Everything Old Is Still Old

Influencers still peddling the same bromides they have been for years.

I recently had the misfortune to watch a video of an influencer talking about…well…the stuff influencers talk about. This individual is someone who has been recognized as a deep thinker by various news organizations, put on important lists and given opportunities to spread his message via high-profile speaking gigs.

It was someone I had never heard of despite his apparent fame and that the video being shown was of him sharing his worldview at the headquarters of a massive multinational corporation.

empty chair sketch

As soon as he started talking, though, it was clear I knew the type.

They’ve certainly been around for a long time, but this particular sub-species has blossomed fully thanks to the birth of the social web 20 years or so ago. The talk was filled with the same sort of generic “insights” that have been floating around the internet for a good long while. He spoke of connections and empathy and getting real and all the other associated buzzwords and topics.

None of it meant anything, of course. The same milquetoast sentiments didn’t mean anything 20 years ago, either, but they were packaged in such a way that they seemed new and fresh, mostly because they involved the internet we were all just getting used to being on for hours and hours at a time.

They were packaged into clever little sayings and sentiments, sometimes with a catchy little cartoon attached to them in some manner. Even before Twitter and other social media, these trifles were designed to be shared. And we were meant to take these people seriously because they amassed large followings – which they were always broadcasting and crowing about – of people ready to have their itching ears scratched by thoughts they could leverage into their own work.

The same playbook is being used by someone who has gathered around him a new generation of followers who are entranced by his ability to distill serious topics down to their most basic, stupidest elements. He’s used that ability to sell books, command large fees and more.

Often the audience for this material are those who want to feel they are pondering something new and expanding their thinking without having to do any of the actual heavy intellectual lifting. They are comforted by the fact they can report back on all the big ideas they’ve now been exposed to and can drop in their next presentation slide deck but are unburdened by the need to apply any serious rigor to the material.

Good for them that they have found a way to make a relatively easy living. All they have to do is draft off more substantial thinking done by others, using smaller words and creating warm feelings in the audience.

What’s clear is they’re not adding anything new. They weren’t 20 years ago and they aren’t now, but you would never know that by the attention they receive.