Video Killed the Internet Star: A Tale Of Channel [V] And [Me]

Everyone is really puzzled by the fact that I’m not more upset.

It’s 11am on Saturday morning, and I’ve just watched myself get knocked out of the Channel [V] presenter search on live television on the same day my favourite personality, Jane Gazzo, has announced her ‘retirement’ to Max. Ironically, though I’ve entered a competition to become a host on a pay TV station, my family has never had Foxtel. When I made the Top 20 in the country, my Mum and brothers were watching the revelation at our gym. Today I’m at my mate’s house up the road, watching Gus, who lives around the corner from me and is totally lovely, take ‘my spot’ in the Top 4. The whole thing is very, very surreal.

I’m not entirely sure how long it’s been since I first entered the Channel [V] presenter competition, but it feels like a million years. Being part of a national talent search is a nail biting, draining and ultimately rewarding exercise. However, it does fundamentally change the way you relate to other people. This occurs mostly when you realise how strong the pull of potential fame is on those around you.

To enter a contest like this, particularly in the social media age, is to be stripped of all other aspects of your personality, both good and bad. I have been a one-dimensional human being since ANZAC Day, when I came home a bit wasted from the pub and had my younger brother film me talking shit in my bedroom for my first video audition. Since then, Channel [V] has literally been the only thing people ask me about.

My friends are fantastic and certainly the typing miles they put in on the keyboard to try and vote my smart arse into the top spot is an amazing feat. While I love them all dearly, talking about the same thing over and over again is exhausting, even when that thing is you. At my work, my editor keeps asking me if I’m famous yet, my boss half-jokes about when I’m going to give him notice, and my co-workers make ‘V’ signs whenever they pass my desk on the way to the bathroom, which is a bit worrying considering they are all female. Siblings, who ordinarily refuse to acknowledge my stupid stunts on the Internet are spamming all their friends on Facebook, uni mates are hacking their office intranet for more valid email addresses and my girlfriend consistently reminds me that under no circumstances am I to break up with her upon becoming a beloved television personality. Nobody lets me ask them any questions about themselves. This, may I point out, all happens before I have started my second round of auditions.

Journalists by nature love and need self-promotion; it’s the easiest way to get our work in front of as many (hopefully influential) eyeballs as possible. I’m certainly not going to be the person who suddenly disavows the practise, but there is an inherent difference between being proud of something you’ve done – be that publishing an article, writing a piece of music or finishing a marathon – and having to encourage a phantom audience of millions to love you based purely on being alive. In the entire audition process, which effectively winds up at Top 4 level when it becomes more about media interviews and a few scattered appearances, I’ve really done very little. Filling in a questionnaire, shooting two videos, having a few on-camera chats and taking a headshot doesn’t strike me as a huge achievement, which is why, against my better nature, I start to resent my inner circle going on about it like it’s greatest thing I’ve ever accomplished. Nobody cared this much when I defended gay rights on a national Fairfax website, or when I got a correspondent gig at Monocle Magazine. So what gives?

Lovely people that they are, the marketing team behind [V] know exactly what they’re doing. Root out all the opinionated, well-connected extroverts across the country and encourage them to use their networks to propel them into potential superstardom and suddenly their TV station is the name on everyone’s lips. It’s not an original idea, either. The very website you’re reading this on right now also dominated newsfeeds earlier this year with their Bachelorette and Blogster competitions, precisely because they knew their audience and how they preferred to interact. The strangest part is, you suddenly find your face proliferating the Internet without you even having been overly involved in the process. In two months I may have posted the link to my ‘vote’ page five times. But by ‘liking it’, my friends pushed my face out to their friends and their hundreds and thousand other acquaintances, multiple times per week. That’s a very scary thought. Obviously it shouldn’t be, because if you land a TV gig, it’s what happens every day. But only one of us is going to get it, and that person isn’t me. For a shot at fame, I have undoubtedly given up whatever limited anonymity I had left.

The process has also taught me a far more important lesson, which is that I really don’t know everything. Anyone who criticises what Danny, Billy, Jane and Carissa do really has to put themselves in front of a giant fuck-off camera with two seconds to prepare something while trying not to look constipated. It’s a real, undeniable skill. This learning experience of the reality of television; that endless waiting around, the sudden rush of adrenalin and then not even knowing how you did until you see it beamed back at you a few days later is something I’m very thankful for. Despite getting knocked out at the penultimate point, it’s actually encouraged me to stay in touch with the contacts I’ve made and try and do more camera work if the opportunity arises. It’s not like anybody’s going to have to worry about me being an ‘unknown’ anymore; I seriously doubt having my face on a bus or billboard would have given me as much exposure as this process.

It’s 11:30am on Saturday morning and I’m meeting my friend Bridie for coffee. She gives me the thumbs-up/thumbs-down question, I tell her the news and within five minutes, we’re already talking about her impending overseas trip and her new job. Which is great, because right now, the last thing I want to talk about is me. My phone’s ringing off the hook but I’m not going to answer it for a while. It feels good to be back in 3D again.

Jonno Seidler is an entertainment journalist and former Weekend Editor. His music blog, One A Day, was nominated in the Ultrabook Blogster Awards. He will not be entering any more competitions this year.