In the movie Barfly, Mickey Rourke’s character comments, “People…I like ‘em better when they’re not around.”
I share those sentiments. I can usually find something in common with just about every person I meet. At the individual level, it’s not difficult to find something to like in a person. But You people, the collective lot of You…well, You freak me out.
It’s not entirely Your fault. Apparently the regular Web wasn’t a big enough beast, so Certain People came along with a brand new Web 2.0 called social networking. This group of Certain People convinced You that social networking was a way to share Your world with family and friends; a way to show support for products, ideas or people You like; a way to shout out at the world about things You don’t like. And You bought it, hook, line and sinker. Many of You are now addicted to or dependent on social networking. Even I’m stuck with it, though all I want to do with it is warn You of all the corruption and danger out on the Web.
So who are these Certain People, and what’s so wrong with this Web 2.0 thing? What do They want from You? Furthermore, why should any of this make me like the collective You less?
Well, these Certain People have learned how to manipulate the Web for profit. They have two intentions: first, to divide and conquer You, and second, to profit from You. These Certain People are not the average small business owner or individual trying to eke out a modest existence. These Certain People are more like vultures. They eat for the sake of eating, even when They’re full.
First You need to know more about these Certain People. A little background first, yes?
Once upon a time, the Web was a rather sparse and static place. You visited a website, looked around a bit, then left. You couldn’t do a whole lot back then. It was a very solitary experience.
Down the line, e-commerce was born. Merchants worldwide realized very quickly that having a Web presence was like having an international store front. Now You could actually buy Their stuff online – how cool is that?
To tell You what came next, I have to briefly mention how television advertising changed over the years. The abridged version: back in the day, television commercials were actually performed live during a program; the advertiser paid for one or more interruptions to market their product. One advertiser typically sponsored one program at a time. But soon the television industry and merchants realized it would be far more lucrative to allow multiple merchants to buy advertising time during multiple programs (and eventually stations) to air their commercials, and to record those commercials so they could be used over and over again. In order to target their products to the audience most likely to buy, They had to analyze who was watching what on television. This type of analysis became big business, and is of course alive and well today.
With knowledge of the well-developed television advertising model, it wasn’t hard for merchants to figure out that having an online store wasn’t enough. They had to advertise. The question was how to reach the largest segment of customers. Thus online advertising was born. But it didn’t follow quite the same model. Websites cropped up to connect advertisers with website owners and allow them to create affiliateships with one another. The model is simple: if I have a website and want to make money from online ads, I choose affiliateships with merchants who offer products my audience is most likely to buy. The more people who click on my site’s ad for that product, the more commission I stand to make.
You’d think all this online advertising would be good enough, but no. A few years ago these Certain People decided that they could target even larger groups of customers by facilitating social networking. What seemed innocent – the sharing of things You like with your family and friends, was easily misappropriated by those Certain People, who could now learn all kinds of things about You. By encouraging You to join groups and become fans and to speak out for or against things based on those group dynamics increases their profit. Because You’re so focused on socializing, You don’t even realize what a tool You are.
Are You a fan of certain celebrities? Politicians? Are You religious? Do You support an environmental cause? Thanks to Web 2.0, Certain People know it and are targeting You. Do You feel strongly about human rights, such as discrimination against race, sexual orientation, gender or disability? Do You think the poor aren’t getting a fair shake and that more needs to be done? Whatever information you share now – support for or against any person, idea, belief or group – You will be marginalized by Certain People for their profit. Some of You are even encouraging or condoning violence!
Which brings me to why I like You better when You’re not around. Because the moment You speak and think from a group perspective instead of for Yourself, You’ve been conquered by Them. So really, instead of dividing and conquering You, They’ve given us the means to do it to each another. Their hands are clean. So now, groups of You hate each other, and all the while, Certain People are making boatloads of money while They watch You degenerate into various flavors of group-think soup.
Too many people are shitting on one another by jumping to group-think programming without considering all sides. Stop letting those Certain People succeed in dividing and conquering us! If you the individual recognize that Certain People are trying to pit one group of people against another for Their own profit, please remember that you and I don’t have to behave like Them.
I have nothing else to say to You the collective. From here on out, I’m only interested in talking to you, the individual. Put away your group-think biases when you visit, and for cryin’ out loud, please think for yourself. I’m confident that if you and I chat without the influences of group-think, we’ll find out we have tons in common.