Fame is worthless (Freedom in a digital age)

How do we define freedom in an ever-connected world?

June 15th, 2022

Fame is worthless (Freedom in a digital age)

Recently Joe Rogan has been in the news yet again for the comments he’s made on his podcast. Whether you like Joe or loath him, it’s very admirable that someone has managed to create an independent platform that has become one of the most popular sources of entertainment and information. This independence from traditional media outlets however has been short-lived since his million dollar deal with Spotify has placed him once again at the mercy of the masses. Many people, including celebrities, have called for Joe to be dropped by the platform which has made some question if the increase in listeners and the financial investment has been worth the trouble. This begs the question at what point does fame and wealth become a hindrance to what someone can say and do?

A modern problem?

Anna Karenina by Tolstoy is considered by many to be one of the greatest novels ever written. Although there are many interesting topics in the book that still apply to modern times a re-occurring theme throughout is how the many characters pursuit of social status leaves them miserable. Many of the characters attempt to increase their place in the social hierarchy, often times in the expense of their families and well-being.

Since the dawn of civilization certain individuals have sought after status and the approval (or at least the acknowledgment) of the surrounding people. This was not an easy thing to achieve simply by climbing the ladder of high society and becoming influential through grassroots means. However with the world becoming more connected to each other the scope and range of this will to clout has become greater. In a technology-driven world anyone can potential become famous without needing connections or financial means. Although people may like to claim that this is a result of people “losing their values” seeking out fame is something that is deeply rooted in human nature and has only accelerated in the information age.

What is freedom anyway?

As mentioned previously our world has become more connected than ever. Most services and platforms we use are not designed to be independent and are treated more like a small cog in a larger ecosystem of technology. Although this can have its benefits such as better performance, it makes these services dependent on each other. I touched on this more in-depth in a previous article but in short this dependence can make the system as a whole more fragile.

This dependence is exactly the issue with the pursuit of fame. When your career and livelihood is completely based on how others perceive you, true expression becomes impossible. TV personalities, journalists and anyone else in the media instinctively have a reluctance to rock the boat for this reason. In his novel Manufacturing Consent, Noam Chomsky discussed how mass media is often used to enforce the will of those in power. This is done not just from what is discussed but also what isn’t. Condemning the human rights abuses committed during the invasion of a sovereign nation but completely ignoring the same atrocities committed by an ally leaves the public with a warped view on reality. A view that only servers the interests of those in power.

This creates a feedback loop of people being unable or unwilling to make any real change outside of the typical “rebellion” we see of people yelling the same views everyone in society already agrees on. Media itself isn’t the only industry effected by this. Any professional career from business administrator to engineer can be jeopardized by an outcry if the individual has any sort of online social life. We’ve seen people become villains before our eyes based on old tweets made in their teenage years as social media platforms incentivize mass outrage like no other medium.

The Road Less Traveled

Although the allure of fame can be intoxicating, choosing independence always allows you to be in control. Both over what you can say and what you can do. Throughout history some of the greatest leaps made were by people that were not afraid to speak up about what they perceived as wrong and fostering this kind of environment is always good for humanity. Everyone should always aim to be less reliant on the will of others by dissociating from institutions and platforms that reward social cohesion above everything else. The only obstacle is doing so without become a hermit.

Stay happy and stay private.