The measure of popularity these days is pretty scientific: it’s the number of people who “like” you on Facebook, or the number of followers of your Twitter feed. Of course, this number doesn’t necessarily represent people who might actually like the real you, but they’ve agreed to give you a public thumbs up, and that matters. It’s hard to dispute that somebody with 1,000,000 likes or followers hasn’t reached a bigger audience than somebody with 100.
Given this, there is a movement to start artificially inflating likes and followers through ad campaigns, “like exchanges” and “follow backs,” and whatever other means somebody thinks of in the next five minutes. The importance of these metrics is growing steadily, and with it comes a fundamental change in the relationship between the performer and the audience.
I have several actor friends who won’t touch Facebook or Twitter with a ten-foot pole. The very thought of it runs contrary to their idea that the artist should concern him or herself with art. Time, both real and psychic, spent pecking away at smart phones to update statuses to their fans and followers only undermines this. The concern is that you become so tied to your audience that you start playing to them on a micro-scale.
Proponents will say it is the democratization of popularity. If people can routinely give you feedback on which updates they enjoy, which links they appreciate, or which photos they find sexiest, then it’s the surest way to make sure that the audience is in charge. The artist may further shy away from taking chances, though, and opt for the safe route to increased popularity.
Yes, Hollywood and the basic ego needs of every actor has been trying to find this path since the dawn of time, but it may be seeing a quickening because of all the instant feedback. And that might not necessarily be a good thing. You may become more popular, but you may not be you.
Because one thing all these likes can’t measure… is whether a person likes themselves.