The Low Specific Heat of Internet Celebrity

Sand has a rather low specific heat.  That’s why a burning desert becomes so frigid when the sun goes down: sand’s temperature changes easily with the application or removal of energy.  Water on the other hand, has a high specific heat; it requires a great deal of energy to heat up or cool down, thus helping regulate both our ecosphere’s and our own body’s temperature.

Dennis Ryan, Element 79, Chicago AdvertisingThis metaphor becomes relevant when you consider the internet celebrities 2010 gave us: Eduard Khil, Antoine Dodson, and Jimmy McMillan.  Each exploded from obscurity into a well-known and widely traveled web meme, based on little more than momentarily capturing the attention of a society ever hungry for distraction and entertainment.

Neither ‘the rent is too damn high’ nor ‘trololo’ nor ‘we go’n find you’ stayed in the collective cultural consciousness longer than three or four months, but each hit like a supernova, lighting up the Immedia to fuel standup routines and t-shirt sales.

That’s the way internet celebrity works; it burns hot and intense and then, like the Canfield’s Diet Fudge soda craze, quickly fades into well-deserved obscurity.  Non digital celebrities like The Rolling Stones or Stephen King couldn’t build a career this way–even worthwhile internet sensations like Captain Sully Sullenberger get only one halcyon moment instead of a long, sustained career.  Whether that’s a result of our restless attention spans or the way we parse out recognition, today celebrity burns brighter and faster, then cools much more quickly than any sort of fame that came before it.

Once celebrities built careers…today internet celebrities capture moments.

Kind of like how once advertisers built brands…today, they try to build quarters.

That’s neither right nor wrong–it’s just how it is.


By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79


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