On Re-Thinking Fame

As Chris Hayes says in his beautifully-written New Yorker essay: "on the internet, we're always famous." I stumbled across his essay via a Substack post from Alison Roman, who paired its reflection with her recipe for gentle lentils. (I've personally never known lentils to be very gentle, but that's neither here nor there.) She wrote that Hayes’ article cut deep to her core: I think it does for most of us.

Hayes compares the experience of being online to embodying the auditory capacity of a fennec fox. Imagine you're at a cocktail party and you can hear not only the person directly in front of you — pitching their latest startup idea over a half-empty glass of champagne and cheese-topped crackers — but the conversations of everyone around you. It's impossible to concentrate on your interlocutor because the thrill of eavesdropping is just too great, then distracting, then overwhelming and emotionally — for most humans, at least — too much to handle. Not unlike the experience of Dawn Dorland in this week's viral NYT piece, when she is presented with a stack of email evidence of literary acquaintances talking harshly behind her back.

The essay hypothesizes that we binge on social media out of an intrinsic desire for recognition and human connection but that — because it's impossible to truly know our followers at scale — we fall short. And yet we grasp, and grasp, and grasp. Because the experience of a filtered online presence “feels close enough to real human connection that we cannot but pursue it in ever more compulsive ways.”

I think that's true.

A lot of podcasters I speak to started a podcast in search of the context and depth of discussion they can't find on social media. It's not surprising, then, that they feel overwhelmed by the prospect of promoting their work on the very platforms they long to avoid. They want to connect with their listeners but “I want a space away, away, away” is a common refrain: a home base where I make the rules à la Taylor Swift.

It's up to our product team to build that sanctuary.

Meanwhile I'm asking myself: how do I bring meaning and true recognition to our outreach in a social media world? How do I help people feel seen?

Stay tuned.

(I know, the suspense is killing you.)