*Introduction: Sometime back I was watching the Netflix series Riverdale. The series is a very dark take on the quintessential teen Archie and his friends. In one of the episodes, Jughead discusses the book Fahrenheit 451 with his English teacher. I had dismissed that scene as a fictional event about a fictional book. But recently I remembered that episode and my curiousity was piqued and I looked up the name of the book online. Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel written by author Ray Bradbury sometime in the 1950s. This narrative is neither about Riverdale nor about Fahrenheit 451. This is about one of the concept introduced by Ray Bradbury - Exploiters.
Dystopian Future: The novel itself is a very dark take on a future world where books - and by extension new ideas are outlawed and burned by Firemen. Although Ray Bradbury has written the book as a dystopian view hoping that the things he wrote would never come to pass, when we look back at time and even the present time after and even while reading the book, it feels very uncanny the way the author has described certain personas, events, and lifestyle of people in the future as he imagined it. There are a lot of similarities that I saw in what he has described v/s what we see now. I could actually write a series of articles on those. But I digress. The term used by the author that really struck a chord with me was exploiters.
An excerpt from the book says - … Digest-digests, digest-digest-digests. Politics? One column, two sentences, a headline! Then, in mid-air, all vanishes! Whirl man’s mind around about so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters that the centrifuge flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought!
Exploiters: When I first read this passage, the word exploiters caught my attention and I immediately thought of today's social media influencers. Who are these influencers really? Most of the time these are 20-something kids who are spew out opinions about things and situations of which they have no experience. Of course, I know I am painting with a very broad brush here. There are some really talented and gifted young people out there who are exceptionally brilliant and have invented technologies and products that have changed the human life for the better. I respectfully am excluding those folks.
I am talking about the majority of the influencers out there who can't distinguish between a good service or a product and a bad one to save their lives. They just dole out opinions because it took their fancy that day. Granted that not everyone has the courage to do that, but also there is a horde of gullible young people who are looking for validation of their thoughts - something that we call as confirmation bias. Now with the available technology, it is so easy to reach far and wide from your home and with the population of the world what it is, even a small fraction of people agreeing to their views is enough for the opinion to go viral.
Influencers: Influencers in my opinion are folks who are knowledgeable and / or experienced enough to provide feedback that can change the course of a product or service. An example influencer comes to mind is low-flying hawk. Low-flying hawk was an AWS customer who while not big spender provided such valuable and high quality inputs that they became stuff of legends and Amazon even named a building in their honor for the contribution they made. That's what an influencer does.
Conclusion: While there are a lot of wannabe influencers out there and a lot of them are successful, followers should really ask what value are they bringing to them by following them. The influencers make money, but what do you get other than mindless nonsense?
*Disclaimer: These are my own personal views and it does not represent views of my current or former employers, colleagues or even friends. If you disagree with me, I am OK with it.