Anything that affects the subconscious minds of billions of people, on a daily basis, is a very serious thing, and that is precisely what has happened over the past decade, as social media captured a large percentage of human cognition.
I am well aware that I am running against the stream. Mine, to be honest about it, is a small and largely unwanted voice. Still, someone needs to say these things, and the truth is that social media directly replaces natural subconscious functions. Or, perhaps more accurately, it displaces subconscious operations and acts in their place. And that is very, very dangerous.
As we go through this, please understand that I’m not saying these things precisely, simply because no one knows how to say them precisely. Any “expert” on the subject could be attacked by half a dozen contrary experts, each with their own theory of the unconscious.
So, those who need to find fault may proceed as they must. I am doing my job all the same, because fear of the critic spawns self-censorship, and we very much need to address this.
What Social Media Does
I cannot affix a percentage to how much social media displaces our inborn subconscious minds, because no one knows how to measure such things. But that it does displace the human subconscious is easy to establish. Here, briefly, is some direct support:
- Without a doubt, our subconscious minds filter our sensory inputs, delivering only a fraction of them to our conscious minds. Also without a doubt, social media does the same thing: Sifting through all the inputs in its system (which double, counteract or displace a large number of our own sensory inputs) and delivering to its user those inputs which serve the system’s needs.
- Our subconscious minds search our internal data banks for relevant memories. Social media does the same thing, again displacing human operations. (And monetizing them.)
- Our subconscious minds trigger involuntary reactions like disgust, outrage and revulsion. Social media hijacks this process and pulls such reactions out of its users, rather than allowing them to form naturally.
- Our subconscious minds recognize and process impressions of status. Advertising has long monetized this, but social media monitors the user’s reactions and triggers very precisely, accelerating and directing the process.
- Social media corporations have employed and do employ a large number of psychologists and similar professionals, precisely to develop routines to increase “user engagement” (which we might as well be honest and call “addiction”), thus increasing their profits. More or less all of this involves subconscious vulnerabilities. If not, these companies would simply reason with their users, convincing them to engage more. In other words, if you’re not trying to convince people, you’re trying to hijack their instincts… aka, their subconscious operations.
- More than ten years ago, Facebook ran an experiment on 685,000 unknowing users, to see if their system could, by tweaking headlines, change the (subconscious) moods of their users. And indeed they could. Not only that, but they measurably changed the moods of those users’ friends. (I leave you to speculate on what they’ve done with that information over the ensuing years.)
I know very well that half the world has raced into social media, and will defend their choices as only pre-committed humans can. Still, facts stand.
If I’m At All Right…
For those still with me, please bear in mind that by using social media, you are being provided with a custom environment, created specifically for you, and specifically for you on that day. Once immersed in that environment, you’ll be thinking and feeling in response to personalized stimuli. Your reactions will then be fed into a monstrous data system… a system that most definitely is not centered on your interests.
Social media operations are the most informed, most intimate and most adaptable systems of manipulation that have ever existed, and by far. We should also bear in mind that this is done by computers, at a near-zero per-instance cost. And yes, these systems are quite able to “drink from a fire hose;” they use special heuristics that thrive on it and even require it.
If my argument is at all correct, we’d expect to see masses of humans who can be led directly from one collective stampede to another, despising those who refuse to join them. We’d also see whistle-blowers, psychologists raising warnings, people obsessively checking their phones, and people who are unable to walk away, even though part of them is convinced they should.
In the end, social media functions by usurping free will. It is, properly, a mind parasite. Moreover, humanity has no natural immunity to this type of parasite, simply because no such thing has previously existed.
Finally, I will remind everyone that a mere twenty years ago we had none of these “free” systems. (And “free” really should have been a clue.) Nonetheless, we lived in heated houses, drove cars, had jobs and friends, read books, fell in love, got married and had children. We didn’t have such mind parasites and we did at least as well without them.