The Internet has had such an influence on our daily lives, its hard sometimes to recall what it was like to not have Google’s instant information search, Facebook’s ability to reconnect you everyone you didn’t know you wanted to reconnect with and thought you wanted to forget, and YouTube’s instant viral celebrity phenomenon.
The Internet has created new protocols, many of which I am uneducated. Are you supposed to follow everyone that follows you on Twitter? What am I supposed to tweet about: the weather, what I am eating, or resending the latest video link? I’m hesitant to retweet anything for fear that it might be old news. How embarrassing to find out that the link you thought was funny is already a month old and has 95,000 hits.
A random picture of a camping trip posted on Facebook gets over 450,000 comments. Statements made by a cranky old man have over 1.1 million fans and has now spun off into a TV show. We could keep going with a long list of dancing videos or popping back zits or some kid auto-tuning the news, and end up with an extensive compliation.
Everyone seems to want their 15 minutes, regardless if it’s streaking across a football field or making cakes that resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger.
It’s easy to mistake popularity for substance and recognition for importance.
I have only a handful of food-related shows I enjoy watching. It’s a short list and seems to grow even shorter as the competition motif undergoes continual mitosis and mutates into something far different from the original. The episodes keep getting more ridiculous and the participants even more unstable. Whoever that cat was on Top Chef Just Desserts that melted down like cheese under a salamander and wanted his mommy, no thanks. Not interested in that kind of drama. But it doesn’t seem to matter if you’re crazy, arrogant or demeaning. If it attracts more eyeballs, that seems to be the point.
I wonder when our appetite for celebrity will diminish and bid us opportunity to reconnect with substance. The more popular a person becomes, the further away that person moves from the people that really matter most.
Even the figures I admire in my profession; if I were to ever get the chance to meet Anthony Bourdain or Thomas Keller, would I have anything in common with them, or be able to carry on a conversation about anything other than books and TV shows? I appreciate their books and TV shows, but when it comes down to what really matters, it won’t be with people I know from a distance.
I appreciate the feedback I get from my writing, and the emails from folks around the country who have stumbled upon my restaurant and tell me how much they enjoyed the food and staff, but I don’t live for those words as much I do from the people I know, and who know me personally. These conversations will never get multiple hits or go viral. Instead they will stay small, hidden and intimate.
And this is what matters.