Is the Internet Turning us Against Ourselves?
We are tumbling down the self-referential rabbit hole of doom
There’s nothing we humans like more than watching ourselves and one another become brands and products.
The barefaced display of greed appeals to our insatiable voyeuristic side. We derive extreme pleasure in observing what part of the human experience will get commodified next, by whom, and how aggressively it will be marketed.
Is your special talent to fart out the alphabet? Are you so proud of it you want it to go on permanent public record, along with your hairy nipples and those omnipresent skid marks in your pants? This could make for interesting conversations at the school gates, during job interviews, or at family reunions.
“The amount of respect you have for others is in direct proportion to how much respect you have for yourself,” wrote American drag queen RuPaul. So how much today for a look into your soiled underwear until the end of infinity?
That Person who Doesn’t Know how to Wipe™ is now your brand.
We put ourselves up for sale every day through social media.
Once our ego glimpses even the tiniest possibility of fame and fortune, our willingness to enslave our person to the gaze of others knows no bounds.
Against the right compensation, everything that makes us, us is for sale. This includes privacy and dignity — that is to say, identity.
Or soul, if you’re more into Faustian bargains.
Or data points, if dystopia is more your speed.
We become click kleptocrats who hawk intimate pleasure, pain, humiliation, and shame to the highest bidder. Until the day we find ourselves naked, exposed, and defenseless on the page.
And yet, we remain hungry for more. More attention, more validation, more profit.
What’s left to sell but hope?
We gorge on others’ misfortunes to make ourselves feel better while we secretly wish for love, acceptance, and recognition.
The enterprising others know how to profit from our disempowerment in an increasingly fractured world. All they have to do is appeal to our very basic emotions.
So long as content triggers happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, anger, or outrage, bingo! But they’ve got to be willing to put out — we don’t just turn up for a candid confession, we expect to consume the full woe is me routine. In short, we demand our peers perform self-deprecation in the most degrading manner possible.
Tagline idea: “I am not only overwhelmingly mortified but I am also overwhelmingly mortifying.”
Thus pain becomes a source of power and profit. Some of us provide it, some of us consume it. Together, we create an infinite loop that crashes human empathy. When our culture is to curate reality and someone decides not to and dumps all their raw data on us, our empathy gets recycled into greed again and again.
We covet what the greedy ones have because we’re greedy too.
But heaven forbid anyone should ever find out about it.
And so we join the ever-growing tribe of people on the Internet writing about people on the internet who write about people writing on the internet.
We meta-meme ourselves.
And we meta-meta-meme ourselves when we teach others how to follow in our footsteps by teaching them how to follow in theirs, as absurd as it sounds, even written down.
Nothing is ever quite what it seems as we wallow in the endless iteration of insipid pseudo inspirational copy we’re addicted to. We dredge the depths of our psyche for anything likely to trigger a strong emotional reaction, endlessly curious about how much our skids marks, say, might be worth.
We’re enthralled by our ability to reflect and be reflected courtesy of the internet.
We no longer have boundaries — we’ve crossed them all. We’re trapped in a feedback loop that’s turning us into clones.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.