Pj’s Mailbag, Jan 3 2019
Q: Hey Pete. So why the leave from s.media? You are an activist, right? It seems like this decision is counterproductive to your message and work.
A: The short answer is I’m tired of the endless narcissism inherent to the medium. In the commercial society we have, coupled with the consequential sense of insecurity people feel, as they impulsively “package themselves” for public consumption, the expression most dominant in all of this – is vanity. And I find that disheartening, annoying and dangerous.
It is a form of cultural violence in many respects. And I hate the fact I have to engage any aspect of it, frankly. Sadly, (as you noted) as an activist/communicator of ideas, I have a message and to get that message out I have to use these mediums to some degree. And I will again, in time, be more active when I finish InterReflections.
However, please note the difference – that I work to promote just that – a message/idea – not myself… and I honestly loath people who today just promote themselves for the sake of themselves. A sea of humans who have been conditioned into viewing who they are – as how they are seen online. Think about that for a moment. Social identity theory run amok.
People have been conditioned to think “they are” how “others see them”. We live in an increasing fictional reality where people are now not only people – they are digital symbols. And those symbols become more important as a matter of “marketing” than people’s true personality. Now, one could argue that social perception has always had a communicative symbolism, even before the computer age. But nooooooothing like today. Social media has become a social prison and a strong means of social control, in fact.
Beyond that, as most know, social media is literally designed like a drug. And it acts like it as people get more and more addicted to being seen and addicted to molding the way they want the world to view them – no matter how false the image (If there is any word that defines peoples’ behavior here – it is pretention). Dopamine fires upon recognition and, coupled with cell phone culture, we now have a sea of people in zombie like trances looking at there phones (literally) thousands of times a day, merging their direct, true interpersonal social reality with a virtual “social media” one. No one can read anymore… they just swipe a stream of 200 character headlines/posts/tweets. Understanding the world as an aggregate of those fragmented sentences. Massive loss of comprehension happening, replaced by usually agreeable, “in-bubble” views – hence an actual loss of variety.
So again, this isn’t to say non-commercial focused social media doesn’t have positive purposes, such as with activism at times. But, on the whole, it merely amplifies a general value system disorder of a “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT HOW GREAT I AM!” – rooted in systemic insecurity. People lying to themselves, drawing meaningless satisfaction from superficial responses from a sea of avatars.
And it’s no surprise. Market economics demands people self promote shamelessly, coupled with the arbitrary constructs of beauty and success that have also resulted. People see status in certain things and, directly or pathologically, use those things for their own narcissistic advantage. Think of those endless status pics of people rock climbing, or hanging out on a stunning beach or showing off their new trophy girl-friend, etc. It goes on and on and worse the general public generally likes it, seeking to imitate those images/symbols to amplify their own false status. Hence the endless feedback loop of superficiality.
And people wonder why youth suicides have risen… a young woman looking at a model of perfection set by her peers, without proper knowledge of the medium, can be made to feel inferior far more dramatically than the typical body image problems associated to traditional advertising. That is just one example of the cultural violence inherent.
So, in summary, having been something of a public figure over the past decade, I realized over the past 2 years that I don’t like how the medium structurally induces behavior. It has purpose – but it’s socially fucked up. I would love to see an experiment where all “follows” and “likes” where removed from all accounts and posts. That would remove the structural notion of popularity and fame and hence alter people’s motivation.
But that would never happen. Why? – Because the entire industry of social media is BASED on narcissistic status promotion and narrow self-interest. That is the emotion/intent that creates the billions and billions in revenue these platforms experience, as they in turn sell off people’s personal data to advertisers and governments. You are the product, of course.