Are they simply seeking fame?

This month Facebook turned 10 years old (Oremus, 2014). Our daily lives are now filled with retweets, trending topics and likes. I think everyone can acknowledge the ground-shifting, wave-making changes social media has wrought on personal interactions, social connectivity, journalism and marketing. This week PBS aired “Frontline: Generation Like” (2014), which explored the invasiveness of the social media marketing world that is captivating teens to an extent where they are becoming willing players in viral marketing campaigns, gaining attention and building their own celebrity brands.

Screen shot 2014-02-21 at 8.54.17 PM

Correspondent Douglas Rushkoff explored social media as a tool of empowerment for teens to gain a voice in a cluttered online world (2014). Teens are finding their voices through engaging with marketing campaigns – whether liking Oreo on Facebook or gaming their way to top fan status for Hunger Games: Catching Fire teens are playing into the hands of marketers amplifying strategic promotions (Koughan & Rushkoff, 2014). One marketer, Bonin Bough, likened this proliferation of marketing engagement, as “the biggest change we have had in communicating with consumers in our lifetime – to stand on the sideline is not an option” (Koughan & Rushkoff, 2014). Rushkoff (2014) noted, “this is where the currency of likes turns into actual currency.”

However, “Generation Like” only scraped the surface of the psychological motivations for the social media addiction of the youngest members of the Millennials. They are responding to the basic teen needs of attention, self-empowerment and validation (Koughan & Rushkoff, 2014). But, the scope is so much bigger – and viral. “Generation Like” is responding to the pervasive celebrity commodity culture, which has developed with reality television and the need for fame. The teens that have reached large social media audiences are content with accepting sponsorships and schilling for corporate brands to attain celebrity status and perks.

Tween capturing selfie for instagram.

Tween featured in “Generation Like” capturing selfie for instagram.

The celebration of celebrity has created a generation seeking only fame for fame’s sake. In fact, two of the tweens interviewed started in social media to share their respective talents – skateboarding and singing. However, once they secured a following, they simply had to “be” to be liked, praised and grow their “brands”. Their social media connections become their “fans” and the sponsorships they receive are aligned with their “celebrity” status. This concept was only amplified by the inability for teens to define what “selling out” means.

I don’t know about you, but this is one Millennial that felt really old watching this documentary.


Koughan, F. (Producer/Writer), & Rushkoff, D. (Producer/Writer/Correspondent). (2014, February 18). Generation Like [Television series episode]. Frontline. Boston, MA: WGBH.

Oremus, W. (2014, February 3). Facebook was born 10 years ago. Here’s what it looked like. Slate. Retrieved from



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4 Responses to Are they simply seeking fame?

  1. Sandra Colton says:

    Your post reminded me of a lecture I heard by a speaker by the name of Paolo Ferrarini of the Future Concept Lab in Milan ( He spoke about the need of companies to study the communication, urbanization, retail and consumption of people around the world. He used phrases like “cool hunting” and “cult searching” and likened it to the research of human behavior but on a much deeper and cultural level. I find that your comments on “Generation Like” being a sort of willing vehicle for marketing campaigns to be fascinating and very in tune with his assertion that “innovation changes the behaviors of people.” With technology, the behaviors of teens and fame seekers has become as common as apple pie in the U.S. Another observation that Mr. Ferrini mentioned was the recent anniversary videos that Facebook put together for each user. Although it could be customized by the user, he thought that it didn’t really represent who he was and a majority of those of us in the class agreed. It was somewhat satisfying that although Facebook and its code generators might think that they know each one of their users intimately, they still don’t really know us at all.

  2. Kara Seward says:

    Sounds like a fascinating lecture. The data mining is so rich from social media, and the tail end of Millennials are so willing to give it away for the enrichment of demographics and consumer profiles. It would be interesting to study to look at the differences between the profile videos of various generations (for those of us who have been on for ten years, where did it go?) and for those just joining the conversation. What might marketers gain from that information? But, I’m hearing more and more reports about declining use of Facebook by young people. We’ll have to see where they migrate en masse next. I’m sure marketers will find them.

  3. Amy Bozic says:

    Very interesting post. Bonin Bough makes note of the impact Facebook and other social media sites has on marketing and Rushkoff’s quote “this is where the currency of likes turns into actual currency” is powerful. But is it true?

    Ask any adult who uses Facebook faithfully about advertisers and I wonder how many could name even one? It wasn’t long ago that Facebook was under fire for its inability to generate revenue. I was a skeptic, but it does appear the tide is turning, especially among teens. Facebook marketing is more targeted, and as you noted, it is reaching this generation’s teenagers, who participate in interactive marketing in ways adults may not dream of, sometimes with unfortunate results, such as the “celebration of celebrity.”


  4. Caroline says:

    Back in 2007 USA Today published an article about the Millennials asking them what were their goals. The top response was “to get rich” by 81 percent of the respondents. The second most popular response was “to be famous” by 51 percent of the respondents. When this article was published most of the kids featured on the Frontline: Generation Like episode were roughly seven or eight years old.

    This next wave of millennials have progressed from the 18-25-year-olds polled in 2007. The 18-25-year-olds in 2007 did not want to engage with the commercial culture. They wanted to get attention but they didn’t want to “sell out”. The first attempt by a large media company to directly engage with and feed media to youth backfired. MySpace was cool back in 2006 and 2007, it was the place to be to get attention from your peers. But when News Corp purchased it and started to feed commercial messages to the community on MySpace, it suddenly was no longer the cool place to be. And at just the right time, Facebook entered the picture and people migrated. Again, the community of people were at the forefront, not the commercial culture.

    But the corporations would not give up and they slowly entered the online communities and changed it to become the commercial culture. Now this new group of millennials are so used to it they welcome products, celebrities and commercialism into their worlds. Some youth, as we see in the Frontline piece, are trying to get to the top of this new culture and working to become famous, just to be famous. And in the process it seems we have a whole new world of distribution channels to promote and distribute marketing messages. And what blows me away is that these current teens and early twenty-somethings don’t care. They embrace and try to rise in this new pop commercial culture.

    It is interesting that in just a span of five to seven years the whole perspective of people has changed and now for many it is all about the fame. I would say it would be a safe bet that if USA Today did another poll that 80 percent would respond that their top goal is “to be famous.”