Social Media Mania

I’ve recently been thinking about how the narrative around social media has evolved over the years. What was once considered a fun toy to stalk old classmates has become a propaganda machine threatening the decline of Western liberal democracy. Meanwhile, we’re only just beginning to understand the mental health effects of “growth hacks” embedded in the platform that exploit our natures and generate addictive behavior. While we are growing more self-aware of these effects we’re still trying to figure out how social media controls our minds the way it does

Borrowing Facebook’s first investor Peter Thiel’s analysis — social media amplifies mimetic behavior / envy (why its successful). Envy used to be contained within local communities that formed through geographical proximity (school / work / neighborhood). Facebook managed to connect the network of fragmented local communities but simultaneously unleashed envy on a global scale. When our social feed includes members of the global “community” in addition to our friends we become hyper conscious of them and begin to adapt our behavior in craving of their envy as well. Algorithms emotionally exploit this upsurge in envy leaving the rest of us dazed and confused with no clear object to blame

Harnessing envy on social media for personal benefit however is not a power exclusive to our platform gods. We’ve seen this on platforms such as Youtube, Soundcloud and Twitter where ordinary people have been able to surface their talent, find their niche audiences and create powerful brands from anywhere in the world. Social media essentially democratized access to fame previously reserved for Hollywood generated celebrities when it created a platform that captured global attention. When a bedroom teen builds a following comprising of strangers on the internet she adopts the identity of a small scale celebrity — she becomes part of a new spectrum of celebrity between the local football star and the magazine movie star that has never existed. The natural consequence of this newfound fame however is the psychological decline that has been well-documented in traditional celebrities

“As specialists of apparent life, stars serve as superficial objects that people can identify with in order to compensate for the fragmented productive specializations that they actually live. A star of consumption may campaign for recognition as a pseudopower over life. But the activities of these stars are not really free, and they offer no real choices.” — Guy Debord in The Society of Spectacle

What I’ve been consuming

The Great Stagnation (h/t Ron)

How To Be Successful (@sama)

Visa’s Acquisition of Plaid

Kids Turned Out Fine

Personal update