not watered down, it’s real. Real to the extent, that who we are watching or what we are reading is who they really are. Or what they want us to think.

Lets not forget that the Net has a way of distorting things, even when it comes to social networking. We can create a version of who we are, and we can step into that skin and be that person, even to the extent that that person can go on a webcam and be someone that they are not. Why? Digital narcissim. A desire to be something that we are not. To enjoy the exposure of our nameless and faceless peers to the extent that we are willing to go farther online then we would ever go in our real world lives.

It’s almost as if the 20 minutes of fame can be extended online indefinitely. Because the lights never go off online, there is always an audience somewhere for your brand. Even communication has taken on a new meaning online. A new universal language is spoken online. TTYL, BBL, OMG. Your brand, as niche-like as it can possibly be, has an audience somewhere. Because of the diverse nature and universal appeal of everything digital, you can feed the habit, grow your brand and extend it as far as you can, merely by finding your clan. Your pack. Your tribe.

Once you find it, you can be whoever you want to be and market and package yourself, whatever way you want to be perceived; and people, Your people, have no choice but to buy what you are selling, because you have found each other. You’re the brand they were looking for. My only other question would be, How cannibalistic are these tribes?  Do they eat their own? My guess is that there are unspoken and unwritten rules that are played out time and time again. If the rules are violated, regardless of your brand. You can flame out pretty quickly. So my guess is yes, the web does eat its own.