The Driving Force of Sociopathic Media

Social media, like it or not, constitutes a primary conduit for communication in the Information Age.  Public enthusiasm for the format shows no signs of abating, and in less than a decade, the phenomenon has grown from cyber-sect, to mainstream culture, to hyper-banality.  A periodic distraction for some, a gateway to existence for others, social media is now all pervasive and continues to develop in tandem with mobile computing, especially smart phones.  Incidentally, as encounters in the virtual world increase, so do accidents behind the wheel.  Jump from automotive mishaps to misunderstandings in the realm of value.

Disconnect ad: Driving with Facebook logo on windshield.

“Be conscious.  Disconnect,” say a series of ads sponsored by the Ford Motor Company in Brazil.  Designed to promote safety on the road, the ads also make a latent statement in the context of individual freedom.  Social media saturates our lives with images in the name of “connection,” but are we really closer to each other and more compassionate as a result?  On the contrary, the objectification of people reaches new levels in the domain of Followers and Likes.  We play a game where others exist for our self-gratification and amusement—as toys, as products on digital shelves, as data and ultimately digits.  Meanwhile, remote servers log and analyze our every move, silently building the advertising component deeply embedded in the online “social” infrastructure.

Social media allows individuals and corporations to makes claims, but unlike traditional marketing, contains metrics that become part of those claims.  The link between legitimacy and quantity has never been stronger.  We now gauge value based on clicks.  Despite the sophistication of our technology, we remain somewhat gullible.  The amount of likes, followers, or views acquired by an account simply reflects how much time or money has been spent on publicity.  How quickly we mistake that number for a bonafide rating of the content.  Yes, viral events can take place, boosting these figures.  But they are the exception, not the rule, and by no means inherently significant.

Absorbed in the act of browsing, do we stop to think what a social rating really means?  Are people’s opinions, desires, and habits a reliable gauge of value?  It depends on the quality of the people.  Numbers give us quantity only.  Although factual, numbers are also abstractions, and in some cases illusions.  Are the likes of ten thousand morons better than the likes of one hundred visionaries?  A binary democracy and advertising engine says yes, conveying esteem for popularity at the cost of intelligence.  But how can we distinguish between each click without actually knowing the people involved?  How can we measure the true value of the social data?  We cannot.  The notion that the numbers speak for themselves turns out to be gibberish.

Disconnect ad: Driving with Facebook logo on windshield.
Driving Under the Influence

Disconnect ad: Driving with Twitter logo on windshield.
No Accident: An Appeal to Twitter Users

Disconnect ad: Driving with Gmail logo on windshield.
Motoring with Mail not Advised

Author: Todd Garlington

Urban spectator, Inner space cadet

7 thoughts

  1. Loved this “Are the likes of ten thousand morons better than the likes of one hundred visionaries?” Where do we place our priorities? I prefer the visionaries personally. Thank you for this thought-provoking piece.

  2. Social networking has to be a bonanza for sociologists and psychologists I would think; people (and that means me too) can’t help but expose themselves. As the algorithms get more sophisticated, so will the targeting – and not just for advertising. It’s a brave, new, terrifying world out there.

  3. I don’t think I’d be on social media if it weren’t necessary for me to connect to sell my books. I don’t really like it. I’m suddenly getting 8+ friend requests each day. This hasn’t happened before, and I suspect Facebook is pushing people to ask to be friends on a tenuous connection. I suppose, like most things there are good things and bad, but the idea of calling all connections friends is, I think, a bad thing. It demeans true friendship. Like the person I accepted on Facebook who messaged me, calling me his “dear friend.” I’d never heard of him until the previous day when he asked to be friends.

  4. Interesting isn’t it? It’s a shift in the way we interact that’s going along at the same rate as a shift in the way we market to people. I’m not sure it dramatically differs in theory to the way that television changed our interaction with advertising to be honest. Being television free for several years you do notice how associated with that media and media advertising people are. It’s part of our culture now. This time, though, it’s more pervasive, more subtle and a bit more dishonest. It’s also under a lot more scrutiny. But it’s as much a cultural shift more than anything, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

    1. Hi there. Thanks for dropping by. You make some good points. Perhaps historians will one day consider social media an evolution of television, where members of the audience also play roles, star in their own shows, and host their own channels. As it stands, proponents of cyber-connectivity foresee a cultural renaissance, but critics warn of a degenerative and egoistic feeding frenzy. And the beat goes on…


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