I had a conversation with a friend of mine a few months ago and it's been playing on my mind ever since. We were talking about knowledge systems and I was bemoaning the fact that I wanted to have a better view of what I thought about everything (more on this in future). The topic turned to books—I'd been thinking about how to try and synthesise information from books, remember and understand it. She said: just read the first chapter and then make a Youtube video about how much you love it; that's what all the internet people do. I laughed about it but frankly I was alarmed and a little befuddled. Goodness knows I'm no stranger to a degree of artifice in presentation, but I don't have the front to just lie like that.
But I suppose many people wouldn't see it that way—it's just playing the game. Social media platforms prize a shallow detail-devoid enthusiasm over anything else, and it makes everything into grist for the mill. It's how you get cafes serving ludicrously impractical novelty foods that are meant to be photographed rather than actually eaten. It's why I had to delete my Goodreads account a while back when I realised that I was starting to just want to see the numbers go up, as opposed to reading for enjoyment or edification. I was reminded of this later in a conversation with Tom about cryptocurrency:
"I saw a few different bro-y life advice posts advising the (loser-coded) reader to “learn crypto” and I thought, what, do they mean how the blockchain is implemented, various cryptographic protocols etc.? and then I realised they meant “learn how to open a coinbase account, learn a bunch of half-baked ideas about the inevitability of crypto over the evil “fiat” and then just ... learn trader-speak and random noise from these crypto news articles I guess?"
Obviously there's nothing unique to the internet or social media about lying or exaggerating or getting into something without really understanding it, but it does seem to incentivise and promote that behaviour on a substantial scale and in this case, I guess, reward/punish it depending on how the numbers are doing.