N.E.R.D.: the clout effect

Nothing ever really dies on the Internet.

Screenshots grab deleted memories for safekeeping, and antics are retweeted and reposted with double taps by the thousands. As the audience, we laugh and gawk and log out to our realities but what about the stars of the show? In a twisted Truman show kind of way, social media users have created the idea of people getting addicted to being watched. Not quite as spicy as voyeurism, but it’s probably more exciting to feel the rush of your posted video or words being shared by the tens of thousands. Like a pseudo-immortality if you will.My generation would call it craving attention but the youngsters call it ‘clout.’

Throwing yourself into a rack of grocery items or other strange actions are posted online and have become phenomena that can only be categorized under The Clout Effect. The spawn of the 99s and the 2000s have this incessant need to live forever under the gaze of millions.  Almost makes me wonder if these children got enough hugs growing up, but that’s none of my business. What I do know is that people have gone as far as to hurt themselves just for the attention it garners.  Likes and retweets are almost like currency in their worlds, feeding egos that can only be sustained by the adoration of strangers.

Weird, right? What’s even weirder is that it’s only going to get worse. Clout is a dangerous concept in that people will even accuse rape victims of celebrities of trying to get this imaginary status. There was a time on social media where you wouldn’t see certain videos because the adage that everything on the Internet is forever was something to be feared. Now, it’s almost a desire—it’s become a literal goal to go viral. Anything from fights to a mother sharing her baby smoking marijuana gets big number views. People steal popular jokes and share them as their own in the hopes of piggybacking off the fake fame. Everyone wants to be seen, heard, and known forever, even if it’s for all the wrong reasons.

With attention comes fame, which is a helluva drug in itself. So addictive of a drug that copycats of school shooters, mass murderers, and other dangerous souls are overdosing on media’s portrayal of these crimes. Killers are on TIME Magazine, being archived as troubled souls whose minds should be studied and pitied. This begets more of these wayward individuals in the hopes of being remembered.

So this begs the question: why is the attention of strangers so important? What about the clout is so addictive? I would chalk it up to insecurity and needing validation. We live in an era where everything is scrutinized from one’s looks to clothes to how you take a selfie. Everything is about image and being able to appeal to as many people as possible. And without that acceptance, some people feel inferior. Even with something as little as posting a photo and deleting it because it didn’t get enough ‘likes.’ Clout can be and has been a deadly factor in society and as social media grows, it will only worsen.

Hopefully there comes a day when the masses will take the higher, less traveled road and not give light and life to those obsessed with clout. And for the sake of our future generations, I hope that day is soon.