Anyone who has been on the fringes of mainstream society can testify that there is a time when you have to stop and see the hype for what it is—hype. There comes a time when you realize everyone is chanting the same things but with different end goals in mind.
Take anything that’s come out in the past three years, and there’s always hype around it.
From the rise of AI applications to “fake news” outlets, the latest trends, and the latest efforts to “sanitize” classic literature, we are bombarded by hype day in and day out. But there’s hype elsewhere too. Take any socio-economic, political, moral, or religious issue and you’ll see the same thing. Hype. Spin to make you think one side believes a certain way when they don’t.
Take the recent furor over ChatGPT or Jasper AI. You have the doomsayers who claim this will put writers out of work. You have actual writers saying differently.
So, where’s the actual truth?
And what exactly is hype, while we’re at it?
The word “hype” is connected to drugs and addiction.
Yes, you read that correctly. In my trusty Oxford Dictionary of American English (1999), hype has two different entries and sits just above the prefix hyper- which is Greek for “over and above” or “excessive.”
The first entry for “hype” defines it as 20th-century slang for “extravagant or intense publicity”–a bit like all the “hype” surrounding a new tell-all memoir or a movie. But, if you look at the rest of the definitions, they go a little further:
- Someone addicted to drugs
- Short for “hypodermic needle,”
And then, underneath one entry is the definition of the term “hyped up”, which originally meant “stimulated by or as if by a hypodermic needle.”
Make you think about hype a little differently, doesn’t it? When you really think about it, what does “hype” actually do? It holds your attention by any means possible. Which means, like social media and the internet, it’s slightly addictive. After all, there’s a reason “doom-scrolling” came to be in the dictionary too.
If we’re so addicted to hype, then how do we kick the habit? How do we prevent ourselves from being blown about like a whirlwind, like the lost souls outside the gates of Dante’s Hell?
Hype has its fingers in every age and in every pie.
Don’t think that because you’re somehow a free thinker, atheist, Buddhist, or a born-again Christian that you are immune from hype. In fact, the right-wing Evangelical movement in the United States is probably the poster child for hype. Trust me, I know. I lived through some of it. And thankfully had parents who kept me out of most of it.
For all the free-thinkers and atheists out there, just look at Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Widely lauded and yet reviled during the Enlightenment. Rousseau is ideologically responsible for the Reign of Terror–the forerunner of 20th-century totalitarianism. He single-handedly proved that the so-called “Enlightenment” wasn’t all that enlightened when taken to its natural conclusion. It needed the robust Romanticism of the Gothic novel to tame it.
More to the point, it needed a revival of interest in Shakespeare to tame it and put out roots.
Did that mean all the Enlightenment was wrong? No. Most of our ideas of human rights and human reason still come from Enlightenment-age thinkers, even though nearly all of them got their ideas from the Magna Carta, taken out of context. But, if you believed the hype of Thomas Paine, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and others, you’d think the entire world was somehow uncivilized prior to the 1700s.
Let’s not forget the Magna Carta itself was a medieval, Catholic document, even if the ideas it espouses are no where near what we recognize them as today. All those human rights activists of the 1700s who liked to refer to the Magna Carta seemed to have forgotten that bit of the puzzle.
Or chose to ignore it.
Hype nearly always benefits the person who’s making the money or seeking power.
You can claim that if you follow a specific set of rules, you will achieve success be that favor with a deity, wealth, prosperity, or even moderate success with your business. You can say that the next big tech layoff heralds a new Depression, or that the latest AI gadget will destroy thousands of jobs.
You can even claim the moon will crash into the earth or that the earth is flat. It doesn’t mean any of it will happen. Or that those claims are even remotely true. More than likely, someone, somewhere, has already said the same thing before and it was proven wrong.
So why all the “hype”? Well, hype makes money. If you’re a 90s era Evangelical, the money went to Christian-marketed companies and products, to mega-churches, political campaigns, and even to “higher” education institutions that specialized more in selective Christianity than they did in actual Christianity.
Trust me, I looked over their coursework. Good substance in some of it, but they’d always conveniently leave out specific aspects of things.
So, who’s making all the money today? Look for the multi-billionaires who appear out of nowhere. Look at who was walking the streets two years ago and are now driving souped-up cars even though they’ve never done more than be a part of a well-funded nonprofit. Look at the supposed “public servants” who make hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Hype doesn’t benefit the normal, every day people like you or me. It doesn’t benefit the average business owner, or the average person trying to live their life. Who does it benefit? It benefits those making the money or seeking power.
So, when you take a moment and look at the substance of what’s being said and unravel it, I can almost guarantee you it’s nothing to lose sleep over. Trust me, I already have. What you’ll find isn’t that people are telling “their truth,” you’ll find people who are spinning a story to make money–at someone else’s expense.
Don’t fall for it. Don’t be like the Christian Evangelical cultural movements of the 80s and 90s and fall for every new little fad like the purity movement, or the WWJD bracelets, or the latest fundamentalist trend. We ended up with a very shallow Christian “culture” that wasn’t based on anything actually Christian, but based upon hedonistic consumerism.
Not to mention that they conveniently ignored medieval Christian culture entirely. Some still do.
Don’t make the same mistake. Deconstruct what’s being said and what’s being left out. Because what’s being left out may be even more important than what’s being said.
Too much hype can traumatize you and others if you don’t moderate it.
It’s good to be on your guard, and it’s good to foresee possible wrong turns on the journey of life, but there is also such a thing as being paranoid and too sensitive.
Preparedness helps. Paranoia makes things worse. And hype, at its very worst, plays upon paranoia.
Don’t even get me started on the mental toll believing everything takes on you. Or what it does to your interpersonal skills. Or even what it does to your spirituality. Want a guess? None of it is good.
So, the next time you see claims that an invention will change an entire industry or collapse an entire segment of the job market, don’t believe it. The next time you hear some bygone of a past age claim the end of the world is here, or that a deity is very angry unless you do something, don’t believe it. You are setting yourself up for trauma and for jumping at every shadow that crosses your path.
Look instead for ways you can contribute, stand out, or up your game. Don’t fall for someone else’s brand of the truth. There is such a thing as objective truth. Seek it, find it, and hold on to it. But don’t keep expecting bad things to happen.
If you expect bad things, then you will receive bad things. Simple as that. If you say there are demons everywhere, then guess what? Demons will very surely appear. If you look at a new market trend and say “that’s the end of my career”, then you really have already lost your career.
Again, objective truth exists. But you also have to be brave enough to see it and be optimistic. Are you going to find it or are you going to let some peon on the internet tell you what it is?
So, when should you take the hype seriously?
You should never be too flippant about the latest trends. While there is the possibility that you might miss out on something which can help you, it’s equally possible that it might adversely affect you in other ways. When those adverse effects creep in, then take the hype seriously.
But take it seriously in that it’s causing you and others damage.
Otherwise, I don’t think you should ever take anyone’s word for anything until all the facts are in and all the money trail is exposed. Someone somewhere is making a profit from the chaos. Be sure you know who before you leap in.
Don’t believe me? Don’t take my word for it. Look. Really look. Who pays whom? Who spends money where? What are you being distracted from?
Or what are you being led towards?
Thank you for reading!
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