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When I was a tiny tot, I dreamed of being just about everything in the book: a veterinarian, a musician, a basketball player (I didn’t know I would stop growing in fifth grade at slightly over five feet), and of course, Beyoncé. But most of us who dreamed of being famous assumed we’d be famous as a result of actually being good at something. Well kiddos, those fame-driven dreams aren’t as far away as you once thought. Apparently, it is now acceptable for your sole profession to be: Famous. Thanks, social media.
“So, what do you do?”
Fun fact: In other parts of the world, like Europe, asking about your profession is taboo or abnormal as a conversation starter. But here in the US, you can expect any variation of “What do you do?” within the first three-or-so minutes of every conversation with a stranger. Typical responses to expect include:
- - “I’m in sales.”
- - “Oh, I’m a finance manager, but I dabble in real estate, too.”
- - “I’m a graduate student at <insert fancy school here>.”
- - “I’m in between jobs at the moment, but I’ve worked in the blah blah industry for blah years.”
What you don’t expect to hear (at least before this last decade) are the answers that sound like a sarcastic joke or ‘keep-dreaming’ career. Not sure which titles I’m referring to? How about Instagram model, reality-TV star, brand influencer (basically an Instagram Model for a particular brand(s), sex-tape star, or my favorite, a self-proclaimed life coach. If your instant reaction to these responses is “Umm, what?”, we’re on the same page. When the hell did claiming a new job title become as simple as smashing a few things you do when you’re bored together and calling it a career? Most importantly, why in the hell wasn’t I given an application?!
All jokes aside, when did internet/social media fame become a true profession? We’ve transitioned so far that we’ve even changed the definition of self-made without even realizing it. In the past, the self-made sticker was only tagged on individuals who came from little or limited opportunity and struggled, hustled, and pushed through all the shit to blossom into a successful prize. These were the examples we referenced to show our kids that no matter how poor their family was, how many things they don’t have, how much suffering they had already been through, or how impossible their dreams seemed, they could achieve them despite all odds. These were your Jay-Z’s and Tupac’s, your Frida Kahlo’s and Oprah Winfrey’s, your Tonya Harding’s and Michael Oher’s, and for the love of God, your Michael Jackson’s.
Now we throw the honor of being self-made around like a frisbee in Central Park. We praise the Kardashian/Jenner’s (well, at least their millions of Instagram followers and Forbes do), the Jayden Smith’s, the EJ Johnson’s, and the Paris Hilton’s of the world—those who may be stunningly successful now (at what exactly, we can’t be sure), but received a tremendous boost from celebrity parents, family wealth, and reality TV. The process of how their fame or success was born is almost the exact opposite of being made by oneself. Nevertheless, we like/follow every posed picture, purchase every makeup or clothing product they slap their brand on and accredit the highest respect and fandom for each one. Most of all, we aspire to be them.
Next Generation Aspirations
So, what are we telling our next generations and children of the future? Take and post pictures of yourself every day (and don’t you dare forget the filters!) to try to get as many followers as you can? Make a sex tape or act a mess to get a spot in a reality TV show? Screw gaining a skill set or busting your ass—just do what you can to get as much attention as possible and you’ll be considered a young entrepreneur?
The truth is, if we’re going to shed bright lights and admiration for our employees of fame, we should shed an equal or brighter light on the truly accomplished, grit-crushing hustlers of the world, too. Let our children see not only those who seek and profit from fame and nude selfies, but also those who are trying to make meaningful contributions to this world. Save the pedestal for the grad student who spends eight hours a day in the lab working to find the cause of SIDS for her dissertation and studying for her finals in her spare time; or the mother who works 12-hour shifts at the hospital but still runs lines every night with her aspiring-actor son; or the doctor, born to immigrant parents, who studied every extra waking hour so he’d be able to help the members of his community who couldn’t regularly afford doctor’s visits. Let’s reward the do-gooders and not just the party-goers.
A Famous Effort
Society has changed. Needless to say, the roles and occupations have shifted with those changes and will continue to. On the plus side, some of our highly-followed friends do try to inspire goodness with their fame. Non-profits like Omaze thrive from the support of celebrities of all kinds. And a special shout-out to the lifestyle bloggers and their attempt at spreading happiness and goodness, no matter how small. I mean the lifehacks they share—like how to get <insert stain here> out of fabric, how to wear one cardigan three ways, or the most inconspicuous ways to hide your spare house key—are heroism at its finest. (And they do deserve the self-made accreditation; money-making blogging is a damn full-time business! You go, Rachel Hollis!) All things considered, at least this new category of professions gives us some wiggle room when we need a little something extra to make ends meet…or just to feel rewarded when we post that after-workout booty gram.