Greed is Eating the Internet
How soon until the internet types in all caps all the time?
Individual emotional incontinence unravels and snowballs, spreading fear and panic with attention-seeking ‘woe is me’ diatribes without acknowledging woe has become a collective good, suffering a group project.
Unmoved by the zeitgeist, the ‘me-media’ continues making a living from victimhood culture and profiting from human disempowerment.
And because someone’s misfortune is always someone else’s new business opportunity, profiteers spring into action almost as soon as the pandemic flattens us with assorted digital offerings about how to get rich by typing on the internet. Clickbait Karens resume shrieking about celebrities, their nipples, and their exes as soon as they test negative for the ‘rona and find themselves unable to milk what was poised to be their biggest story of the year. There are laments about having to ‘adult’ — i.e. perform the tasks related to adulthood — at home instead of enjoying an all-inclusive hospital staycation.
Behold entitlement, extreme callousness, and a complete absence of empathy being monetized to the hilt during a global crisis because unchecked capitalism never sleeps, never rests, and never shrinks.
It only has one mode: growth.
What’s happening to language and our shared humanness? Who even harbors hospital fantasies when bodies are piling up in refrigerated trucks and health insurance is a privilege rather than a basic human right? Who gloats about food hoarding on social media when many are going hungry?
This has been the online narrative ever since the beginning of the pandemic. It changes in nuances of outrage every so often but shows no sign of abating.
Panic is a paycheck, fear is money: We’re deeply sick individuals.
And so grabby fingers grab.
The heartbreak playing out in pixels and data packets online is seldom that of a nation in the throes of an identity crisis, coming to terms with the lies it was founded upon and the systemic cruelty of its ways. Instead, the heartbreak is a very public temper tantrum performance of staged and publicity-friendly disappointment: Writing, in any capacity from media to ‘me-media’, doesn’t entitle anyone to being read.
There are very many heartbroken people typing on the internet right now.
These are difficult times to be earning a living with words if you’re a stickler for accuracy and meaning. A captive audience of disheartened and despondent people whose eyeballs are glued to screens 24/7 because they can’t leave their home is never going to be completely rational, which makes it the perfect petri dish for experiments in propaganda and profiteering.
Unchecked capitalism and greed can turn humans into monsters who, unless they’re raging narcissists, are rarely self-aware.
This begs the question: What if outrage culture is the only culture now?
America is the Michael Scott of countries, always trying to look like what it’s not, loudly and desperately wanting to be admired and loved by the rest of the world. And, for the most part, it works when you’re always the loudest.
Alas, no one needs more validation and adulation than Trump, unchecked capitalism’s culmination of extensive beta-testing made infinitely more powerful by social media and the average incurious American’s deep-seated belief they’re entitled to the moon on a stick simply by virtue of being, well, American. Exceptionalism is the kind of drug that can blind and deafen and dumb down on contact.
However, it doesn’t render those who suffer from it speechless.
And so the Trump persona sets the tone for much of the internet, sometimes assisted by media powerhouse Alex Jones, whose superpower is, allegedly, being honest. But if he and the many who have co-opted his bluster and bullshit business model were honest, would they still need to convince us they are?
Can we no longer infer character without marketing now?
Every platform has its Kardashians who hardly ever stand for anything anymore beside personal enrichment. Ergo, someone always has to come out on top and the winner takes it all. Even trauma, abuse, and humiliation are competitive now, with a special mention for the depression olympics. When you’ve been socialized to compete from a young age, taking others into account remains a grotesque proposition.
So no, we cannot infer character without marketing now because the words we read no longer share a core meaning. Hence Honest Jones, who is to language what broad-spectrum glyphosate-based herbicide is to the planet.
Everything that is human is commodified to the extreme, including emotions.
It’s not about being human, it’s about being what pays.
For America to find itself in a situation where the rest of the world looks at her askance with a mixture of pity and concern takes some getting used to. When you’ve always known you’re simply the best, better than all the rest, why would you even be curious about anyone else?
A culture of systematic erasure at national and international level is never going to work for everyone, only the loudest, only those who spin the tallest tales like the return to a mythical age of greatness that never existed anywhere other than in the delusions of grandeur of self-made demagogues.
They can see we’re all jonesing for a fix, a rags-to-riches fairy tale, some hope.
And so they promise us the empathy they lack, the empathy we crave, the empathy we’ve become unable to muster for others and much less ourselves. There’s a sense of tacit censorship in the air, some unspoken agreement to wait and see, and much private hand-wringing because we have no idea how to deal with all the lies we’ve been sold.
Rocking the boat could cost you your job, your reputation, your online blast radius.
The pandemic gave us all X-ray vision and what have we done with it so far?
We’ve mostly averted our eyes and carried on as usual. Civil unrest is yet another sign our values have grown obsolete and we need to confront the worst parts of ourselves together before it’s too late.
Perhaps we can reclaim language from the clutches of those who are gutting it of meaning? Perhaps we can begin to think out loud about realities few of us are familiar with yet? Perhaps collective self-inquiry can save us all from self-sabotage on a national scale?
Can we make perhaps possible?
If not, the internet of greed will carry on aiding and abetting the downfall of everything. How can we claim the digital mirror is betraying us when we’re still using it to betray ourselves and each other?
When we self-actualize, so will it. Every word helps.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor now based in the Netherlands. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.