The big yawn

December 3, 2010, 8:00 AM UTC

Things we’ll all be tired of in about 20 minutes

Marketing is the death of the new. It has its purposes in this culture, where if something is not available for sale and distribution, it has no inherent meaning. Marketing hoists objects and activities out of the realm of the personal and into the public sphere — quite literally into the marketplace, a location that used to be physical but is now psychological, financial, and transactional. It finds the things we like to dream of, dance to, play with, and shovels them into the maw of our collective desire. And we eat. And it is good, for a while. Then it all goes where consumed things eventually go, into the great ocean somewhere out of mind. Then the whole digestive cycle starts over with some new product.

Thus we see, for example, what happened to hip-hop music. It’s not gone, it’s just … commodified. It began as a creative explosion of vitality and originality, was acquired by Marketing and its bastard child, Fashion, and has now become the province of cute little rodents who live on Hamsterdam Avenue. You can almost hear the cultural fatigue with the entire genre settling in.

So take a look around you at all the Next Big Things. Don’t delay, because the big yawn is already beginning.

Twitter. It’s no coincidence that the most dedicated Twitterati are deep thinkers like Ashton Kutcher and professional news organizations. Most of the people I know who are glued to their teeny Twitters are in the media. They watch one another like animals at the water hole, the smaller ones checking to make sure when the larger ones are sleeping and it’s safe to come out and drink from the pool.

Facebook. Right now Facebook is the prime tool that the forces of Marketing are marshaling to monitor your likes, dislikes, and immediate desires. Corporations have their own Facebook pages now. Feel them crawling over your digital membranes? Find it creepy? You will.

Smartphones. This can’t go on, really. People walking around like zombies with their faces buried in tiny little screens, poking at their toys like curious tots? All around us, life is going on. Trees. Puppies. Birdies in the sky. Future generations will look at pictures of us all, circa 2011, the way we regard those serious men in their fedoras in the 1950s. Don’t they all look silly now in their funny little hats?

E-mail. At this point 90% of my e-mail is either spam or crud in which I have no interest. I used to enjoy business e-mail as a humor-delivery vehicle or an alternative to in-person meetings, but after several rounds of litigation on one thing or another, I am now aware that e-mail is about as personal as a conversation in the executive washroom. Less, actually. People honor your privacy in there. Added benefit: Eliminate e-mail and you automatically lose the …

BlackBerry. Remember what life was like without it? I do. I was happier.

Foursquare. For you crusty Neanderthals with yak hair between your brows, Foursquare is an applet that enables people to know where their friends are, like, right now. The thing is, what do we mean by the word “friend”? Increasingly, we mean a certain kind of stranger. Don’t you know where your real friends are, as much as you care to?

Telecommuting. Another name for underemployment.

Management consultants. Won’t somebody at some point come to the realization that it’s far easier to exploit people who depend on their benefits?

Outsourcing. There ought to be a tax. That would take care of the whole Mumbai thing pronto.

Not drinking at lunch. I’m real tired of that.

Locally grown, free-range organic bushwah. I’m tired of eating in a responsible way that pays respect to our mother, the Earth.

Marketing. How about that? As an idea, I mean. You get rid of it and … what?

The rest is silence. The good kind, you know, where real things happen.