Unoriginal syndrome: how does saturation impact content creators?

It’s good to see the natural world with the eyes of a curious toddler every once in a while after your twenties have passed by: a walk at the beach might make you pick up shells like you used to, poke at stuff in your house to see what they’re made of or even how dirty they are, look back at old photographs and notice how big of a face you used to have when you still wore diapers, or even the shapes of a musical instrument you should be playing all day, but you can’t find the right time to do so. Offers and invitations, propaganda. The new term: doomscrolling. There’s just too much to be absorbed. And the creators of the web had to sit down and discuss, but we don’t hear much about that except when it involves a marriage broken and a couple who carried out tasks for a foundation. Yet, forget to mention the names, and you’ll have a general issue affecting societies, and along with it, marriages. But it doesn’t stop there: it goes from jobs to relationships of all sorts, ideas, even policy – and the issue poses a challenge if looked at in terms of how people react.

There’s too much going on. Maybe I don’t want to log in on a certain platform, because today is not the day. I’m saturated. The word means something quite controversial. The Collins Dictionary shows two definitions. Firstly, “the process or state that occurs when a place or thing is filled completely with people or things, so that no more can be added”. We live social media, but we also live. You’d think about people first, then things. But here’s the other definition: “a campaign or other activity that is carried out very thoroughly, so that nothing is missed”. Mind you, saturation is not perfectionism. Good thing I studied linguistics. If the activity in question were contributing to build a place that simulated interaction and it felt like a real physical bond could be established, great news for the effing company. Let’s make interactions happen. Let’s connect. Let’s bond. Hell, let’s party! But that’s not what they stand for. Too much cash is never too much for companies like Facebook, and in fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, they managed to make its net worth near the 118 billion dollars. It must have been some really great campaign. But is something missing there? Because I won’t even bother talking about how saturated we are – but with over 100 billion messages shared every day, I’d think twice before reviewing the term net worth and just call it the net, like old people do.

Except younger people don’t. Statista reports that TikTok and Snapchat are the main platforms teenagers use: Facebook has 4%, and Snapchat used to have 44 until recently. I think it’s notable that one is a video platform, the other allows you to chat but is built on image sharing, with video possibilities (that might generate a wide range of discussions); the other is still thinking that people read – what the hell? And maybe that’s something we should look into. Does that mean they like the camera? Then let’s explore the concept a little bit: saturation. Pixel Magazine writes: “saturation refers to the intensity of a color. The higher the saturation of a color, the more vivid it is. The lower the saturation of a color, the closer it is to gray”. And we all know about the shirt thing, except that was more of a 2014 thing. Intensity? You only live once, right? Except that’s not a phrase we’d like to revisit in 2021. But the culture of image is. A friend recently posted a new profile picture on Facebook, and someone I didn’t know had this to comment: “you can put this one on LinkedIn”. And I had the exact same thought. To use the jargon, that’s what was on my mind. But what does Facebook say in terms of image, which we might come to conclude (based on experience, not necessarily policy awareness) is not your image the moment you post it? It becomes the platform’s image, and so it has the right to remove it – or promote it. There’s an algorithm, and we’ve yet to know what a prolific self-portrait maker will have to do to manage success on the app. It’s interesting, because the platform has guidelines for the ads: your image should “increase interest in your brand or services, raise awareness of your products and/or deliver a simple message.” Sorry, but isn’t that a good old TL;DR? It might be so, but people still read. It’s just that the measurement of how much is done on Twitter – take it from me.

Sure, exposing your kid to the eyes of an unknown internet user with a possible ill-intention is not something you wanna do, but the baby looks so chubby and squishable. There’s joy in sharing moments since birth, but that’s going to be a different kind of photo album: you used to have only the picture, and now you have a record of exactly how many people saw it, and how they reacted to it. For science? Who the hell knows. But maybe it’s just an exaggeration, and we don’t need to call any shrinks by the time they turn 12 and ask themselves: “what is this?” Insert the problem you currently have with your child, or something you might remember happening to yourself. Self-care, self-acceptance, and even a stretch further, body positivity are always good (that’s why it’s called positivity), but it might come in the form of a text, and people have yet to notice that. As image thrives, video is catching up. Actually, it already has: experiments have been made to demonstrate how likely people are to engage watching rather than staring, and well, the explanations might not be as easy nor advisable to digress on. Turns out positivity for some is negativity for others, and here we go into the marketplace. Not the local market, unless you work there; the job – unless it’s your home now, in which case you might’ve found the page that rates your room.

