The Great Digital Nomad Identity Crisis

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Fellow remote workers, bloggers, vloggers and builders of funnels – it saddens me to announce that we have an emerging crisis.

An internet based crisis.  An internet forum based crisis.  Which means that it isn’t really a crisis, but more an ego driven mud-slinging match.

This crisis – it pertains to who we are. How we identify.

chiang-mai-digital-nomadspejorative

chiang-mai-digital-nomadsunhappy

Digital Nomad. Can we continue forth with this classification?  What is the ripple effect of this ludicrous title?

Some wise individuals have imparted the wisdom that people should be able to identify as whatever and whomever they want. And I couldn’t agree more.

White, Black, Jewish, Iranian, Bisexual, Gymnast, Witch, Drug Mule. People should be able to carry these labels with pride, and without judgement.

The line is only drawn for me, when a community uniformly begins preying on innocence. And also demanding special treatment. But that’s a whole other issue that should be saved for someone intelligent to discuss.  It’s the political realm, which is not my forte.  If I were to tell you the degree I graduated with, It absolutely should be.  But it isn’t.

Fortunately, I don’t see anyone calling them self a Digital Nomad, making special requests.

“I’m sorry sir, but you’ll have to shut off your Laptop for take off.”

“Excuse me?”

“Your Laptop – it needs to be off during take off.”

“I certainly will not.”

“Sir, it is a compulsory safety requirement.”

“In case it wasn’t clear from the Nomad List sticker on my Mac (Air Retina Pro), I am a Digital Nomad.  I have been a Digital Nomad for 3 years now.

“And you want me to just ‘turn it off?’  Do you have no cultural sensitivity?  I want to speak to your senior.”

***

Some of these social media posters are pretty smart.  They like to make their opinion known in the style of a press release.  Short and sharp.  And then leave the issue to die in the gutter.  At which point they probably go on a bike ride, a hike, have lunch with friends – you know, live their life.

But not me.  Oh no.  Everything I write needs to be in 2,000-word blog format, because no one ever taught me the art of summary.  I mean, they tried, but I rejected the idea.  I was a stubborn kid.

And I’m no stranger to jumping right in the middle of a heated exchange, and throwing my own pile of mud. That is until I am intellectually out-muscled, at which point I shall quietly edge towards the door and run away.

But right now, before you tear me to shreds, I’m the hero you need.

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Digital Nomad Man was unavailable. Too busy ‘hustling’.

Alas, I have outlined the matter at hand.

And with this, I want to call a ceasefire.  I want an end to the needless killings.  And I want to do it without being called a twat on Facebook.

Digital Nomad

What is ‘Digital Nomad?’ Is it an illness? A state of euphoria? A brand of Laptops?

As per Wikipedia:

digital-nomad-wikipedia

As far as I can see, The Digital Nomad Identity Crisis is a three-headed monster.

Head 1.  The Phrase – It Is Too Grandiose and Extravagant For Human Consumption

 

Look yourself in the mirror right now, and say, “I am a Space Ranger.”

Did you laugh?  I did, a little.  But then I’m always laughing at myself in the mirror.

Now say, “I am a Digital Nomad.”

Notice any difference? Nope.

Except that, oh look – you’ve vomited all over yourself.

The most bothersome aspect of the term, ‘Digital Nomad’ is that it just sounds like absolute garbage.  Aesthetically, it’s just horrible.

And let’s not pretend that we don’t care about aesthetics.  We do.  We’re vain – all of us.  We all try and look nice for each other, and occasionally buy a horrendously expensive pair of Nikes because they make us look athletic and capable of killing.  Or err, looking good on the Basketball Court.

Every time I see it written on a blog – including mine – I have stop, put my head in my hands and say, “Oh God”, as though I have a migraine coming on.

Audibly, it’s even worse.  I’m yet to meet a person who can look me directly in the eye and say the term without stuttering, wincing or displaying deep seated anxiety.  Or laughing hysterically.

And trust me, I can read eyes.  Eyes of disdain, ‘I want 4am Pizza’ eyes, bedroom eyes – anything.

'They have a 2 for 1 at Dominos' Eyes - Am I right?
‘They have a 2 for 1 at Dominos’ Eyes – Am I right?

Some things in life just aren’t fair.  Like why the nails and the chalkboard can never be together.  They just sound terrible with one another, and there is pretty much nothing they can do about it.

And regrettably, ‘Digital’ and ‘Nomad’ suffer from the same disorder.

Even if you just ignore the sensory shivers it gives you, you can’t escape the astronomical feels of pretension that it emits.

It’s as though someone took the intelligence and complexity of the Digital Age and combined it with the freedom and exploration of the Nomadic people….for the ULTIMATE human being.

To me, Digital Nomad is what would happen if you opened Christopher McCandless’ head and installed a super computer.  SUPER ADVANCED ROAMING TECHNICAL EXPLORER.

Does your van have WiFi?
Does your van have WiFi?

ULTIMATE LIFESTYLE.  Speaking of which…

Head 2. Too Many Connotations With Marketing Bullshit

 

Marketing is marketing. We’re all drowning in it, from the moment we open our browsers in the morning.

But on the whole, we accept it.  Because it’s part of the illness society that we’ve agreed to be part of.

Some dude/tte outlines why your online presence is a shambles, and then tries to sell you their service.  Whatever.  Fine.

But there is a more sinister form of marketing lurking.  Hiding right in front of you, where you can’t see it.

The humanist marketing approach.  Where people sell you dreams.

A concept, or a lifestyle.  And there’s a protagonist – a lead actor, who appeals to you on a human level.

