Sunday, March 9, 2014

I wonder if Philip Roth hasn't watched the recent Frontline on the "Like" Generation, (Generation Like) the newfound power of social media hits, 'liking,' following, tweeting,  to spawn commercial influence upon the young.  (How else to put it?)  I am who I like.  The power I have is the influence of my cyber thumbs up.   So pervasive, the world of marketing will never, can never, be the same.

I suspect Mr. Roth, though I wouldn't picture him as much of a Facebook addict, had already been thinking about such things by the time he was interviewed, recently, "My Life as a Writer,"  for The New York Times… (He did once write a fine book about a guy who works in a public library.)

"Now the fantasy that prevails is the all-consuming, voraciously consumed popular culture, seemingly spawned by, of all things, freedom. The young especially live according to beliefs that are thought up for them by the society’s most unthinking people and by the businesses least impeded by innocent ends."

How the describe the fantasy of such a prescient vision?    How to outline it without sounding 'completely out of touch..'   How to put it;  how to think about it without feeling horrified?  The newly powerful, or powerful so it seems, have mastered a way to be popular through making commercials for themselves, for branding their own individual lives…  (Or, rather, the claim of being 'individual,' not on the verge of becoming a commercial product themselves, the selling of all outer trappings, hair style, Taco Bell, Coke, popularity itself of the kind of the bright shiny screen, Facebook and YouTube mimicking the old television commercials we all endured watching TV, waiting for the return of The Wonderful World of Disney.)  How can the thoughtful keep up?  Who's going to "like" the complexities involved with reading Kundera's recent essays?  Who has the attention span?  Switch to the "outgoing" skateboard kid chasing bubble butts in Compton, a product of his times, taking advantage of his own popularity…  Any vision behind that?  Any mortal human wisdom that might attend the town meeting to help decide the fate of the common green?

Okay, there is content on Facebook that is wise and mature (in the best sense), I'm sure.  People do share things that are real.  Old people like me get back in touch with old chums.   Is one prone to jealousy not being popular of the sort Frontline is talking about?  Would one wish to be a sell out himself?  (The kids interviewed could not even remotely pin down what the term 'selling out' means, and maybe the term has in fact lost its meaning, as you and I know the term.)

What is promotion?  Can one go, get, anywhere without it?  Would Jesus himself be on social media, friends with Peter and Paul…  (If the church is the fantasy being sold, as Roth hints, speaking of earlier times, maybe that wouldn't be inappropriate.)

I only know, as a poor old bartender who still endeavors to write a little bit, that time spent on any popular media causes distraction, breaks apart chains of thought, trashes the expression of ideas and thoughts one might have.  Thus, the inherent weakness that the commercial world takes great advantage of, co-opting our minds to sing in synch.  "Don't explore your own thoughts, don't follow your own imagination too far."

The strange thing:  one is already an outcast for not participating in it.  Not on Twitter?  Forget it, my irrelevant friend…

But, what can you do, but self-promote, using every angle possible...

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