To Like and Be Liked in Return
Last night I watched “Generation Like” on PBS's Frontline and wanted to kill myself afterwards. It's about the online world, and social media, and how corporations pitch to kids and kids pitch to each other, and how little starlets are made from all this. And how money is made from all this.
A lot of it is obvious—your likes are added to the pool of likes and constitute market research which is monetized—so why did it depress me so? Perhaps because it shows some aspect of my own desires (attention, fame, hits) turned to 11. Perhaps because it reveals how bad I am at this game. (Of course, I still think people want to read.) Perhaps because there doesn't seem to be anything else. It's just this airless, clueless world.
I think the most depressing moment was when author Douglas Rushkoff asked kids about being a “sell out” or the concept of “selling out” and they didn't know what it was. They couldn't define it. They had no clue.
Identifying yourself by what you like is an old concept. Milan Kundera wrote about identifying yourself by the method of addition (likes) or subtraction in his novel “Immortality” but he goes further:
Here is that strange paradox to which all people cultivating the self by way of the addition method are subject: they use addition in order to create a unique, inimitable self, yet because they automatically become propagandists for the added attributes, they are actually doing everything in their power to make as many others as possible similar to themselves; as a result, their uniqueness (so painfully gained) quickly begins to disappear.
Wanting to be liked is an even older concept. But that's all there appears to be in this world. To like and be liked by dozens or hundreds or thousands or millions. For doing what? Skateboarding? No, harassing girls. For singing? No, just talking. For pushing this or that corporate product. For being the person with 300K likes. It's all turned up to 11. It's icky.
After it was over, and not learning my lesson, I tweeted something about it, and that tweet was immediately “favorited” by someone else. But it was one of those fake Twitter accounts, with the pretty girl on it, and the garbled tweets, and a decided lack of followers. It was someone pretending to be human. There was no one there.