Life in the digital 21st century is really a function of euphemizing ourselves from cradle to grave. Maybe that’s always been the case, but today’s spinmeisters seem especially adroit at squeezing majesty from mendacity (or mundacity) and snatching pyrrhic victory from the jaws of defeat. Consider just a few of today’s better examples:
A friend used to be the recipient of your purest love. Nowadays, a friend is someone to click on once and forget entirely, with no requisite love/hate investment of any sort. Thanks to Facebook, today’s friends are to yesterday’s friends what yesterday’s dollar is to today’s two bits (on a good day).
Don’t be surprised to see Mark Zuckerberg take over for Ben Bernanke at the Federal Reserve (or vice versa) in the near future. They’re both in the same business with the same cheap currency and the same borrowed slogan: eat all you want, we’ll make more.
Quality time is a euphemism for no time at all, mostly because we spend all of our time (quality or otherwise) attending to all of our time-saving digital devices.
Relevance and Metrics
Digital marketers often use the word relevance in broad association with the word metrics. Of course, neither describes anything that actually works. Rather, they describe things that can be sold, and are therefore, most effective when used in the same sentence, as in: “We need a new suite of metrics to ensure relevance.” Translation: “We can’t sell the old metrics anymore.”
That’s why everyone in online advertising is on the hunt now for a more relevant metric to replace the CTR: apparently, no one can sell statistical zero. Usually, those marketers that use the word relevance as a metric to describe ads are their own best customers: They’ll buy anything. (Please see Optimization and Performance below.)
Optimization and Performance
(Please see Relevance and Metrics above.) Optimization and performance are what we sell when nothing works at all, as in: “We need to optimize congressional performance and the Boston Red Sox bullpen.” Or, “The ad campaign was optimized to elevate performance to statistical zero.”
AI is where we currently deposit all of our hopes for a better future through digital technology -- largely because we have no faith in our own intelligence anymore (for obvious reasons). But beware of false gods: As my brother Mike says: “If my phone is so smart, why can’t I reach anyone with it?”
Communicate and Communications
There’s a reason why we never see the verb communicate in the same sentence with the noun communications: No one can actually communicate in today’s world of instant communications. (Please see the smartphone reference under Artificial Intelligence above.)
Transparency and Accountability
Typically, those who demand the most transparency and accountability in others are those who are least transparent and accountable themselves. Demands for transparency and accountability are theatrically most effective as congressional committee opportunities to display righteous indignation and shock in response to the sudden and inexplicable loss of billions of taxpayer dollars -- most of which gets pumped back into political and special-interest campaigns for more transparency and accountability.
I tossed this one into the mix because I suddenly see it everywhere. For instance, the bread aisle of my supermarket now sells artisan baguettes. But it’s the same old baguette with a new artisan bag. Meanwhile, Duncan Donuts is now running an ad campaign for artisan bagels. Significantly, no one in the ads seems to know what the word artisan means. I rest my case.
What are some of your favorite euphemisms for life and work in the digital 21st century?