Social media fame is strange. Twitter, Instagram, Vine and YouTube celebrities are kind of like reality TV stars, but with even more of an everyman feel. They’ve got low budgets and lower inhibitions, and they play characters online who are an extension of their own identities. Reading tweet after tweet, we begin to feel like we know them.
But we don’t. And meeting them in real life can be awkward. They’re not professional socializers, after all, or even traditional entertainers. They’re just people who, from the privacy of their homes, consistently craft tiny bits of entertainment for our consumption. They’ve mastered the art of connecting with people bit by bit, every day — but only when separated by the distance between two given iPhones.
So Betabeat was wondering what it would be like to hang out with a bunch of them at Monday night’s Shorty Awards, the sixth annual awards show recognizing people who are really good at social media. It’s basically the online Oscars. Everyone in New York media has a tale of meeting someone whose online work they admired, only to find that, in real life, they were cagey, awkward or standoffish. Would the night consist of four solid hours of discomfort, despite the open bar?
We caught up with offline personalities like Matt Walsh, Andrew W.K. and the event’s host, comic Natasha Leggero, on the red carpet beforehand. All three of them radiated chilled-out confidence — especially when compared to the Vine and YouTube stars, who seemed full of nervous energy. It was easy to tell who was social media famous and who was a seasoned performer, accustomed to camera crews and live audiences. The social media stars, while polite and gracious, just spook easier.
Ms. Leggero poked fun at the solitary nature of online stardom when we spoke to her and during her opening monologue. To prep for the Shorty Awards, she said, “the first thing I did was find out what a Shorty Award was. And then I did a little Vine research, looked at some stuff.”
She hadn’t known about Vine celebs — teens and 20-somethings with hundreds of thousands of online followers they amass through six-second, looping videos — before she got the hosting gig. Her takeaway?
“There’s actually something worse than being Twitter famous now,” she quipped. “Being Vine famous.”
But social media is incredibly helpful for standups like herself, she admitted.
“It’s definitely a comedian’s medium. We’re all about short, punctuated thoughts,” she said. “Musicians are kind of lost on Twitter. They’re just like, ‘Come see my band,’ and then they’ll do like a Nietszche quote or something. It’s harder for them.”
Before the show began, Ms. Leggero acted as her own warm-up act. “I’m glad I came out here first, to see all these people staring at their phones,” she joked.
This wasn’t the last time she’d touch on tech addiction. A few minutes later, she spotted a woman wearing Google Glass.
“It’s not enough with the apps, Twitters, emails, everything coming in constantly,” she said. “I could not handle that [Google Glass]. I can barely handle my email … Everything’s an emergency. You have to respond immediately. I’m gonna crash my car reading a Groupon for sweat yoga. Why do I have to sign into Facebook to pay my water bill?”
After the show commenced (there’s a livestream available here), awards were doled out for fitness personality, actor, actress, band, fake account, fansite and many more. Some higher-profile winners, like Paul Feig, Jerry Seinfeld and Leandra Medine of ManRepeller, sent in acceptance videos, while most of the purely social media famous showed up at the ceremony.
Mr. Seinfeld’s video was particularly charming. It’s common for old-school stars who came to prominence pre-Facebook to bash social media and say it’s the downfall of polite society. But Mr. Seinfeld attributed the success of his web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” solely to his online fan base:
Held at The Times Center in Midtown Manhattan, the awards were run incredibly well — even if thirsty attendees had to sneak down to the boisterous simulcast room, overflowing with chatty reporters, to imbibe in the open bar after the show began.
As Shorty presenter Julie Klausner pointed out in our pre-show interview with her, it’s a funny idea to use such an old-school marker of notoriety, an awards show, to honor people whose success is so thoroughly 21st-century. The potential for culture clash was there — but the event went swimmingly. This year’s Shorty Awards proved that prying online fixtures away from their laptops is a worthy endeavor — even if it’s the only awards show where sometimes, your view of the stage is obscured because this is happening: