I don’t know if the internet created them, or merely brought them together, but there’s a quite sizable heap of self-help material out there. I know this because I step in it every day, when looking for anything else. There’s no avoiding the stuff. It used to be something you had to go out and find, you know, in the shadowy back rows of a book shop, but now it comes to you. Like 10 times a day via things like Facebook Feed. Early afternoons at lab when I most resemble a robot, I’ll look for something to chew on and click on one or two, and maybe it’s an entertaining read, but I always come away feeling super violated. Does anyone else get this feeling?
“How to be a happier person”, “20 ways to get the most out of your 20s”: If your friend walked up and started telling you stuff like that, you’d probably say, “Hey, you’re cool and all, and we should hang out more. But no thanks on the unsolicited personal advice front.” But on the internet it’s like, “Yeah, complete stranger. Keep passing judgment on my life, please.” I don’t know if it’s the voice-of-god quality to these crappy pieces of linkbait writing, but, instead of rolling our eyes at them, like we should, we kind of listen, eh?
It’s like that Louis CK bit about road rage. Which is actually about how tenuously our social culture is held together. Put a couple of pieces of glass and a bit of road between us and it’s like where’d all the rules go? It’s not just we lose our set of social norms, we lose any concept of them. It’s a rewiring of not just our behaviors but our intuitions on how to behave.
This new kind of interaction: I don’t like it. A one-way feed of commentary on anything from whom you should date to what kind of career you should have, from someone who doesn’t know and doesn’t care to know anything about you. We would never allow this in person. But semi-anonymized, separated by a few screens and a stretch of wire this is okay? Unsolicited advice: isn’t it the business model of advertising companies? But with soaps and cars?
Question is: how do you feel fulfilled in this world, when someone is always trying to sell you a “better life”?
Question is: why do we buy it?