Virality: A time whose idea hasn’t come

Work Hard. Say No. Persevere. Fail. Execute. Wake up early. Hustle.

Like a lobster trying to escape the boiling water oblivious to the fact that humans have been killing lobsters for over a thousand years by boiling them, Hustle.

From productivity to psychology to persuasion — the crapshoot trifecta that is lifestyle design and advice has been going bonkers for a decade now.

Take productivity. After all, who wouldn’t like to spend time learning about saving time, all the freaking time? Dip your feet in the productivity poop and the pattern is pretty clear. Every idea is a by-product of what was once popular but labors on about how to accomplish a thousand different things in a thousand different ways. Ironic shit for a subject whose central theme is to focus well on a few things.

The problem is not that ideas aren’t particularly new or original. It’s that we aren’t able to let go of the need for popularity.

Here’s how we come up with ideas now:

We take popular ideas and beat ’em to death.

Or loathe them for life.

Basically, take once popular ideas (across management, relationships, religion, self-help, politics, culture) and beat the crap out of them for their naivete. While some of these ideas help question the status-quo and our own bullshit certainty, most literature now makes a virtue of emphasizing what’s wrong and stupid with the world and how we are living in a dumb century of suckery and shame. They provide light by setting garbage on fire. And we begin to see everything as worldly wastoid deserving scorn.

The problem with this approach is that it needs garbage to thrive.

The Internet is like a precocious, psychopathic and needy teenager.  We can’t combat the cacophony by screaming over one another. What we need in times like this is an ability to think and reflect. That can’t happen through a piggy-backed and pissed-off ideology that revolves around popularity.

We indulge in it anyway because it gives us an illusion of change. Repetition and raillery seem to create this mindless mirage of awareness: Now that we know everything sucks, things will magically change.

It won’t.

This doesn’t mean we all sit it inside a bathtub, and wait. And it sure doesn’t mean you stop coming up with ideas. What it means is great ideas are rarely apple-falling-on-the-head type epiphanies, uploaded on YouTube. They involve contemplation and cumulative effort of the highest degree.

The problem is not a lack of ideas but the short life of ideas. It’s what happens when our ideology is virality. Being on the opposite side of popular meant courage, once. Now it just means you are lonely.

A viral idea will give you instant gastronomic joy only to leave you sick, nauseated and weak. Garbage to fire. Virality to sickness. Lobster to water.

Good ideas involve great struggle. Most often, they go unnoticed. They seep into civilization slowly. Because they take time to assimilate. Over the last two millennia, philosophy and science formed the conduit for ideas. Ideas came from people whose very job involved thinking, noticing and being ignored.

And yet, here we are, clawing desperately at the lid, not to get out, but, for one last time, to check if anyone’s watching. 

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