The Decay of News and Social Media
Social media was heralded as the apex of the Internet. It’s what brought the World Wide Web into the full mainstream, yet its decay heralds a different era altogether.
Before social media, the Internet truly was an obscure place, known only by geeks, nerds, techies, gamers, and social outcasts. Yeah sure there were some savvy business types that used it regularly, but no one really thought of the Internet as someplace that you “went” to. It was more like a computer tool, just another program or file on your home PC that had info you can look up or ways to communicate with your boss or friends.
Social media changed all that. Facebook, especially, became something like the home base of the Internet itself. Everyone and their grandmother started using it, literally. Combine that with YouTube and Twitter, and you had a trifecta of influence.
However, it’s become apparent that without the checks and balances typically associated with the mass dissemination of information, social media has in its waning years become a cesspool of propaganda and insanity.
The Idiocracy Effect
Are people getting dumber? Well, if what you see on Facebook and Twitter is any indication, the answer is a resounding “yes.”
It’s a complex issue, that I believe is a combination of a growing population, and a segment of society that has traditionally been “cut off” from more educated sectors, finally having a means of getting their voices heard and collaborating with one another.
Facebook especially has become the platform of isolationist know-nothings from the most remote parts of the country, who create these cultish echo chambers where fact and reality cease to have any meaning or weight behind them.
I single out Facebook because it is far and away the worst offender in this area. Entire groups dedicated to spreading and reinforcing outright delusions, lies, and proven propaganda. This was exploited to the utmost during the 2016 election, of course, which has ushered in real life Idiocracy.
If you are somehow not familiar with the movie, Idiocracy is a 2006 comedy that explores a dystopian America that long ago traded away its intelligence for creature comforts. Society has decayed to the point where no one even remembers how to grow crops properly, as it is thought that the electrolytes in sports drinks are what plants need to survive.
A bumbling idiot from our time winds up in this dystopian future, where society is quite literally crumbling and covered in garbage, and he is looked at as a freak because his basic intelligence puts him light years beyond that of even the president and his cabinet members. The parallels to our own time right now are both hilarious and frightening. It’s like 1984 but really, really dumb.
So that being said, the similarities between the behavior of people in Idiocracy, and these Facebook groups, is startling. We know that in the 2016 election, Russia created fake patriot and “Murica” groups on Facebook to specifically target low-information voters and influence thinking patterns. Bots, trolls, and morons create profiles and groups all the time, and people flock to them in droves.
Just a search for “True Patriots” brings up a cavalcade of stupidity that would make the writers of Idiocracy blush: True American Patriot, True American Patriots for President Trump, True Patriots (whose description says, and I quote, “This group is only for those who love guns and freedom”), True American Patriots – Community, and the Three Percenters of Missouri, which is essentially a white nationalist militia.
This is just the tip of the zany iceberg. There’s really no telling how many millions of people hop onto Facebook everyday and take part in these groups, just trading propaganda back and forth with each other, with no regards for truth or reality.
News used to have to be somewhat restricted by editors, production crews, and journalist integrity. Now “news” is whatever a nationalist can vomit out on a high-trafficked blog and disseminate on Facebook and Twitter with the help of bots and masses of unthinking followers who won’t question it, just share it.
Facebook is being abandoned by younger and more aware individuals, as the once mighty giant in social media is recognized now to be a haven for grumpy extremists and reams of tired propaganda. Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms have certainly been exploited by the followers of fake news, but it’s Facebook that has been hit the hardest.
This lack of vetting for “news” outlets has created an atmosphere of decay on social media. Anyone with at least two brain cells to rub together sees the writing on the wall, how boring, trite, and nonsensical the content is on Facebook and Twitter these days. There is immense pressure on these companies to do something to actually regulate what is on their platform, but to no avail.
Twitter has its own share of problems. White nationalists and even wanna-be nazis walk freely on that platform with very little in the way of repercussions. All under the guise of the 1st Amendment, of course, which is a silly argument in and of itself, considering these are private companies, not public forums.
You have propagandists like Jacob Wohl, for instance, who routinely spout pure fabrications that get tens of thousands of impressions:
I just left a hipster coffee shop in Westwood Village, Los Angeles. There was a group of genderqueer, undocumented college students at the table next to me whispering about how excited they are that on this #PresidentsDay they are well-served by the Greatest President of All Time
— Jacob Wohl (@JacobAWohl) February 18, 2019
Wohl has claimed he’s been at a “hipster cafe” or “coffee shop” a half dozen times over the past couple years, and it’s always some form of the same thing: he overhears stereotypical liberals praising the actions of Donald Trump.
His timeline is full of the most brazen, factphobic nonsense you could imagine, and it all goes untouched by the Twitter moderators.
Society ceases to function properly when its people can’t hold a consensus on basic reality. When the average person can’t tell the difference between what is real, and what is not, they lose their power and autonomy.
