Sunday, June 23, 2019

Santorini Dave Travel Blog Advice

Santorini Dave, a popular travel blog, is against the idea of using travel blogs as storytelling vehicles--at least if you want to make any money: 

I’m sorry, but you will not make money from travel tales and adventure stories. Or, if you do, you’re far more talented than me and you’re not reading my lame-*ss post about focusing on your brand. So stop reading and go do it. Start your blog about all your crazy stories traveling the world. (Also: good luck. There’s a place for storytelling in the world but you won’t find a blog post on it. You might as well read self-help books on how to be original. There are a dozen people in the world that will make money from travel storytelling. If you think you could be one of those twelve then go for it.)

Anyone who's read Yuval Noah Harari will initially gasp--until s/he remembers he has a tenured university post, a privilege available to less than 1% of the world's population. Lacking such security, most people will need to sell something to be able to tell a story. Consequently, social media, which relies on quantitative metrics, has turned the internet into a giant marketplace not of ideas, but visual titillation. 

To be clear, I don't mind titillation or mindless distractions, but the Native Americans, Muslims, and to a lesser extent, Jews, have been proven right in their approach against a culture based on figurative images. You may quibble that the ban on figurative images revolved specifically around religion or living things being elevated to the status of idols (God being a jealous mistress), but such categories were close to all-encompassing in olden culture. 

We tend to forget once the Bible was transcribed and translated, it became the primary book marketed by people in power. Consequently, just like any other product, chapters were modified depending on local audiences (whither Lilith?) and promises/rhetoric/advertising didn't always match reality. Regardless of the specific make and model of the book, because advertising/missionary financing was strong, and competition almost non-existent, a single book often became the way a person learned English. First mover advantage has never been disputed, but the point here is that it resulted in moving from pictures as the basis for storytelling to written words--an improvement. 
From Codex Gigas, seen in Stockholm, Sweden.
Fast forward to 2019. On the subway, most people are using mobile phones to play online games (visual, no words) or to shop (visual). Except for Wikipedia and reddit, the most popular apps and websites rely entirely on either the spoken word or visual images

No one doubts images are more compelling to the human brain than written words. ee cummings may have said it best: "the best gesture of my brain is less than your eyelids' flutter." Women have always realized this fact about human nature, so cosmetic products are always in demand, and even in periods when women's clothing lacked pockets, small jade purses or ornaments like ivory combs would be deployed to attract the wandering eye. 

Of course no one is arguing we want societies mostly of Socrates or Shakespeares--intellectuals often rely on more daring friends and lovers for inspiration, and obviously technology and buildings do not appear spontaneously--but a society that does not advertise its own individual stories properly will find itself depending on non-native and perhaps outdated stories for cohesion. The lesson? If you let marketers dictate your culture, perhaps you will soon find the underlying reason our ancestors disfavored graven images, especially ones made of valuable commodities. For some of us, it is just as easy to drown in a shallow pool than a deep one. 

© Matthew Mehdi Rafat 

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