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Ubiquitous Social Media Creates an Abundance of Dancing Monkeys

November 16, 2018 26 comments

Over the past decade, I have noticed the rapid growth of a peculiar trend concerning the manner in which people interact with those around them. Almost everyone and their dog (in many cases, literally) wants to create and project an artificial idealized image of themselves. While this trend is most obvious when you look around on Instagram, but it found on every social media platform (YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Tinder etc) and more worryingly.. in real life. To be clear, I am not suggesting that the desire to project an idealized image of oneself is something new or inherently dangerous. It is however hard to deny that ubiquitous social media has made what was once a small-scale and localized behavior into something that is disturbing and potentially dangerous.

To understand what I am talking about, let us go back a little in history to a TV program known as “America’s Funniest Home Videos“. While the concept might seem quaint today, most people do not understand how revolutionary it really was in 1989. In a single stroke, it allowed anybody with a camcorder who was lucky or clever enough to film a “viral” video clip to become famous and even make some money. I should point out that this was in an era when becoming famous required a combination of luck and fellating the people who owned and ran media outlets. Now any person with some degree of understanding of how media worked could use that knowledge to game the system and become famous and even make some money.

But why is that such a bad thing? Who does not want to be famous and rich? In my opinion, the problem lies not so much with seeking fame and fortune as how it all of this interacts with late capitalism. See.. when AFHV came out in 1989, it was still pretty easy to get a decent and fairly stable job which paid enough to live a middle-class lifestyle. Being famous by having your “viral” video clip shown on AFHV was akin to getting an extra boost for your social life. Being a famous (or infamous) public figure was not a career choice for most people. Now fast forward to 2018 and we are in a situation where ‘normal’ jobs and vocations are increasingly difficult to get and almost everyone below a certain age is juggling multiple low-paid and precarious jobs.

To help readers understand why this trend is disturbing and potentially dangerous, let me ask you a simple question- would you seriously consider gambling at casinos, buying lottery tickets or betting on horses as a career choice? If not, why not? While it is possible to make a living and even get rich by engaging in such activities- the chances of succeeding in them (especially in a consistent manner) are really small. In other words, the chances of failure are unacceptably high for the vast majority of people- and even those with some skill are not consistently successful. Coincidentally the same is true for business ventures, even though the neo-liberal scammers who want to promote the snake-oil of “entrepreneurship” would like you to believe otherwise.

It is no secret that a few people have become very famous and rich because of their social media presence. Even more have become semi-famous and make decent if unstable income from the content they create as well as their social media presence. Neither would be an issue if we were living in a normal society. But we live in late capitalism where the vast majority of people face an ever diminishing chance of finding a stable livelihood. Combine this with the almost lottery like success of a few and it is not hard to see how many more might be suckered into believing that they have a chance at fame and riches. Furthermore, the barriers to entry are non-existent and most famous internet celebrities are not even unusually good-looking.

There is also another uniquely american issue which makes this far worse than necessary. As many of you know, american culture (especially post-1980) celebrates the culture of scamming.. I mean “hustle”. Now combine this with the already poor career prospects for most people and the low barrier for entry and you can start to see how this could become problematic. And it has.. YouTube channels where attractive women model swimwear and lingerie can easily get 100k-500k subscribers (example 1, example 2 and example 3) as can ugly women pretend to be white trash. Some of you might also have heard about attractive and popular teen girls making decent money as social media “influencers”. But why is any of this problematic in the long run?

well.. because, for one, it creates a society where the ability to cultivate a public image and bullshit is infinitely more important than actual knowledge or competence. That is how we end up with media savvy mediocrities such as Neil deGrasse Tyson and Ernest Moniz instead of Carl Sagan and Richard Feynman. That is how we get endless and insipid reboots of older beloved movies and TV shows rather than anything new and path-breaking. That is also how we get other mediocrities such as atrocious and hyped “collaborations” between previously famous musicians or autotuned losers who look and sound the same. Did I mention the sad losers who cheer on charlatans pimping 30-40 year old technology such as Elon Musk?

Eventually you end up with a society full of con-artists (of varying skill levels) engaged in a constant struggle to ‘out-con’ each other. To be fair, this process was already underway in USA. It is just that the effect of ubiquitous social media on this trend has been analogous to spraying a lot of gasoline on an already destructive fire. But what does any of this have to do with creating large numbers of dancing monkeys, and what do I mean by that term? Well.. dancing monkeys are people whose livelihood is heavily dependent on their enthusiasticness of their performance. This is especially apparent on social media platforms like Twitter and FaceBook where people spend inordinate amounts of time and effort to make themselves look and act the part.

That is why, for example, every establishment journalists is perpetually cheering on the “mueller investigation” or how con-artists supported by right-wing think tanks see deep state conspiracies behind every audible fart. That is also why SJWs spend so much time on tone-policing, doxxing “unbelievers” and other acts of fake self-righteousness. And there is paid astroturfing and bot-farms who post content on those and other platforms. But it gets worse.. ever wondered how the gmail user-interface keeps getting worse or why install size of iOS keeps on increasing despite lack of new features? Oh how Microsoft keeps releasing shittier updates to Windoze 10?

Guess what… it is all about dancing monkeys (in the management) desperately wanting to create the appearance of effort and hard work. That is why, almost every day, you hear about some fire or police department participate in a make-a-wish for some dying kid. Or why PR departments of “famous” universities put out daily press releases about how their scholars are on the verge of curing cancer or solving some other problem- and then we hear nothing more about it till they recycle the same bullshit template a couple of weeks with different names and a slightly different writeup. As I said before, this problem is not new but it is undeniable that ubiquitous social media has made it significantly worse by speeding up the contradictions inherent in late capitalism.

What do you think? Comments?