For all the flack that influencers get, there’s something telling—maybe even honest—about this definitively internet-era career. A lot of us don’t like to admit it when we’re followers rather than trendsetters, but to even call someone an influencer is a tacit admission of the plasticity of human desire. Shiny social media profiles exert their little influences over us, sponsored ministrations leaving fading fingerprints on our brains to break our banks. No one is immune to advertising. Our susceptibility is nothing to be ashamed of. After all, humans are social creatures. Regardless of the mediation of the digital world, isn’t it natural to be touched and changed by human voices, human faces?
To borrow from the words of T. S. Eliot, good writers borrow, but great writers steal. E. W. Hornung would probably propose a corollary: the greatest writers steal from family. Throughout the 1890s, the explosive success of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories spawned a glut of deductive copycats and wannabe-Sherlocks, reproducing the formula of the genius detective and his bumbling assistant-slash-scribe. In the earliest edition of The Amateur Cracksman, the first collection of stories centred on E. W. Hornung’s A. J. Raffles, there was a dedication to Doyle, “To A. C. D. This form of flattery.” This direct form of address would probably have seemed either impertinent or fawning, coming just any imitator. Hornung wasn’t just anyone, though; he was Doyle’s brother-in-law.
Tasted soups are sweet, but those untasted
Are sweeter; therefore, fair Campbell, can on!
Wine-hued to the darkling gaze, free of stain
Upon the borders crisp. Logo pasted
Tight on metal sheer, caught by steely yawn
Of factory saw to rend the gourmet pane.
Is That a Snake in Your Pants, Or Are You Just Happy to See Me: Monstrous Metamorphoses and the Literature of Alienation
Human fascination with unnatural transformations is nothing new; humans have morphed into monsters all throughout literature, from werewolves to vampires, from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve’s Beauty and the Beast. But perhaps the most famous treatment is Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a compilation of mythical changes.
Hungry, deep, and astoundingly preservative, the World Wide Web is a peat bog of private data. As the grade school Internet Safety Seminar saying goes, once it’s on the Internet, it’s there forever. While that doesn’t necessarily mean every piece of information you ever post online will come back into your life like a grotesque bog body, it does means that every time you post something online, you run the risk that it will come back into your life—like a grotesque bog body, tapping its detached femur on the drywall to the beat of YouTube comments made by a thirteen-year-old self.