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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Internet celebrities must respect social values

Internet celebrities must respect social values

An Instagrammer by the name “Dai James” ostentatiously posted videos of himself opening products in a supermarket and eating or drinking some of the contents before returning the containers to the shelf, apparently presuming he would not get caught.

Warped values spread by so-called Internet celebrities such as “Dai James” have lately been widely replicated in the group behavior of teenagers and college students. This kind of fan culture has gradually expanded its social influence everywhere from real communities to commercial marketing to political propaganda.

A few days ago, two YouTubers going by the names “Toyz” and “SuperPie” posted a livestream of themselves having a fight that looked like a performance, but also could have been the real thing. This livestreamed punch-up, widely covered on social media, sets a bad example for society, but the two YouTubers only seem to have gained more support from viewers and more traffic to their channels.

Internet celebrity culture has emerged mainly due to the growing diversity of people’s entertainment demands. Over-the-top behavior lets viewers derive enjoyment from watching new media without having to think.

However, the limitless freedom of the Internet and a wide variety of values make it hard to define who is “successful.” As a result, people have widely differing opinions about Internet celebrities’ behavior. There is a widespread idea that “traffic is money,” meaning a person could make money just by enticing others to click and watch.

The latest generation of smartphone natives has grown up with ostentatious behavior learned from performances on platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, as well as the latter’s Chinese equivalent, Douyin. Just as the 20th century nurtured a generation of TV addicts, the 21st century has produced a generation of wannabe Internet celebrities who seek influence in online communities.

However, many Internet celebrities with poor information literacy make bad choices about how to manipulate the attention economy. Randomly opening and consuming food and drinks and posting this behavior online is a case in point. Those who do so only care about finding shortcuts to instant online fame, all while risking their reputation.

Such people are oblivious to legal and moral concerns. Internet celebrities’ knack for making quick profits has shaken the way young people think about money. The mistaken idea of “getting rich through quantity” is undermining the original down-to-earth work ethic and values of honesty and diligence, while opening the door to all sorts of deviant ideas. To keep their subscribers, Internet celebrities constantly exhibit and perform. They have turned exaggeration, showing off, exhibitionism, eroticism and idiosyncrasy into the new mainstream.

However, the information age has normalized obtaining news and information from digital platforms. Do not underestimate the influence of YouTubers, Internet celebrities and other key opinion leaders. In the eyeball economy and close-up media, Internet celebrities have issues of performance quality and commercial involvement or lack of it, but this is an important part of media development. They should not think that they can do whatever they want just because their stage is “virtual.”

With their hands on a weapon equivalent to mass media, Internet celebrities’ freedom of expression cannot be limitless.

Furthermore, online advertising endorsement and advertorial content cannot cross legal red lines. Just wanting fame is not enough. Internet celebrities must know where to draw the line and respect universal social values.

Chao Che-sheng is an assistant professor in Kainan University’s Department of Information Communications.

Translated by Julian Clegg

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2024/02/05

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China will not make concessions even if Taiwan takes a non-provocative attitude toward it, National Chung Cheng University College of Social Sciences dean Soong Hseik-wen (宋學文) said on Saturday, adding that Taiwan should bolster its national defense, technology, economic and trade abilities to withstand Beijing’s attempts at bringing Taiwan into its fold, an academic told a forum on Saturday.

Soong made the remarks at an academic conference held by the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan.