Following the lives of rich and famous people is never going out of style – and, as technology and communication evolve, so does the way we keep tabs on our favorite celebrities. In the era of social media, it was never easier to discover new talented individuals to obsess about and support, whether they are artists, members of the jet set, or influencers like Kim Kardashian and her husband Kanye West. While every country has its own set of celebrities that are closer to the local culture, like Britain’s royal family, sometimes their influence extends beyond national borders and they claim the global spotlight, just like the romance between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sparked the world’s attention. Lately, there is another type of individuals that seem to have attained celebrity status and are religiously followed by people all over the world: the archetypal American tech entrepreneur.
The New Type of Tech Celebrity
We seem to be living in an age where a trend is coming full circle to focus again on individuals who are known for getting stuff done and for moving the world forward, after focusing too much on reality stars and social media “influencers”. The same characteristics hold true for all these individuals who embody the American dream: they are mostly self-made, driven and creative people who had a vision and were not afraid to risk everything, again and again, to make their passion come true. They worked hard, kept on going when things got rough and finally managed to make their idea come true – transforming all of our lives in the process. These people managed to make a product become part of our lifestyle and their work ethic and ambition is an ideal that we aspire to rise to in our own professional lives.
Steve Jobs: The Entrepreneur Who Started It All
What would be the perfect embodiment of this trend? Steve Jobs is probably the archetypal figure that comes to mind: since the company’s start in the 1970s out of a garage, and even though he left from 1985 to 1997, he managed to make Apple not just another software and hardware company, but a lifestyle choice. Choosing a Mac or an iPhone is perceived by the masses as symbolizing so much more than getting just any computer or smartphone to run your errands on – it is a cultural manifesto about what technology means in our lives and the expectations we have from design and functionality, and even a social status and wealth symbol. Recently Apple has rebranded its retail stores as “lifestyle centers” – their unique, minimalistic design can be recognized instantly when you walk into any mall, even though there is no sign reading “Apple” above the doorway, which is the ultimate branding feat.
The events where Apple launches new products are attended by huge numbers of fans and tech aficionados, who cheer and applaud each new revelation, while mystery invitations and pre-launch hype add to the buzz. Steve Jobs himself gained a somewhat cult following during his lifestyle, as he was widely considered a design and branding genius and the brain behind basically inventing the concept of a computer for personal use. His famous “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” commencement speech that he gave on June 12, 2005 at Stanford University only consolidated his place as a pop culture icon, as he urged graduates to follow their dream no matter what and suggested that dropping out of college was one of the best decisions he made in his life – a bit of an anti-hero statement at a college commencement address. His death in 2011 only added to his celebrity status, as his life was made into a movie by Danny Boyle, aptly titled Steve Jobs and starring Michael Fassbender as the title character.
From Zuckerberg to Musk: The Nerds Who Left Their Mark
In recent years, Mark Zuckerberg – affectionately nicknamed “Zuck” by fans – took over. The 34-year-old entrepreneur who launched Facebook out of his Harvard dorm room on February 4, 2004, has revolutionized the way we communicate and connect by ushering us into the social media age. Fun fact: he dropped out of Harvard too, but received an honorary degree in 2017. Part of his allure is the way he catapulted to success and fame: according to Betway’s Billionaire Journeys list, Zuckerberg is fifth in the wealthiest people rankings with a fortune of $71 billion, while he managed to go from millionaire to billionaire in just one year, earning his first million at 22 and moving on to his first billion at 23 years of age. He has dealt with the sudden publicity in a surprisingly calm manner for a nerdy student who, almost overnight, went on to become to one of the globe’s most influential individuals. In 2010, Time magazine named him Person of the Year – that same year Facebook reached 550 million members.
The trend of college dropouts who make it big into the tech world would not be complete without the ultimate tech celebrity of our times: inventor and entrepreneur Elon Musk. Taking it upon himself to continue the grand tradition of inventors like Tesla (after who he named the company he founded in 2003), Musk’s success and quirky character have made him a tabloid favourite. His latest shenanigan of sending a Tesla car in space to orbit the sun has added to his cult celebrity status, as has his attention to social media. If that was not enough, it was recently revealed that he is dating musician Grimes, with whom he attended the Met Gala. What more would you expect from a true celebrity?
As societies evolve, so do our celebrities – so could this new trend mean that technology has attained a social meaning that is unique to our age? Get on Facebook on your iPhone and see what Musk has to say about it.