The Gee-Whiz Factor has turned you and me into slaves working for social media whose sole job is to sell advertising space for other companies who want to sell us stuff.
Let me tell you a story to illustrate what the Facebooks and the Twitters and the Pinterests and so forth are doing — and why it is we are paying (in man hours) through the nose for their free service while we become the new slave class.
The actors in our little film are:
People Magazine (not for any reason other than it is popular, so please don’t sue me Time, Inc.)
Angela (simply because I won’t sue myself for pointing out my stupidity.)
Sandwich Board Company (you may infer companies that sell online ad space through social media portals.)
“Friend” of Angela’s (a generic person, you may infer gender and other details of choice.)
The scene: Angela stands on a street corner in a busy little hamlet. Cars whiz by in both directions. Angela has a stack of magazines next to her. She holds one high above her head. She has a sandwich board on that says, “LOOK AT ME. OH, AND THERE IS PEOPLE FOR SALE.” The sandwich board has a red marker on a string attached to it that the people are using to make little red checks on the board.
The camera pans from on high down to the woman who is surrounded by several people all laughing at her little jokes. We listen in.
Crowd: Oh, Angela, you’re so funny. Can we have a picture of you? Can you tell us another joke? We’ll be back to listen to your jokes another day as long as you don’t make us mad by mentioning anything that may offend us as we are so sensitive these days.
Angela: You can hear my jokes and have a picture as long as you put a red check mark here and put your name with it. [Crowd swoons with delight.] But I cannot guarantee that you won’t be offended. I stopped reading minds a long time ago because I was so bad at it, so I’m not rightly sure what may offend anymore.
Crowd: [General delighted laughter all around.] Oh, ho, ho, hahaha, you are sooooo funny. See you later, Angela.
[Friend walks up to Angela after crowds leave.]
Friend: Hey, Angela. What’s all those People magazines for?
Angela: Hey, Friend. They are available for whoever wants to buy them.
Friend: Cool. How much money are you making on that?
Angela: You mean profit?
Friend: Yeah. Profit.
Angela: None. But I’m getting something better.
Friend: I don’t understand. Why are you selling People if you aren’t making any money? What can be better than money?
Angela: What’s better than money? Why, don’t you see all these little red check marks all over my board? Exactly! Awesome. And it gets better. When this board gets full, of course I’ll have to get another board and start ALL OVER! Isn’t that awesomer?
Friend: But…I don’t understand. [Friend is confused.]
Angela: [Angela lays a gentle hand on her friend’s shoulder and points to the board.] See, I want red check marks, right? [Friend nods head.] So, I tell funny stories and jokes and such as that, right? [Friend nods head.] Anyway, the sandwich board company gives me the board free! FREE! [Friend nods head.] Of course, they said that as long as I’m standing here I may as well help them sell these magazines. I mean, why not, right? [Friend nods head.]
Friend: How much are you selling the magazines for?
Angela: Well, I’m not actually selling them. That guy over there gets the money.
Friend: What guy?
Angela: Why, the guy from the sandwich board company.
Friend: But, what’s in it for you?
Angela: [Looking at her friend in a sad fashion, she slowly speaks.] Red. Check. Marks.
Friend: But, Angela, you’re spending a lot of time attracting people to…well, People…and isn’t time the same as money?
Angela: [Looking confused.] I’ve heard that, yes. But aren’t these check marks so pretty? [Angela bends her head and begins counting the marks.] One. Two. Three. Four. Five…
Friend: [Interrupting Angela’s count. She gives him a look of consternation because now she has to start all over.] But, Angela, you’re doing all the work and getting no benefit. Don’t you see this?
Angela: But each red check mark represents opportunity, don’t you see? The sandwich board company says that the more red check marks I have the more times I will get to tell people that I’ve written a new book and that they should buy it.
Friend: Then why don’t you have your books out here for sale?
Angela: Oh, that’s against the rules. It’s called soft selling, see. I’m supposed to build up goodwill first and then people will give me a little red check mark that says they like it that I wrote a book. Then I’m supposed to sort of mention to them that they can go buy it, but we can’t let the sandwich board company know that I’m actually selling. See! [Angela points dramatically to her sandwich board and turns three-sixty for her friend to see the front and back.] Shhhhhh…lots of opportunity coming my way…soon.