The obsession with image representation is a marketing phenomenon, which the parties involved will inevitably fail to admit. But marketing itself is a feature of media, which has its own developments. I suggest, humbly (which is a problem), that we look at the moment when all participants of a consumer society were called producers (there’s a guy who can convince you) by the people who worked with marketing while being targeted as consumers by the same people. I don’t know, something doesn’t add up, to use a current expression – or rather, doing my best to. Is it one or the other? Companies have brands, and if it’s true that everyone needs to offer something to the platforms like there isn’t an opt out alternative, then what you’re doing is renouncing a number of personal freedoms – ideological, biological, chronological – to represent the brand that pays you. How they convince you is one thing; how they fail to disclose an agreement that makes it clear “you’re one of them now” and everything you do is what the company decided on, well, that’s not clear for anyone, I’d say. Community manager for Coca Cola spotted outside drinking Pepsi: see pictures. Big day in the newsroom. Write the arguments, invite the commentators with the most interesting insights, make sure the transition to the next topic is equally controversial, but do avoid controversy: rhetoric, tone, pause, eye contact. The news convinced you: that is an offense, and the person in question should be deprived of a will to live. Is that what happens when people cheat or when they’re cheated on?

So let’s suppose the company doesn’t want you to cheat. Inevitably, as humans – or maybe as Brazilians – we come to the question of gaps in preparation, background knowledge, insider information, expertise, readership; but you can sum it all up on Education with a capital E – except that cheating isn’t about test scores anymore. Think Snap. Add some spice to the Skype? Violation of rules, according to the experts. And so another controversy begins, but we’re not talking about social inequality, education or sex: we’re supposed to be talking about work. And the most deranged manager – for a big firm, of course – will say, full-throatedly: competition is sexy. But there’s at least 5 domains there. You should talk about social inequality with your mom and dad when you ask for a gift they can’t give you. You should talk about the definition of capital with a teacher. You should discuss salary with your supervisor. You should have sex with the people who you trust. And when it comes to competing, maybe just don’t, cause you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. But is that the right mindset? Or rather, is it the standard mindset? Maybe psychologists could explain, but you’d need to pay for a session.

The argument that everyone avoids for lack of experience and the willful intention of staying ignorant is that people are making money with shitty content, and that’s very unfair. But how do they handle it? If your daughter got one message from a stranger and you call the police, imagine if she’s famous on the internet for the wrong reasons. And sorry, but right and wrong? Hm. I’d give it some thought. But regardless of what you think on that very specific matter – right or wrong on the internet, nothing wide or controversial – you’ll be thinking about the psychological effects on people. The pressure isn’t real, probably because society has projected unrealistic expectations for big events in your life one after the other, and the smart guy was the one who filmed his cat and made a song, not some new Johnny Cash who lived as a homeless man, got stolen and beaten up, had his wife raped and was forced to watch the video. I mean, come on, that’s too heavy. Cats. Meow.

And so the future of the workplace changes because technology companies will be doing another kind of work. Which is rebranding, remodeling, rebuilding, fractioning, cleaning up, reviewing, moderating, sending stuff around and maybe, when they decide that the dude who showcased his gun on camera doesn’t get to go to Harvard and the girl who showed her tits (we’re all adults) can come up with brilliant stuff after all, then maybe we’ll see. Unless she doesn’t come up with brilliant stuff. But the dude is definitely not getting into Harvard. So when I think about a guy who has 87 billion to manage, maybe I understand why I’m watching so much Netflix. Each person I meet who starts a conversation with me makes a sort of investment. Futures. It’s official. Unless we claim it for ourselves, and instead of begging for attention, point out where the problems are, even if that’s what we do for a living and people hate us for it. Call me what you will, but military spending is quite a thing to hate on. Our schools shouldn’t be teaching that’s good. Our schools should be open, quite literally. Otherwise, the teacher is no longer protected. Oh, let me remind you that this is a blog.

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