By now, you’ve probably heard of the gal that goes by Vodka Sam–the YOLO-tweeting, white girl wasted-endorsing University Iowa student who made headline after headline after headline after getting arrested at the Hawkeye’s Football game and blowing a HOLY SHIT worthy .341 on the breathalyzer. Embracing the “sorry I’m not sorry” collegiate mantra, @VodkaSamm went on a tweeting tear following her release from jail–endorsing her behaviors with celebratoryish messages like “my mom hates me now,” and “I’m going to get .341 tattooed on me because its so epic.” The internet got a hold of the story soon thereafter, and the internet proceeded to do what the internet does–giving her a massive following literally overnight, with many admirers tweeting her words of encouragement and likening her to a hero. Vodka Sam instantly morphed into this strange zero-fucks given, post-apocalyptic cause–reveling the sort of impressive fervor that extends beyond a single person, and into a bold and daring movement.
Sam deactivated her twitter account on Monday, but the saga hasn’t stopped. From newly surfaced pictures and vines of her partying, to commemorative t-shirts and memes, to internet “think pieces” such as this one, have all kept the story going. And like many stories before it–if you’re looking for a recent example, see Miss Teen Delaware Melissa King–it’s taken the sort of sensationalistic, let-shove-this-down-everyones-throat tone that makes us all a little bit sad about the state of the world, our media system, and the third thing I’m supposed to say here to provide this sentiment with the proper amount of legitimacy.
Now here’s where we get to ask the questions. Why do we give a shit? College girls get drunk and do dumb things all the time. What is the purpose of aggrandizing this poor girl’s story to the point of no return? How many sentences do I have to type until I get to say the word “Syria”?
I, like most people who ask these sorts of questions, am technically saddened by how this all turned out. How everything turns out on the internet–how it all snowballs into this uncontrollable avalanche filled with sticks and stones that seem to matter when immersed in the cloud, but clearly have no bearing on anything once we come up for fresh air. How the media, particularly the internet media, seems to have adopted an overall mantra where every story needs to be squeezed more ruthlessly than an orange that’s been on the juice-maker for about 10 minutes too long. How we’ve devolved into this sad state of New yellow journalism. Orange juice journalism.
But as nice and cathartic as that line of thinking may sound–especially for those of us who liked it better when words like “media accountability” were guarded with a ruthlessness only worthy of that newspaper editor from Spiderman–we no longer live in that word. I don’t need to tell you that the internet killed it.
But I do need to tell you that we did.
Before I came to this very fine site of web, I wrote for BroBible.com–a site geared towards satisfying the demands of socially outgoing young men. If you know the site you’ll know it’s got everything from advice on how to navigate the trials and tribulations of the postgraduate world, to mindlessly hilarious viral videos, to the latest aesthetically pleasing offerings from Kate Upton. BroBible is all about shaping and informing the young male experience. Which, based on the ongoing evolution of both the website and our pop-culture landscape, meant that we were constantly coming across audience-relevant stories about someone whose been exhibiting a good deal of “Broish” qualities, Justin Bieber. Stories that consistently got a lot of “hate.”
The hate of course stemmed from the fact that a portion of our readers felt that Justin Bieber did not reflect the values of being a “Bro.” But ironically, pretty much all of these stories performed incredibly well, outdoing everything from the trailer for the latest Fast and Furious movie to something about Jay-Z saying he’s the greatest renaissance human who’s ever eaten from a Brooklyn falafel cart. According to the numbers, readers of BroBible.com–those who have thus chosen to actively identify themselves as Bros, in some way–voraciously and consistently consumed these stories. In other words, they cared.
Some would argue that the numbers shouldn’t matter–that us editors of BroBible should’ve held ourselves accountable to determine whether or not the Biebs reflects the shit we wanted our site. That though, is the exact opposite purpose of the internet.
A site like BroBible.com exists because people have decided to come to it. It’s a mind-numbingly simple premise that sums up how the double-edged sword/terrifying beauty/simple reality that is the internet truly works. If nobody likes a particular story, that story will cease to matter. There will be no follow-up. But if people READ a story, people are saying that it matters. There will then be many follow-ups. Rap Game 2013 News Cycle.
Nothing groundbreaking, but things like Reddit.com becoming a big deal has proved that we’ve reached the point where our news and information has become more democratized than it’s ever been. Again, the truth is mind-numbingly simple–the more consumers care about a story, the more popular it becomes. The culpability can’t really be pinned on the media outlets, or the bigger message disseminators–they simply have created a crowd-sourced milkshake that everyone else is choosing to indulge in. If we don’t like a story, all we have to do is not drink that milkshake. Vodka Sam is only a story because we decided to drink her milkshake. We drank it up.