Virtual Eternity: Living Forever In Cyberspace, For Better Or Worse

There's something about celebrity. Everyone seems to want a piece of it. And today's technology is giving everyone the chance to make it happen. If you want to be a star you don't have to head to Hollywood because the red carpet has a grassroots equivalent… it's the blue screen. The Internet is a place where stars are made overnight, and fame and celebrity are just a click away.

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Amber Lee Ettinger

But there's a catch to this new cyberstardom. That 15 minutes of fame is going to last forever because what goes on the Internet, stays on the Internet, forever. Case in point: Amber Lee Ettinger. Only weeks ago, she was a virtual unknown. Now she's a star born in the virtual world, in a music video called "Obamagirl," a funny , sexy ode to the Illinois senator that got millions of hits on YouTube.

Bill Weir and i-CAUGHT sat down with the aspiring model/actress and the man behind the video, producer Ben Relles. Ettinger said she became an instant celebrity, swamped with phone calls and interview requests just a day after the music video hit the internet. Now she's tied forever to Barak Obama, the answer to a future trivia question if Obama's political fortunes keep rising. Does she plan to vote for the man who made her famous? Ettinger said, "Um, I'm not sure who I'm gonna vote for. And even if I did know, I'm not telling anyone." For an aspiring model and actress, having fame forever sounds like a good thing. But what if your 15 minutes comes from your most embarrassing moment or your worst mistake? That happened to special DEA agent Lee Paige.

Lee Paige

During a demonstration on gun safety to a group of kids in Florida, he accidentally shot himself in the leg. Unfortunately for him, a camera was rolling. The video was uploaded onto YouTube and Paige became an overnight laughingstock, the object of jokes, ridicule and disparaging remarks directed at him in restaurants, stores and airports. He still doesn't know who circulated that video. And he is struggling to move on with his life. Not so easy when his mistake can be replayed forever.

"My main concern is to make people in the public aware of the fact that I was a productive agent and not some bumbling buffoon that shot himself in the foot."

To renowned inventor and futurist, Ray Kurzweil, what happened to Lee Paige is a wakeup call. He said that in the real world we draw the line between private space and public space. Now that cameras are everywhere. we need to do the same for the virtual world.

"There needs to be that sort of society understanding, as well as the technology to enforce it, so that we can maintain privacy in this increasingly digital world."

Other Celebrities

But privacy is not something you will be seeing a lot of on the Internet. Especially when it comes to celebrities. Just ask Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, or Beyonce. When the singer fell recently at a concert in Orlando, the image was captured on a grainy cell phone camera. Beyonce pleaded with fans not to post it online, but in this current climate, the plea went unheaded. The clip ended up on YouTube and has been downloaded nearly a million times, at last count.

But it's not just embarrassing celebrity moments caught-on-tape. A recent poll found that one in five of us who go online view videos on any given day, and that news and comedy get the most clicks. It would take years to watch what's already been posted, but millions are out there, posting and watching. And now, any one can be famous, with the click of a mouse.