By now, you must have heard about the non-news news story about the (former) Korean Air executive who booted a cabin crew member when she wasn’t served nuts according to Korean Air’s nut-serving policy. After the incident gained international attention, the executive — who also happens to be the daughter of Korean Air’s chairman — resigned. Now, a week after the incident took place, we can start to see the effects of this nutty incident and the results are a fairly surprising and somewhat saddening message about the nature of the internet in general. So why does the Great Korean Nut Debate matter? The answer is in the nuts themselves.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that sales of macadamia nuts in South Korea have skyrocketed over the last week. On Gmarket, one of South Korea’s biggest online marketplaces, the nuts are selling 50% better than they were last week. That’s a massive jump and it’s a sad indictment of how the internet has come to influence our pocketbooks. Let’s explore a little, shall we?
This incident has very little to do with nuts themselves. The issue in question could easily have been a glass of champagne or a hot towel. The executive was merely mad that the protocol in place for serving wasn’t being followed by the crew member in question. She then reacted in a terrible, outsized way and viola, we have a viral news story. Twenty years ago, this may have been a story on the evening news that made you chuckle and caused your not-funny uncle to make all kinds of lame nut puns (“This story is nuts!” “Talk about nutty!”). That would most likely be the end of it. Not today, though.
Now that the 24-hour news cycle has given way to the every-second update on Twitter with stories being passed around via social media faster than a cough at daycare, a story like this starts to gather more momentum. Like a snowball rolling down the hill, the story doesn’t disappear. It just gets bigger and bigger with reaction pieces (like this very one that you’re reading!), analysis, criticisms, and memes propelling it further and further. All of a sudden, everyone knows about the stupid nut story and that means that nuts are on people’s minds. In South Korea, that translates to a 150% increase in the sale of the nuts featured in the story. Does this strike anyone else as crazy?
One factor that people don’t always recognize in their daily interaction with the internet is that commerce has entered into every single second of their online experience. Those ads to the right of this post? They’re trying to sell you something. This link for macadamia nuts takes you to Amazon to buy the nuts, which then gives me a tiny percentage of the sale. You are being targeted for sales constantly on the internet and that has, in turn, changed our brains to seem as though everything we read is an advertisement. I don’t have the science behind this handy and I’m not going to find it for the sake of the post, but how else do you explain a story that tangentially features macadamia nuts creating an instant market increase for those nuts? The power of suggestion has become imbedded into our brains so much that we see mere words repeated with regularity and it makes us want to buy things.
I find this phenomenon fascinating. A bratty executive throws a fit over a serving issue and demands a solution that goes way overboard in response to a minor problem and all of a sudden grocery stores and nut farmers make money? We’re living in a crazy world, folks, and the internet is facilitating the whole thing.