Philosophical Morsels: The God of Social Media

One: Satan is Not Ugly

Let’s be frank, forget about whatever you think, Satan is not ugly.

Satan is a very good-looking man (or woman, if you like).

In the Yoruba pantheon in West Africa, one of the gods that is widely believed to be analogous to satan is called Eshu (this is not quite so but we have more pressing issues here) [1].

When I was younger, at the mention of word Eshu, a dark picture is invoked – something that connotes evil or a very bad outcome.

And rightly so.

While the physical appearance of Satan was omitted in the Bible, for example; we rolled up our sleeves and came up with something – as such an important entity cannot be left without a physical appearance.

Around the ninth century, tapping from other pagan deities like Pan, Poseidon, and Bes; Satan became an ugly, toothless, hairy, naked, gaunted, horned, scary and tailed being [2]

But then, as I grew older, I figured we had made a huge mistake with this satanic thingy – we had successfully misplaced outcome for looks and looks for outcomes.

In Christianity, and many more religions, Satan is an entity that seduces one to sin – that traps one in a dangerous place, so to speak.

And then, one must grapple with a question – how the hell is a Satan supposed to be effective if he looks ugly, or if she doesn’t look extremely beautiful? That’s a good question to ask.

And I think we know the answer.

Two: Google Cambridge Analytica

When social media came into the mainstream, everyone – well, most people – were excited. Now I can connect with anyone and everyone at any time, share pictures, share my thoughts and all sort of things. Your grandma in Kastina, Nigeria; my uncle in Húsavík, Iceland and anywhere in between. Everyone is within reach, and fair enough

Fast forward several years, the stories began to pour in, and they are very negative:

The first thing any sentient being will notice on social media is that, that thing wastes a lot of time. In addition, apart from the fact that these times aren’t well accounted for, a lot of people are at risks of depression and anxiety (this is well documented in the literature) [3].

Who would have thought?

One portal for such negative emotions will be how happiness is being negatively regulated on social media. Happiness no matter your school of thoughts boils down to expectation.

If you open a social media account today what will you see?

You will start seeing really tall guys with six packs standing like a mountain; ladies with big butts (and super cute faces), coke body, body of a goddess that kind of thing; 30-year-olds who are already billionaires. In short, you will see the best of the best (since they will get all the likes).

What else are you supposed to do then than to compare yourself with these gold standards forgetting (or not knowing that) our dear 30 year old billionaire is battling with renal cell carcinoma, the coke body goddess’s butt is actually not real after looking very very closely with one of your friends, and our six pack friend, unfortunately, does not have $50 in his bank account as we speak.

But we can’t help but to compare.

Unhappiness, depression, anxiety, time-wasting, all those are easy to detect, and there is more – there is another deeper layer to this.

We are opaque to ourselves, as most of us don’t know what we really believe in. If you are certain that you do, that might just be a very good evidence that you don’t.

You see, instead, we subject ourselves to social media, donating our thoughts, likes, unpacking our true believes that can be well captured by Big Data algorithm (i.e. Machine learning algorithms).

Suddenly a bunch of codes knows you better than you know yourself.

And what is that supposed to mean; it means these algorithms can now manipulate your behavior, based on your prejudices without you knowing. Again, without you knowing.

If you happen to believe free will exists, well, at that point, it might just be on it’s way to the bin, and for the folks on the other side of aisle, even the illusion of free will becomes endangered. Say, illusion of the illusion of free will or something like that.

And if you think I am just kidding, goggle cambridge analytica. Or start from here [4]

And why will anyone want to manipulate you? Good question.

Answer: it’s all about the benjamins baby.

Many people don’t get it, you are not facebook’s customers, you are the product. Your behavioral change is the product. Think TV advertisements on steroids. [5]

No one pays a dime to get on these things, so who pays? Again, good question. These are the third-party advertisers, who want you to act in a specific way.

And if you think the third-party advertisers have your interest in mind, I will not eat one rat, I will not eat two rats, I will not eat three rats, I will eat four.

In fact, some Silicon Valley gurus like Jaron Lanier had proposed that a change of the current business model to a more healthy one would clear up much of these debris in the social media space [6].

And I agree, the (main) problem is not the social media, it is the business model, and again what else would one expect in an aggressive capitalistic system.

Anyways, now, there is not much of any excitement. Everyone is now addicted to this social media thing that we know is doing us harm, and it appears there is not much anybody can do than to try to adapt; and I wager that there is no going back, unless something completely disastrous happens, say a calamitous digital dictatorship regime.

Sounds like a handiwork of a character that we all know too well.

Please, please, don’t ask me, your guess is as good as mine.

Three: The God of Anything-Goes

We face so much problems today, that, I believe – contrary to what you might think – we are in urgent need of more gods.

Say, someone mentioned to you: ‘Apollo’ and showed you a painting of a young wo(man) with a lyre, laurel, and python (not the programming language, I mean real python); which should immediately hints Greek Mythology.

There are a few things that could come to mind: 1) he was the son of, the big gun himself, Zeus (and Leto); 2) he had a twin sister named artemis; 3) he can die to play a golden lyre (which Hermes made for him); 4) let’s say, for fun sake, that he can wake the dead, again just for fun sake; 5) he was the god of music, prudence, truth, light, sun, logic, health etc. and; 6) most importantly, he was the god of order – pure, brute, complete order.

Depending on your standing knowledge of Greek Mythology, by the time you run through that list, Dionysus should jump right at you. And if it does, rightly so.

Then, the following list should ring a bell 1) Bacchus, because he was the god of wine, 2) also, god of winemaking, winemakers, and drunkards; 3) worshipped by the Mycenean Greeks around c. 1500–1100 BC and; 4) most importantly, he loves to play – of the hard, uncompromising kind.

For me, I love to think of Dionysus, as the god of chaos, the god-of-anything-goes, or, to adapt for modern use, as things stands today, the god of social media.

 

Notes

[1] To be clear, Eshu is not satan. Eshu is the trickster god in the Yoruba pantheon, one you could even call a benevolent trickster. He is also a messenger between gods and people.

[2] Wikipedia contributors. (2018, October 26). Satan. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 26, 2018, from 

[3] Nick Zagorski. (2017, January 17). Using Many Social Media Platforms Linked With Depression, Anxiety Risk. Psychiatry Online, American Psychiatric Association. Retrieved October 26, 2018, from

[4] Kevin Granville. (2018, March 19). Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: What You Need to Know as Fallout Widens. The New York Times. Retrieved October 26, 2018

[5] Jaron Lanier. (2018, May 29). Ten arguments for deleting your social media accounts right now. Henry Holt and Co. Page 22

[6] This was the crux of Jaron’s book cited in [5]. The reader interested in this should feel free to pick up.

Photo 1 Credit (Satan and Death with Sin Intervening by Henry Fuseli, circa 1792)

Photo 2 Credit (Bacchus and Ariadne by Titan, circa 1520)

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