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Hype! Has The Internet Gone Too Far?

I remember back in the 1980s (history for many of you reading this), I had a friend working at the University of California who had access to the Internet through the University system. It was new, it was esoteric, it was for academicians, nerds, and professional scientists.

Another friend, a salesman, pondered the commercial possibilities. "Sales and marketing," my University friend intoned, is "strongly frowned upon" by the Internet community.

Fast forward 20 to 25 years. What happened?

A system designed for researchers and academic communities to discuss ideas has become one of the primary means of communication for individuals throughout the world. It is the great leveler: a Bosnian peasant, a Kenyan tribesman, an urban ghetto adolescent, with access to a computer, is on a level with global corporations and top decision makers. The world wide web has created an unprecedented opportunity for verbal intercourse, far beyond anything that has historically been available, for anyone, even the rich and powerful. Blogs, personalized and updated, perhaps several times a day, allow the most humble their day in the sun.

What have we done with this new weapon with its potential to unite the world and give every individual, no matter how powerless and lonely, the chance to interact on the world stage?

We have commercialized it beyond any reasonable "make a sale" level. We have created the ultimate international snake oil salesperson. We have taken the "great communicator" and transformed him into the "great con."

How did this happen? The desire to sell something - anything - morphed into simply the desire to sell. Join any traffic site, SEO group, PR Newsletter, or Internet Forum and you will be immediately inundated with messages about selling.

Is there anything wrong with trying to sell a product? Of course not, that is what makes the wheels of commerce go round. I have no objection whatsoever to someone trying to sell me something - that is their job and I respect their right to pursue it.

What totally sickens me (how about you?) are the people who are not trying to sell me a product but are selling "how to sell."

I belong to several traffic exchange sites (I willingly admit that I'm trying to sell a book) that require me to spend 20 to 30 seconds on other exchange program websites. I have no problem with, and actually admire, someone trying to sell me something, whether I want it or not. I even find myself sighing with relief when I reach a site selling an actual product, whether a bottle of pills, a newsletter, a gift, or an e-book.

What frustrates, exasperates, and eventually disgusts me, is the webmaster out there who is not really selling anything tangible, merely selling the reader on selling. How many ads have you encountered that want you to sign-up for "The List," "Marketing Secrets Revealed," or "Make $___ within 48 hours without lifting a finger." How many times have you clicked on a link only to find the same theme: how you can make money off everyone else?

If everyone on the net is there to make money, from whom are they making their living? Is there really a vast population of the unwashed, sitting quietly reading their emails and surfing unending Websites, who exist just to buy stuff from these overzealous marketing gurus? Or does the money simply rotate as marketers buy from marketers toward the supreme goal of becoming a better marketer?

We live in the information age where knowledge is power, the details of both history and today's world are only a mouse click away, and the ease of access to almost everything approaches the speed of interplanetary travel. What productive use have we identified for all of this data?

Future archeologists, digging through our abandoned middens and long forgotten dumpsites, may finally stumble across our great weakness: that making money is the be-all and end-all of life.

Shaking their heads in regret, they will publish their findings, reporting on a great civilization that eventually collapsed under the weight of its own hype.

Virginia Bola is a licensed clinical psychologist with deep interests in Social Psychology and politics. She has performed therapeutic services for more than 20 years and has studied the effects of cultural forces and employment on the individual. The author of an interactive workbook, The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual, and a monthly ezine, The Worker's Edge, she can be reached at

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