There is something that is lovely about existing on the Internet. It’s the ability to connect with someone else on a one-on-one basis. That is, when someone writes to you, out of the blue and engages based on the content you publish.
The inverse is also true. I have enjoyed, for decades, having a direct access to my favorite opinion leaders. I can write to Jon, Douglas, Alain, Louis or Nassim and, sometimes, receive an answer. This is really pleasant for a rando like myself. However, I am just dumbfounded when I see noisy assholes confuse their ability to, un-originally, say ‘fuck you’ to content creators with the talent required to to create original content in the first place.
One of the most annoying aspects of contemporary life is that EVERYTHING is measured with money. This leaves out a lot of metrics important to biological people like love and happiness. You’d think the economy of likes would be better. But, in this economy, the value of sincere engagement is crumpled up and monetized by the big players like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Sincere, thoughtful and fruitful engagement between fans and content makers must be taken to a closed space, like Patreon for example. I have never wanted people to ‘like’ what I write so much as to engage sincerely with it on a one-on-one basis and use it. The amount of people who would care to do that is small compared to the immense amount of people I could outrage for profit on the internet.
I am working hard to enslave a very specific section of humanity in order to do something more useful for the world than just ‘liking’ what I write. Linking something on the internet is, literally, the least you can do when engaging with people who produce content. Ultimately, likes are harvested by people who do not give a fuck about you. They employ underpaid drones to write throwaway content with disingenuous click-bait titles that flatter or outrage you into sharing or clicking like.
We live in a society where people in the middle are, essentially, carbon copies of each other. In this space we can be convinced to do things to signal individuality or status. This is the basis of consumerism as a lifestyle. It is all encompassing, expensive and eventually ruinous. The news media has never been able to deal with normal people. Normal people are too boring. They decided decades ago that they MUST put people into one of TWO boxes and then monetize the attention they get from violently dragging these boxes away from each other. Now that people are broke and angry, consumerism as a means of personal expression is dying. People seem to have the inclinations to spend a lot of time demonstrating their belief in one of the greatest lies of the 21st century: the culture of opposites. Conservatives are the opposites of liberals. Men are the opposites of women. People who have a small disagreement are presented as being at war with each other. Through online transparency, we see people buying into this ludicrous bullshit! We have all the bandwidth in the world to explore the subtle differences in people… but none of the attention it seems.
I see this conflict education permeating the communications of young people as a disease of opposite assumption. If you write on the internet that you love something, someone will come along and declare that you are a total asshole for hating, what they perceive to be, the opposite of that. Celebrate women and people will create a cacophony of noise about how men should be celebrated too. If it is possible to love true opposites like the colors green and purple, then it must be possible to love two concepts that are not opposites, such as the genders male and female. Also, interestingly, the opposite of love is not even hate… it is simply indifference.
The candidacy of Donald Trump shows us that there is no reason for a communicator to be genuine in a like/dislike economy. Donald Trump makes money for the media via positive or negative outrage harvesting.
Previously: David Rakoff on the fetishization of food