Is Hate the New Love?
Just finished reading Wired's cover on Julia Allison. Julia is a good friend of mine and I'm incredibly proud of her-- a fact people I know envy and abhor, sometimes at the same time. It's no secret one thing that's bonded us is our similar experience as Internet whipping girls, although I have never gotten it nearly as badly as Julia, but I also have a very different life and career. But having gotten to know her, I really like Julia and I think this article captures her brilliantly. Her charm and her savvy. The mixture of poking her haters with a stick and begging them to stop. And this is what makes her more successful at the Internet fame game than I ever will be. I know in my head that controversy only makes me more well-known-- and to be crass-- makes me more money. But I hate it and I never court it.
And yet somehow, it seems to come out of nowhere to find me. Take today. Someone on Twitter blasted that I was bashing the New York "tech scene." I quickly thought through the latest interviews I'd been on either side of, blog posts, columns and couldn't come up with a time I'd bashed the New York tech scene. It turned out he was talking about this video, where I say-- as I have a zillion times explaining the title of my book-- that there's a unique cultural phenomenon in the Valley where true entrepreneurs are sucked into the game of starting another company because just doing it once isn't enough. I said New York reporters were frequently stunned asking "Why don't you go sit on an island?" Yeah. And? It's really more a cultural observation than "bashing." And it says nothing about the tech scene in New York. It's a minor example, but welcome to my life. (Update: I asked the guy about it via Twitter and he was actually pretty nice.)
It's weird to live on that fine line between love and hate, and even weirder to increasingly make your living on that line. The people who write the cruelest things are the ones who come back to my column, blog or yahoo show every single day. (Less so with the blog than the others.) They are probably my most loyal viewers/readers. Oh, and they frequently talk up why I should be fired or that they'll never -- ever-- buy my book or support anything I do. See that click? You just did. (Again.)
For months now, I've been trying to wrap my head around Internet fame and why it seems more powerful than real fame-- but at the end of the day, rarely if ever translates outside a niche. Magazines always profile people just before they break out. And then they don't. (Although I hope Julia proves me wrong with her Bravo show. She's certainly got a more traditional star quality than, say, the "Leave Britney Alone!" guy...) For instance, my husband pointed out to me that according to this, I rank number 90 on the list of 100 most famous people on the Internet. Sort of like my reaction to the Playboy thing, I felt a mix of how-can-that-be-possible head-scratching and flattery. That said, I don't kid myself: If you randomly asked ten people in San Francisco-- let alone the rest of the world-- who I was they'd have no clue.
I wonder if the discrepancy between Internet fame and real fame has something to do with being so hate-based? It's no secret the SXSW debacle and before that the Digg Cover caused much of this notoriety-- not my ten years of solid, and to some, boring business reporting-- and both were times I was slammed, even if then subsequently praised. (Both times I was also just trying to do my job.) But can you profit off hate offline? Would you, for instance, go see a movie starring someone you hated the way you will read a Gawker post and take the time to leave a nasty comment? I'm not so sure. I guess it all goes back to that ease of conversion online. Whether it's clicking on a paid search link, or tacitly endorsing a rising micro-celeb with your eyeballs.
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