With an audience of millions and a rendition of the same song that saw her thrust into the global spotlight, overnight sensation Susan Boyle recently bid farewell to her five minutes of fame. But not for long.

I don’t know about you, but it feels more like five weeks to me. And frankly, I’m over it. Mind you, I was never really into it. And it’s not the last of her either, with talk of a new multi-million record deal already in the pipeline. Bless.

But whatever your thoughts, Susan Boyle is a social phenomenon hard to ignore. The same might be said for Clare Werbeloff, later dubbed the Kings Cross bogan -“ the 19-year-old Sydneysider who made headlines overnight with her notorious chk chk boom carry-on.

And while they might appear worlds apart, these two personalities seem to share a slice of the same sociological pie -“ a burgeoning fixation with the mundane. An idle fascination with everyday folk when indulged with a fleeting moment in the public arena.

It all started with realty TV -“ from Judge Judy, Big Brother and Idol, it wasn’t long before we were tuning in to our next top model, next best chef or the morbidly obese contestant who could shed the most weight. From renovation rescues to behind the scenes glimpses of the local hospital, airport and police academy – it’s all there. Nothing is sacred.

And it’s the stuff social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter thrive on.

I should fess-up though – despite the suggestion networking sites are for egocentric teenagers or those with nothing better to do, I do find Facebook strangely engaging, with updates ranging from the absurd to the more absurd. From those random quizzes and YouTube footage, to Facebook junkies who like to keep all and sundry posted every time they fart.

I’ve never really been into MySpace, unless researching someone’s bio. And from what I’ve heard, Twitter really only comes in handy when you’ve run out of things to do on Facebook.

And work mates are a particularly fun bunch, aren’t they? I think I preferred it when David from accounts receivable and Margaret from IT were just that, truth be told. Before the day they popped-up as Davo and Mags -“ beer in hand at the staff Christmas party – in my -˜friends’ list. But much to my vexation, it’s not unusual for me to go to the computer to knock-over some writing and instead find myself lost in -˜status updates’ hours later.

So like it or not, it seems online social networking – much like reality telly – is here to stay. I’m surprised Aldous Huxley didn’t see this coming.

Which brings me back to Susan Boyle and Clare The Bogan. During times of such economic doom and gloom, is it any wonder we’re turning to forums that cater to escapism? Numb utopias, if you will. A place were social skills are no longer a requirement. Somewhere you can be just as fabulous in your tracky-dacks. A place where frumpy old women and attention seeking teenagers are stars.

A brave new world indeed.

– Damien Stephens

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