I now notice that Facebook is offering a Promote button on personal profiles, where for a few quid more you can advert your status updates to receive more attention/exposure. (I’ve promised a new blog entry to The Transcendence Diaries daily from now on, as in days of old, so if any status update goes beyond 4 lines I turn it into a blog btw. Standby and we’ll see what happens here…) Point being that this new trend compels one to realize that the world is quickly jumping to a “whoever has the most money gets the most attention” model, (in point of fact it is actually swerving damn fast towards “whoever has the most money gets ALL the attention” — but this jumps the gun a bit) even on traditionally free platforms such as social media. Of course there is the “whoever makes the biggest arse of themselves that day” model as there’s always been, but that’s usually just good for the requisite “fifteen minutes (now fifteen seconds) of fame” type of exposure; in one ear and out the other faster than that pregnant mom of eight sea-monkeys in Kenosha, Wisconsin can find a crack publicist who’ll take her on for a three month stint.
In general the prediction made in the book We Are the Revolution — Welcome to the Personal Expression Age about the coming trend of “the commoditization of the individual, of every individual” as a Signature of the age, is slowly inching toward becoming a very solidified reality in Western culture and thus globally. (Even the most ardent despisers of all things American still recognize that, one, in order to make a big splash financially one normally has to make it in the USA, and two, that in terms of cultural perception of mainstream success on a global scale, “making it in the US” is still the benchmark of how successful one is perceived to be). But that’s subtext.
The bigger picture point is that if regular everyday folk using social media to communicate mundane daily activities with friends, classmates, family and neighbors are now being encouraged to “Promote” their status updates for no obvious or immediate economic benefit, what’s next? [Okay so now this is where we switch to a cut and paste from this Facebook status update to a blog entry usually, which despite my aversion to the extra work involved and a deep seated though irrational longing to just stay right here and keep typing, I will now do. Here we go. That’s better.]
In order to answer this ‘what’s next’ question perhaps it would be helpful to remind ourselves of the primary driver, and trigger, of this new Age of Personal Expression, i.e. we’ve now entered an era where growing up moderately healthy and successful — doing well in school, graduating from college, getting married, buying a house of your own, having 2.5 kids, retiring by age 65 with a decent pension — is no longer enough to fulfill the average human being’s need for personal gratification, satisfaction or validation.
The need to be publicly acknowledged and/or recognized through Personal Expression (PE) of nearly any and all means necessary (or available) has replaced the more traditional forms of personal satisfaction. Becoming public, becoming a public sensation, even if for a brief moment, has become the new “got married, had a kid, just earned my Masters or bought my first house, etc.”; UNLESS any of those events happens to make it easier for someone to “draw a crowd” or gain more access to the plethora of perceived public attention that appears available now to anyone, i.e. if getting married can be perceived as being a unique form of Personal Expression that may garner one more attention than the average bear, then that event is still perceived by the person to be a major life moment worth investing in.
If not, then it feels plain, ordinary, pedestrian and therefore might not be as exciting as endeavoring to attempt something else that feels more authentically PE; at least and especially while one is young and still believes themselves to have plenty of good years left, (or old and feels like they’ve already “been there done that” with the more traditional vehicles of personal satisfaction mentioned above). [This is a deliberately short synopsis of a much larger paradigm explored fully in the book, but it should suffice in order to follow the main point(s) of this blog entry.]
From where we sit now — nine years into the research of this age and the book that explores it — the above summarizes both the primary continuous driver of the age AND the primary trigger that got us here in the first place. So, with the “commoditization of the individual” Signature now starting to trend in real time, e.g. “Promote your status update or Tweet to your friends to “let people know it’s important”” [a direct quote from Facebook June 18th, 2013], which costs money, it is clear that our global society as a whole is definitely heading toward a “whoever has the most money gets the most attention” or better put, “whoever has the most money gets all the attention” model of day to day life. And yet ordinary folks with no financial or career-goal gain to be had from going more public will still feel compelled to participate in such activities such as promoting their status updates or tweets or anything they can think of in order to garner more public attention, even if it just means among their local community or friends group.
The truth is that most people will never gain much of anything from such an action. One promoted status update or tweet in this overcrowded marketplace of pseudo-celebrities (another Signature of the Personal Expression Age) does not a celebrity make. And yet because of the two primary factors triggering, allowing and continuing this trend — the relatively new longing of the average individual to feel famous, and the corporate greed that creates the technological platforms to make the fulfillment of that desire or at least the perception of it available — people will still jump at the chance. Facebook will bring in tens of millions of dollars in extra revenue this year from regular everyday Joes being willing to pay for the perception that “more people saw their promoted status update”. No one is claiming that Facebook will not in some way “promote these paid status updates” to a larger target audience than if one didn’t pay to promote it. That isn’t the implication. Nor the point.
The intriguing takeaway is that people will do it in the first place; and the fact that someone who works at Facebook actually had the idea in the first place — and furthermore that someone else higher up actually thought it was a valid enough experiment to at least try. It is a clear indication that we have now passed the threshold in mass consciousness of understanding the undercurrent drivers of the Personal Expression Age — they are beginning to be taken for granted — AND have reached the first stage of a global trend toward the Commoditization of the Individual en masse.
More later. Much more. Just thoughts in the moment.