Tesco Value Popcorn

Wait, what's wrong with popcorn?

There's one word that invades more of the modern internet, modern nonfiction and modern self-help advice.

It's a word that I now grit my teeth to when I hear it said.

It's a word that's like sharp nails scraping down a chalkboard to me.

Value.

Screech.

Value.

Screech.

Value.

...

But before we go there, let's go over here.

Let's talk about Tesco Value.

Tesco is a supermarket in the UK. They're fairly middle of the road as supermarkets go. Not the cheapest and not the most expensive. They're just your average UK supermarket. Like all average supermarkets they have an even more average range that is designed to be good value for money. It's designed to look cheap because it is. Tesco call it 'Tesco Value'.

It's cheap but still does the job. It removes any branding and personality in an effort to save you money.

It won't change your life but it'll likely not break on you or cause you any fuss. It's just another product. Utilitarian. Something you'd shrug at if you walked past it in a supermarket, but something you'd buy if you just want to save a few quid.

Now let's go back to this Internet Value.

Or 'value' as I like to type, because there's nothing really valuable about it whatsoever. It's your 7 Steps to Become X type articles. It's your average 'valuable' Twitter thread.

Just like Tesco Value, it's completely devoid of any branding and personality in an effort to save you time when it comes to consuming it. It's been boiled down to its component parts, reduced until it is just a collection of words loosely connected together.

'Value' is a Twitter thread about something you don't even need to learn about but you read it anyway.

This modern day idea of 'value' is just a snack, a single piece of Tesco Value Popcorn. It'll taste nice and give you a quick dopamine spike. Then you'll be onto to the next piece of Tesco Value Popcorn.

There's no connection to the other pieces of popcorn in the bag. The only connection is that the rest of the popcorn will taste exactly the same and do exactly the same things to you. It'll taste nice and give you another quick dopamine spike.

No wider narrative, no exposition, no nuance. That's too complicated, people won't understand, and it won't be proper 'value' then.

Our relentless, unwavering worship at the alter of 'value' has become the real pandemic.

OK, OK. I get it.

I'm being grumpy here.

Let me tell you why 'value' is bad and not just sit here being all grumpy and stuff.

'Value' is reductive

Have a think for a second about what 'providing value' means to you. When it's said by Gary Vaynerchuk or any other of these nonsense pseudo-celebrities online, it tends to mean making something that will help somebody in some way. What it usually boils down to is making a single piece of popcorn that will either entertain or give the viewer a feeling of progress.

Because we're living in the modern day internet and everyone has a bare thread of attention span (I've already lost you all I know at this point), this piece of popcorn needs to be short. It needs to get to its point quickly.

As the 'value' has to be proved quickly for it to be considered 'valuable', it must be reduced down to bare essentials. 'Value' has to be simple to understand and simple to parse. We live in the age of TikTok and 380 characters. The age of Stories with a capital S, not 'stories'. Stories that only last 60 seconds then get uploaded to Instagram, Twitter or—god forbid—LinkedIn.

To create 'value' it must be simple. To create something simple you have to reduce and keep reducing until there's no personality or actual real deep value left.

'Value' needs to be popular

As I said, 'value' has no personality for it to be defined as such. What this leads to is endless podcasts, tweets, instagram posts, blogs, newsletters, videos, television shows that all say the same things.

They all recite the same books, the same quotes, the same images, the same memes.

That modern article about audience building?

They're all derivatives of something Kevin Kelly wrote, which is probably just a derivative of something René Girard said.

The same things all come from the same old sources, like the most hackneyed and backward family tree you've ever seen.

And they all do this because 'value' needs to become popular for it to achieve its definition. If nobody gets value from it, how could it be categorised like this? It can't, so there's this desperate need for any piece of content defined as 'value' to be liked, just like that kid at high school you hated who always tried to be your friend.

Its desperate need to become popular makes it feel a certain way, which brings me to my crowning problem with 'value'...

'Value' is boring

I've never read Atomic Habits by James Clear. I've barely ever read any of his work. His work is so purely 'value', so utterly stripped of personality that it's like reading something that an alien wrote.

If an alien attempted to write self-improvement articles and books to assimilate into modern Twitter-high-society, it would have created James Clear as a pen name and written exactly that.

It's just dull.

Do any of these titles strike you as interesting?

  • For a More Creative Brain Follow These 5 Steps

  • The Proven Path to Doing Unique and Meaningful Work

  • 30 One-Sentence Stories From People Who Have Built Better Habits

  • The Goldilocks Rule: How to Stay Motivated in Life and Business

  • When the 80/20 Rule Fails: The Downside of Being Effective

Who is reading these articles? Seriously. These articles are written for aliens by aliens.

And that's the problem really. 'Value' isn't written to appeal to your human irrational brain. It isn't created to appeal to any kind of joy you want to feel. It's designed to make you feel guilty. Make you feel like you should be better.

'Value' is not good for you.

'Value' is not valuable.

Anyway, these types of articles are even more dull than Tesco Value Popcorn.

This type of 'value' is Tesco Value Toilet Rolls.

Rough to the touch, it’ll likely break when you use it and they'll make you feel shit.


Edit

There’s a slight addendum to this. I recorded a video the other day about how I’ve accidentally built an audience this last year. This clip here is worth adding.