July 13, 2011

Social Media And The Utopian Instinct

Last week I wrote a silly post called Social Media Madness Goes Global which poked fun at a ridiculous piece of utopian nonsense called A Perpetual State Of Beta...
"We are now living our lives in a perpetual state of beta through social media. It’s a new social frontier, or ‘third place’ which is filled with opportunity, where personal and professional participation culminate in a ‘reconnection’ to what is good and true..."
Fortunately, most social media professionals are not as brain-addled as this guy. However, this baloney and its ilk demonstrate a naive streak of utopianism in some of social media's most extreme proselytizers.

The origin of social media utopianism can probably be traced to The Cluetrain Manifesto, a very influential book of the late-90's (which I have also taken the liberty of poking fun at.) Cluetrain gave us the beginnings of web evangelism...
"...the web is touching our most ancient of needs: to connect."

"Millions have flocked to the net...because it seemed to offer some intangible quality long missing in action from modern life..."
"Many of those drawn into this world find themselves exploring a freedom never before imagined."
Yeah, right. Freedom to watch porn, upload pictures of your cat, and hurl anonymous stink bombs.

I don't know about you, but this kind of Shangri-la-di-da officially annoys the shit out of me. Virtually all of human barbarity can be traced to some crackpot group's utopian dream.

Believe it or not, young proto-nazis would sit around strumming guitars on college campuses in Germany in the 1920's and sing about the glorious spirit that resided in the ecologically pristine woodlands of the fatherland. They had a romantic longing for a "volkisch" paradise. We know how that one ended up.

The nazi and communist nightmares, the Crusades, the Inquisition, and today's jihadists, all provide clear lessons that the utopian vision tends to spawn the most appalling human savagery. The nazis wanted to purify us. The communists wanted to free us from materialism. Religious fundamentalists sought (and still seek) to create heaven on earth.

I enjoy social media and I am not for a moment suggesting that social media zealots are burning heretics at the stake or building concentration camps. I am saying, however, that the more they erect ideological scaffolding around social media and spout utopian blather, the more they give me the creeps.

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