Monday, June 27, 2022

What happens when you're no longer cool?

Art by Tarek Chemaly

For a while I was cool. I mean that, I collaborated with the hippest up and coming bands, I was all over the news (locally and internationally), I was featured in film festivals, I was giving guest lectures left and right, and was even asked to be part of an ad for an app whereby you pay by smartphone because I was an "influencer" (no idea where they go this name but it seems at the time I was considered as one). Apart from me not wanting to associate my image with any brand I was so late in the game when I got my first smartphone so back then I did not even have one. Hey, one student even did a whole project about me when the brief was "who do you aspire to be in the future?".

As I said, for a while, I was cool.

Cool passed me by. It helps that even in the epitome of it I used to take everything with a shrug. An article about me in Sweden? Yes, lovely. A front page about me in Denmark? How kind of them. Being shuttled between media on opening nights? Maybe I should have worn a different shirt. Perhaps I should have taken it more seriously. But such is that I am. Spotlight is un peu annoying for me - I am too introverted for that.

But again, this begs the question: What happens when you are no longer cool?

For people like me, nothing much. Cool was just an accident and we outgrow it. But I see it in other people, when they are no longer "relevant" - when their claim to fame was the "best dressed/worst dressed" list, or being invited to restaurant openings.

I never accepted gifts from brands, but they did. A friend who worked at the same place with one of those professional influencers - she told me on Christmas there would be no place to sit in the office because gifts where everywhere (both used to work at a prominent local company). Last time I checked the influencer in question was doing "table decoration" after being laid off from her corporate job (no shame in that) but since all companies in Lebanon cut down their budgets significantly, I fail to see if anyone is handing out gifts anymore.

Same for all other people who depended on companies handing out gifts and token and - literally - free lunches. No one really cares for influencers at this point on the local scene, or if they do, they truly hold the upper hand over them (the influencers that is). Mind you as someone told me lately a certain account on Instagram now labels everything he reviews as "wonderful" and "off the charts" etc... because practically that is the only way to attract brands inviting him anywhere.

Am I going off tangent? I don't think so.

Because gone are the days where brands could just place any message via a "spokesperson" (notice the quotes) in exchange for a free coupon or a meal. Social media are biting back in force. People are talking back to brands and exposing their personal gripes and grievances (from employee salaries, to working conditions, to restaurant service, to anything you can think of). Since I was never tied to a specific brand or accepted to support one, and - to be honest - I was always mostly critical of them and their communication, I can get away scot free from all the negativity.

I honestly think I am the last blogger standing in Lebanon. There is someone else, but their blog is just a copy-paste of corny press releases. But if you think of the word "blogger" to me Instagram does not come to mind.

So what happens when you're no longer cool like me? Business as usual. You go on being hated as you were previously (and to anyone saying what I write does not matter, please check all the messages I get from the people in the industry). Or, paradoxically, you still get to be liked by the very few - whose ego still handles being called for their communication mishaps.

A few weeks ago I ended up being enamored by two ads - and they happened by sheer chance to be done by the same agency. The agency head emailed me "twice? in one week? am I not the lucky one?"

So apparently in a my post-cool phase my opinion still matters. At least to one agency.