There’s a new kind of profile that’s been gaining steam in the last couple of years: the profile of the tech kingpin. Some self-styled guru of, say, Instagram likes or viral videos. Who almost always has an obnoxious name to match his obnoxious persona (“Shingy,” say). An entire industry has sprung up around twenty-somethings and wannabe twenty somethings exploiting the tech ignorance of an older generation. “Whoa whoa whoa, you say you sell ‘sandwiches?’ Get with the times, grandpa! You need to be engaging with your audience. Vine, Twitter, Tinder, Snapchat – it’s all about reach! Quit thinking local! I want Bangladeshi prostitutes gossiping about your roast beef subs!”
Sadly, it has made plenty of them rich, and thus, profile-worthy. These guys are either harbingers of a new and terrifying world, where the machines have defeated humanity so definitively that the most successful humans are trying to mimic them, or they’re the tech bubble in human form. Types who will disappear as soon as the bullshit they’re selling reveals its essential worthlessness. Either way, they’re fabulously obnoxious.
The latest entry is The New Yorker’s new “The Virologist,” a profile of “the King of Click Bait,” 27-year-old viral media kingpin (I mean, I guess?) Emerson Spartz. Spartz’s goal seems to be to speed along the process of automating the reading experience, to the point that quality will eventually be judged not by emotional impact, but by the split-second decision to click on something. It’s a fantastic hate read, and I recommend the entire thing. But just in case, I’ve excerpted the most infuriating bits below. Applying the original click-bait format to highlight the fundamental soullessness of click bait just seemed right.
Emerson Spartz, an Internet-media entrepreneur in Chicago, left his office and walked several blocks to the Museum of Contemporary Art, where he was scheduled to speak at an event called the Millennial Impact Conference.
The Millenial Impact Conference: Gathering the nation’s foremost blowhards for three days of sweeping generalizations!
When he was growing up, Spartz said, his parents made him read “four short biographies of successful people every single day. Imagine for a second what happens to your brain when you’re twelve and this is how you’re spending your time.” He used his hands to pantomime his mind being blown. “I realized that influence was inextricably linked to impact—the more influence you had, the more impact you could create. . . . The ability to make things go viral felt like the closest that we could get to having a human superpower.”
(*holds up single finger*)
I AM BECOME DEATH, THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS!
(*presses play on video of a chimp peeing in its own mouth*)
As new-media companies like BuzzFeed and Upworthy become established brands, Spartz hopes to disrupt the disrupters.
I believe this is the new version of “Watching the Detectives.” I hope the chorus will once again include “they beat him up until the teardrops start.”