Facebook is adding a “dislike” button.
What tremendous news. We should all be jubilant. This is what we’ve always wanted. We have conquered the last frontier. All online interaction has finally been gamified.
Is this not cause for celebration? Take a look at what we’ve done. We’ve taken what was once a simple means of communication, where a viewpoint could be expressed and engaged according solely to the meaning of the words therein, or at least killed in broad daylight by an honest mob, and civilized it. We introduced true democracy to the internet. We have destroyed the primitivism of mere word-driven communication.
Through our hard work and vigilance, our children will never have to know a world where the social capital of a statement cannot be instantly quantified through the aggregated weight of approving or dissenting votes. Now they will be able to embrace true, unfettered modernity – the means and motive to curate every last word they write for maximized popularity.
They will learn that the audience comes first. They will learn that society at large demands they talk about certain things at certain hours, that there are tangible social rewards for having the right opinions about those certain things, much faster than we ever did. They will learn that society does not want to hear about failure or insecurity or vulnerability. They will learn that society never wants to hear them confess to the gray areas of their inner life, or see them stagger through the dark loneliness of making art, unless they’re already famous for doing so.
So many things they’ll learn. All their sadness and weakness should be hidden, they’ll learn that. All their words should be hard, tough, witty but not so witty as to stir alienation in those who don’t know them well, universal enough to avoid provincial quarreling. They’ll learn that too. Write about what’s selling, they’ll learn, and hold out on writing about what’s not selling until it sells again.
Be the person the numbers want.
Write the words the numbers want.
The written word on the glowing screen matters most. The future is not in the anxiety and empathy of eye-to-eye communication. That form of social interaction has been happily outmoded. Too many gray areas there. Too much trust is needed. So it has been usurped by virtual interaction. Screens are how we drive away our new loneliness. Create the person the numbers want. They’ll learn to understand and gamify.
Yes, creating that curated person is an uphill battle. But it’s becoming easier. We had to learn through pure trial and error that nobody wanted to hear about our unwieldy, unkempt tastes. Which of our idiosyncrasies were permitted and which ones weren’t. But we’ve streamlined that process now. The children will know right away. It will be elementary to them that if seventeen people approve and zero people disapprove of the book you read last weekend, you were right to read that book. If zero people approve and three people disapprove of the book you read last weekend, maybe you made a mistake in your selection. If no one engages that picture of your pet, then they simply didn’t care about your pet. Better luck next time. Learn from the failure, but bury it first.
You must sell yourself, remember. To do this, you must be what the others want.
The rules weren’t always so rigid. Previous generations sustained themselves through steady, salaried work. This is a dying institution. The next generation will sustain itself through sales. All people will be their own brand. Our children, budding brands all of them, must learn quickly what they really are and learn how to edit that down into a hook, down down down, down into a gimmick, spit-shined until it can be monetized.
Brands are the future, remember. A brand is running for president and the brand may win. It’s 2015 and this is modernity. We live in a brand economy. To emerge from this economy victorious, we must understand and gamify. Understand and gamify. Understand and gamify.
There’s more work to do yet. Children aren’t exposed to online performance analytics the same way we are. Perhaps they should have all the relevant charts and graphs. Children should know the peak performance hours for their words. Children should understand that an absence of social media engagement does not necessarily constitute unpopularity – sometimes the others are sleeping and the child should be sleeping too. Understand and gamify.
Facebook’s addition of a dislike button is not revolutionary, of course. It is to 2015 what that golden spike driven into the dirt of Promontory Summit by Leland Stanford was to 1869. It’s just the end of the revolution. Embrace the new ways. Understand and gamify.
We’re all numbers now.