The Internet – Down the Rabbit Hole

The Surface Web (social media and public search engines) – The Void

By: Anjali Arumuganambi S6ENA

The internet and social networks, in general, are collectively one giant cybernetic collection of humans and electronics that are constantly connected and communicating. At the level of the surface web, social media life has become an indispensable, essential foundation of the everyday experience of the modern youth. As time moves on, we find ourselves replacing real life activities with a digital alternative, for example: we see many emerging online markets, on all levels of the internet, and with an inventory capable of providing anything, to anyone. Additionally we see the formation of political influential-power-based hierarchies, at the top of which, people who make their social activity to be their occupation and active as well as passive businesses, reside. They transform themselves, essentially into a sort of technology, living their entire lives online. All private information is surrendered, erasing any boundaries between the real and the virtual, and they feed on a constant stream of comments, likes, and “love”.

Nowadays, unlike the time of the primitive internet, much of the digital architecture and its infinite potential is often debated heatedly.

Theoretically social media tools are ones of incredible potentiel with it’s limitless reach, lightning fast communication, and infinite information. When used correctly and responsibly, it can be used to rapidly address and spread awareness about certain issues. For example: In May of 2020, a case of institutional racism spread like wildfire over the world, when the injustice by police towards George Floyd, resulted in his death. This escalated to an international cry for justice almost overnight. Influencers can use the power of their reach to bring to light certain issues, and influence a change to better people’s reality. In making it more representative of everyday life and everyday acts of bravery and kindness, important messages concerning basic human morality can be communicated efficiently, especially to the youth that dominate much of the social platforms. We can be made into more empathetic, open minded people, and build towards a brighter, and more durable future.

Of course, the theory is much more elegant than the reality. One of the problems with social media’s influencers is the distorted and selective view of reality they share. Which annihilates the entire architecture of the hypothetical success of the surface web.

Many issues we witness in today’s society, including: personality disorders, depression, anxiety, the vast obsessions with materialism, antisocial tendencies etc. They all seem to boil down to the people we idolize online and the very nature of the internet itself. Many of the online influencers make a living off of monetizing attention. The issue faced here is that influencers may profit, even if the attention they receive is good or bad. The success of these online persona, is a function of how much limbic resonance they’re able to achieve with their audience. The more resonance the more engagement. This is why we see many emerging ‘pseudo’- celebrities on platforms such as Instagram or Youtube, where communication is of a high bandwidth. Such influencers communicate standards of perfection, essentially portraying a false ideal of living the ultimate dreams and desires of the common people, creating an impossible and often unattainable goal.

To most people, this may seem obvious. It seems like a no-brainer, to simply not fall for such blatant manipulation. However, the rabbit hole of the internet is a deep and murky one. Even the very nature, the intrinsic build of social media, ropes us in, entwining us, slowly establishing a relationship of desperate dependency, in order for us to merely function normally (curiously similar to the effect of drugs). The user-interface of social media allows people to interact “seemingly” as equals, fabricating a false impression of camaraderie and trust. Through various tactics, influencers can manipulate people into trusting them, which include things such as:

  • Portraying themselves as a successful person. In constructing an image of someone well off, we “follow” their habits in the hopes that doing so will lead us in the same route of success
  • Sharing their vulnerabilities – Hence they humanize the virtual projection of themselves building a ‘relatable’ history, and personality for their persona.
  • Interfacing directly with their audience through livestreams, polls, surveys etc. As such, they communicate with people directly, through an informal platform, mimicking the manner in which one communicates with friends.

This trust they wield is their most lethal weapon. It is in our closest moment of faith, in our most vulnerable moment of loyalty, that we are preyed on.To achieve a greater closeness to our influencers, we play a game of mimesis. We purchase what they purchase, wear what they wear, eat what they eat, like what they like and hate what they hate.
However, in a matter of fairness, the blame isn’t to be assigned completely to these influencers, as they are the middle man, a puppet if you will. In reality, they are being played, and the puppeteer behind them are big enterprises, with money to throw around, no moral code and operating in the interest of monetary revenue, with little fear of the (corrupt) legal/justice system. Multibillionaire enterprises diffuse their ‘propaganda’ through the people that we have come to love and trust, and hence prey on the naivety and submission of an ignorant audience. Unfortunately, as these people make their living off of sponsorships, much that they do to achieve fame is as manipulative, and exploitative, solely done in the goal of personal-gain and self-preservation.

This subject arises many interesting questions, including moral questions that force us to rethink our fundamental nature. How are we to preserve our mind in a society, where free will, self-expression, and curiosity are constantly under fire. The internet is a vast world, with places mirroring the dark, the bleak and the murky of our real world. The mass media has a monopoly of information, erasing almost all ability for independent thought. On the subway, in the streets, on every youtube video, ads blast out of the walls. Multibillionaire enterprises prey and capitalize on our short attention spans. Our thoughts are conditioned as our appetite for instant gratification and mindless entertainment increases, and the circulation of ideas, innovations, and any creativity output is reduced to ash.

Social media, like every quality advancement, has a dual perspective. As humans, we tend towards other people. When the pandemic prevented us from communicating physically, we started doing it through a digital platform. And for the first time in history, we are at a stage where our communication is at the highest it’s ever been. When it comes to the internet, there are endless possibilities to what it can be used for (there is nothing at all you will not be able to find with the right searching methods). In a situation like this one, it really all comes down to people on the platform, how they choose to use media, what they choose to communicate, and what their intentions are. Due to humans having a moral conscience that is being capable of executing both bad and good, there will cases of both the positive and negative. However, this raises the question,: How will short attention spans, our yearn for instant social gratification, our constant high of limbic stimulus, condition the people of this world?

Finally to conclude, in my opinion the enigma of the potential of social media could be likened to a rather simple metaphor. That is Einstein: With his theories, Einstein became something of a god, who understood the universe around him so intimately and so profoundly that he seeked to share the joy of what he found with the world. Incidentally, his creation was the destruction of many many people, and perhaps many more people to come.