Essay

Social Media: Moving Towards A Brave New World?

By Eric Schiller on February 9th, 2010

A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley depicts an ordered society where humanity is tamed and controlled through the use of excessive pleasure.   This pleasure comes in the form of unlimited sex, a designer drug named “Soma,” and a caste system that designs people specifically for their social roles, eliminating unhappiness in the work force.  The society as a whole is conditioned to believe in a consistent set of values, primarily designed to keep everyone in line and the system of consumption functioning at a near perfect level of efficiency. Those are not fitting into society are encouraged to enjoy themselves by taking Soma, as its hallucinogenic and anti-depressant effects allow them to snap back into blissful conformity with ease.   In essence, Huxley dreamed of a world where unimportant pleasures distract us from the greater problems at hand, and in the case of the book these problems manifested as the sheer level of control and lack of freedom exerted over all of humanity by the system.

In the past few years, a phenomena known a social media has taken a strong hold on the minds of many internet users.  Individuals are encouraged to attain accounts with a variety of services such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Reddit, and others which allow them to attain large amounts of trivial information in a short amount of time.  Most of these services direct users out to Blogs, where users can interact with writers directly.  It is implied within the system of social media that information is “meant to be free,” that all opinions should be heard, and that censorship should be considered unethical.  Those who promote social media as a system suggest that the freedom of great amounts of information allow people to make more efficient connections with others, be more informed about the world, and make their lives better through what are known as “life hacks.”

A Match Made in Heaven or Hell?

Lifehacking as meme began its life when programmers were looking for simple ways to make their coding life easier, by instituting small hacks to the software.  Moving away from the strictly geek demographic, lifehacking has come to be known by a broad set of skills, habits, and ideologies which fit well into the field of personal development.  Within the idea of lifehacking, it can be seen that humans function as cybernetic organisms that can be “hacked” from their original operating systems to become more efficient or better suited to other perhaps more interesting tasks.  This often takes the form of what is known as “lifestyle design” which refers to the ability to design one’s life from the ground up, often in what is called a “non-conformist” way.  This romantic idea of programming one’s life in-turn gave life to the new age of personal development via social media sites like Digg and Reddit.  It can be easily seen how personal development and social media became quite well adapted to each other early on in their union.

Marketing the Father, Social Media the Son, and the Holy Positivity

Social media, the field of marketing, and the positive thinking movement have formed an unholy trinity of influence on the internet.  In many ways this trinity is a series of facades hiding a deeper core of persuasive marketing, without any valuable content within.  The field of marketing birthed the notion of social media, it was originally pitched as a tool for corporations and small businesses to more effectively reach their audiences in an age where anyone can write a negative view and post it for all to see.  While social media may have been marketed to be open in nature, the function of it has always been the dispersion of marketing messages. To consumers, social media promised the democratization of information, where individuals were put on the same rhetorical level as corporations, but in reality the shift of influence has always been in the hands of those with power, regardless of what technological means of sharing are used.  Thus social media sold the facade of “openness” to the consumers using buying into it, but offered new manipulative means of marketing to corporations and their amateur copycat shills.

Enjoy!

The most effective tool the field of marketing uses to distort messages is the notion of positive thinking.  The cult of positive thinking and personal development have had a long and profitable history together, and as a result it was only natural that positive thinking would cross the short divide between personal development and social media. Thus positive thinking formed the very fabric of the facade which prevented any critical discourse from occurring.  By promoting strictly positive attitudes, social media bloggers often censor and limit speech, all the while supporting the well-stated ideal of “openness.” One such example happened a few weeks ago when Duff McDuffee posted a comment on Chris Guillebeau’s blog regarding his shilling of Seth Godin’s new book, Linchpin.  Duff’s original comment:

The only book Godin wrote that didn’t have spin in the title was All Marketers are Liars.

If you’ve read a couple of Godin books, the rest are truly dispensable.

I’ll summarize his collected works: work hard, take risks, be different. Find creative ways to hype the crap out of your products. Reframe ordinary concepts to obfuscate and create a personal vocabulary that makes you look smart. Embrace high-tech. Write in a terse, cryptic style to sound profound, yet say nothing new.

