Facebook, Yelp, Uber and the “The Cult of Likability”

I reached the point in my Headspace app- meditation this morning, nearing the ten minute mark where it would conclude, when the man with the silk-carpeted English accent said.  “Now let your mind do what it wants to do, just relax.”  I have noticed that my mind balks when he prompts me to roam freely in my imagination at the end of each meditation. I have no problem with envisioning the light from the sun coming and entering at the top of my body and slowly filling up my entire body with the sun’s light and energy.   Focusing my attention on my breath is doable.  It is a tangible task. However, when prompted to roam free it as if, in my mind, a gorilla is being let out of his cage after a stint of captivity in the zoo. The zoo keeper says “Go free! Enjoy your life!”  The gorilla looks out into the great wild, all the dangers and potential freedom and with that, the implied self-sufficiency: hunting for his own food, finding shelter at night to sleep. The gorilla then looks back at the zookeeper with a forlorn expression that says, please don’t make me do this, I enjoy my three meals a day here.  I don’t know how to live any other way.   “Alright, get back in here big guy.” The zookeepers says.

I wonder recently if I have made a life of striking a permanent emotional posture of forlorn nostalgia: this perpetual sulk, the bent towards drama and craving the feeling of being a victim and an underdog, a misunderstood genius, if only they knew!  The story I tell myself is that no one understands me. We are a narcissistic bunch, humans, the majority of individuals would say we are smarter than most people when polled.   I want to be wanted, I have a problem making decisions, specifically with trips, this anxiety sets in that makes me play through every last interaction in the next 3 days on a trip to the jersey shore.  I will pack the bag, make arrangements, and at the last minute I will cancel.  Is it that I am testing my companions want of me? Do I constantly need to be reminded how much people like me because I am insecure?

It is a paradox of wanting connection but wanting to be desired more than that, and failing to put in the adequate effort to be wanted and desired.

This girl at the library I work at, says “contemporary ” and “postmodern” in referencing certain books and authors, as we sit on the swivel chairs in the serene stacks and the machine beeps as we swipe each book under the red laser. I think judgmental thoughts behind my eyes, not expressing any tell or tick of a reaction, but noting the barrier that she is attempting to throw up between us: the smart person and the dumb person, the in-the-know and the one who doesn’t know the basic lingo of upper-crust literary-in-crowd.  Seriously what the fuck does Postmodern actually mean?  I think I have a physiological aversion to even looking up this word because the people that use it in conversation just enrage me.  So it is modern…. that means current, but then it’s after that, OK I’m lost, let”s just settle it and say you’re smarter than me if you say the word Postmodern in conversation.  Or is it simply after a year when everything was considered to be modernized?

Library girl got an MFA and has been published a few times.  “The book is always better than the movie.” She says emphatically.  I agree, but she says it with an authority that implies that there isn’t and never was an alternative opinion.   It is a persuasive narrow-mindedness, however juvenile.  Principled, but to what ideal? Simply brazen self-worship and delusion, or a moral code?  Her carefully, or randomly, crafted hipster-ness is enticing, as in enticing me to be attracted to her otherwise childish one-upsmanship. The baggy get up she wears one day and the technicolor shirt, with jean overalls, the next.   Stay on your toes, because you don’t what is coming next, anything could happen, the hipster persona says, this cultivation of the new and interesting, an endless search for a collection of conflicting ideals and cutting edge artists that conjure Tom Hanks searching for fish with his meek wooden spear in Castaway, a desperate  attempt to grab anything for nourishment.  Her self esteem is the desperate hunter, nearing starvation, becoming ravenous on the plains of Africa.  I am glad I am pursuing a career in Mental Health because in about 10 years, business will be booming. The atomic explosion of toxic American culture: sedentary, isolated, at its anti-Intellectual apex of groupthink and fake news…. will be mushrooming leaving the decrepit and spent Psyches of the fleet of Netflix and Instagram Automatons.

