The Grand Incompetence

I follow a handful of content creators on Instagram. Mostly people dealing with nutrition and fashion. Because I cannot be bothered to trawl through thousands of dresses and also because I need reminding that I cannot spend my life looking for dresses and snacking on biscuits, and need to get to the gym and eat healthy.

One of the most recurring things I see when I tap through their stories is they get asked some very VERY basic questions. Anything they post triggers thousands of people asking where that is from or how to make it. Case in point, the post below by Dr Hazel Wallace who featured a bowl of yogurt mixed with protein powder and topped with “stuff”, which resulted in tens of people asking how she’d done it. The woman had to say “I mix yogurt with protein powder and put stuff on it”. And it does not stop there, people ask to be told how to wear a skirt, where clothes are from when the source is clearly tagged, even where creators buy their produce.

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[Photo is print-screened from Dr Hazel Wallace’s feed here]

Now, I can account for this in one of two ways:

  1. People think there is a bit of magic and “secret sauce” to what content creators do. Mostly because they know how to take good photos which makes even a bowl of yogurt with protein powder (yuk!) into something that will keep you healthy, satiated and trim at the same time. And everybody wants a bit of that secret sauce because, let’s admit it, nobody wants to work hard for anything. Or…
  2. There’s a growing degree of reliance on the immediately visible with no desire to interrogate, research or understand, a complete surrender to a sort of spoon-feeding of everything in one’s life, from what you should wear, to how you eat and where you eat. I like to call this The Grand Incompetence: a state in which you’ve renounced control of anything in your life and the algorithms and creators take over and you’re left there, a product of what digital tells you to do.

This is also the nugget of a recent conversation I had with my BF over the Netflix recommendation algorithm. He feels trapped by the algorithm, annoyed by its lack of …well, accuracy in predicting what he really would like to see, by the fact that it seems to actively prevent experimentation (even the recently introduced Surprise Me category is the least surprising thing you will ever see) and only serve up a highly biased stream of films and TV series. My point then was “well, why don’t you research what you want to watch on your own?”. The argument seemed to have some effect and we’re now spending more time deciding what to watch before we actually click through the endless streams of Recommended stuff.

And then there are the countless one-function apps that solve even the smallest of inconveniences a human being can encounter. “Seen a dress you like but don’t know where it’s from? We’ll find it for you and give you a high-street version if it’s too pricey”. That app. What I do is usually Google a description of the dress and then click on the Pinterest tags. It takes literally 10 minutes to find anything.

The point is the same. For one reason or another, people let themselves get lulled into a sense of powerlessness by their technology use. Don’t need to know how to do anything because there will be someone who can show me it step by step. And that’s not alright when there is so much joy in actively using tech to expand your brain and support the research and experimentation YOU should be doing.

The Grand Incompetence is not unavoidable. But it’s becoming prevalent and it’s yet again, one of the insidious ways in which tech and our laziness-prone brains come together to form an undesirable effect. All you have to do is not give in to the instinct to be lazy, and next time you see something you like, research it for real. To make it even more interesting, decide to NOT use Google to do it :)

Digital Strategist. The Internet will save the world (pending verification). Views expressed here are my own/should not be construed as coming from my employer.

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