Use the methods of grassroots political campaigns to sell stuff and make capitalism look like protest. Create phony “revolutions,” “manifestos,” political groups (”tribes”) etc. around B.S. “causes” which are really about selling stuff (thus making grassroots political organizing ineffective for actual, non-commercial causes).

In the end, I think Mr. Godin has done much more harm than good. All the “change” that is encouraged is more of the same.

Guillebeau censored this comment from his post, and then emailed Duff back in response:

It’s OK if Seth’s work isn’t for you, but you don’t need to be so rude about it.

This is a big day for him and I am thrilled to support the launch of a great book. The last thing in the world I would want to do is discourage someone who has helped so many people with his ideas, including me. I hope that instead of putting him down so harshly you can do something positive with your own work [emphasis mine].

This response from Guillebeau portrays him shocked as if to say “how dare you question me! Go enjoy yourself instead!”  This response is a common one among those who promote an authoritarian ideology of what is and is not acceptable speech within social media.  The attitude absolutely denies the value of criticism in order to ensure that the blogger’s marketing memes spread as smoothly as possible. Additionally, Guillebeau suggested Duff’s criticism was “rude,” this demonstrates an additional level of context about what is acceptable speech in social media.  This is coming from a man who claims to be “challenging authority since 1978″ and a “fighter of the status quo.” Yet Guillebeau censored comments that challenged his own status quo, this strikes me as quite hypocritical, and very typical of social media bloggers.  While it is an unstated social norm on blogs and twitter to comment only positively, this stems from the positive thinking movement which has thrived [ripped people off] in an arena free of criticism for decades.  Those deeply entrenched in social media almost feel as if critics will bring the whole pleasure party down, that critics would be better off out marketing their own products instead of bringing attention undesirable ideas.

Twitter is a Little Bit Distracting

One place where thousands of people have taken this to heart is the social network known as Twitter.  Twitter is a social media site where users can post short, 140 character messages known as tweets that their friends can receive notifications of.  Twitter allows users to follow individuals, and corporations in what often amounts to an overwhelming flood of interesting information.   No other social media site promotes the sheer amount of information enjoyment than twitter does.  People often become addicted to twitter, constantly refreshing looking for new blog posts to read, or tweeting to famous (or twitter-famous) people in the hope that will receive replies.  Twitter itself functions as a hotbed for random, mostly useless information which distracts and creates compulsive behavior in the human mind.

Many wannabe personal development, social media, and marketing gurus have taken to Twitter, proclaiming themselves “experts” in their chosen fields.  Tens of thousands of these people utilize auto-following bots, and spam techniques in a vain attempt to break through and become a guru themselves.  Because twitter is so easy to join and start posting information,  it has become a hotbed for people who have deluded themselves into believing they are experts.  They have literally taken the advice of bloggers like Chris Guillebeau to “do something positive with your own work.”  In some strange way, it seems many people view the most effective means of doing “something positive” as becoming a guru yourself. This only adds to the pleasurable, narcissistic noise that permeates social networks like Twitter.

Dogma and Karma

This surplus of distraction and the compulsive nature of human interaction with social media compares very well with the fears that Huxley portrayed in A Brave New World about a society tranquilized by pure pleasure.  When criticism comes up especially within the area of personal development, the response is often the suggestion to go enjoy oneself with some other distraction, instead of specifically looking at issues and problems that occur within the system.  Thus when marketing, social media, and positive thinking are combined, the result is a wide-spread authoritarian control of ideas within the social network. The most acceptable ideas are those who allow people or corporations to profit via marketing, and by extension the great network of supporting notions of this ideology.   This directly contradicts the common ideology of what social media means to the internet, people often rave about how it allows us so much more  freedom than we had before, however I believe this to be a simple myth of the system.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this hidden authoritarian censorship buried deep within the trinity of marketing, social media, and positive thinking.  The solution is to build a continual cycle of criticism within the social media environment. Criticism is a key part of the progression of thought, and as a result its general removal from social media and personal development has allowed things to spiral horribly out of control.  Not only is criticism necessary, but we have a responsibility to it, else we are just building systems of dogma under the guise of progression.  At that point, why bother?

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97 Responses to “Social Media: Moving Towards A Brave New World?”

