If you have an old fashioned, old school, old economy “job” in an office with health insurance and retirement benefits, then this article may be incomprehensible or impertinent to you. However, if you are part of the new “gig-economy” you may find this article incendiary. That is not my intention. My intention is to raise consciousness around the inauthenticity that the Internet appears to have fomented and engendered.
Some scabs must be ripped off for the wound to heal. So buckle up:
When was the last time you asked a child what he or she or they wanted to “be” — or rather “have” as an occupation — when he or she or they grow up and he or she or they replied, “When I grow up want to be a speaker!”?
Or, “When I grow up I want to be a public figure!”?
Or, “When I grow up I want to be a life coach!”?
Or, “When I grow up I want to be a visionary!”?
Or, “When I grow up I want to be a blogger!”?
Or, “When I grow up I want to be a self-published author!”?
Or, “When I grow up I want to be an urban shaman!”?
Or, “When I grow up I want to be a zen priestess!”?
Or, “When I grow up I want to be a spiritual advisor!”?
Or, “When I grow up I want to be a guru!”?
Never, that’s when.
Because until extremely recently these were not considered to be professions or occupations. And most of them still are not. Most of them are punchlines.
But because there are few barriers to entry in the new gig-economy — a jaunt to the local library to use a public computer if you cannot afford a mobile phone — many worker-bees are marketing themselves as queens.
How would you reply if your child looked up at you and said, “Mom, dad, I’m going to make the world a better place and earn a living by posting new-age clichés and spiritual truisms on Instagram”?
The problem is that millions of people on social media, which I prefer to call busyness-media, seemed to have skipped one crucial step: Arianna Huffington asked people like Deepak Chopra to blog for free for the Huffington Post because 1. they were already branded experts in their fields with decades of education and experience and 2. they didn’t need to earn a livable wage from blogging. (I realize that Deepak may be a poor example for several reasons but you get the point.) However, THE VAST MAJORITY OF BLOGGERS AND SPEAKERS POSTING TODAY ARE EXPERTS AT NOTHING. Nothing save themselves or the selves that they constructed on social media. A tautology. Speaking of which, would you trust Deepak Chopra, M.D. to operate on your child? What would you trust renowned expert Kim Kardashian to do? Are you beginning to see the problem?
Self-publishing a book about overcoming your challenging childhood with binaural beats does not make you an expert. Posting blogs on tarot cards or astrology or psilocybin doesn’t make you an expert; it just means that you are yet another self-entitled trustifarean trying to assuage your white-privilege guilt by living in a yurt in Topanga Canyon and littering the blogosphere with your inconsequential opinions. Poor you!
Being an actual expert after making the world a better place for many years may entice a publisher to publish your book. Or it may not. You may need to be able to write too. Or at least have enough money left in your trust fund to hire a competent ghostwriter. But skipping the step of gaining years of essential education and experience, becoming a bonafide expert recognized by other leading experts, scientists, psychologists, accredited universities, and leading journals like the New York Times, and self-publishing a book and hawking it on LinkedIn and Instagram, then claiming to be a “public figure, published author, and International speaker,” is not making the world a better place and probably not paying you a livable wage either. (Thank god your granddaddy left you a chunk or you may actually have to find a job!)
Maybe there is a reason why the average time spent on a webpage is 6 seconds? Is the Internet rife with the putrid smell of charlatans? Is the wheat rising from the chaff?
So I propose that LinkedIn require EVERYONE to upload the page of his or her or their tax return(s) from the previous year that contains the “Occupation” box so it can be prominently displayed on all social media platforms and thus preclude the scores of imaginary and fantasy — I-watched-“The-Secret”-so-I’m-stepping-into-my-dream-occupation self-anointed concoction like “urban shaman,” “international visionary,” “spiritual advisor” or “zen fishmonger.”
