Celebrity is shrinking in tandem with media, reports Alex Williams in The New York Times (2/8/15). The trend is nothing new, however "as social media have splintered into ever tinier subcultures, the atomization of fame has only accelerated." What New York magazine termed "microfame" in 2008, as YouTube exploded with microcelebrities, is now nanocelebrity thanks to the proliferation of the likes of Vine, Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest, and stars specific to each platform. At this point, YouTube "basically qualifies as a legacy media outfit."
Those who built their fame on YouTube seem to be a different breed, as well. They tended "to be overtly careerist," working as they did in "longer-form media." They also "enjoyed a modicum of mainstream appeal. Nanofamers, by contrast, enjoy no staying power. They work in snippets of bite-size content (six-second Vines, say) and are confined to niche audiences (often teenagers) … Nanofamers may be idolized by their million-plus followers, but they are often unknown to those on the outside."
We’re certainly come a long way from a culture of "permanent fame." Leo Braudy, author of The Frenzy of Renown, notes that pharoahs once built stone statues as "their claim on posterity." As recently as 20th-century Hollywood, "being famous meant your name would live forever" with handprints in cement or a star on Hollywood Boulevard. The digital world changed all that. "The more transient the medium, the more transient the fame," says Leo. "When there are a lot of people making a public claim for their own importance, each gets a smaller bit."