🔗 Want to sell a book or release an album? Better start a TikTok. - Vox:
The internet has made it so that no matter who you are or what you do — from nine-to-five middle managers to astronauts to house cleaners — you cannot escape the tyranny of the personal brand. For some, it looks like updating your LinkedIn connections whenever you get promoted; for others, it’s asking customers to give you five stars on Google Reviews; for still more, it’s crafting an engaging-but-authentic persona on Instagram. And for people who hope to publish a bestseller or release a hit record, it’s “building a platform” so that execs can use your existing audience to justify the costs of signing a new artist.
I have a few friends and acquaintances that have been sucked into this vortex and it has been terrible to watch. Frankly, I consider most of them to be just acquaintances at this point because so much of their outward presentation has become about pushing their wares.
I feel bad about that because I think most of them are—like everyone who gets sucked into this game—just trying their best to find a way forward that works for them. But it is exhausting to listen to and watch, so I can only imagine how much exponentially worse it must but be to have to live that kind of life.
So I am glad this piece calls that out and goes into the degree of detail it does. No one should have to constantly be hustling and commoditizing every last bit of themselves to make a living. And we should especially not have to commoditize the creativity and art and personal expression that makes us who we are. We should have a society that protects that stuff from commoditization, that gives us the space and time and energy we need to be able to do more of it.
BUT… It was not “the internet” that did this.
It is capitalism and its insistence that the only value anything in life has is the profit that can be extracted from it. It is capitalism that sees anything that is not generating profit as waste. It is like acid spreading across every aspect of our lives and devouring it all, burning it away until there is nothing left.
To be fair, the article does a pretty good job of calling out how miserable and crazy-making the whole business of self-promotion is. But once again I find myself wishing this sort of commentary would not content itself with pointing to tech platforms and the internet.
They are co-conspirators and should not be let off the hook, but they are also players in a bigger system and it is that system that we need to be looking at.