To whom are all these visionaries and coaches and advisors and gurus speaking anyhow???? If I were a director of human resources at a major corporation or university the last person on earth I would hire to speak to employees or students would be someone who has “speaker” on his or her or their LinkedIn page or “Public Figure” on his or her or their Instagram account. And if that speaker or public figure had “Bestselling author” as an occupation I would simply Google the book title, find that it was number 4,430,8092 on Amazon and correctly reckon that it definitely NEVER summited a major publication’s Bestseller list. It appears as if millions of people took seminars from tremendously gifted orators and writers like Marianne Williamson, Elizabeth Gilbert, and Tony Robbins and said, “I could do that. I’ll just self-publish a book on Amazon and call myself a published author, speaker and public figure on LinkedIn and Instagram. And I may as well anoint myself with the moniker “Bestselling Author” because my self-published book was the #1 New Release in its obscure sub-sub-sub-sub-sub category for 30 or 40 seconds on the day it was released and nobody can check to verify it!”
I have sent emails to some of these putative Bestselling authors asking them to please send me links to or screenshots of the Bestseller lists their books graced. Nobody has ever responded.
The author of the forward of my book and my dear friend Katherine Woodward Thomas is a “New York Times Bestselling Author,” which means that she sold alot of books; however, I know two other authors, whose names I shall not reveal — extremely wealthy people — who 1. had many CEO friends purchase 500 books from particular stores in particular cities on particular days for all of their employees and 2. appeared at signings at specific bookstores on specific days that reported directly to the New York Times — and miraculously now are also “New York Times Bestselling Authors.” If you didn’t know, the system is completely rigged, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who ever wrote 50,000 words has the right to call himself or herself or themselves a “Bestselling Author.” There used to be objective measures like “more than 200,000 books sold.” There used to be things called personal integrity and authenticity. I mean, have you ever met a real Bestselling Author at a party and when asked what they do replies, “I’m a Bestselling Author.” No, because it’s an ephemeral descriptor, not an occupation.
Many real Bestselling authors are branded, are household names. Do you think Zadie Smith or Martin Amis or J.K Rowling or Salman Rushdie or Helen Fielding or Jonathan Franzen have LinkedIn pages? And if they did, would they put “Bestselling published author, speaker, public figure” as their occupations? Just by writing “Speaker” or “Published Author” on a LinkedIn profile YOU ARE CONTRADICTING YOURSELF! You’re trying to tell people that you’re branded when obviously you are not because if you were branded there would be no need to be on LinkedIn telling people what you do! Understand?
Oh yeah, one other term that needs to be stricken from all social media is “International.” We live in a global economy. I’ve written and worked in Europe and for Europeans since 1991. If someone introduced me to you as an International Writer or Internatonal Psychotherapist what would you think? And yet I’ve shaken hands with two people recently who refer to themselves as “International Yoga Teachers.” Taking your rich Instagram acquaintances on vacation to Costa Rica or Greece… well, you get the picture. The word “International” has become completely meaningless in the global economy; you may as well call yourself a Renowned Airbreather or a Person with a Face.
The Internet has done so many wonderful things and “the long tail” has allowed people like me to produce a DVD series in my home and earn hundreds of thousands of dollars independently from any major corporations. The Esalen Institute and Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health and various companies hire me to speak because I am a licensed psychotherapist WITH ten years of daily experience, a well-endorsed non-self-published book and five DVDs, not because I concocted some bullshit non-existent fictional fantasy occupation on Instagram and then had my cousin the attorney trademark it.
I remain unpersuaded that the positives outweigh the negatives of busyness-media, which seems to have devolved into a huge marketplace for life coaches to fill their sales funnels with our email addresses in the hope of “converting’ us to buyers of their online courses and self-published books about 1. how to create sales funnels, 2. how to self-publish books, 3. how to become life coaches and 4. how to sell online courses — on sale today only for $497! regularly arbitrary priced at $9,999 so you’re losing over $9,500 of your hard-earned dollars if you don’t act today!— to teach you how you too can become a Life Coach who self-publishes books and sells online courses.
Don’t even get me started on the billions of podcasts spewed out by these same machers.
Listen, the last thing I ever wanted in this lifetime was an old fashioned, old school, old economy “job” in an office with health insurance and retirement benefits— egads! — but if LinkedIn called me today and asked me to join their Department of Authenticity, I would strongly consider it.
Maybe Jaron Lanier is right? Maybe we need to remake the Internet? Maybe some regulations or barriers to entry would clean out the festering cesspool of charlatans clogging up the bandwith 6 seconds at a time?
For the gig-economy plus busyness-media equals teeming parades of fetid hawkers.