This is one of the reasons why so many people are just flat out dysfunctional, apathetic, angry, and lost in our society right now. Reality is a binding force, something we all share, understand, comprehend, and live in everyday. It’s shared experience, something every creature on Earth implicitly relies on to live. As soon as you give that up, all bets are off.
How can you be healthy and happy if you literally pit yourself against reality?
I wrote a reflective work several years ago that tackled some of the thought-processes I had when I was younger. One paragraph stood out to me as I was combing it the other day:
“Do you ask yourself what it is you know? How do you shape the world in your head? What amount of illusion weaves itself into the fabric of your understanding? Simply because you believe yourself to be educated, well-adjusted, “sane,” doesn’t preclude you from the mist of delusion.”
To hammer home the point, it doesn’t matter how many fancy groups you are a part of on Facebook, how many followers you have, how much snark you can conjure on social media, and how comforting your beliefs are, the only thing that matters is fact. Truth. Reality.
Clearly, social media in this age of propaganda has lost sight of that completely. It is decaying, becoming something that no one really understands the implications of.
Social Media Recipe For Business Success
Most social media as a place for fun social activity is dead. That might be an exaggeration, but I know digital trends as well as anybody, and the writing is on the walls in blinking neon at this point.
If anything, the next few years are going to see massive crackdowns and lawsuits against Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube for their inability to stop the spread of extremism and propaganda on their platforms.
However, social media in the age of decay is not yet a lost cause for business. In fact, making money by helping other people is probably one of the only things social media is good for anymore.
It’s really very simple. The primary key for success on social media is being yourself before anything.
It doesn’t matter what you are trying to sell, what you are trying to teach, how you are trying to help, or what your end goals are. All that matters is being real with people. Let them into your world. Engage with them. Show them your journey, your trials and tribulations.
Whether they know it consciously or not, most people are starved for realness right now. They know fakes are everywhere, they know social media is the playground of illusion and delusion.
Give them something they can chew on.
It doesn’t have to be the secrets of the universe, either. Save that for the paid content and products.
If you’re on social media, the recipe for success boils down to consistent realness.
How often are you engaging with people? Answering their questions? Opening up? Providing advice on what’s going on in the world?
In an age of propaganda, just being true to yourself puts you ahead of the pack.
Personally, I would take the time to develop mindfulness and learn to be truthful not just personally, but factually as well. You don’t want to be real with yourself but be lying to your supporters or customers.
This works, to a fault, as I see it all the time in the “bro-science” and “red pill” corners of the market, but it’s not something that’s sustainable in the long run.
In fact, this is a good place to drop some personal advice that may save you millions in the future, as well as a ton of headaches. If you are relying on the following industries to make money online, you should have an exit-plan:
- “Red-pilling” / MGTOW
- Diet propaganda (anti-soy, anti-vegan, anti-fruit, etc.)
- Keto / Carnism in general
- Crypto speculation
- Satire / Alt “news”
When the shoe drops on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and they are forced to regulate information on their platforms to keep propaganda and lies to a minimum, these industries are going to vanish overnight.
Note that this is inevitable, because even as Facebook decays, it’s going to be encouraged to “fix” itself. It will likely never recover its reputation and market share, and when something better finally comes along that gets it right, these social media platforms are going to fall in line real fast. This means that advertising or making money off of anything that misleads people, lies to them, or distorts reality is likely going to get you banned from the platform, with possible legal repercussions tied to it as well.
Marketers and entrepreneurs that don’t have an exit plan in these niches are going to get obliterated overnight. You heard it here first.
The best course of action is to provide value amid the trash on social media. These platforms may be suffering, but you can capitalize on this, because there are still millions of people who use Twitter and Facebook everyday that want and even expect to find real news and value.
Side Effects of Fake News on Social Media
A final word on the dearth of real news on social media. We already know from recent reports that fake news is shared much more rapidly and widespread than real news on Facebook by certain demographics.
Truth is merely a suggestion for some people, which is a scary thought. They can just choose to ignore it if it clashes with their already-established opinions and beliefs.
Social media then both creates and promulgates stupidity. What you do with this information is up to you. It’s simply important to keep in mind that from a certain perspective, social media has become a vehicle of weaponized propaganda.
Is it our job to fight against it?
I’m a huge believer in shining light in the darkness. And damn if there isn’t any darker or dingier corners of the Internet right now than Facebook and Twitter.
So while these platforms may be in freefall from their poor decisions, that doesn’t mean you have to jump ship too. I’m planting my feet firmly and doing what I can to provide value and spread helpful, truthful information to those who want or need it.
My advice is, the more people that stick around, the better.
The side effect of so much fake news is, however, that you’re almost always going to find people that have issue with what you are doing or saying.
Pay them no mind. There is never any point with wasting energy on people who are completely lost.
Your job, whether you are trying to transform people or just sell a product, is to simply provide your value up front, and let people do with it whatever they will. They can take it or leave it, as far as I’m concerned.
Spend your time focusing on the people who will listen. Others will come around when they see what the hype is about.