The promise of the internet: Sleepwalkers and dancing to death in a moving truck


TikTokers are, as F. Scott Fitzgerald put it, “different from you and me.”

Unless you’re from an era where phones had a purpose and a one-hour call to New York could set you back a month’s worth of AT&T on an iPhone known as the Ma Bell, perhaps some explaining is in order.

Can you ask for a pen? It is a low-tech device used to communicate over a long distance when you press the paper once with your hand.

And if it was something profound or witty that had a significant impact on lives, it would eventually reach thousands, if not millions.

As for who F. Scott Fitzgerald was, he was the quirky forerunner of social media influencers/bloggers who have been referred to as essayists, short story writers, and novelists.

He tried to make a living by educating humanity about the brilliance – and excess – of the Jazz Age.

No, not John Stockton, the point guard who led the Utah Jazz to the promised land of the NBA Finals in the Jazz Age in 1997 and 1998, only to be cut short both times.

It refers to a time when America was elevated by the spread of instant communication to the masses, better known as commercial radio.

“Influencers” can reach thousands of people who can flip a button with devices that connect to a wireless technology known as radio frequency instead of just under-the-ear.

You no longer had to go to a jazz club in New York, Chicago or Los Angeles to hear trendy music. In Peoria, you can turn on the radio and receive it all.

It laid the groundwork for the creation and standardization of cultural tastes and speech patterns.

Radio was a media outlet that spread racial stereotypes like wildfire with shows like “Amos ‘n Andy.” People didn’t have to leave the comfort of their living room to engage with complete strangers—though there was a way back then. Radio, as it matured, brought demagoguery to the airwaves.

The strange costumes that corresponded to the customs of the time were adopted by the youth.

The long, slinky dresses that make the Kardashians look like bare sacks these days were all the rage that got the old fogeys fired up.

The shocking equivalent of the crack addiction of most young men of the 1920s today was the baggy, rolled up and deep cuffed trousers.

Fitzgerald would have a field day exploring the excesses, shallowness, and interrelationships of self-proclaimed intellectuals who, in the age of the Internet, mask the gaps and become bored by repetition.

This is true even for the advanced people who have to push the envelope to stay relevant in the digital world in which it revolves.

Think of the evolution of social media as a forerunner of Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta-Universe as an insinuation of how shallow and vast the potential of face-to-face human connection is.

Check out TikTok to see where the journey that began on November 2, 1920, when KDKA in Pittsburgh became the first commercial radio station to go on the air.

Here you’ll see John Belushi’s “Animal House” character pretending to be restrained and directed by Emily Post.

It’s also where Andy Warhol’s theory of 15 minutes of fame is reduced to just 15 seconds, if that.

This is a place where suckers are born not every minute, but ten or more times a second.

Facebook’s younger cousin, TikTok — the latest iteration of the technology that took man to the moon — gave us risque dances on moving dance floors and sleep-inducing ones.

First the moving dance floor. Not to mention the gym that recedes into the high school dance scene in It’s a Wonderful Life that sends revelers diving into the swimming pool below while the Charleston plays.

Instead, we’re talking about the challenges that have arisen and are intended for TikTok.

On November 14, a 25-year-old man met his death on a highway in Houston. Based on a video the man filmed and shared on Facebook, police said he danced on the roof of the 18-wheeler as it drove down the highway.

It doesn’t matter whether he jumped on the trailer or stepped on it while the car was stationary. A dream of 15 seconds of fame in the vast bowels of social media cost him his life when a truck drove under a bridge and he crashed into an overpass.

As for sleep-inducing, it’s an extension of a marketing stunt in the 1930s where a man in his PJs was paid to “sleep” in a New York City store window, showing how comfortable a special mattress was to passers-by.

While it may have been a gig, TikTok has turned it into a career.

The king of the sleepers – even if it looks like he’s sleeping in a double bed – is Jakey Boehm. The 28-year-old from Australia’s Gold Coast climbs into bed every night at 10pm to entertain TikTok fans around the world by spinning and flipping. Boehm claims to earn an average of $35,000 a month.

Boehm ups the entertainment value by faking lights, sirens and other sounds that “wake” him up when someone buys him a virtual gift, and he lets him choose.

They can also fork out anywhere from 50 cents to $600 for a number of other annoying interruptions, so that’s $35,000 a month.

Other sleep effects aren’t as fun. If there is “a great boredom,” as Fitzgerald says of the rich he skewers, they are just a great snooze.

Duane Olson, 25, of Hyde Park, New York, is just sleeping. He goes to bed with “just me sleeping” written on the headboard. He has about 13,000 followers, some of whom will volunteer to send him a few bucks while watching a dream ad, where he’s probably dreaming of TikTok followers, not sheep.

He was able to earn about $400 a month just from sleeping.

So much for the breathless promise made in the 1990s that the Internet would usher in a new Age of Enlightenment.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Courier or 209 Multimedia.



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