This type of marketing toys with your insecurities, and your emotions.  With your desires.  It’s an invasion of your psyche.  Imagine Inception, but minus most of the plot.

These guys know how to sell an eBook.
These guys know how to sell an eBook.

Not to suggest that it’s all disingenuous.  But there is a lot of mistrust in the Digital Nomad community, because marketing bullshit is rife.

You see, to get to stage of working for yourself online and travelling the world, you need to have undergone some kind of self-development.  You need to have read a few books here and there.  Quit a job or two.  Spent a night in a hut somewhere alone, reading a pamphlet on zip-lining, because that’s the only barrier between you and your conscience.

Which is great n’all, except that this self-development thing can often come with a large serving of egotism.

And if you haul this big ego around for long enough, it’ll eventually evolve into the unspeakable brand of marketing known as GURUISM.  Much in the same way that Charmander becomes Charmeleon.  And eventually, that arrogant bastard Charizard.

Except that no one in the Digital Nomad community can breathe fire – not yet

Rather, what we have is loads of 20-somethings building Guru brands from their Macs and handing out life advice like they’ve figured it all out.

A whole slew of young pretenders that are hacking everything from their breakfast to their love life have come to the fore.

Compare that to the 70 year old that has only read 2 books in his life, yet travelled in Nicaragua 40 years ago when Google Maps definitely didn’t exist, and saw his best friend’s head blown off in a battlefield somewhere.

Who has my back?  Who knows what life is all about?

And you start to think:  No.  Perhaps, 23-year old Ryan from San Diego doesn’t really know the ‘8 Steps To Happiness’.

It’s undeniable – the Internet is overloading us with information to the point that we’re all egotists spiralling out of control.

I’ve sat down to lunch with an internet marketing/self-help extraordinaire or two, and amidst the barrage of self-promotion and sales pitches, I’ve just wanted to stand up and yell, ‘HELLO?  ANYBODY HOME?  IS THERE A HUMAN BEING IN THERE SOMEWHERE?’

Believe me when I say that people are sick and tired of being pitched at.  They’re sick and tired of marketing bullshit.  I don’t think there is an obvious solution to this problem, other than to just try and be as genuine and humble as possible.

Perhaps if we all attempt to start engaging with our audience on a more personal level, and be more forthcoming about our stupidity (yes, we’re all stupid), then the ‘Digital Nomad’ moniker won’t carry such high levels of contempt.  And bullshit.  That last part is important.  Less bullshit.

Head 3. Chiang Mai and Ghettoisation

 

One outspoken critic of the Digital Nomad scene (that seems to post in the Chiang Mai Digital Nomad group – go figure) recently referred to the Nimman area of Chiang Mai as a ‘Ghetto for Digital Nomads.’

Because I’m not very good at being literal, I immediately summoned mental images of South Central, but white guys with laptops going around stabbing innocent Thai people that mindlessly wander in to the neighbourhood.

Damn it feels good to be a Nomad.

But you know, I don’t disagree with this evaluation.  Nimman is somewhat of a Ghetto.

It’s a Ghetto for more than just Digital Nomads though.  In fact, from the (minimal) time I’ve spent there, it seems as though it’s mostly made up of affluent Thais, students and tourists.  Digital Nomad types are certainly are not in the majority.

And even if they were – what is the problem?  People naturally seek community, everywhere in the world.  London, Paris, Rio, New York, and every place that has more than 10 people, is Ghettoised.  It’s a phenomena that happens out of necessity more than anything – with language barrier and economic factors playing an obvious role.

The other thing – it’s a dangerous game to preach ‘cultural integration’ as Farang – do we even know what the culture is?

I happened to wander through Nanthana Village, south of the old city last week.  I did this because I felt like an asshole sitting in fancy coffee shops every day.

So I decided to get a quality 30 minutes of something approaching poverty, before I ran off to the sanctuary of a shopping mall.

And guess what I noticed?  Well no Digital Nomads living there.  Actually, no Farang at all.  Not even the super evolved ones.

Integrate with this.
Integrate with this.

Is bringing a load of Farang money to the city and living in a fancy house out in the suburbs really ‘cultural integration’?  I wonder.

If so, then perhaps we need to assert that a city’s culture is defined by everyone and everything in it.  Digital Nomads first arrived in Chiang Mai some 700,000 years ago.  Or perhaps like, 8 years.  Either way, complaining about Digital Nomadism in Chiang Mai is akin to going to Memphis and moaning about the amount of Bluesmen.  Or going to La Boca and cursing at the amount of batshit crazy football fans.

Love it or loathe it, the Nimman Digital Nomad ‘bubble’ is inherent to the culture of Chiang Mai.  The Digital Nomad name and Chiang Mai are holding hands and making out.  And you can’t stop them.

If you want to criticise it, it’s much more strategical to sit of the edge of the matter, and take small sarcastic jobs, like I do.

Join me on the perimeter everyone.  I’m the guy standing behind the bully shouting clever things, because I have no idea how to throw a punch.

CONCLUSION

I feel as though a rebrand is in order.

Any ideas?  I like ‘Digital Cowboy’  It’s so ridiculous that it verges on brilliance.

Sadly I think the name is here to stay.  Even if it sounds silly, I just wish we could clean it up a bit.  A bit of polish will do the job.  Or a $40 million PR Campaign.  Do we have that kind of money?  Maybe if we all put our aside our rent money for a few months and live in Nanthana Village.  That should cover it.

With this said, I hope we can put aside our differences, and move towards a united front.

So I urge you, stock your water supplies, and batten down the hatches. We will ride this storm, and overcome this turmoil.

We will cease calling each other douchebags, for some time at least.

Godspeed.