Saturday, 15 November 2014


The internet has revolutionized the media of the West, and – because "the medium is the message" – it has also radically skewed our culture in new and unexpected directions. Before its advent the media was much more centralized. As a result it tended to favour a corporatist approach along with small ‘c’ conservative values.

But now things have changed. A lot of this has been due to the rise of social media and the important role this plays in the new media. This has become the driving engine of the new media and a major determinant of the news and opinion agenda. Those sites and publications that have adjusted themselves to this new clickbait reality are burgeoning. The rest are withering.

But has anyone besides Facebook (!) stopped to think about this in a systemic way? The old, centralized media naturally favoured the message of its paymasters and tended to project their values, but how about the new decentralized media with its powerful social media component? How does that work?

There is a widespread misconception that the new media represents an increase in freedom, democracy, and even objectivity for the simple reason that the social media that drives it lacks a paymaster and participation in it is voluntary. After all the only "currency" changing hands is an exchange of "likes," "shares," "thumbs up," and comments.

But the idea that the new media is somehow socially, politically, and morally neutral is an obvious absurdity. Since its advent we have seen increasingly extreme and aberrant ideas (gay marriage, "White privilege," etc.) gain traction in our culture, not to mention stupid people becoming famous at a much higher rate. Despite the old media's blatant cheerleading for corporate interests, it also had to conform to popular tastes to some extent in order to sell its media products to the masses. Now that media companies make their money through hits n' clicks, and by attracting viral traffic through social media, the general public can be ignored in favour of the relentlessly on-line public. These happen to be two radically different entities.

Have we reached peak stupid people becoming famous?
A media system driven by social media works in quite a different way than the old media. An item is produced – it might be an article or a video, like the recent one in which a woman walked around New York for several hours receiving catcalls, or it might be a blog post decrying "rape culture" or the patriarchy. This then generates 'hits,' 'likes,' and 'shares' on social media until it is picked up by the "echo chamber" of parasitical media sites – the clickbait sites – which then create articles based on whatever seems to be trending. This generates yet more likes and shares, until finally even the old established media and politicians chime in. The key factor all along, however, is social media and more importantly those peculiar people actively involved in it.

Of course, you can find all shades of opinion on the internet –  after all we're here – but the key point is that not all shades of opinion are represented at the rate that they occur in the real world. Decentralization doesn’t necessarily mean democracy. The way to think about this is like the recent US midterm elections, in which one particular demographic – older Whites – turned out disproportionately to vote, while other demographics were apathetic and stayed at home, allowing the Republican Party to do better than it should.

Social media is exactly like this. Those who choose to involve themselves more can exert the greater influence, and the group that does this tends to have certain characteristics and value preferences that are distinct from the mass of the people. This then skews and shapes the message that comes out of the new media.

So, what are the general characteristics of the people driving social media and thus the new media? We can infer the following:

  1. They have more disposable time than the average person.
  2. They are in front of their computers or on their smart phones a lot more than they should be.
  3. They are less involved in careers, hard work, and doing something useful.
  4. They have less family commitments and off-line personal involvements.
  5. They are less embedded in real society.

In short, the people happy to work for free, powering the engine of the new media, tend to be lazy, frustrated, self-centred loners and losers, largely cut loose from real society.

Those connected to real society by their jobs, families, responsibilities, and involvement in their local communities tend to be more conservative, and also have a lot less time and energy to put into being excited or triggered by memes n' themes on the internet.

Ironically, social media is something you do when you are actually outside society. As such, it reflects the unrealistic, narcissistic, and socially deconstructive views of those antisocial individuals. This is why the new media is the way it is, and why our culture has taken a weird turn in the last decade or two. The internet has simply liberated the freaks and handed them the megaphone, while bypassing the tastes and concerns of ordinary people.

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