Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

The Emperor’s New Clothes
February 9, 2009, 12:00 am
Filed under: Thoughts

One thing that I’ve noticed while having been in a funk for the past few days is how quickly we (yes, I am included in this) jump on a fan bandwagon for someone or something simply because everyone else is doing so. It’s a practice that can get out of hand really fast, especially with how quickly news, rumors, and so forth spread today. Yesterday’s unknown is today’s shining star is tomorrow’s old cast-off. Popularity is fleeting and most people who possess it are simply flashes in the pan. Here are some of my thoughts on the matter.

One of my favorite stories as a young kid was The Emperor’s New Clothes, a story written by Hans Christian Andersen. For those of you who don’t know the story, here is a short version of it:

An emperor of a prosperous city hires two tailors, who turn out to be swindlers, who promise him the finest suit of clothes from the most beautiful cloth. This cloth, they tell him, is invisible to anyone who was either stupid or unfit for his position. The Emperor cannot see the (non-existent) cloth, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing stupid; his ministers do the same. When the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they “dress” him in mime. The Emperor then goes on a procession through the capital showing off his new “clothes” (though he is actually naked) while the people applaud and compliment them, not wanting to appear stupid or unfit themselves. During the course of the procession, a small child cries out, “But he has nothing on!” The crowd finally realizes the child is telling the truth and laugh at the shamed Emperor.

There are lots of Emperors in every industry – parading around our worlds with fake garments on and telling us that if we don’t see them, we’re idiots. Translation: if we don’t read, listen to, or agree with what they have to say, or jump on their fan bandwagon, then we’re obviously not part of some secret inner circle and we’re morons. I call BS to that – a person is only a “big deal” when we make them into one. And I honestly wonder why we make some folks such a big deal in the first place…

I am drawn to certain bloggers, social media people, PR professionals, researchers, etc. not necessarily because they are “emperors” or because they’ve become big deals in their respective industries. I won’t name them because you need to form your own opinions on those whom you follow, but some of these people are popular while many aren’t. And in fact, some of my favorite bloggers have very few subscribers and are relative unknowns. Why do I like them? Because they’re genuine and they have something to say, even if not many people are paying attention yet. They don’t elevate themselves to a point where they’ve completely lost touch with their target audience. They’re real with the things they talk about, and while they don’t go around poo-pooing everyone who doesn’t agree with them, they are honest about what they think and aren’t always the most “PC”. Simply put – they can be grumpy jerks sometimes. Most of what they write is thoughtful and interesting, but every once in awhile, they have bad days just like you and me. They’re human and they’re not afraid to let it show.

We make popular people popular. We do this by promoting them to others. I would like to challenge you: the next time you consider re-tweeting a link to an article, think about whether you’re re-tweeting it because you found it interesting and informative, or because it’s from some big-shot popular blogger and you want to appear intellectual yourself by re-tweeting it. (did you even read it to begin with?) I challenge you to read unpopular or unknown blogs and promote the writings of someone who isn’t well-known but has some good things to say. I challenge you to un-subscribe to a popular website that you never read but you keep on your blogroll because it makes you look more entrenched in your industry. And most of all, I challenge you to see through the invisible threads of the emperors in your industry and choose not to go along with what everyone else thinks to avoid ruffling any feathers. Don’t fall prey to the opinions and pressure of the masses and become sheeple.

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” ~Epictetus


5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Very well said. See, being in a funk isn’t all that bad. Look what it produces! Powerful insight!!!

Comment by Andrea

I love this post, Amybeth! I highly value and pursue authenticity. I’ve come to realize that the best thing I can do is to be authentic and tell authentic stories about what it is I do: in-person, online, wherever.

Comment by Daniel Johnson, Jr.

This could apply to…

…so many situations…

…including the rather large”ish” situation of the US’s current King. Strange how it could pan out that way. 🙂

Hope all goes well in your world. Portland is being cooperative lately.

Comment by Adron

Bravo Amybeth! Terrific post with some great, thought-provoking points, many of which resonated with me. One point that particularly struck a chord was the importance of forwarding links and participating in the blogosphere as a way to help spread helpful information to others, rather than merely promoting one’s self or “looking busy” in Web 2.0. Well done!

Comment by Rob Bunting

[…] For all of you big time bloggers, sorry, we’re just not that into you.  2. Obama’s Crackberry 3. Can you tighten the belt and loosen the purse strings?  4. 2009 […]

Pingback by The Week In Recruiting (Reading the blogs so you don’t have to…)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: