Are Social Media Phony By Default?

“The world will be better if you share more.” That’s what Mark Zuckerberg claims. And it’s part of a general philosophy of many fans of social media: that they help us to be more “social”, friendlier, cooperative, collaborative…in other words better.

But what – in truth – is the default mode of social media? On the surface, one would think “social”. That can’t be true though, for no technologies have social implanted in them – by definition, human-social belongs to humans.

So when I dip into my Twitter stream, for instance, I see huge volumes of people saying nice things, quoting positive aphorisms, replying to each other with accolades. If you didn’t know any better, you might conclude these are conversations between people who’ve know each other for decades.

The reality of ‘social’ however isn’t all happy and conversational and collaborative. The truth of our human nature is complex and contrary. Anybody who is happy all the time, who never expresses a dark thought, who never stands up against what’s clearly wrong – or just plain stupid – is not being honest.

These media, however, do make us want to behave as if we’re all brothers and sisters. Nobody – except terrorists and people with childhood issues – wants these media to be anti-social.

So here’s the danger, the threat to our sociability: if the default of these media is to force us into particular frames (140 characters, video, audio, etc.) then how honest can we be – might we be automatically ‘phonyfied’ – regardless of our intent?

For if we are all brothers and sisters among these media, what happens to the elders? What happens to a civilization which no longer looks upward, but only horizontally?

I, for one, don’t want to see a world where everybody’s treated as if they’re clones, where nobody expresses themselves, where we’re all dictated to be social but in fact relegated to being alone.

The phrase itself – “social media” – should be a red flag. It’s not unlike Brave New World, or Orwellian Newspeak: the very words which claim “solidarity”, “security”, “community” hide the very nature of the State: discord, violation, fragmentation.

By inverting our notion of social media to phony media, we at least stand a chance of being who we are – which is what we want, right?



What Social Media Wants

Kevin Kelly wants us to undertand what he calls the “technium” and outlines his life’s work in What Technology Wants. I’d like to riff on the way Kelly uses the word “want” with respect to Social Media, and ask: “What does social media want?”

Social Media wants…

  • Your time
  • Your attention
  • Your friends
  • Your brand
  • Your business
  • Your data
  • Your privacy
  • Your publicity
  • Your location
  • Your behaviors
  • Your wants
  • Your life

There’s nothing wrong with “want” in itself – maybe it’s OK that Social Media wants all these things – and more.

The more critical question, rather, is: What do you want?

As the power of technology increases the number of choices we can make, we will have to intensify our awareness of who we are and where we’re headed.

Whatever Social Media wants, what you want determines how much it gets.



The Placenta Incident & The Shawshank Redemption

So I ran RNchat last night to open up discussion about The Placenta Incident (click over to read about it).

It’s a movie in the making. Generally speaking, I sometimes wonder if the ghost of Warden Samuel Norton in The Shawshank Redemption still possesses a part of the nursing profession.

Unless the patient related to this story was actually harmed, the story is largely pretty humorous.

And yet dramatic events like these, which garner media attention, displace important issues that get almost none.

I mean: there are so many horrifying things that happen in Healthcare every single day:

  • Someone hangs a bag of Dopamine thinking it’s normal saline and runs it in at 250
  • A bitter, burnt-out nurse curses out a a student for forgetting his pin and the patient in the room behind them falls out of bed and breaks her hip
  • Ralph in Accounting shows the CFO that the hospital can save $250,000 a year by cutting nursing staff and the next year the hospital pays out $2,500,000 in litigation due to nursing burnout

And now we have social media thrown into the mix:

  • Nursing instituions lead by (good) people who don’t know the difference between “a” Twitter and a sparrow are handing out sentences on a generation that uses both everyday without taking the time to find out what it’s all about.
  • The generation that grew up on digital technologies and social media are learning hard lessons about the consequences of a dopey tweet, a weird status update on Facebook and that picture of their sprawled out naked body on the floor of Delta Tau Delta.

It’s so easy to miss what matters most when you’re stuck on what matters least.

That may have been what’s happened here in this story.

I don’t know about you, but I think we’re kinda losing our minds and I think the best option we have of saving ourselves from our own dopery is mindfulness.

Social media may be the most disruptive part of human evolution – ever. It comes, however, with prices: mindfulness may be its biggest.

We really do live in interesting times.

No shortage of material for artists to grip.

Maybe there’s a metaphor for the need of a re-birth of nursing somewhere in that placenta.

Nursing will never be emerge from all of the dopey stereotypes dumped on it over the decades unless it finally puts down to rest all the emotional violence within its own house.



Humor. The laugh is the crowning achievement of evolution. Let’s use it more often – in nursing and everywhere else.




Socialganda = Social Media + Propaganda. Socialganda.

Almost a century ago, Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays pretty much fathered what we came to know as Propaganda.

Bernays understood the susceptibility of crowds to manipulation – thus the benefits of being Freud’s nephew. Bernays also understood the properties and possibilities of the technological conditions of his time. As a consequence of both understandings, he was able to fashion powerful ways of forging consent, changing behaviors and maintaining and growing the powers of new or status quo interests.

Soon, someone – or a group of people – can build new theories and practices with which exploit both the latest understanding of human psychology and the technological conditions of this century.

If they can, then they will.

You may not think so – especially if you’re a big fan of Social Media, and you believe that these evolving media are inherently democratizing.

Either way, I encourage you to watch this clip and think about how a 21st Century Bernays would use Twitter, Facebook, Youtube et al – for good or ill (if you’re short on time, go to 2:43 minutes):

My sense: Socialganda is achievable. Social and other digital media and technologies make it both easy and hard – easy because the tools are proliferative and easy-to-use; hard because they require constant attention and investment and creativity. Given sufficient capital, technological and labor resources, however, states, corporations, political action groups, terrorist networks, etc. can deploy successful operations.

To appreciate the possible future, consider the traditional function of Intelligence agencies. The primary role of Intelligence agencies is Public Relations. The “spy” stuff is important but not primary (although they make for more interesting movies). The ROI on shifting public opinion is far greater on effecting change than the complex “on-the-ground, behind-the scenes” work and logistics.

There’s no more effective way to sway public opinion than to conduct an operation right in front of the public. Every day we see operations but don’t really *see* them – either because of the “eyes wide shut” phenomenon and/or the cognitive dissonance and other cognitive biases we all have inherent in our monkey minds. This is why these  operations can be so effective. Throw social media and increasing digital ADHD into the mix, and I expect to see in a few years an even more easily manipulated public.

Given enough resources and willpower and diligence, Socialganda will become a powerful new mode of ensuring that special interests proliferate and maintain their hold.

It’s not all bad: you can develop your own Socialganda skills, or at least be on guard and keep in mind that the Internet is pretty much a hallucinogen. Knowing where you are is part of finding the exit.

Anyhoo, I’ve just coined a new word for the 21st Century: Socialganda.

I have no doubt this will happen. The question is: who will be the skillful exploiters of this new iteration of propaganda? Or will we all be the propagandists, mutually misleading ourselves off the proverbial cliff of ignorance?

Socialganda. Get ready for it.