#DeathToAdvertisers

Speaking of shitty marketing….

A week ago, Slate put up a terrific editorial about the insulting (more so than usual) ad campaign being employed to roll out that new Mortdecai Movie. Read it here.

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Uninformative posters, random hashtags, kooky tweets, it’s the suggestion of some grand event going on somewhere, one that you too can be a part of. That is, if you don’t mind doing a little research.

Wait a minute! Why am I doing the research? The marketers are hoping I’ll become invested in the movie by diving into the “world” of its ad campaign. By the time the movie finally premieres, they expect I’ll be so frenzied with curiosity that I’ll throw myself at the theater to “complete” my Mortdecai experience. Insidious. The Slate writer does a terrific job of delineating his outrage at such manipulation, but I’m a little surprised that this seems to be his first exposure to it. Mortdecai is hardly the first offender.

mindy-kaling-02This goofy shit has been around for a long time. Batman logos, Bubsy the Bobcat, Who is Keyser Soze? I don’t know! You tell me! I’m not giving you my money so I can find the answer to some question you keep buzzing in my ear. Social media has only made it worse. Advertisers are wicked, manipulative people. They know we like to feel smart, busy, and savvy, so they throw us tidbits of silliness that are only marginally related to the product they’re selling, and then shove a hashtag in our faces. If we see it enough, and lord knows we will, one day we’ll be looking on Twitter when that little turd they planted in us will float up to the fronts of our minds. “Huh. What about that #invisiblemindy thing? Search.”

And, they’ve got you.

I have a problem with hashtags in general. They’re specious little things that give people delusions of significance. I imagine they can be helpful for people who need to coordinate, say, a governmental revolution, but less ambitious citizens are throwing them all over the place now. What, exactly, is #marking #every #word #in #your #tweet #with #a #freaking #octothorp supposed to accomplish? Do you really believe there are crowds of people out there searching for the subject #mykids? Why would strangers be interested in your kids?

When the internet first got to its feet and started walking, and became accessible to the average computer user, a lot of people (including myself) went through that delusional phase: “Oh, I can’t wait to see what the world thinks of my website! I hope I don’t offend some guy in Luxembourg with my witty opinions! I’ll put a guestbook up so I can see the signatures that flood in from around the globe!” Then we got fewer than ten hits, most of them from family members, and the truth hit home: the standards of fame may be a little lower on the net — or in the case of YouTube, a HELL of a lot lower — but you still gotta have it before you’ll get any attention.

tothereader (should you exist): I write this blog more for myself than anyone else, as a fun little exercise. It helps me get my frustrations out. I don’t expect that anyone’s looking for it, or actually interested in what I have to say. Whatever tags I put on my entries, they’re usually related to vague subjects so they might show up in searches, if people really do search for blogs at all (I don’t). In other words, I know I’m nobody, and I’m all right with that.

But now we have Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, and a whole new generation of internet virgins is diving into the pond with the expectation that the whole world is watching them, like this is a game of Big Brother or something. So now we get hashtags for every fucking thing.

I know my rant here won’t be heard in the maelstrom of “lols” and “omgs” that clogs the internet these days, but I’ll rant just the same: No one’s watching you, okay? Get over yourself! Unless you’re threatening to kill the president, no one gives a shit!

But the hashtag curse has another evil effect. People with a lot of money can use a hashtag to fool us into thinking their shit is something everybody’s talking about. Alongside tags like #jesuischarlie or #blizzardof2015, which refer to serious events that actually affect our lives, we get things like #OneBoldChoice (promoted by Toyota). What the fuck? Who’s looking for that? Who’s going to tweet with that? This is astroturf bullshit at its most blatant, because the advertiser isn’t even trying to hide! They’re happy to co-opt and corrupt what was once a user-driven set of communities, and then twist it to make people feel like they’re missing out on something.

Gabbo-is-comingI say that consumers should fight back. Let’s use the advertisers’ hashtags against them. The same way that commercials mess with our heads, showing us images unrelated to their products, let’s tweet to plug our own personal projects and slap their phony hashtags on them. The next time someone caves and searches for #OneBoldChoice, I hope they get a gallery of tweet-pics showing people on the crapper. Man, I’d love to see the indignant PR response to something like that. “How dare those little ingrates! Abusing our tags that way!”

Now THAT would be a bold choice.

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Meet Mr. Nibbles

IMG_2305There’s a neighborhood cat who stops by my home every few days. My family calls her “Mr. Nibbles” even though she’s a girl. We call her that because she gently bites my fingers when I pet her. With each visit, she gets more and more comfortable, and she’s grown to trust me enough to fall asleep in my lap. She doesn’t want anything to eat, as she’ll only take a tiny bit of food or milk and then refuse the rest.

IMG_2304I think she just wants to feel safe and loved somewhere as she makes her rounds across the neighborhood. I imagine she has a number of families that she visits, in between her dog-dodging and mouse-hunting. I miss having a pet, and she doesn’t seem inclined to cause trouble, so I enjoy her company.

IMG_2266I’ve heard that cats communicate with each other somehow, and I’m curious to know what Mr. Nibbles tells the neighborhood cats about us. She must be keeping us secret, because no other cats have shown up here. Maybe she says we’re horrible people whom they’re better off staying away from so she can have us all to herself.

Platform Game

It looks like success in writing is about building a “platform.” That’s the word I see everywhere now. A platform is a foundation of connections and achievements, and the more of these that you have, the stronger your platform is.

I don’t know how I feel about this. It sounds to me like writing has turned into a popularity contest. It’s not about storytelling, it’s about bankability.

This is the way things go nowadays, I suppose. It’s an age when any clown on YouTube can find fame and success simply by vlogging about what he buys at the store each day. Whether you’re writing a novel, reviewing a video game, or sharing the minutiae of your life, you are involved in “content creation,” a term so clinical and so far removed from artistic value that it’s depressing.

It’s most frustrating because I saw it coming. I didn’t have some psychic vision. I saw the successes of certain webcomics over the years as the internet grew. The most popular webcomics were wildly inconsistent in quality or meaning, but God damn it, they updated everyday.

That’s how you build a platform, I guess. You keep cranking things out. You stay in touch. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have anything important to say, or if inspiration has struck you. You just keep putting your chips out there.

Could I live with myself if I posted a daily vlog on YouTube that discussed excruciating trivialities with little to no value? Could I feel alright with that? Lord knows I don’t much like to talk unless I have something good to say, and then I like to be sure I express myself to greatest effect. If you want to build a platform, though, you need fans, you need to clamor for Twitter followers, you have to beg for YouTube subscribers. You have to be an online attention whore.

My friend Brenna and I had a short discussion about how we feel that human civilization has passed beyond the Information Age and moved into the Attention Age. Attention, it seems, is the most valuable currency of the generation. Now that we all have the capacity to plaster our faces on millions of screens, we’re in the midst of a veritable Attention Rush. Stake your claims now, folks.

Is that what writing is all about anymore? I suppose that if you want to make money doing it, then it is.

The world changes, but the results don’t change all that much. The most successful will the be the ones who love to show themselves off the most. I can only wonder how true writers — excuse me, “content creators” — like Sylvia Plath would manage in a day like this.