Illusions of Social Media: Don’t Believe the Hype

Jimmy Early
9 min readSep 8, 2021

As we continue to grow towards a more technologically advanced world, I am grateful that I remember the simpler times before the powerful, life-altering beginning of the “dotcom era”. In my early childhood years, there were still many households and families that did not have internet, owned a cell phone, and were not too “keen on” the gigantic satellite dishes that seemed to take up a third of the yard just to watch the few hidden channels the local cable company didn’t broadcast.

It is pure nostalgia when I look back at what many of today’s high schoolers would call the “Stone Age”. Granted, for them it might as well have been since they were not even born. It can feel overwhelming how different life is now compared to what did not seem like that long ago. As ecstatic as I am from witnessing some of the greatest advancements in human history unfold (which seems like every year) I would be quite naïve if I did not take into account the negative costs of our futuristic progressions. One of the most notorious is the rise and domination of social media platforms.

I do not believe these Internet inspired creations are inherently evil; I just think that we as a society should be clear in our understanding of using these resources. Lack of such knowledge in using these virtual forums has resulted in apparent social issues throughout society, and a spike in some confirmed psychological disorders, both of which can lead to physical actions from the victims and their perpetrators that can cause harm to themselves and others. However, it is much easier not to become ensnared by the downsides of these digital forums once you grasp the concept that social media is a known Matrix, and should always be understood as such when involving it in our lives.

Now, before you continue reading my opinionated analysis on our [i.e. us, the world’s] complicit behavior in subscribing to an artificial dystopia, I must give this nonsensical disclaimer: I am not attempting to be Morpheus, I will not be offering you any pills blue, red or otherwise, and if we do live in a simulation it is not the intent of this blog post to explain such a theory, for I do not have a Neil DeGrasse Tyson level of what on God’s green Earth that actually may imply realistically. What you have just read may have seemed ridiculous in every sense of the word, but unfortunately, if the thought didn’t already cross your mind from reading the title on to this point, the internet can be a damning place sometimes. I would also like to note the context in which I am referring to “social media” is not in reference to the general direct or video message aspect that many (today nearly all) digital chatrooms and platforms possess, as well as any telecommunication attributes that have broadened our ability to communicate across the world, but more on the virtual and deliberately ambiguous culture of creating novelty spaces and socially constructed avatars. All right, with all the small print out of the way, on to why I argue that social media platforms are an illusion, and why we should never be fooled to believe it is anything other than that.

Just like the computerized world featured in The Matrix Franchise that debuted before the start of the new millennia, the social media influence grew stronger changing the way millions (now billions) communicate around the globe. From more advanced email and digital chatrooms, to large interactive spaces like Myspace and Facebook, people from all walks of life were able to connect with each other in ways that generations of the past would have deemed as science-fiction. I remember when YouTube took the social media world by storm, seamlessly making ordinary citizens celebrities overnight. With the implementation of more cutting edge mobile devices and airways filled with a profusion of Wi-Fi hotspots, the simple mediocre life of the 20th century became nothing more than a distant memory. Yet, the irony of this revelation is that the further the shift from the past to our new present state becomes a reality to the senses, the more we get a sense that we are losing reality all together. Due to the dawn of the social media universe (SMU), reality is something that typically is not the best strategy to use for your brand.

Why would something like branding be important to how we use social media? This is because social media is nothing more than a giant online business construct. But unlike the big-wig oligarch social clubs that finesse and thrive off exclusion, social media craves our involvement. There are really only three positions that exist in the SMU: the sellers, the buyers, and the products. And like the controversial Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma stated when explaining the negative effects and harm social media can and has caused in recent decades, if you are not a seller or a buyer, you are the product. This is mainly why many large corporations, small businesses, celebrities, entrepreneurs and the like are constantly online using social media platforms for relevancy and networking. The general strategy is rather simple. The sellers market and hustle relentlessly to incorporate a mass following in hopes that they can garner enough buyers to make a profit off their popular brand. The buyer can either be an advertiser (i.e. sponsor of the seller’s platform) that is paying the brand for access to its patrons, or the buyer can be the patrons themselves looking to purchase a service, an item, or to become a subscriber . The mind-trick is that if we are not on the platform as a seller or a buyer, it does not render us just a browser or a here-and-there fan of the page. Anything and everything can and will be used in order to extract every data point of information, for a multitude of various industries to consume and sell for revenue and power. From our cell phone numbers to email accounts, to the amount of times we liked our ex’s beach photos this month compared to last year, all is up for grabs.

