With Boris Johnson becoming the UK’s PM and European temperatures soaring to record-breaking highs, we looked elsewhere for some ‘cooler’ stories to report this week. We didn’t have to look far before we found light relief, diving into the world of youth internet culture and its current cultural obsessions.
I’M OBSESSED: MAKING ORDINARY PEOPLE ‘A THING’
A trend taking off among young audiences on social media (particularly on gay Twitter), is one we’ve dubbed ‘ordinary obsessions’. Essentially what’s happening is small online communities are finding obscure moments that have been posted on the internet, falling in love with them, and trying to make them famous/viral.
How does it work? It starts by individuals identifying and sharing weird and wonderful clips of ‘ordinary’ people online. For various reasons, these people proclaim to their followers that the individual in the scene is worthy to obsess over. These can literally be ANYTHING - from people filming themselves quietly at home to failed XFactor auditions - just normal (or boring!) people, doing their thing, in their own unique way, on the internet. There is an element of investigation in this too - where people scramble to find obscure clips online to reference.
Of course, humour has a massive part to play - the majority of these ordinary obsession conversations begin with this in mind. Fans share clips again, and again, and create a habit of referring back to them in every appropriate or relevant situation.
The phrase ‘I’m Obsessed’ is heavily featured in relation to the clips. Depending on the following of the individual that shares the content, these exclamations have inspired mini cult cultures, where people reenact moments, phrases or looks from clips and post them on the internet for the enjoyment of others who are equally ‘obsessed’.
WHY THE OBSESSION?
Where’s all this coming from? There are three major drivers that we believe have led to the materialisation (and subsequent eruption) of this trend:
1. Celebrity culture - that is, the idea that people are often ‘told’ by various industries who should be famous. Instead of idolising Kylie Jenner, why can’t people idolise, for example, a 40 something mum who appeared on XFactor 10 years ago with a sparkling personality? Young people like the idea of this ‘organic’ and delayed/nostalgic fame.
2. Modern political and societal controversy and crisis (trust, climate, housing etc). The celebration of ordinary obsessions can be seen as a coping mechanism - a lighthearted distraction or humorous backlash from the difficulties of life as a young person in contemporary times.
3. New forms of entertainment. Young people value creativity so much, they love to be the source of their own entertainment. This, in its essence, gives fans the ability to decide what they are going to be fans of - essentially creating something ‘iconic’ from nothing more than personality and exciting energy. Ordinary people, through their own enthusiasm, make this ‘ordinary’ fame phenomenon happen.
Promoting the obsession with an ordinary celebrity is 2019’s internet culture version of rooting for or celebrating the underdog. The more normal or ordinary the person is, the bigger and better the challenge is to make them famous (or a ‘thing’).
EVERYDAY ICONS: HAPPY BIRTHDAY MIRANDA X
The current king of social media singer Lewis Capaldi, got on board with an ‘ordinary obsession’ recently, Tweeting “Best thread of all time. Loving your FACE.” The thread he referred to is one created by Twitter user Jack Remmington, in homage to a Facebook Live video:
“There’s this hilarious video of this random woman on Facebook wishing her friend Miranda Happy Birthday from the top of the Shard - on Facebook Live. We screen recorded it a couple of months ago and reenact it everywhere we go.”
Why did it take off? It’s just a normal woman, wishing her friend a happy birthday? Well, firstly she shared it on Facebook Live for the world to see. Secondly, there is a point in the clip where she tells her friend that she’s loving her face. It’s now an ‘iconic’ phrase.
Since its inception, the thread has grown and grown with more people jumping on board to celebrate the clip, reenacting the ‘Happy Birthday Miranda’ video while they are out having a drink. All of this fun and fandom even managed to get the maker of the original video on BBC radio 1!
Ideas around ‘celebrity culture’ is changing constantly. The scramble to find obscurity is real - and fun. How could you create a sense of obscurity around a service or offering?
There are ways to humorously elevate normal people doing normal things. How could you make the everyday iconic?
Who knows, Miranda might be the next big brand ambassador!