Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Depress Me, Whydontcha?

This is the new marketing ploy from "MyLife" a "reunion" website. Their teaser is an email that tells you "A 57 year old female in Phoenix is looking for you." (OK, if you've lived in Phoenix since you've been 15 and you're 57 that's a tease, if you're 23 its a problem.) Or, "You have 103 people looking for you!" (OK, do any of them have "Esq." behind their name or "Detective" in front of it?") Well, for 6 bucks a month they will tell you who is looking for you and let you contact them through their website. And for 6 bucks a month they will give you a graph that tells you how popular you are.

They have 75 million people who have access to their information. They tell me I have 53 people who have looked for me. So I tried to do the math (I can't do 4th grade math, ask my daughter...) That means ummmm... less than one one millionth of their clients are interested in me. If I cared and could do math, that could be depressing.

The question burning in my brain right now is if I gave them 6 bucks, what would they do with their graph? Is .000000085% "POPULAR"? For 6 bucks will they bump me somewhere between "POPULAR" to "VERY POPULAR"? Of course they will. No one is going to pay 6 bucks a month to have someone spam them every day to remind them they are "LESS POPULAR". But I'm thinking that unless I pay the 6 bucks to find out who the female is that is looking for me (of course feeding on some high school fantasy relationship), I probably won't find out the marketing plan they have for a mere 12 bucks a month to move me to the "VERY POPULAR" end of the graph. (I can already see a lawsuit coming: Website tells someone they are unpopular. Person cancels subscription and uses the money to buy overdose of over the counter drug.)

I heard a talk show a few weeks ago about a company that you can BUY "Friends" for your Facebook so you'll look you have a lot of friends. Of course the initial reaction is outrage... But when you really think about it, that's not any different from what goes on in "real life" and the ways human beings have "bought friends" and conspicuous relationships to impress people they don't know or care about.

In the end, "POPULAR" is the perversion of "COMMUNION". Stats are the delusion of community. "Hit Counters" are the illusion of communication. They put them on Facebook and blogs because intuitively marketers know that what human beings are looking for is validation of their personhood. We're created in a Trinitarian image, we cannot be whole without another. "MyLife" and a zillion other "social networking" sites are the digital 7th Avenue whorehouses of lonely, dieing, withered souls grasping for the comfort of a fantasy straw of communion, a bunch of pixels on a screen with a graph or a stat counter and perhaps some words that tells someone that they are connected to someone else on the planet. But the only touch is their keyboard, and the only face they see is an avatar. And once again human beings sell their soul for an illusion, pay 6 bucks for the lie, and in the dark of the night they weep alone.

This is the work of salvation: to be face to face, to be in communion incarnate. God touches us with flesh in order to save us. Can we do anything less to save those around us and to find our own salvation?

For now we see through pixilated glass, darkly; but then face to face...


rightwingprof said...

Ah, that's right, you're from Arizona. See here:

Anonymous said...

I have no reason to ever think I am popular...and I LIKE it that way!!!

Fr. Sean Lotz said...

Hey, I want my money back. This blog is billed as "pithless thoughts," but there was some serious pith here. Thanks for giving me the words to think more clearly about a problem I have been aware of, but wordlessly, for some time. So anyway, knock off the pith or change the name or prepare to start handing out lots of refunds. Heck, you might even get sued for false advertising.

s-p said...

Fr. Sean, Your reimbursement check is in the mail. How 'bout I just go to confession...I know more about how to do that than do anything on the internet (which, if you knew my computer skills, you'd know how inept I am at the other...). :)

Drewster2000 said...

Wonderful insight. Thanks s-p!