Friday, 16 August 2013

Why do famous people interact online with fans? Pt1

There are so many online services and platforms now, it's difficult to imagine life without it. One aspect of the internet as a medium is that it's a window to the rest of the world. Indeed, television was thought of in this way, but who needs television now we have the internet? Okay, I know a couple of billion people will disagree with me on that one but if it's a choice between waiting for something that might be vaguely interesting on TV and going directly to things I'm most interested online, I think I'll choose online thanks. Cheers. See you later TV.

The big difference of course in this respect is the interaction factor. The fact that we can interact instantly with others is a novelty that will probably take a long time to wear off. We can write an article or make a video and instantly it can be viewed by the rest of the world.

So-called internet-celebrities have found international recognition and financial success in a very short space of time, and long-established celebrities are able to connect with fans and reach new audiences.

And yet recently I found a phenomenon that didn't "compute" in my little brain (in Chinese, the common word for 'computer' is 电脑, 'electric brain'!). The question I couldn't answer was: why are rich, successful, erudite people interacting directly with the masses online? I'm thinking of Stephen Fry and Ricky Gervais specifically.

They seem to be tweeting every day, posting links, articles, photos, videos, blogging on their own sites, blogging on Tumblr, promoting their work, and commenting on current events. As a fan, I'm not complaining, I'm just thinking: "Why are they sitting at their computer staring at a screen when they could be relaxing on a beach somewhere?"

If I were as rich and famous as they are, I would be spending time in the most peaceful, beautiful resorts on the planet. I'd be staying in great hotels with mountain scenery, visiting cultural and historical sights, and generally enjoying my leisure time.  I would not be sitting at my computer typing tweets.

At first I thought it must be their publicity team acting on their behalf. It makes sense for artists to have an online presence. I just imagined that this would be managed by their "personal assistant" while they worked on their creative projects.

However, it seems that these tweets and messages are coming directly from Mr Fry, Mr Gervais and other living legends! Their writing style is inimitable, and besides that they post photos that only they could have taken. (Did we really need to see Mr Gervais' bathtime photos? Probably not, but they're hilarious and he looks 99.9% the same as my dad. Some people actually think they are twins who were separated at birth. I digress ...)

In the end, we see that their online life is all part of pursuing what they find quite interesting (QI!) and sharing it with the world. They observe the world in an original and unique way, and that's what makes them special. That's why we love their books, films, TV work, radio work and live performances. Now we get to see Youtube videos Ricky Gervais has made such as "Learn Guitar with David Brent" and "Learn English with Ricky Gervais (and Karl Pilkington)". Ricky Gervais has even invited his fans to subtitle the Learn English video and post it back to Youtube. I'm working on a subtitled version which I will post soon.

Let's be grateful then that as fans we can be connected in this way to these artists whose work we love so much.

If you have a rich "offline life" then online activity can definitely complement it. Let's just cap the time we spend online, as time really flies when you're in the online zone!

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