How hard would it be to Netflix and Instagram to start sublety programming our minds with sub-conscious priming and messages.   Not far off from the way Charles Manson indoctrinated his followers.  He was charismatic, forceful, bold. At least he had to earn the attention and commitment of his followers.  Netflix and Instagram, Facebook, don’t earn that commitment, but we give it to them, in our drug addled state of addiction to the ideals of beauty, lust, popularity, and the illusion of screen connectivity.   We are all the two beautiful, seemingly well-adjusted girls that killed Sharon Tate and another couple cooperating from the orders of Charles Manson.  These women were from upper class, good families, “I never could have imagined in a million years she would be brought to this.” says one family member.  Take the cult of Charlie Manson and extrapolate it, the cult of likability is real, and is it undergoing growth and transformation as the years go by.  Next it is the cult of censorship, the cult of sameness, the cult of ACCEPT ME OR ELSE, the cult of “being falsely polite just to be accepted by the herd” in the technological age as Bret Easton Ellis says in the article below:

“Most people of a certain age probably noticed this when they joined their first corporation, Facebook, which has its own rules regarding expressions of opinion and sexuality. Facebook encouraged users to “like” things, and because it was a platform where many people branded themselves on the social Web for the first time, the impulse was to follow the Facebook dictum and present an idealized portrait of their lives — a nicer, friendlier, duller self. And it was this burgeoning of the likability cult and the dreaded notion of “relatability” that ultimately reduced everyone to a kind of neutered clockwork orange, enslaved to the corporate status quo. To be accepted we have to follow an upbeat morality code where everything must be liked and everybody’s voice respected, and any person who has a negative opinion — a dislike — will be shut out of the conversation. Anyone who resists such groupthink is ruthlessly shamed.  

Today everyone thinks that they’re a professional critic (“Everyone relies on my Yelp reviews!”), even if they have no idea what they’re talking about. But it’s also a bleak commentary on what has become known as the “reputation economy.”

The idea that everybody thinks they’re specialists with voices that deserve to be heard has actually made everyone’s voice less meaningful. All we’re doing is setting ourselves up to be sold to — to be branded, targeted and data-mined. But this is the logical endgame of the democratization of culture and the dreaded cult of inclusivity, which insists that all of us must exist under the same umbrella of corporate regulation — a mandate that dictates how we should express ourselves and behave.

Will the reputation economy put an end to the culture of shaming or will the bland corporate culture of protecting yourself by “liking” everything — of being falsely polite just to be accepted by the herd — grow stronger than ever? 

The reputation economy depends on everyone maintaining a reverentially conservative, imminently practical attitude: Keep your mouth shut and your skirt long, be modest and don’t have an opinion.

-Living in the Cult of Likability, New York Times, December 8, 2015, Bret Easton Ellis: Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/08/opinion/bret-easton-ellis-on-living-in-the-cult-of-likability.html

Do Eminem’s lyrics simply appeal to closet psychopaths? Is that his secret to mega-success?  I certainly get a kick out of his pervy absurdity.  If all the computers in this country were surveyed for porn search terms, I’m sure Eminem wrapping about hypothetically killing his wife, would seem tame in comparison.  The Belko Experiment is the most entertaining movie I have watched in a long time, I watched it by myself and laughed out loud multiple times.  On the opposite end of the spectrum of my “sick, twisted, sense of humor” as my cousin would say, is the goody-two-shoes couple cozying up to watch the sumptuous feasts of gore and incest on the ever-popular Game of Thrones.  I watched the first four seasons, mostly I fast forwarded to the violent scenes and sex scenes, do they really expect us to keep up with every little detail of like.. 10 different kingdoms?  Come on, GOT, you need healthy doses of topless whores and splattered brains to hold that top spot on the Sunday night ratings. Yet all your cultured, high-brow friends at work, watch it for “the great characters, oh the storylines are so engaging!” Ahhhh the sublimation of sexual desire on TV and in advertisements throughout the U.S.  Sex remains a deeply shameful and private act.  The current cultural arching of the nose programmed into us by our ancestors; these fire-and-brimstone White Anglo-Saxon Protestant witches burning the town whore at the stake for all to see is the pervasive moral stance of American culture.

The media teaches our children to judge others and then exempt yourself from honest self-assessment.  Be the pot and call the kettle black, the American media mind-control-machine tells us, from a very young age.  This has spawned the fleet of hare-brained social justice warriors demanding respect for doing nothing and wanting their sensitivity respected for no other reason than MY OPINION MATTERS.  This is the great miracle of tragedy of our age: the infinite supply of entertainment and information we have at the touch of a button.  About 15-20 years ago there was the advent of the web, and blogs, what I am doing right now, carries the implicit message that, my opinion matters, and thus my thought has come full circle and cemented the conclusion of my own hypocrisy.   I am a product of this toxic ‘millennial’ culture.  I am one of the automatons who will pull a phone out at all times, making sure no spontaneous ‘life’ or pleasant conversation with diverse strangers on the subway can happen.  What is that?  These scary creatures on the subway and street are not to be trusted.  I can only trust the people on Facebook and the message boards, who will like my photos and affirm my point of view.  

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