I no longer remember the names of the new celebrities, there are too many.
I can watch a video with 55 million views, cry over it, feel the feeling—and never know who made it, or who was in it.
There are too many names, seriously.
And the headlines? They are not helping at all…
Unless the hero of the day is already famous, there is no way the social headline is going to name the name.
If Kim Kardashian donates a hundred thousand dollars to a charity, sure, the headline will go, “Amazing! Kim Kardashian Cares about the Poor … or Does She?” But if it’s some obscure kid who appeared out of the dusty attic and saved a kitten, he will forever be remembered as “this 11-year-old from South Dakota,” or “this brave immigrant.”
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Why? There are several reasons, including hurry, peer pressure, and the need to pay the bills. If the article is about you (and it’s a good article), you want your name in it—but if it’s about somebody else, it’s just some 11-year-old from South Dakota. You are moved and inspired, the kid’s job is done. It is all about you, the liver of life and the observer of everybody else.
On the journalistic side, the pressure is economic. It works like a giant set of dominos. I know that because I used to write those headlines (and other things) for a very cool independent publication. I know what works! As I observed the dynamics of online conversations, I started to realize the cultural harm of not naming the obscure heroes. I attempted to counter the trend… but it’s near impossible for a human being with a stomach and no extra money in the bank who is working with other human beings in similar circumstances. You want to keep the entire enterprise afloat, and at the end of the day, people click on what they click on. And they are more likely to click on a label than on an obscure name.
It is super super hard to be a lone warrior of proper linguistics, in a world where even those of us with the best of intentions have to play by the rules set in motion by the careless monsters of selling quick fixes for quick money.
In the online kingdom, everything moves fast, people are anxious and expect to receive instant lovings and instant ego strokes. Our brains are overloaded with so much crap that we feel no desire for depth or extra detail—we are already at our limit. So we watch thirty seconds of something about somebody, and quickly grab the mic to tell the world about how we feel.
Our spirits are not respected by the machine IRL, so we resort to whatever sensory fix we can get … We are a nation of anxious talkers who were born to be free. There are too many of us, and we are anonymous.
Psychoeconomy: follow the money.
Who benefits from the fact that we no longer remember each other as individuals but mainly as “this guy from South Dakota who saved the kitten,” “this Bernie supporter,” or “this woman in a MAGA hat”?
No I did NOT just venture into politics, by the way. I am just giving an example of mneumonics.
I would say that one of the beneficiaries is the industry that likes to move fast and break things. On the level of founders, the tech giants are betting their futures on massive data collection, on using our data to train and perfect their AI, and on optimizing us silly peasants to make us move and feel according to their laboratory-created vision. They, the digital masters, are the livers of life and the observers of us, their background.
If we take our time to do things at a natural biological pace, we are not providing value to them and their beloved AI. We are squeezed into anxious absent-minded states so that their digital data-processing conveyor moves as fast as possible.
We are the content, and we are under attack.
But I believe in the power of the spirit and in the power of small individual choices. So now, whenever I see a video about “this guy,” I either don’t click—or I take the time to research and memorize his name. A little thing, nobody sees it. But I feel that it matters somehow.
Maybe, if we make an effort to stop anonymizing each other and use each other for entertainment, we will all feel better?