5/28/2018
The chicken nugget challenge

I'm not supposed to be eavesdropping into conversations, so I'm not. I have my earphones plugged in, listening to Belgian radio from a month ago. Besides, the airconditioning at this coffee shop is loud and I can barely hear much, but I know enough to write this essay on the fly.

I know enough because this coffee shop isn't as full as I expected. I know enough because you don't often hear people talk about - and I am quoting here, the only thing I can quote - a "chicken nugget challenge with my boyfriend". The lady who said that does remind me of Marian Rivera. I had a glimpse because we're two tables apart. I chose this table because there is easy access to an electric plug. I had some emails to send, but now I'm here, killing time before a meeting.

Marian - let's call her Marian - smiles wide with her mouth, and smiles with her eyes as well. If you saw her online, you'd probably feel endeared to her - but not too endeared, because she has a boyfriend, and that is somehow a deterrent if you're a lonely person. She's wearing this black and green summer-y top, and has this choker of a necklace. I am terrible at fashion.

I'm not supposed to be eavesdropping, but I can't help it if I can make visual observations.

The person she's talking to is another lady. She's small, smaller than Marian. She's wearing a denim skirt and a gray shirt. By the way, yes, this is a business meeting. They're talking business. Not-Marian has a MacBook out - oh, I wish my laptop had a good battery; this is why I need a plug! - and she's talking to Marian about stuff I really am not supposed to know because, one, no eavesdropping, and two, earphones. But I know they're talking about business, because Not-Marian has a presentation out, and the slide says "Gushcloud".

Marian is a blogger.

No, wait, no, Marian is a social media influencer. A social media influencer wannabe? Whatever. She's something that entails doing a chicken nugget challenge with her boyfriend.

When I was last in Singapore for an extended period of time - the last two visits were stopovers - a social media feud was all over the newspapers. I was sending Shalla pictures of the front pages of how Xiaxue, one of the country's most influential bloggers - influential to the point of not giving a fuck about impressions - talking about Gushcloud's practices. That company's like Nuffnang: links bloggers and social media personalities with advertisers, that sort of thing. I only know the names but I wouldn't deal with that sort of thing because, well, I'm not an appealing person. I just write. This diary just happens to be public.

So, essentially, this meeting - or what I know of it - involves a social media influencer (wannabe?), Marian, talking to Not-Marian, who possibly works for Gushcloud. They're talking business. Either Marian wants in on the network, or Not-Marian is convincing her to join the network. If this goes well, Marian's blog will be filled with lifestyle-y entries plugging particular products, and she gets some sort of cut, most likely free items. Or chicken nuggets. Lots of chicken nuggets.

I've ranted about this, but right now, in this not-so-crowded coffee place, I understand the appeal of being a social media personality. It doesn't seem to be really hard work. You stay home and paint your nails black, set up your camera and do crazy things, and just market the hell out of it. Maybe you'll need an understanding of the algorithms that make the Internet work, making sure it's all to your advantage. But for the most part, you just make yourself look pretty, talk to the camera, and wait for... whatever it is to come in.

Of course it isn't that easy. The thing is, so many of you will be doing it, and it's increasingly difficult to stand out. As one of those influencers told me, you have to have something to say about something they care about. And then you have to be appealing - I'm a negative person, supposedly, so goodbye to that - and then you have to be relentless in selling yourself - again, goodbye to that. And even then it's almost always down to luck. There's a reason why there's a hundred YouTubers with a hundred hits each and a terrible rig, and a couple with a million views and the ability to shoot in Rome. That, or they're rich to begin with and don't want to work on something they're supposedly not passionate about. You know, the whole "do something you like and you'll never work a day in your life" bullshit.

We all want it easy, do we? I mean, yes, we know we have to exert effort, but somewhere in the back of our heads, the idea of getting rich being easy always lurks. Why toil away, miss out on a promotion, not have enough money for your bucket list, and suffer inferiority for the rest of your life? Why not fire up a camera and talk about what you like?

I left my ballpen in my car today. My brother has that car at this very moment. I feel naked without a ballpen in my pocket. What if I need to sign something at the meeting I'm in? Why, I have a back-up ballpen in my bag, of course! This is why you should have a ballpen in your pocket and in your bag.

But who cares about that? People doing monologues on the Internet tend to fail unless they're Stephen Colbert or Rachel Maddow - or Alex Jones, if you're so inclined. You have to step up. Do something interesting. Do something crazy. Maybe I should buy chicken nuggets and rope Shalla in. But what exactly is that chicken nugget challenge thing?

I would give in to my urges and listen in, but the table separating me and Marian is now occupied, by an old lady with a surgical mask, putting some brown sugar in her tea. Also, the airconditioning is still loud. But Marian is smiling, both with her mouth and her eyes. Maybe she's seeing dollar signs. Or maybe she just has to look enthusiastic. Social media. You have to look like you're really into it.

Or maybe that choker she's wearing is getting really, you know, tight, and she's just gasping for air.

And your responses...

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