Four Seconds of Internet Fame

Here’s the story of how over two weeks, a “nobody” went from 10 to 100 to 10,000 followers on Instagram, having two fan pages, and a social media stalker.

And I’m not proud to admit that the story is about my nine-year-old daughter.

Rightly or wrongly, I’ve subscribed to the notion that when it comes to the wild world of the Internet and social media, I want my kids to experience, and make their mistakes when they are young — and their transgressions relatively small. As someone whose business has been in watching trends for over 20 years, I’ve observed with a combination of a trained sociologist and the wariness of a young parent the explosion of a new digital world. I have eased sighs of relief as my children tried out Kik, Snap Chat, Moshi Monsters and other “kid” based apps and sites to no issue under my watchful eye.

But even as a predictor of the future, I wasn’t ready for the speed at which Instagram would catch fire, and before one could apply a photo filter, over one million tweens joined the service in July 2012 alone (according to Nielsen). So when my kids wanted to join, I allowed them, carefully outlining the types of photos they should post, never to tag friends who weren’t allowed on, and to let me know of anything untoward or inappropriate on there. Everything was fine.

And then my daughter got “famous.”

Well, lets be clear, not famous, just… Internet famous. My daughter is a very good dancer, extremely flexible and adorable. And she is one of a tremendous number of tweens who follow the show Dance Moms as if it were a marathon One Direction concert. If you’re not familiar with the fervor with which this show is received, you should check out any one of its’ talented tween stars Instagrams. Each has 300,0000 to over 500,000 followers and countless fan sites. Because of my business, I wound up meeting and working with some the cast. They couldn’t have been sweeter to my daughter, and they became friends. And as many group of friends today do, the girls posted photos with my daughter. Thus, the frenzy began. Rumors started swirling whether my daughter was the newest cast member? Was related to the girls? Or why she was suddenly all over their feeds. No matter how much my daughter, her brother, or the girls themselves denied it, the interest in Lilia grew. Over night she had over 2,000 new followers. By the end of the week, she had two fan pages. (FAN PAGES??!!!) and even the video I had posted on YouTube for her grandmother in London to see was getting “favorited.”

By the second week, she had endless requests to release her (nonexistent) Kik, girls begging to be her best friend, and countless pleas for replies. And that weekend, she received a call and texts from a “fan” who increasingly became frustrated that Lilia would not respond, and threatened to release her number (How she even got it remains a mystery).

So a girl, who did nothing, was not on a show, was not in the public eye, and was just your normal kid suddenly had fans and a stalker?

Today, tweens, and frankly all of us, are looking for cues of what to pay attention to . We are so eager to find the next trend, and be the first to discover it that we will jump on anything with heat, only to discover that not only does the emperor have no clothes, but he has no followers. Tweens today have to navigate not only the struggles of getting older, but learning to discern fact from fiction in a world that few of us can truly decipher.

Another friend told me that her daughter felt her friendships had become threatened, and competitive. If two girls were off together and posting photos, two more of the group would feel the need to show that they were having a better time. Besties and BFFL’s were used like currency, and birthdays became an occasion to see who could post a longer “friendship love letter” and if the use of each emoticons cost money, we’d all be bankrupt by now.

Just as I was ready to shut it all down, my daughter decided to pull herself off. Though, as you can’t actually delete an Instagram account, she simply decided to stop posting. I can do nothing about her fan pages, who to this day remain loyal and scour the internet for photos I didn’t even know existed on line.

We suggested that she could create a new account, keep it private, and accept only her close friend. But she decided not to. As she said, “I think I’m too addicted to it, I don’t need it or want it.” There was no better lesson we could have taught her, or ourselves.

Featured image via Shutterstock

  • Daniel Bryant

    in many ways it seems like the internet causes more trouble than it does good, especially with kids and teenagers, what with all the bullying and whatnot, and things your son or daughter might not even think about, a picture in the pool or flexing their muscles or whatever can easily get into the hands of paedophiles. when i have children i’m definitely going to limit their internet usage down— and they are definitely NOT getting their own cell phones.

    i have considered several times just disconnecting it altogether and going old fashioned, but it’s so difficult to live your life without it— when you work or go to school, everyone expects you to have a smartphone and a computer and constant internet access, and if you don’t have those, communicating with you is considered an inconvenience.

    when my dad grew up in the 1960s, there were no cell phones, internet, there weren’t even answering machines. when you called someone on the phone and they didn’t pick up, they just weren’t there, and you could do nothing except hang up the phone. now, it’s the polar opposite, it’s impossible to escape your online persona and people have contact with you 24/7. i think it’s time that we asked the question if being connected all the time is really good for us. the internet certainly has done a lot of good in terms of accountability for public officials, making freedom of speech possible in places it wasn’t previously, getting people together from all over the world to solve problems, but when it gets to be that you can no longer just be “you”, it’s like each and every one of us is a celebrity— we have fans, followers, and are subject to public scrutiny. we have to watch where we go, what we do, to keep our “public image” positive. is that really a healthy thing for anyone to do 24/7, let alone a child?

  • Christina Konze

    Wow, that is extremely interesting and strange that your daughter had so many “friends” and followers for not even doing anything. I find that somewhat terrifying and intriguing. I’m not sure if kids in my generation, who didn’t always have the internet, would react the same way at that age. Social media are so different now, and while they may be beneficial, they’re also turning us into a weird sort of species…

  • Jenny Garnsey

    I have a young family member that had “jokingly” posted twice things that you just should not post. It was meant as a joke, but she’s had police show up at least once to make sure she wasn’t really suicidal. I will not name this person, but the point that I’m trying to make is that everyone has to be careful what they post on the internet. Even e-mails get shared with people who have no right knowing your personal business. All one has to know is the password to read material that was meant for one person’s eyes only, and you had no idea they had access to it. Everything is watched on FB, Twitter, and just about every social website. I, myself, am bad enough when it comes to being addicted to facebook. It sucks you in and you can’t help but keep scrolling. What is even more worrying is that it is a fact that people stalk others through these sites. Its such an issue that on the Family Fued game, where they had poled over 100 people about what Facebook is primarily used for, the number 1 answer was to stalk people. I’m not kidding. This is crazy stuff. Be careful.

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