Now, such a statement may not come as much of a surprise to those more hip to the new age business market methods, but many, especially young adults and more senior generations, are ignorant of this notion and fall into unnecessary traps all the time. The very factor that nearly everything on social media contains, or indirectly stresses in many ways, is the importance of “likes,” “dislikes,” and subscriptions. There is no grey area of thought, really, and for statistical purposes companies do not waste much time pondering over such things anyway. It is much easier to determine which brands are the most popular from positive checkmarks and the number of followers you possess. There have been many times where I was on a creator’s YouTube page and would see several dissatisfied comment posts which did not seem to reflect the overwhelming like to dislike ratio. Yet, under the same social platform, I would read extremely positive feedback in the comment section off another impactful channel that held a small number of likes and viewership. Despite both channels having the potential of being a worthy visit, one because of the large viewership and the other because of the well received comments, only the one with the most following will be of promise to an advertiser or investor looking to get a piece of the mass appeal that channel appears to offer. As stated before, the concept is rather easy to understand from a business perspective; however, if this notion is not known when surfing through the world wide maze of social constructs and intentionally fabricated personalities, problems will, and have, occurred.

I have always heard that knowledge is power, and the older I become the more I realize how true that statement really is. Not only does knowledge give us power, it brings about a powerful sense of freedom as well. Understanding that the social media matrix is an artificial playground fueled by shady market driven entities that seek to absorb and exploit our digital souls for profit and influence, it becomes a lot more digestible when you are aware of its nature. It is a tool at best, and more of a game than a hindrance to society and future generations. Not fully being conscious of this reality has done a real number on those vulnerable to negative effects of new- age supreme digital marketing. Just as Agent Smith’s character was to Neo in the Matrix movies, so the psychological engineers and profit gurus that turned social media into what it is today, is to us. Yet, the biggest difference between the 2000s [debuted late 90s]action sci fi-thriller and connecting to the SMU, is that it is not a secret.

The depression and anxiety enhanced by the loneliness and self doubt caused by the negative sales practices of businesses is distasteful, and has caused much harm to the physique and self-worth of entire generations. The novel social awkwardness across age groups due to investing a horrendous amount of time online, followed by the false sense of reality that what is seen on a social media feed is not manufactured but authentic, will continue to shift our tangible world into one solely governed by false idols and deceptive allegories. But, honestly this “veil of controlled derangement” applied to the masses is old news. Just as with the small group of fighters who raged against the machines, many people across the net are not fooled by such trickery. Knowing that the SMU is all an illusion is not the first step — it is the only step.

Once it is truly understood that everything that you inquire, use, and subscribe to in some form on social media is branded just for your attention and resources, a more cautious approach normally occurs.. We tend to take things less seriously once we understand it is a game and not real. It is similar to watching a horror film or romantic drama. If it is understood that the movie is just entertainment, the least likely it will be a negative life changing experience.

But, not taking the social media matrix so seriously is just the tip of the iceberg. The SMU is a tool that can be used to stay in contact with distant friends and family, create networking business opportunities, learn about different people and cultures, and so much more. Its presence and influence has continued to give nuance to many of the important elements of our lives and can arm us with a better and clearer understanding of the aspect of the world around us through multiple viewpoints of our internet family. The real reason I take gratitude in knowing the world before the machines (in this case internet-bots) took over is not to throw shade at younger generations, or even want to go back to the times before DMs could ruin employment opportunities or entire marriages. It is because I am part of the closest bridge that links the floppy discs to the thumb drives, the arcade Pac-Man to Halo, and the warmth and frustration in my heart from hearing the tortuous sounds of DSL buildup in contrast to not even being able to blink faster than my premium Xfinity wireless connection. Having this privilege, in a way, renders me responsible for educating those who may be at an age where the internet in general creates anxiety, to the youth who are still seeking an identity as both navigate through the digital maze. Yes, as much as I do at times miss those early 90s baby vibes and am humbled by knowing there was a time that existed before tweets, I will not say that if I had a chance to stop the rise of social media, I would. Understanding its creation and progression is key; ignorance of this notion is the true threat to humanity. With that being stated, one of my many prized contributions to the new-world, whenever I finally leave the renting world behind, is to not yell at any future children who may want to run across my yard. That may sound strange, but something about old people watching kids play from their porch instead of always online or in the house takes me back. I guess until TikTok has a time machine challenge, it’s a start.