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Marketing Agency Leadership Post Truth

I am become Karen, destroyer of worlds: How we all got wrapped up in our own ‘truth’

By Chris Lewis | Chief executive officer



The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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September 21, 2023 | 7 min read

Team Lewis founder Chris Lewis sounds a warning alarm about our media consumption and communication: is our penchant for personal truth and echo chambers blinding us to looming problems?

A white dramatic mask on a concrete background

How did the pivot to video contribute to our post-truth world? / Edilson Borges via Unsplash

Oppenheimer was a wuss. All he did was invent the atom bomb. Tim Berners-Lee invented something way more destructive. He invented Karen.

There’s an awful lot of truth out there. My truth. Your truth. Their truth. The lived experience. Sometimes these truths coincide. Most don’t.

The volume of ‘truths’ has gone up enormously, exponentially even, in recent years. And like all commodities supplied in abundance, it has become devalued. People just don’t want it. They want entertainment instead. We want what we want in our preferred channel, when we want it, and we really don’t want to share with anyone else (except those we want to share it with).

Don’t ask me to get the information from Facebook when I prefer it on TikTok. Don’t send me an email. I only use WhatsApp. Zoom it to me. I don’t use text anymore. Don’t put dressing on my salad when I want it on the side. I am the consumer. I want it how I want it and if you don’t give it to me the way I want it, something terrible will happen. Irrespective of my current gender, I will turn into Karen, destroyer of worlds.

How video won (and we all lost)

Once upon a time, your grandparents might have been given a book at school and told to read it. But with the pace of how we now consume information, that’s just not an efficient way of getting truth. It’s quicker to consume video than it is to read. And video travels across barriers, age groups, borders, and devices.

What information we consume depends on what services we use, what things we’re interested in, and what prejudices we have. This is the process of us being fed (or choosing) only information that supports the point of view we already have. Whether we like it or not, search engines feed us more about what we already know. It’s a kind of confirmation bias: we only tend to believe information sources that agree with us. In more extreme cases, we don’t just disbelieve those who disagree. We cancel them outright. Karen: she’s coming.

As the speed and volume of circulating data increases, less time is available for each piece of news. This leads to falling attention spans and a bias towards images over text, simply because they can be consumed faster. This is leading to a new extremism as the center is eroded. Binary is replacing nuance. Consensus is boring. Fights are more entertaining. Anger is the new advertising. Who wants carrots when you can have donuts? There’s no reason for anyone to be bored anymore when there are cats, houses, and goldfish that look like Hitler.

In defense of boredom

The problem is that boredom is the precondition for imagination to be deployed. But who needs imagination in an overwhelmingly literal world? You may know facts. You may even know your truth. This is usual only if you’re living entirely in the present. But imagination allows you to visualize what could be. Everything that exists around you had to be imagined first. Imagination allows you to live in the future. This might explain why humanity seems to be walking into major, unforeseen problems.

Her late Majesty the Queen visited a bank trading floor just after the financial crisis of 2009. She asked one of the banking bigwigs a question. They had experience, resources, data and tons of experience so, in her words, “why did nobody notice it?” Everyone was so busy dealing with now, no one had the imagination to see what was coming. No one had the time to dream. Or have a nightmare.

In a similar way, no one thought there could be a global pandemic. People being locked down at home. Stuffed into hotels and held against their will by security guards? It was unthinkable. But it happened. We were left at home with only internet to feed and entertain us. Is it any wonder that Covid left an epidemic of mental illness? We are not just processing and consumption machines. Is it any wonder that the explosion of opioid drugs like fentanyl has mirrored this?

Our media has become so mixed up with entertainment that everyone now sees them as being the same. The dopamine is everywhere. Unless you give everyone what they want all the time, you get Karen. Even worse. Karen on drugs. Millions of Karens telling you their truths. Give me Oppenheimer any day.

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TEAM LEWIS is a global marketing agency, delivering Creative Campaigns for Commercial and Community Causes. The company has 25 offices throughout Asia, EMEA and North America.

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