Everyday Target worker becomes Internet sensation within hours
For someone aspiring to make something of themselves — to be more well-known than they already are — the Internet is a great place to begin. With the massive role social media plays in people’s daily lives, it doesn’t take long for a particularly interesting picture or video to be seen all over the world and send the owner into stardom; however, when this interesting picture or video is simply of a teenage boy, it brings about an entirely different ballgame.
This is what happened to 16-year-old Alex Lee from Dallas.
According to Examiner.com, an image was shared of a boy in a Target uniform bagging groceries on Nov. 4. By the power of the Internet and social media, that image was shared numerous times and was one of the top trends on Twitter within a few hours. This catapulted the seemingly normal Target worker into super stardom overnight, a feat that, understandably, confused him.
“My manager came up to me and she showed me the actual picture,” Lee said when he came on “The Ellen Show,” as reported by US Weekly. “I thought it was fake. And then, about an hour later, these random girls I’ve never met before came in and showed me my Twitter page, and it had like 5,000 more followers. I was just really confused.”
From an outsider’s perspective, Lee was living a good life. Thousands of Twitter followers, instant fame and being on Ellen is anyone’s dream. But, according to The New York Times, it isn’t all fun and games.
The attention Lee has gained has resulted in him and his family receiving death threats, along with having their personal information — such as social security numbers — leaked online.
“I’ve been in the house the entire time,” Lee said. “I’m kind of scared to go in public.
Lee’s father, Eric Fooks, said he and his wife are mostly concerned with the negativity being shown online.
Along with the childish yet frightening threats and lack of privacy, Lee has also dealt with the claim that the entire trend was simply a marketing hoax, reports syracuse.com. A company by the name of Breakr is attempting to claim that the #AlexfromTarget trend was a ploy on their part.
“Yesterday, we had fun on Twitter with the hashtag #AlexFromTarget, which ended up to be one of the most amazing social media experiments ever,” said Breakr CEO Dil-Domine Jacobe Leonares on LinkedIn. “We wanted to see how powerful the fangirl demographic was by taking an unknown good-looking kid and Target employee from Texas to overnight viral Internet sensation.”
Leonares is essentially saying that the general public does not have the capacity to think for themselves and will blindly conform to what everyone else is doing — in this case, posting pictures and talking about a 16-year-old. While this is offensive in and of itself, it’s also not right — on Breakr’s part — to claim responsibility for Lee’s fame, when they played no role at all. Lee said on his Twitter account that him and his family have never heard of the company.
This makes one wonder why Lee was chosen. He was a normal boy from Texas who went about his daily life like any other teenager, with nothing remarkably special about him; however, if the Internet feels similarly to print journalism senior Bleue Gonzales, this normality of Lee may be what makes him likeable.
“When I looked up the article, I was instantly intrigued by how quickly this kid became a ‘celebrity,’ just by someone posting his photo,” Gonzales said. “I think it’s kind of cool that he may be able to capitalize on his social media fame, and I also like that this type of ‘internet sensation’ focuses on a normal person, doing a normal job, like the rest of us do everyday.”
There are so many individuals in our world that have talent and are keen to show it off to the world, but do not garner half as much attention as this young man. It seems unfair that Lee became famous just for being good looking, because it ties into society’s idea that how one looks is of utmost importance, over all other aspects of the individual.
Lee even mentioned in his Ellen interview that he has no other talents. There are a few individuals, such as broadcast journalism senior Brittany Nguyen, who believe that Lee cannot be faulted.
“I think that young people like teenagers have a lot to do with making him (and people) go viral,” Nguyen said. “It’s ridiculous because there are (more than) 400,000 hashtags on Instagram trending under #AlexfromTarget, and they are mostly teenagers who keep making pictures with his face and adding a saying. But that’s how social media is making people famous nowadays, even if they aren’t talented.”
Whether one likes it or not, the Internet has a way of making the most boring person seem like the most interesting person on Earth. It will be interesting to see how long Lee’s fame lasts.
Opinion columnist Trishna Buch is a print journalism senior and may be reached at [email protected]