Why do you Want to be Famous?
On marketing privacy, hope, and success online
Famous for being famous, no matter what, is the dream every online self-marketer seems to be selling.
Should we monetize the minutiae of our unremarkable existence and parlay writing about our person into a career? Can we make a name for ourselves in the first person singular? Can we achieve critical mass by reducing the human experience to the lowest common denominator, i.e. our yearning for hope?
In America, hope is the rags-to-riches story, the underdog making it big, the person who is down-at-heel but still relatable. Hope has to show potential for redemption, for transformation, for transcendence but not ask too many questions.
Hope is sanitized. Hope is convenient and always a little self-deluded, taking for granted the kind of courage we may not yet know we possess. Hope is the acknowledgment of potential, a precursor to willpower.
It’s not enough to hope for something, we have to need that something too. For some of us that something is invariably belonging, connectedness, and finding our place in the world.
For others, it’s fame and fortune. A form of belonging and connectedness that rests on power rather than equality, on identity rather than character.
The simplest ideas are the ones most easily grasped by the largest amount of people. But when accessibility means concealing complexity from the audience, it becomes dishonest. Try as you might, it’s a recipe you can never replicate as it contains way too many secret ingredients the unsuspecting would never guess.
So you hide them in plain sight and use them as part of your marketing campaign disguised as native storytelling. That way, people will think you’re communicating with them whereas you’re selling to them instead. Whether you’re pushing an idea, a service, or a product, the goal is always the same: convert, convert, convert.
You want the onlookers to pay up for the privilege of entrusting their dreams to you so you might turn them into cold, hard cash for yourself. The trick here is to make people trust your narrative to be authentic and honest so they might opt-in. And the quickest way to do this before they start having second thoughts and asking too many questions is to guarantee them access in exchange for their data.
Our data is our identity in digital format; it is the most valuable currency of all, documenting everything. From our biographical details to our online behaviors, our data knows more about us than we do.
Imagine what someone might do if they knew more about us than we did ourselves. Would they seek to empower or to manipulate us?
The difference between a preacher and a snake oil salesman is that the former believes in the product while the latter does not. Their methods are the same. They provide universal solutions to universal problems that require adherence to dogma.
Instead of being an exchange, writing becomes a one-sided transaction, a performance rather than a recounting of events. The page is the stage and the author the actor and director of a life of which we all become executive producers. Season after season, we bankroll every episode with our eyeballs.
As the actor gloats about their good fortune of being entirely self-made, we embrace the money mythology. We dream of capturing the attention and imagination of the masses with our uniqueness. We dream of being praised, worshipped, and adored every day.
Weaponize communication once too often and you’ll no longer be able to remember how to use it solely to exchange information and emotions.
What if the price to pay for wanting to be a public figure was isolation? Would we still pursue the dream or would we realize how futile it is when you have no one to share it with, no one who can appreciate it at its just value?
How do you turn something no one can relate to into relatable content? By complaining about the many unknown struggles inherent to your newfound good fortune so those who struggle can empathize with you again. After all, isn’t everyone fighting a battle we know nothing about?
For example, earning well may translate into losing financial government assistance. This is many people’s worst nightmare. By tapping directly into their greatest fear, you’ve caused them to emote on cue. They’ll then overlook the fact that losing your benefits because you’re now making so much money hardly qualifies as a tragedy.
After all, you have to stay on brand and feed the collective illusion of accessible success to see how big it might grow, even if it alienates more and more people.
It’s not that we don’t love success stories, it’s just that we hate being reminded of humanity’s worst traits and realize that we’ve been played for fools.Or worse, that we were complicit with the system because we trusted success would eventually trickle down.
Gamblers who have early success often believe they have the magic touch, leading them to place more and more daring bets.
Is life as a global marketplace for digital egos the best writing personal essays online can achieve? Or are we trying to educate ourselves about those who aren’t us so we might forge a fairer and more equitable society, together?
What do we write for?
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.