According to Conan O’Brien, there’s one big way that the smartphone has changed life for famous people: the selfie.
“The only thing that’s changed is the selfie,” O’Brien said on a recent Vanity Fair podcast, when talking about being famous in the digital era. “The selfie has changed everything. Ask any person who is known and the first thing they will talk to you about is the selfie.”
Why is that? The short answer is that everyone wants to take a selfie with a celebrity when they see them on the street. But the reasons are a bit more nuanced, according to O’Brien. There’s a few people who are truly excited to see the celebrity, and are big fans. But when those people start taking a selfie, suddenly everyone else wants to as well.
O’Brien’s analogy is someone giving away free gum. “I don’t even like gum, but it’s free, and I’d like a stick,” he said.
So what does O’Brien do? He usually just keeps taking selfies until there is no one left. He called it a character flaw. He just really needs people to not think he’s a bad guy, even if they are pestering him for selfies.