Exploring the worlds of social media stars…

People, especially younger generations, are watching less TV.  Instead, they’re spending idle time on the internet.  And it makes sense…

For hundreds of years, the predominant forms of in-home media consumption were passive – but people are not inherently drawn to passive media; it’s all we had.  Now, with the advent of the internet, instead of simply consuming, we’re  exploring, observing, creating, communicating and also consuming.  I’m often in the mood to lean-back and thoughtlessly watch TV, but I’ve become increasingly likely to relax by exploring the characters I’ve actually met or know well.

The characters that fascinated me on The Real World or The Apprentice or even a fictional show like The Office have been partially supplanted by characters with whom I can engage in a more meaningful, personal way.  Through their blogs, social networking profiles, webpages and even lifecasts, characters themselves have become an entry-point for my entertainment.

Meet Sarah Meyers.  Sarah crashes parties and produces video for Gawker.  You can observe her life on her lifecast, her blog, through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Pownce.  Or maybe you’ve met her in the classroom of the online university where Sarah’s completing her degree. Following the life of this fascinating character becomes a consuming labyrinth of multimedia.

A few weeks ago, Josh Cohen and I sat down to talk to Sarah about lifecasting and internet media.  Here’s some highlights of our conversation from the perspective of her lifecast…

And here’s highlights of the same conversation from a different perspective…

Fred Seibert, founder of Next New Networks, once posited during a conversation that my interest in traditional, episodic, professionally-produced internet-television might just feel natural because it’s “what we’ve grown up with,”  but media on the social graph is much more complex, and much wider-ranging.  Video now mimics text in the diversity of its application.  New applications of video create wholly different entertainment experiences, and what we now think of as TV is just one minor component.   A new form of active entertainment has been born.

The artistic voice or hand will always have a place in media –especially to portray the types of characters not willing to expose themselves–but for the first time, humans are able to use mass media as a means of simply observing through a lens crafted by the character.  This development begs the question: Why is it that so many wish to broadcast their own lives?

Sarah says lifecasting is like having a group of friends around at all times, and she’s quick to mention how generous and caring her viewers have been.  One even came through with a MacBook Pro when Sarah was in need.

But I suspect that there is another element at play for personal bloggers, lifecasters and other social media stars.  For instance, Sarah’s personal chat-room is filled with fans like this one…

Jeff Pulver, founder of Vonage and VON, broadcasts almost every waking moment thorough weblogs, online TV shows, Twitter and Facebook.  At almost any given moment, I can find out what this person– whom I only vaguely know–is doing.

Pulver TV is pretty interesting….and the promo?  Well, hey, it worked.Or take Jakob Lodwick, co-founder of Vimeo whose on-again-off-again relationship with Star Magazine editor at large and Time out New York columnist Julia Allison has played out over the couple’s blogs, Tumblr pages, and videos.
Prominently displayed on Jake’s site is the message, “I maintain this site for people who are interested in my personal and professional life. It is not intended for a wider audience, though anyone is welcome to read it or write about it.”
So Jake is sharing his life with “those interested.” Perhaps, for others, social media is a means of validation.  Perhaps it appeals to the ultimate extrovert.  Maybe its an inevitable extension of a self-obsessed society.

Maybe, like Sarah and Jeff suggest, its simply a way to surround oneself with friends, and to partake in conversation.

Whatever their motivations, social media stars have created a new type of reality programming that’s more dynamic, interactive and REAL than any contrived MTV show could ever be.  And I tune in for the same reasons.

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