And Another Thing Wrong with Social Media...

One of the sources of ill we experience with social media is this constant pressure to be exellent. To be sparkly and witty and clever. To be a Special Snowflake.

Among the myriad flora and fauna inhabiting social networks, there’s that Long Tail of us who have little to say beyond chatter to our friends and acquaintances. That’s fine. It’s what we came for in the first place. And then there’s the other 5%: Those who are there to promote their businesses, their books and music, their causes and politics.

Beyond these relatively innocent actors there are also those who are there for darker purposes: to cast aspersions, doubt and blight upon those who oppose their worldview, who sow fear, doubt, uncertainty, venom and anxiety in the furtherance of their own nefarious agendas. That dark side of social networks is well discussed elsewhere, so I’ll not rehash it here. It’s those other influencers I’m here to talk about this time, the Bright and the Beautiful and Gifted I wish to highlight.

Most of us joined up to chat with friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances, but also ended up following the yatter of the Famous, the Glittering, the Wise, Worldly and Witty. Because that’s how these social network platforms get us to sit still for their ads and surveillance. And in the light of these Brilliant Fey we inevitably end up feeling like lesser beings.

I will never be as good a writer, as deep a thinker, as witty an observer, as insightful a commentator as those of the Great And Glorious, people for whom social media is work rather than actual,… you know, socialising. And the sheer volume of this torrent of self-aggrandising puffery is part of the problem. Any one of the writers I ‘follow’ is unlikely to produce more than one book in a year, but there are so many lovely writers that the one book here, one book there, one award here, one publication there,… all becomes a torrent, and a body begins to feel, “I’ll never be that good. I can never produce fast enough, good enough.” All the puffs blur together into a avalanche of brilliance and accomplishment that nobody can match, that nobody could ever equal, and so we end up feeling inadequate and belittled. Our rational neocortex knows that this is rubbish thinking, but that’s not how our lizard-brains work and so we end up feeling smaller, feeling hopeless.

The only answer I can see is to switch all that shit off completely, or nearly completely. Treat the social networks as Write-Only media. Yes, we lose all that ability to easily and seamlessly talk to our real social circle, and the network becomes nothing more than a hollow chamber of empty echoes. A bit of a loss, to be sure, but in truth not as heavy a price as it sounds: How much actual conversation has been taking place between you and your friends, family, associates of late? Possibly not so much. It’s all been drowned out by the professional attention-grabbers, and those are precisely the Anxiety Machines we need to eschew.