Thursday, February 18, 2010

Media is a Social Disease

"The man who makes an appearance in the business world, the man who creates personal interest, is the man who gets ahead. Be liked and you will never want."

~Willie Loman, Death of a Salesman

That's a fair bit of wisdom, Willie. It probably sounded real good 60 years ago. Unfortunately, we are living in a different time. A time where beloved franchises like Hooters and Pabst Brewing are up for sale. A time where Burger King has partnered with Starbucks. A time where the president is black, the mayor of New Orleans is white, the Saints won the Super Bowl, Keith Richards has given up drinking, and MTV’s Jersey Shore has been renewed for a second season. It makes me wonder how a fictional stalwart of post-WWII Americana would handle life in 2010…

He’d probably be on the Internet. With a twitter account. And a Facebook account. And a YouTube account. And an eHarmony account. If anyone was still on MySpace, he’d probably be flooding your bulletin board with invitations and exciting new business propositions. He was a salesman, afterall. People tell me all the time (slight exaggeration) that my notes are hilarious and I should be a full-time writer. I appreciate the flattery, but I don’t have a clue about writing professionally. From what I’ve observed, it involves a heavy online presence and a lot glad-handing with other internet bloggers. That’s not really a scene I’m crazy about. One might as well be going door to door selling vacuum cleaners if that’s what it all boils down to. Running around selling yourself despite not really offering any worthwhile content. You type your thoughts into a computer. Good for you. You tweet political articles and pipe in your two cents. Your ‘friends’ add their commentary. Apparently, this is modern networking. Technology has given the world a massive stage to share information with virtually no regulation and yet it remains the same old song and dance. “Hey man, check out this thing I do, if I get enough people, I get paid.”

That brings me to the whole Willie Loman symbolism. A clueless, idealistic dude with a briefcase just barely keeping his head above water. All that’s really changed is that his briefcase is now a laptop and his mistress sexts him on his blackberry. His 30yr old sons would probably still live at home, though. That occurrence will be a constant in any generation. Every morning you will wake up and log on thinking that pot of gold is just the next click away. According to Willie Loman, just being a likable person will ensure your success in the world. As far as I know, none of my friends are in jail. They’re all educated, friendly people. Where are their 60inch HD plasma flat screens? I guess there’s more to this rag to riches game than simply shaking hands and smiling.

I’m not completely disparaging this phenomenon of people turning their personal online presences into money making endeavors. That’s how the world works. Fast talking telemarketers with bargain bin office supply deals are the way of the world. Whether you’re a self absorbed blogger or a rock band trying to legitimize your talents by MySpace page views. All I want to do is eliminate this illusion that we are on the cusp of a new cultural identity and/or business model. There is no revolution in twittering. It’s an accelerated process of schmoozing and kissing ass for quarters. That’s what it was with Willie Loman in 1949 and what it continues to be today. Poor Willy worked under the guise that he was realizing the American Dream and JoeBlow.Blogspot thinks he’s on the cutting edge of communication. It’s all thinly veiled product placement, but in 2010 anyone can do it because the product is ourselves.

Okay, I just found out that 3 of the people on Jersey Shore aren’t even Italian. Excuse me while I extend this Willie Loman metaphor and vehicular suicide myself.

(Author's Note: I wrote this while on the clock at my office. Dolla' dolla' bills y'all.)