Josh Harris believes the future lies in an Orwellian surveillance culture where everyone will watch everyone. And that may be true — if everyone was extraordinary. The big bold truth, though, is that most people are boring and not worth watching.
Is Everyone Interesting?
Few people are interesting, therefore few people are worth watching. If it were otherwise, all content would sell, the price of advertising would reach obscene levels, and we’d all be celebrities.
At present, the vast majority of tweets, blog posts, photos, YouTube videos, and Facebook profiles is the object of attention to perhaps ten people for five seconds — before being diverted elsewhere.
We may be broadcasting ourselves but we are boring, mundane people who — despite ourselves — sometimes do extraordinary things. The question is: who’s going to invest millions of dollars trying to uncover the interesting aspect of our lives?
The Future is WTF/
For something to reach a critical mass of consumption, it must either have millions of dollars of marketing behind it, or must be so extraordinary it makes us utter “WTF” or “OMG”. Guess what? Companies willing to market mundane content are few: 20th century mass media is dying.
On the flip side, creating “WTF” is cheap, easy to produce, and easy to share. It advertises itself. If you have doubts, consider the insane word of mouth goatse, and 2 Girls 1 Cup generated. Naturally, no mainstream company is going to associate themselves with such extreme content. But the point remains, extraordinary things generates extraordinary attention.
I strongly believe the future of media is in “WTF”.
Actually, We Live in Private
Many describe Josh Harris’ QUIET social experiment as Orwellian. Actually, it was Randian. Those who participated were not bland, everyday people but a community of extraordinary artists. The resemblance to Bioshock is eery — including the guns. QUIET birthed profound creativity followed by painful destruction.
Josh Harris’ downfall came because he thought he was an extraordinary person, and not a lucky schmuck who chanced upon an $80 million fortune. In this, he decided to lifecast himself believing he’d have a ready audience. Unfortunately, towards the end of his experience, few people were interested. He was not a celebrity. He was a man in denial.
Most of us live private lives by virtue of being uninteresting. In fact, we are doomed to a life of privacy because of the multitude of Facebook and Twitter statuses. Really, what in the mountain of data is worth more than five seconds of our attention?
The lesson of We Live in Public isn’t about the dangers of the Everyman being a celebrity. It’s the dangers of the Everyman trying to be a celebrity but failing because he’s boring. In fact, that’s why Josh Harris lost his fortune.