… but don’t think influencing is something to be proud of.
(Real Time with Bill Maher, Season 17; Episode 8, 15 March 2019)
Imagine with me, will you?, the world in which you live. Perhaps when is the future. Perhaps when is the now. Either way, you plop down in front of a screen, and you scroll through YouTube or VidTube or YouVid, you get the point. You flip through a handful of your go-to channels, and then you browse a bit to see if there’s anything new left to discover. And then, you inevitably end up on the channel of an influencer. You watch this person entertain you with funny, educational, fun, beautiful life. You watch as this person either does a workout or performs some skill or teaches you something cool or shows you something cool or takes you along on some journey or slathers their face in makeup so that they may court jester you through the world of the elite.
The worst of these influencers, to me, are of the beauty variety. And a middle-of-the-road example would be Jenn Im, the beloved, adorable, cute, airy, uplifting, good-vibes-only, Korean-American, beauty influencer. Im runs a strong YouTube channel, has her own hype-clothing brand, collabs—seemingly endlessly—with all sorts of brands, all around the world. She’s living the dream, right? Unfortunately, not so much. The reality of the influencer market is that they are the future middle class.
If you cannot “make it” without a “job” (meaning, if you are incapable of creating work for yourself), you will not, unfortunately, make it very far into the future. Consider how much money it takes to live today, at the level of civility and luxury we all seem to think is middle class. From my perspective, the problem of the disappearing middle class is as much a problem of the actual people who make up the middle class as it is the powers that be who have (essentially) oppressed us. This is not really about that. Nevertheless, the amount of luxury that “middle-class living” demands has inflated the cost of a middle-class lifestyle. Not to mention inflation of the dollar in and of itself. What this means now, is that the middle-class lifestyle has shifted into upper middle class, and the what was the middle class is now lower middle class. What’s truly missing is the middle of the middle class. And so, it seems as if the middle-class lifestyle has disappeared, but really, those who are in the upper middle class are still middle class citizens, even if they do have a million-dollar net worth. A million dollars no longer makes a person rich, if they want to live an upper-middle-class lifestyle, and that’s crazy. Think about that. If you want the semblance of simply keeping up, you need to make more than a few million dollars. This is nearly unattainable for the vast majority of people, and this is why influencing is not something about which one ought to feel pride.
The future that I see includes a still disproportionate distribution of wealth with the majority of it being held by a few hands, but that group will grow. Influencers and content creators, with millions of dollars in hand each year, will fall largely within and makeup most of the middle class along with a few independent business owners and corporate, upper-level management, but they will never rise to the very top. And then, the poorest among us will be left far behind to (essentially) fend for ourselves within our own little, poor world. Economies will rise within the poor, and a few will be catapulted out, up into the middle class, the truly ambitious, perhaps further.
Now, you’re probably wondering why I would say that influencers will never rise to the very top, and you’re also now probably debating whether or not you should become an influencer. First, influencers cannot rise once they are influenced. Once an influencer is influenced, either by catering to their audience or by being bought by companies to promote products, they establish themselves among the service class of the elite. Yea, sure, they are rewarded handsomely, and are even invited to peep into the world of the elite, but do not be confused, they are not part of the powers that be. They are the tools of the entertainment establishment. Be a tool. This is what I’m here to say. Make yourself useful to someone who has money to pay you for your usefulness.
In a world that will—inevitably—be run and operated by artificial intelligence and robots, you will have to have a purpose larger than showing up to work every day. You need to create that purpose. You need to create your work. You need to create your value. Once the table is set, and it will be set very soon, everyone will have to sit wherever they land. The music will stop, meaning jobs will no longer be created for you. Make sure that you’ve found a seat long before that day comes.