I really wanted to make the title of this post “I am a people. Not a commodity.” because I think that sounds funnier but then I remembered this post probably won’t be all that funny. You have been warned. Be A Lifehacker is being serious today. For real.
Have you ever known someone who seems like they are always trying to sell themselves to you? They are always talking about how intelligent, or shrewd, or clever, or wise, or strong, or business savvy, or tough, or….tall they are? Maybe you have mistaken it for ego. Maybe it is an out of control ego. But it is also something else, they want you to be sold on them. They have some sort of desperate need for validation that they really are all the things they tell everyone who will listen that they are. They collect admirers like feathers in their cap. They take great joy in telling people who they know or who speaks highly of them. They want titles alongside their name (even if those titles mean nothing to anyone else). They want to drive expensive cars that don’t quite fit their lifestyle. They relish in telling people where they live so as to see the look (real or imagined) of jealousy. You probably work with one or more of these people. They go by many names, the one-upper, the egomaniac, the douche-canoe, the tool, or simply and less imaginatively- the jackass. I am annoyed by these people. I have little tolerance for their self-centered diatribes. Unfortunately, there always seems to be a situation where I have to tolerate them, I have to fain cordiality or at least display a lack of hostility. C’est la vie, I suppose.
I think what bothers me the most is the notion of selling oneself. It is one of the things that makes me so uncomfortable about Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. Yes, many people only use social media to connect with friends or others with similar interests but it seems to me, at least lately, that many more people are using social media to sell themselves. This shouldn’t be surprising considering the economic climate. People need to put their face’s and resumes out there to secure employment and that is quickly becoming social media’s bread and butter. But there is a difference between selling what you can do and selling who you are. I take issue with selling you you are- it’s like personality prostitution. You look at some people’s twitter accounts (and I am thinking of someone specific here but I’m sure it applies elsewhere) and their background is a picture of themselves and their icon is a picture of themselves and they have posted lots and lots of pictures of themselves- not with other people, just them. They have thousands and thousands of followers-do they really know all of these people? You can’t be sure but my guess would be no. Every post is about something great they did that day like “Made a huge sale and generated a year’s worth of revenue for my company by myself.” or “Made a huge donation to Breast Cancer Research today.” (don’t even get me started on the false altruism of statements like that….) I like social media, in fact, I really like social media. I think it is very useful in the marketing of products. Emphasis on products. Products not people. I will happily market something I am working on (be it a novel, website, or blog) but I will not market myself. What I can do, sure. But not, absolutely not, who I am.
The worst part is when these “commodity people” as I like to refer to them try to give me advice on how I should sell myself. “Get on Facebook. Get on Twitter. Update your pictures. Sell, sell sell!” No thank you. I don’t have to be liked. If we meet and you like me then great we can get to know each other over time. If you meet me and don’t like me, that is absolutely ok, have a great life. I am a person, not a commodity. You can’t buy who I am and I won’t try to sell it to you. I am just befuddled at this attitude of desperation. Is it insecurity? I don’t know. Usually I have a pretty strong intuition about people and why they act the way they do. In this case, I can spot a “commodity people” from a mile away- but I have no idea why they are that way. Is it the emphasis on competition that is so rampant in our society? Is it a natural urge to dominate- like a natural selection thing? I don’t know. All I know is that the entire concept of marketing myself- the essence of me- is repellent. And I don’t think that “commodity people” realize that by constantly informing everyone about their “greatness” they are invalidating any greatness they may truly have. I also think that I am kind of alone in feeling this way. “Sell Yourself” is all over the internet and sites that contain methods of doing so are incredibly popular. Everyone wants to sell themselves. Except me. And I feel like Charlton Heston yelling “Soylent Green is people!!!”