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The promise of the Internet: Sleep influencers and dancing to one’s death on a moving truck
Correct Dennis Wyatt mug 2022
Dennis Wyatt

TikTokers, as F. Scott Fitzgerald might have penned, are “different from you and me.”

If you are not from an era where phones had one purpose and an hour-long call to New York City could set you back the equivalent of one-monthly payment on an iPhone from AT&T when it was known as Ma Bell, perhaps a bit of an explanation is in order.

A pen you might ask? That’s a low-tech device once used to communicate long distance when you used your hand to press it against paper.

And if it was something of significant impact on lives, profound or witty it would eventually make its way to thousands, if not millions.

As for who was F. Scott Fitzgerald, he was a quaint forerunner of social media influencers/bloggers that were referred to as essayists, short story writers and novelists.

He tried to make a living enlightening mankind about the flamboyance — and excess — of the Jazz Age.

No, the Jazz Age is not when point guard John Stockton took the Utah Jazz to the promised land of the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998 only to come up short both times.

It references a time when America was upended by the rollout of instant communication to the masses better known as commercial radio.

“Influencers” could reach thousands who turned a knob with devices that connected to wireless technology known as radio frequency instead of those just within earshot.

You no longer had to trek to a jazz club in New York City, Chicago, or Los Angeles to hear trendy music. You could turn on your radio in Peoria and take it all in.

It set the stage for creating and standardizing cultural tastes and speech patterns running roughshod over reginal and local takes.

Radio was a medium that spread racial stereotypes like wildfire across the nation with shows such as “Amos ‘n Andy.” People didn’t have to leave the comfort of their living room to engage — although one way at the time — with complete strangers. Radio, as it matured, introduced demagoguery to the air waves. 

Outlandish attire by the mores of the time were adopted by young people.

Flapper dresses — long, slinky flapper dresses — that the Kardashians of today would view as frumpy gunny sacks — were all the rage much to the chagrin of old fogeys.

The shocking equivalent of the 1920s to the crack addiction of many of today’s young males were wide, pleated and deeply cuffed pants.

Fitzgerald would have a field day in the Internet Age exploring the excesses, shallowness and the interaction of the self-proclaimed enlightened that masks emptiness and becomes boring due to its repetitiveness.

That even goes for those on the cutting edge who have to push the envelope in order to stay relevant to the digital world they circulate in.

Consider the evolving of social media as an inkling of the potential of how shallow and the vast void of face-to-face human interconnection as the forerunner of Mark Zuckerburg’s Meta Universe yet to come.

Turn to TikTok to see where we are headed on the journey started on Nov. 2, 1920 when KDKA in Pittsburgh became the first commercial radio station to go on the air.

It is where you will see stunts that made John Belushi’s character in “Animal House” appear as if he were restrained and channeling Emily Post.

It is also where Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame theory is reduced to a mere 15 seconds, if that. 

It’s a place where a sucker isn’t born every minute, but on a frequency of a dozen or so every second.

Facebook’s younger cousin TikTok— the latest refinement of technology that took man to the moon — has given us risky dancing on moving dance floors and sleep influencers.

First the moving dance floor. We’re not talking about the gym floor that retracts in the high school dance scene in “It’s A Wonderful Life” as the Charleston is played sending revelers plunging into the swimming pool below.

Instead, we’re talking about challenges — made and implied — on TikTok.

On Nov. 14 a 25-year-old man met his demise on a Houston freeway. Police, based on a video apparently the man was recording and shared on Facebook, said he was dancing on the roof of an 18-wheeler trailer as it sped down the freeway.

Whether he jumped onto the trailer or climbed onto it while it was parked doesn’t matter. His desire for 15 seconds of fame in vast bowels of social media cost him his life when the truck passed underneath a bridge and he slammed into the overpass.

As for sleep influencers, this is an expansion of the marketing stunt in the 1930s  when a man was paid to “sleep” in a storefront window in New York City in his PJs to demonstrate how restful a specific mattress was as those passing by gawked.

While that was probably a one and done gig, TikTok has elevated it to a career.

The king of sleep influencers — although it looks like he is sleeping on a twin bed — is Jakey Boehm. The 28-year-old from Australia’s Gold Coast climbs into his bed every night at 10 p.m. to entertain TikTok fans worldwide with his tossing and turning. Boehm claims he earns an average of $35,000 a month.

Boehm adds to the entertainment value by having lights, sirens and other sounds rigged that “wake him up” when someone buys him a virtual  gift that he allows them to select from.

They can also fork over 50 cents to $600 for a number of other irritating interruptions, hence his $35,000 monthly take.

Other sleep influencers aren’t as entertaining. They’re just a big snooze if as Fitzgerald might say of the wealthy he skewed, a “big bore.”

Duane Olson, who is 25 years old and lives in Hyde Park in New York, just sleeps. He goes to bed with a sign above his headboard that reads “just me sleeping.” He has some 13,000 followers of which more than a few volunteers to send him a few bucks as they watch him sleep ad he presumably dreams not of sheep but fleecing TikTok followers.

He’s been able to rake in about $400 or so a month from just sleeping.

So much for the breathless promise made in the 1990s that the Internet would usher in a new Age of Enlightenment.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Courier or 209 Multimedia.