Imagine, ten years ago, if one of your friends had come up to you and said, “Hey Luis, I think you’re a rad fella, we’ve had a lot of good times, shared a lot of secrets, helped each other out of a lot of jams. . . .but from now on I will only be your friend if our friendship is mediated by a huge soul-less company that exists only to sell our private information to third parties. Well? Click yes to agree!”
You would have said, go fuck yourself. But nowadays that is the NORM for young people wtf.
Even though it’s the norm, obviously no one ever says this out loud – but they don’t need to! That is just how shit works nowadays. But next time you make friends with someone in RL, try explaining that to them in those exact words and see if you don’t fee just a little bit like an asshole. Turning regular people into corporate shills is just one of the crappy things about social media.
COMPARED WITH THE '90S NET, THE WORST OF BOTH WORLDS.
There’s been a lot of noise in the past couple of years about The Man cracking down on the internet: domestic web spying, net neutrality, banning of file-sharing, weird SOPA/PIPA/TPP treaties, etc. But I don’t think enough people are complaining about social media, which is an even bigger threat because it involves users becoming their own jailers, in a sense.
I hated the ‘90s internet (rave pants, second life, the word “cyber” as a prefix), but at least there was a certain exuberance – the whole idea of “Let’s take the internet as far away from regular life as possible. LOOK I’M A FUCKING CYBER DRAGON WITH TITS! This is a new frontier and let’s just take this freedom thing as far as it will go. THE DRAGON HAS WELDING GOGGLES ON WTF!!?!"
But nowadays people want the internet to be as much like real life as possible – they want to log on with their own real name and connect with their real friends. What the fuck you need an internet for then? It’s like the modern net and social media in particular combines the worst features of both: all the non-privacy of the internet, combined with the lack of creativity of RL.
Just because there's less imagination, that doesn't mean that people are more truthful, though. On social media you can’t be anonymous, or a cyber dragon, you have to be yourself, BUT you can still lie your ass off: everything you write , every photo you take, has to be tweaked and massaged to make you look a bit cooler than you are.
Social media is like writing an internet dating profile that NEVER ENDS.
In the old net days, they had this saying, “On the internet nobody knows you’re a dog.” Meaning: if people only read your words, they will judge your opinions based on how smart or persuasive you are, not judge you based on race sex or religion. Say goodbye to that!
There’s this idea that we’re losing our privacy to corporate marketing people who track all our net behavior, or that we’re losing our privacy to govt. spies. But the real balderdash is: people are voluntarily giving up privacy. They can’t WAIT to give up privacy. People on “Google plus” actually LIKE the rule that you have to use your real name. . . .because they think this will cut down on “trolls.”
They want to give out their real name, because they want to reconnect with old high-school chums or long-lost lovers or some dingbat from summer camp, or whatever. They want 1,000 “friends” and would prefer that those “friends” actually be people that they have had some real-world connection with.
Because hey! If they know you, you can guilt them into “liking” you. You don’t have to actually do anything interesting or write a rad novel or produce something unique. You just have to say “I’m that dorkwad you know from 10 years ago!” Whereas if you were anonymous, and you wanted friends, you’d have to actually be interesting. Or have cleavage. Whichever.
But what are you giving up, in exchange for “likes” and “friends” and “votes up?” well, basically you can’t write anything about your boss because she’ll see it and fire you. You can’t write anything about your parents for the same reason. You can’t write anything interesting at all.
I was going to say this took us back to the “bad old days” before the net gave us anonymity . . .but even back in the ‘80s, you never had your parents, teachers, bosses, ALL IN THE SAME ROOM WITH YOU, FOREVER.
One site I think is rad is ZERO HEDGE. It’s this person who works on wall street who constantly exposes secrets the industry doesn’t want you to know, or shows how the famous CEOs are wrong about things. That would never happen on social media, where dude would have to use his real name.
So, ok. No more muck-raking, no talking bad or exposing authority. No more creativity. You have to be yourself, but a really fake version of yourself. All of the fakery with none of the creativity/privacy.
THE OTHER BIG PROBLEM
One of the shitty things about school and work is: everything you do is quantified and ranked. Every second is scheduled. I did this many homework math problems. I made this many assembly line radios, with a retail value of XXX dollars. I got two Bs and 4 Cs. I read x books and got Y GPA. I was #3 employee of the month.
In other words, what made your free time special was: it was time when you were not being quantified and ranked.
But now with social media, they are taking the business/work/school model and pushing it into the last non-regulated parts of your fucking life.
Compounding the problem, if you look back, most of the best times of your life are precisely those times that can’t be quantified, ranked, or reduced to a number. The best times of your life involve intangibles or spiritual feelings.
Since these by definition can’t be reduced to easy-to-compare-and-digest statistics such as “likes” or “# of friends”, they have no place in social media.
The people who run these social media companies want us to use them every second of the day. That’s why they give us so many carrots and little hamster-pellet rewards for participating in their services: likes, upvotes, friends, whatever whatever. The result is that we will start living our private life in ways that are rewarded by SM, and neglect those activities that DON’T give us the little mechanical reward:
Imagine a facebook timeline like this:
You’ll never see that because
a) those wonderful experiences can’t be reduced to numbers,
b) advertisers can’t make money by selling you epiphanies, and
c) you can’t link to those things. Even if you click on the blue words, there is no website that will give you that thing. “Oh! Growing and becoming a better person? Sign me up! Click here!”
Will the next younger generation lose the capacity to even care about experiences which cannot be quantified and ranked? To paraphrase a nice Bill Hicks bit: “Why would I want to take mushrooms in the desert and look directly into the face of god, and be told that all humans are one , and we are all worthy of love? That won’t show up on Facebook at all!”11 comments