Tuesday, October 29, 2013

In which (in my opinion) many unwelcome new words and concepts illustrate a First World problem

These days, anybody with something to sell (which seems to be most everybody) is goaded - or guilted - into online promotion. In addition, thousands of people who don't make stuff but who for whatever reason don't want to work in office buildings - or with shovels or wrenches - are sitting at their computers trying to make a living on-line.

Online marketing! Wherever you turn someone's trying to sell you
  1. Click-bait headlines so you'll click and please their advertisers;
  2. Services or expertise;
  3. Somebody else's stuff (so they get a cut);
  4. Their own stuff.
I'm in that last category, and I have to say, those of us who make stuff have a tough row to hoe because it's easier and more fun to make cds (or metal flowers, or macrame wall hangings) than it is to sell them. It's already expensive to create them, then you have to spend more money (and more and more) to enable you to get rid of them so you can make more.

There are only so many boxes of books or potholders that any attic can hold.

There are more artists and artisans in the world creating stuff than there are customers. Well, and, actually, there are too many pizza places and there's too much commercial office space and too many cars and houses and shoes. The first time I ever saw an indoor mall I was dumbfounded to see seven shoe stores. I asked my then-husband: "WHO CAN POSSIBLY BUY SO MANY SHOES?"

Not a new question! Samuel Johnson and Dickens remarked on it, and see, here, from a no-longer-famous Yiddish song from the 1930s (Men leygt arayn un men nemt gornisht aroys):
These are terrible times, everybody knows it. I know a lot of people whose businesses are going under. There's more merchandise than there used to be. ... Good brothers, hear me out. You put in, but you get nothing out. From hard work and running around, each trying to sell something to the next, the unhappiness is great.
Hence the desperate shilling of every era. Hence, for us, the weird concept of "social media." Anybody who uses that term is trying to sell you something.

'Social media' relates to real human society the way "hog lagoons" relate to real lagoons. Let's stop and have some pictures because we're told people don't want content without pictures.

Hog LagoonLagoon

And hence...
  • People are now "eyeballs" that can be sold to advertisers. As we are continually reminded, "If You're Not Paying for It, You're the Product;"

  • "Content," whether it's poetry or op-ed or or tedious mechanically churned out bullet-pointed paragraphs, is primarily google-friendly filler used to frame ads and "calls to action.". "Content" is valuable primarily because it makes search engines think 1,000s of blogs and "make money online" websites are "fresh." WHO CAN READ SO MANY BLOGS? There are not enough eyeballs.

  • If you have macrame or web services or books to sell, you won't succeed unless you "forge personal relationships" with people you've never met. You need not just a blog but of course a website, and a google+ "presence," and a facebook page - and a twitter account and some Pinterest pinning wouldn't hurt either. You should spend several hours a day at it.
I'm not exactly opposed to any of this. After all, if it weren't for the internet, I would never have heard from people in Germany and Israel and Poland willing to help me with my ridiculous quest to find the melodies for long-forgotten Yiddish songs. And I have made some friends on the internet whom I've met in the real world and enjoyed greatly.

And it's not like the old-fashioned alternatives were so great. I know artists who've spent hundreds or thousands of dollars buying display tents and paying for slots in outdoor crafts fairs and who sit in the heat for hours and watch the "eyeballs" walk past happily eating buffalo wings and ignoring the beautiful pots and encaustic paintings.

If you're going to fail to sell your macrame it's easier to do it in your house.

I'm just another old fart regretting the current pendulum swing away from "face time." Wondering whether people notice that "social activity" taking place in your empty room is actually kind of lonely, and that it might be better "social activity" to change out of your pajamas and put on shoes and a hat and go out and talk to actual people.

Is there a point to this? Not really. But if you have a point, I'd love to hear it!


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