I was at a local coffee shop the other night, outside on the deck. It was pretty packed, so we were close enough to be in hearing distance to the group of guys sitting at the next table over. It was a conversation that was at that certain volume that you just can’t not hear, you know the kind. Whether we liked it or not, we were both silent participants in their annoyingly loud conversation.
So it turns out, they must have been some sort of meet up group for Bernie Sanders. I know this, because like I said I couldn’t shut out their excited chatter even if I had wanted to (and I did). They were discussing all the ways they were going to do outreach, and this included Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and possibly a chat room (suggested by the elderly fellow in the group). Not one person suggested anything tangible to make a difference in anything resembling the real world, just how many different platforms of social media they could set up accounts for.
Social Media: In Theory Powerful, In Practice Worthless
As I sat there in disbelief as the group bounced around between talking about how many Twitter followers they had (500) to how a chatroom would work, to hoping if said chat room were set up that they would be able ream any disbelievers into submission.
As powerful a platform as social media can be, in theory, in practice it is mostly useless for disseminating any real change among a diverse group of people who aren’t already followers of whatever idea you’re trying to get out there. The only people who are going to follow your feeds are those who are already searching for those terms actively. You really aren’t going to reach many new people who you want to spread your message to, which is arguably the most important aspect if you are trying to do outreach. You’re just preaching to the choir at that point, which does nothing but pump up the more ego-y aspects of your group. I checked out who their followers were, and a good 40% already had a picture of Bernie for their header image, and the others had twitter handles like TXforBernie, etc. Just one big circle jerk. This accomplishes nothing but the illusion of feeling as if one is doing something active, while not actually doing anything tangible at all.
Obviously this is an unpopular opinion.
We Never Made it to Binah
Don’t get me wrong, I like what Bernie Sanders is attempting to do. I don’t fault that group for doing what they think is the most effective means to reach out to people, but it points to an inherent flaw in modern thinking, and the more conspiratorial side of me wonders if this has been a guided movement for a long time given the military/industrial complex background of almost every social media site out there, and Google itself.
The problem is, at least some people feel disgruntled. They feel like they want to make a difference, they want to reach out and try to persuade people of one thing or another. There is an energy to it, that builds up in both the individual and in population sets that has to go somewhere. The natural course of things, if you view it from a Qabalistic point of view, would be for it to flow from energy to manifestation. It’s like the path from Chokmah to Binah, force to form. This energy is going to take the path of least resistance, but if all things go as planned it will flow unimpeded.
Unfortunately someone built a big shiny happy fun time circus on the way to Binah and the force never made it to the party.
It doesn’t even occur to folks these days that there are other modes of transmitting messages to the masses, especially if your target audience is small and limited to a specific geographic location (like your town or region). Handing out fliers is an obvious but possibly limited application method. More esoteric methods may gain more tangible reward, such as some sort of performance piece or organized discussion in a public place. Less people will interact with you, but the ones that do, will do so with the intention of acting either for or against your idea. On the flip side, more people will engage with online social media, but far fewer will actually bring that engagement and turn it into a physical action such as voting, behaving differently, or anything else.
Every person wants to feel like they are actively doing something. That’s why charities are so ubiquitous, even though it’s a long shot that your donated dollar will actually make it to the intended target. It doesn’t matter if change is actually caused in conformity to will, it only matters that you think it did. This is where social media comes in. Very few people consider the reality that by pinning, clicking like, following, or whatever else we come up with in the future, that nothing actually happens.
Unless you count pixels shifting around, and energy and light passing from one place to the next. It doesn’t matter if you ‘like’ every damned Bernie for President Facebook page, follow every twitter feed, gather 10 bazillion followers, that equals nothing more than the feeling of satisfaction each of those people got from ‘doing something’.
It’s the magick of dispersion. Take that force, divert the will, make sure it is never made manifest.
It’s really rather genius, we think we’re accomplishing something, we get those feel good chemicals delivered to the appropriate spots in our brains, and we can go binge watch Netflix without any guilty feelings. The people who might actually be moved to organize some sort of real effort are diverted to putting all their energy in setting up these
traps social media campaigns where the less motivated can feel a sense of accomplishment.
Closed Ecosystems Control All The Content
The idea that privately held companies have the right to control their content is one that a lot of people don’t realize or care to realize. A rude reminder of that was the Reddit scandal that happened earlier this year, where a lot of nasty subreddits were censored. Lots of people thought mistakenly that Reddit was a bastion of freedom of expression and speech, but as is becoming apparent no online forum is safe from censorship. Because of the ease of communication online, people don’t realize that it’s just as easy to make sure no one ever sees what you post online. Facebook is known for this, and in other countries lots of things are actively censored. How long before Hillary’s campaign pays Twitter or Facebook to appear more prominently than her competitors? How long before non-mainstream views are pushed to the back and quietly die? Why waste our time wrapping up all our efforts within the gates of a close ecosystem like Facebook, when all it takes is a backdoor deal for your content to be hidden away with all the other un-promoted stuff?
Looking over this post, I realize it makes me look like a luddite. This isn’t the case, but I definitely do oppose using social media as one’s sole effort of outreach or content creation. It’s about to be 2016, and the future is online communication, that’s not going away bar World War 3, but we need to spread out into the real world a bit. The online ecosystem is one that is quickly becoming more and more fascist. With the recent passing of CISA, and the TPP on the horizon, it looks like a dark future ahead for online citizenship and social media. We need to foster real world communications, real world actions in addition to our online efforts. We need to understand that clicking like is in no way a substitute for real change.
We need to get out of our digital heads and do something real in the world.
So go out there and do it, the only way to bring real change is to change ourselves. Bringing it back to the start, the ironic part about that meet up group is I would have loved to have a conversation with them, they had their target audience right next to them the whole time.