Take It Away

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/e/e5/Take_It_Away.jpg

No offense to our instructor—who turned out great—but I had horrible expectations for this class. Frankly I find the modern world largely alienating, and spend much of my rare free time indulging in the brilliant works of bygone eras, evaporated scenes, and vanished movements from the past. It’s an inconvenient struggle, and although I can find it personally rewarding, I also find it unfortunate to operate apart from the collective, akin to self-ostracization. Okay, not entirely; my wife’s as “weird” as I am, and my friends find me interesting. But I do wish I could flip on some contemporary broadcast and feel at home among my own generation for a change.

Anyway, you might surmise from my aversion to modernity, and confirm if you’d read my first post, that I’m no fan of social media, hence my negative prediction for this class. It seems the psychological impacts of social media are sort of just taken for granted now, where even just several years ago psychologists would bemoan the alienation it induced. In fact, not using social media is the increasingly rarefied choice.

Percentage of U.S. population who currently use any social media from 2008 to 2021. Source: Statista

So what does Paul McCartney have to do with this? Everything!

First of all, Beatlemania might well deserve more blame than any other entertainment phenomenon for the not uncommon condition of feeling alienated by modern media. Before the Beatles (I am admittedly giving my man Elvis Presley something of a pass here) entertainment and culture were far more localized phenomena; regional bands were modestly successful, all the rage for a couple of counties around. There would be national hit songs and such, but the concept of being pop stars was largely borne about by the Beatles. The Fab Four rather suddenly ruled the cultural universe, and all other musicians and music fans were impacted somehow. This was the first time mass media attempted to effectively unite the globe via taste in entertainment.

This was of course impossible, and utterly unnatural, in the sense that culture is borne of people and circumstance, which certainly includes geography. But the idea of mass media was therefore imprinted upon us, and we readily accepted it and sought more of it, even if it never really existed—clearly not everyone loved the Beatles back then.

The residue of this cultural event has come home to roost in today’s social media phenomenon, logging on to chase the FOMO dragon.

I’m not done with Sir Paul yet, though. Nicknamed “The Cute One” of the group, he certainly loved the attention he got as part of the Beatles, and notably sought more spotlight after the band dissolved than did his ex-bandmates, who preferred relative humility if not solitude to Paul’s stadium tours (okay, Ringo did try to ride Marc Bolan‘s coattails for a minute, but please grant me this grander point about Paul). That rush of dopamine that fueled McCartney’s lust for applause is not altogether unlike what drives people to social media now, expending energy on achieving that fleeting hit of attention and validation from a screen rather than seeking lasting, meaningful relationships and communities.

As you might have gathered, I looked forward to this Social Media Marketing class about as much as I would have Paul McCartney 101.

So why did I end up enjoying this class? Well, because of what I’ll “take away” from it.

The psychological phenomena I’ve described don’t speak to flaws in humanity, so much as humanity itself. I don’t pass value judgments or get snobby about the entertainment that other people like, nor do I judge people for using social media. Rather, this class forced me to confront social media where I’d rather simply ignore it, and I am better off having stared directly into its digital eyes.

My grand takeaway regarding social media marketing is that social media is neither good nor bad, it simply is. To deny its appeal and its power is to deny reality. Artificial, and even anti-social as it may be, social media is here, and most people embrace that. Even if I don’t embrace social media itself, I can embrace this truth.

This is, above all, useful to me on more of a psychological, if not anthropological level, but I needed to make some kind of peace with this monolith.

#art from YOHAN

More practically speaking—though I hope not cynically—but I was a bit surprised to discover I don’t not have a knack for this stuff. I won’t be rushing off to start a career as a Social Media Ninja-Wizard-Gryffindor-Guru, but I certainly won’t be put off by the prospect of needing to engage in the practice.

Let’s bring it back to Macca, where this blog began. Even if I still skip most of his songs on the “White Album,” I have matured to the point where I can appreciate Paul McCartney’s contributions to the Beatles, and if I can do that, I can probably come to appreciate social media as a marketing platform.

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