On Social Media As Inoculation

This is not to say people shouldn’t seek comfort in art, in TV, in movies. It’s the only way to not go mad! But, in our view, do it knowing what you’re doing is fun and aesthetic, not militant and subversive—it’s never going to substitute for real political action. It may make you feel better to watch a show that’s calling out Trump, or oppression, or our podcast—but if you stop there, you’re demobilized as a political actor.

(The Chapo Guide to Revolution: A Manifesto Against Logic, Facts, and Reason, page 206)

I find myself thinking thoughts along these lines when I ponder social media and its adjacent communities. Reddit, Twitter, Faceboook, etc. are a form of inoculation, keeping us anesthetized as commodities to be bought and traded among the media companies and their advertisers.

Though in real life I can’t stand drama and go to great lengths to avoid it, I still find it hard not to be drawn into researching the latest subreddit drama or object of Twitter’s daily Two Minutes Hate. I’m not one to be drawn into actually commenting or otherwise wading into the scrum, but my brain hungers to understand what the hell is going on and why people in my virtual communities are in a frothy rage. Given that I have a very limited reserve for social interaction, it’s easy to waste those mental resources figuring out why everyone is suddenly posting threads with screenshots of mod mail on all my subreddits or why everyone is suddenly mad at the politician they were lionizing yesterday.

I will accomplish far more—which is to say accomplish something, anything at all—by building solidarity with my co-workers or actually working up the energy to attend that IWW meeting I’ve been trying to make it to for almost six months.