iJustine: Steve Jobs' stalker

Twenty-three year-old proto-celebrity, Justine Ezarik is the epitome of the hopelessly devoted Apple fan-gurl. She is often photographed coquettishly modelling herself and her Apple devices as if they were Prada bags. Occasionally she co-hosted MacBreak, and in June 2007, she covered release of the iPhone at a mall in Minnesota.
She is just one example of a flood of remotely attractive video-blogger chicks who are exploiting the – until recently - untapped market of geeks who don’t really care if these girls understand the technology they’re discussing, so long as they make kissy faces to their web-camera. These young women are not quite hot enough to be models, and they probably don’t want Daddy catching them working at Hooters; so, the next best thing is to throw together some amateur footage of themselves playing with high tech toys they don’t fully understand for the viewing pleasure of the nerdo-sphere (Jolie O'Dell being the only exception). The veteran journalism of middle-aged Leander Kahney from Wired simply cannot compete with the blond, blue-eyed Justine’s cute little v-blogs in which she says nothing more than “Apple is good, just buy it”. Justine walks through life strapped to a camera, streaming her apparently exciting day-to-day banality to the world. For example, she received almost six million hits from geeks wanting to watch her ponder over buying a cheeseburger. Her most popular YouTube clip involving actual technology (5.6 million hits) is a forty-second demo of her favourite iPhone app. Justine lip-syncs to a silly app that plays a song in Spanish. The clip’s highest rated comment is “nice t..ts”.
Her popularity was pretty good in the early days, but she needed something meaty to get some real publicity. She hit the jackpot when she received a double-sided 300-page iPhone bill two months after the iPhone was released. The physical size of the bill should not have surprised her considering that Justine averages 35,000 text messages per month.[1] The viral video of her flabbergasted face received three million hits. 

Like many iPhone users, the purportedly tech savvy Justine was so excited about setting up her toy, she must have clicked yes to everything just get her iPhone online. If a customer didn’t select the option to receive a summarised bill, AT&T would mail every detail of every byte of downloaded data. This option was defaulted to avoid whiney customers from calling in demanding to know why their bill was so gargantuan (after forgetting they had a thirty-minute Skype session with Mom). If they were paying attention during the set-up, customers could have selected the option of e-billing rather than paper. Justine’s bill wasn’t that costly, except to the forest that had to be felled to print it. She was paid US$2000 from views of her video made on Rewer, This was more than enough to cover her $275 iPhone bill (a lot less than Lisa Simpson’s $1200 MyBill). 

It was the unthinking Apple customers who caused a forest to fall, not AT&T, and certainly not Apple. The company goes to great pains to list, in detail, the green cred of its products alongside tech spec. The fifth or sixth generation iPhone could include solar power cells hidden under the screen (according to Apple’s 2010 patent.[2]). The Apple board included enviro-super-hero, Al Gore. Apple customers pounced upon this as an example of corporate hypocrisy. Nothing could stop the capricious Apple customers from blaming everyone else except themselves for their mindless click-through. 

AT&T was the only service provider that iPhoners could use, and it wasn’t that great. David Pogue snarked, “If Verizon’s slogan is, ‘Can you hear me now?’ AT&T’s should be, ‘I’m losing you’.[3] It would take as long as three years before Apple offered Verizon as an alternative carrier to their customers. For now, AT&T was the only company who would agree to give Steve a carte blanche to do anything he wanted with the cell phone format (This was the same company who had the courage to release the first commercial push button phone in 1963). 

AT&T responded to the War-and-Peace-sized bills, by sending text messages to all its customers advising them that the e-billing option is now the default set-up. This was the best move considering that their customers were too busy playing with their iPhones and complaining about their paper bills to select one simple option in their account to solve their woes. If they still wanted a paper bill, they would be charged US$1.99 a month for the privilege of complaining about its heft.  “Looks like they may have got the message” said self-proclaimed consumer champion who now calls herself iJustine. Apparently, she still hadn’t got the message that she could have used the e-billing option from the beginning.

Her fame was profitable enough for her to move from Pittsburgh to L.A. Her fans can buy T-shirts that declare “I love iJustine” or “I want a cheeseburger”. In the Apple tradition, it’s all about “I”. The internet is flooded with more glam photos of her than Jony Ive. The most ironic example is one from The Bui Brothers collection called ‘internet junkie’. It is a picture of Justine posed like something between a jilted prom-date and a broken doll. Mascara runs down her cheeks, while she furiously texts on her iPhone.[4] The great tragedy is that this woman, like many of the rising vid-blogger-chick stars, had all the talent and career opportunities available to her in an industrialised equal-opportunity culture, and yet chose the quick and nasty route to success by becoming a geek pin-up. For some, the allure of celebrity is all too seductive. In America, everyone wants to be a star like Steve. iJustine posted a video of herself stalking a silver Mercedes roadster on the freeway because she suspected it was driven by her idol. It was not.

[1] Keizer, G. (2007, August 17) A 300-page iPhone Bill?. PC World.

[2] US Patent and Trademark Office (2010, April 1) US Patent 20100079387: INTEGRATED TOUCH SENSOR AND SOLAR ASSEMBLY. Retrieved from http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PG01&p=1&u=/netahtml/PTO/srchnum.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=%2220100079387%22.PGNR.&OS=DN/20100079387&RS=DN/20100079387

[3] Pogue, D. (2007, July 27) The iPhone Matches Most of Its Hype. New York Times.

[4] The Bui Brothers (2009, July 28) Justine Ezarik Photos. Retrieved from http://thebuibrothers.com/blog/2009/07/justine-ezarik-photos-ijustine-photoshoot/

1 comment:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.