I am sure that almost everyone has heard the expression “my fifteen minutes of fame,” which actually derives from a line in a catalogue for a 1968 Andy Warhol exhibition: “In the future, everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” I’m pretty certain that if Warhol is somehow looking at the world he left behind in 1987, he is having the last laugh, or a really good cry depending upon how you look at the phenomenon of social media. This expression, closely related to having “one’s moment in the sun,” is all about getting exposure to the world out there for everything from profound wisdom to absolute stupidity and everything in between! I often wonder if historians, looking back at the end of the 20th C/early 21st C, will follow past labelling trends for certain eras of history and call this period of time the Viral Age.
Perhaps, the more important thing to ponder is why, as a society, we have become obsessed with going viral even if it means causing a public disturbance, defacement of public and private property, causing physical and emotional harm, the list goes on. All of this for the sole purpose of a “like!” And, if you are wondering why I am writing about this now, and what the hell does any of this have to do with my title, just hang on, I am this close to going viral!
In January of this year, I wrote a piece for this blog entitled: “Bridge Obsession.” In short, it is about the now open 6th Street bridge in Los Angeles connecting the Arts District where I live and Boyle Heights on the east side of the L.A. River. The old bridge was demolished in 2016 and its replacement just opened about a month ago to much hoopla and civic pride. I must admit to being extremely disappointed when I found out that I would be away from the city when it opened, having watched the new bridge being built over these past seven years. That disappointment did not last long thanks to those seeking to leave their “mark” on the social media universe. I read and watched countless reports in my absence of civic mayhem, vandalism, accidents, and bridge closures because of people chasing their “fifteen minutes.” The two incidents that really made me scratch my head: a barber (more than likely a hair stylist) giving someone a haircut in the middle of the bridge; a tattoo artist giving someone a tattoo in the middle of the bridge! Trust me, I wish I was making this up.
In the 1994 movie Forrest Gump, the titular character played by Tom Hanks is asked if he was stupid. His response (which in itself went viral): “Stupid is as stupid does,” meaning judge people for their actions, not their appearance. Based on that gem, there appears to be a great deal of DOESing going on these days!
Los Angeles 2022