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The Microfame Game

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Step No. 4: Respond.

If there is a Latin phrase for "reply to everything," it should be crocheted on your pillows and tacked above your door. Anytime your name is used, you are required to e-mail, comment, or firebomb the person invoking it. When in doubt, remember these three maxims: There is no such thing as being above the fray, every battle is worth fighting, and all disputes are good press.

Microfame is a game whose victors are contrarians. Choosing the right adversary is your most important move.

Which brings us to Tricia Walsh-Smith, a self-described YouTube star and divorcée who posted a rant about her rich, impotent husband that has reached millions of people. But more important to her longevity, Walsh-Smith's wide-eyed diatribe triggered a whole community to post reaction videos. First there was a wave of reactions denouncing her as crazy, followed by a second wave of responses coming to her rescue. (Jimmy Kimmel's monologue about Walsh-Smith was itself a reaction video of sorts.) This is why reaction videos are Internet gold: They create more reaction videos.

The “2 Girls 1 Cup” video is the quintessence of the phenomenon. There's no need to link to the original video; just imagine the most disgusting, perverse, depraved sexual acts—and then imagine showing them to your friends. This predilection led to a special type of reaction video, in which one person tapes other people watching and reacting to the video. (To illustrate, my two favorite reaction vids: The Roots and Kermit the Frog.) In its own disturbed way, the “2 Girls 1 Cup” phenomenon is the perfection of Fame 2.0, where the ecology of reactions becomes the actual product, more compelling than the original.

As proven by Chris Crocker, the effeminate YouTuber who racked up 20 million views by screaming "Leave Britney alone," the masters of microfame are strategists who choose precise moments to react.


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