I don’t fuckin understand social media anymore. I did, once, many years ago. In those halcyon days, the goal was to create a representative page for oneself, and then use it to interact with other people. Facebook was like that before it became an endless, high bandwidth deluge of unhelpful notifications and poorly targeted ads. The platform is functionally useless to me now as anything more than an instant messenger app that I use to make Christmas Eve plans with my cousins, and that’s just because there’s like 12 of us and nobody wants to have to add everybody to a new thread on a different service.
Modern social media ain’t really about socializing anymore though. You aren’t supposed to interact with friends so much as you’re supposed to lure strangers. The new goal for users seems to be brand building; it’s all about getting followers and accruing online clout, and the newer apps seem to reflect that attitude.
I would never say that there shouldn’t be an accessible creative outlet. The best part of the internet has always been the wide open ecosystem for any dumb dork to build something. I guess I’m just tired of 23% of humans I’ve ever met inviting me to subscribe to a 91 follower #PugLife Instagram account that they’re desperately trying to monetize. The internet isn’t a place to be successful; it’s a place to try your best and be brutally criticized by strangers for it. The only alternative is getting doxxed by the strangers who took an interest in your work. If you’re lucky, and as far as I can tell this is the optimal outcome, one of them content curation accounts will just steal your shit, strip your watermark off it, and deal with all the fallout on your behalf. They’re modern day martyrs.
It makes sense, I suppose, that in a world where lifestyle vloggers and instagram influencers can sell out stadiums when they go on tour, people would aspire to that idea of success. It seems like it kinda sucks though? Like, those people get harassed, stalked, and occasionally even murdered by the fanbase they worked so hard to build. The escalation from sharing memes with your high school friends to getting 2600 requests a day for pics of your feet is a lot for the human mind to process.
But then again, that’s only what it’s about from the user perspective, what the vast majority of us get out of this CyberFaustain bargain. To the various Marks Zuckerberg and Sergies Brin out there, the purpose is to collect your eyeballs, uniquely identify them, and put billboards in front of them. Which, you’d think should be easy now that every piece of technology in the world is 1% stated functionality, 90% telemetry collection, 9% video recording you in the bathroom. And yet, they can’t even get that right. These fuckers have an unabridged glossary starting in 2007 of every website I’ve interacted with, the exact location of every beer I’ve drank, and probably timestamps for every shit I’ve taken, but they haven’t gotten further than “human, New England, 30-ish” on my demography apparently. “Fuck man, I dunno,” they say. “Dunkin Donuts? Beard wax? What about, like, shoes? He’s probably got feet, right?” We built a real, actual panopticon, but it’s just staring at us without doing much of anything.
Don’t get me wrong, that’s not to say that they aren’t out there trying to build the walls around it. Facebook is currently living the dream that was little more than a sparkle in AOL’s eye back in the 90s: make everyone think you are The Entire Internet so they never go anywhere else. Think of how many peoples’ phones or laptops are just big Facebook machines, used to refresh that news feed and scroll, and scroll, and scroll, until they decide that they’ve had enough, closing the app only to have their muscle memory immediately open it up again and start scrolling through that brand new* feed. On the few occasions that they dare to actually click an external link that has been deemed Good Content by the news feed algorithm, they spend a few seconds out in the cold strangeness of the internet at large before finally returning to Facebook’s warm, comforting embrace. That is, on the extremely rare chance that their engagement exceeds just reading the headline, making a quiet snorting noise, tapping that like button, and moving on. No, fuck you, you’re the one who’s bitter about people engaging with your preview posts and not actually visiting your website.
*same shit now sorted in a different order
Maybe I’m just old. Maybe this is what it felt like for another generation decades ago when all those damned teenagers wouldn’t put down their transistor radios and stare at a wholesome, American-made empty wall for six or seven hours like we used to in the good old days. This one seems different though; more insidious. We’re trading in an internet where anyone could do anything for one where you need corporate permission to speak. They’re selling us plastic daisies even though we live in a rose garden.
Now, get the fuck off my lawn, but not before you like and subscribe.