I am writing you to inform you that we have lost the great battle for independence. The war that started so long ago has finally ended in our total defeat. Sadly, most of us are still waving our flags thinking that we won, which makes our defeat bitter. The promise of the internet and technology that we fought so hard to achieve is now a hopeless unfulfilled dream.
The knowledge of losing is a difficult pill to swallow. I knew the truth for a long time but finally accepted it this morning. I started another day of fiction writing, content marketing, and development. I began my battle to achieve a modicum of success by checking social media looking for new followers and likes. The sense of total defeat washed across me as I sat mulling over the people following to unfollow, liking to get likes, posting mindlessly, etc.
The defeat resonated louder still when I began checking blogs and internet cafes which were supposed to be communities for like-minded folks. At the writing cafe, the desperation of fellow writers gleamed through as they liked articles and made senseless comments all in the hope of building little audiences or in the grand goal of selling one of their unknown books.
Then came the final blow- email. I began sifting through the masses of junk emails. People selling everything from weight loss pills to cannabis oils filled my inbox with their digital goods. None of this mail did I request! Despite this annoyance, a glimmer of hope ignited as I found emails from news channels and marketing companies that promised they had the secret solution for marketing. Finally, I would get some answers and be able to formulate a reasonable marketing plan for my writing and perhaps for my customers. The great defeat consumed me as a I read the same old story:
· PPC costing lots of dollars
· Build social media followings
· Facebook ads/boost posts
· Make connections with influencers
· Email marketing
I stopped reading the emails as my mind became lost in the memories of childhood. I remember sitting in front of my Commodore 64 teaching myself code by trying to manipulate sprites. Little did I know that years would be spent learning different aspects of the computer craft. Coupled with writing, technology gave me direction. More so than focus, it gave me freedom.
As an old school nerd, I can remember the promise of the internet and technology. On Wednesday nights, my friend and I would load up my Dad’s car with computers. Hauling our computers to the local elementary school, we would join the throng of geeks seeking to share the glory of their floppy disks and show off what their Apple and Tandy could do. The computer club was the place of dreams where you could learn to build computers, ask programmatic questions, and hear mysterious tales of networks available through modems. It was the golden age for geeks because technology was providing us with freedom and establishing our place in the world.
If you were the popular kid in school, you may not be able to understand what I am saying. The promise of technology was more than just being able to go online and communicate. The promise was that we would no longer be held subject to the social caste system called popularity. We were promised a space of equality where discussion could be held that was founded on the merit of what you said and what you did. Like the computer club at the elementary school, we sought that place where it didn’t matter who you were, your age, or how you looked. To this end, we fought to build and learn technologies that resulted in the internet. The autonomy of the geek had come to fruition! So, we thought.
We thought we had finally won the war. The freedom to express yourself, make a living, and be entertained online was achieved. But this victory was short lived as the internet quickly morphed into the antithesis of Revenge of the Nerds. The dot-coms died as social media grew like a cancer. Sadly, we accepted things like the term influencer which really just means the popular kid.
“You can be popular too, if I like you or you pay me.”
We accepted the authority of people based on their numbers of followers that most achieved through mindless selfies, belfies, crap blogging, unoriginal commenting, paid sponsors, and PPC ads. The autonomy that computer club graduates, programmers, engineers, developers, IT workers, and the many others worked diligently to build- was reduced to a popularity contest. We accepted all of it and now we pay the price.
I sit at my computer, preparing for another day of mindless marketing. My job as a writer has been reduced to writing content that no one will read because it is meant for search engines. I prepare to publish more books to be lost in the ether of Amazon and the internet. I prepare for another day of vying for attention on social media in the hopes that one of the popular kids will be my friend. I prepare to fight another day, knowing I cannot win.