  1. Cassandra Yorgey says:

    Scott Westerfeld wrote an interesting dystopia in his book Extras. He very specifically looks at the effects of social media in controlling a population and the book builds on the premise of the first books in the Uglies Series, which have a lot of parallels to Brave New World. Westerfeld divided his population by age instead of caste, though, and also threw in hoverboards because WHO DOESN'T LOVE HOVERBOARDS?

  2. Carlon says:

    You have a good point. I can't tell you how many times I've been accused of being "negative" and basically told my opinion wasn't welcome in some personal development circles.

    I think it takes guts to stand up for truth. It's a shame because way back in the day when Anselm of Canterbury first offered the ontological proof for the existence of God, it was opposed by the monk Guinilo.

    In turn, Anselm responded to Guinilo's criticism, and then asked that further copies of his proof be printed with Guinilo's objections and his response.

    I guess that was 1070, and this is now.

    Intellectual exchange bears fruit…but as I know most of these guys don't want intellectual exchange because they play upon emotion. If you introduce rational thought to the discussion, you start messing with their bottom line.

    • EricSchiller says:

      Interesting story about Anselm, it does seem to be a trait of charlatans to ignore criticism or deflect it without even considering it. Why worry about your critics when you could be out making bucket-fulls of money? Even people who claim to be 'on the right side' of personal development like Chris Guillebeau and Clay Collins are guilty of this. Perhaps we could use this as a litmus test for who is worth listening to? Those who are manipulative and have their own interests only at heart are often the ones ignoring critics, James Arthur Ray comes to mind here.

    • I think "messing with their bottom line" is indeed what drives hyper-positivity. Every time I've been cut out of the discussion in a very strong way with no warning it has been because I questioned the product being sold or how it was being sold.

      • AznHisoka says:

        I've only discovered your blog recently, Duff, but I gotta say I admire your honesty. It's very refreshing. I've always been fishy of Seth Godin, who says cryptic things that sound profound (but is ultimately common sense), as well as Steve Pavlina.
        My recent post My Colon Cleanse Story

        • Thanks. I hope you'll stick around for future articles. I used to be a fan of Godin, but ultimately his words are just empty rhetoric which are copied by others, leading to a community of positive fluff with no substance.

          (Just a note–this particular article was written by my friend Eric Schiller. We have articles by multiple authors here, even though I tend to write most of the articles. Eric also is responsible for the nice design!)

  3. Joseph says:

    Maybe the key is to re-frame "criticism" for the positive thinking crowd? They routinely interpret criticism as negative, but it is ultimately positive: a process of unpacking, refinement and improvement on ideas (akin to the "scientific method"). How could it be anything other than positive?

    In a sense, by resisting criticism, the positive thinking crowd negates its own worldview, which ultimately leaves it in a meaningless void, or alternatively exposes its worldview as something other than positive thinking (such as a strategy to secure capital and power).

    • EricSchiller says:

      Thanks for the insights Joseph, the next step would be for me to write a post exploring criticism itself, and possible solutions in that area. In many ways this post is getting at the greater mission of Beyond Growth, we tend to elucidate such things in the fabric of our posts, instead of just going out and writing a mission statement.

      Ignoring criticism seems to me to be a dirty trick of capitalist thinking, it works in the short term to make a profit, but in the long run it is screwing over progressive culture. My hope is to guide social media in the direction of an actual productive critical discourse.

    • In addition, the positive thinking crowd regularly does engage in criticism, by saying things like "ignore critics" and even ranting from time to time about "socialists" and other folks who question their business models and patriarchal/neo-liberal views. All positive thinkers are also critics, but they are often not very good at critical thinking and avoid getting into the meat of the issues.

      In particular, positivity tends to be most authoritarian when one is selling something, making the "relentless promotion of positive thinking" (as Barbara Ehrenreich puts it) a key aspect of American capitalism.

    • carlonhaas says:

      This is an interesting idea. The terms argument and criticism both have negative connotations in modern usage. Outside a philosophy classroom, most people will tell you that arguing is bad. And the term "constructive criticism" is not much better.

      I tend to make up words on my blog. So, why don't we re-christen criticism as "help-talk" and "argument" can be "helpful discourse" or if discourse is too big of a word "growth conversations".

      Any better ideas? Heck, I may blog about this next.

      • I'm kind of against making up words myself–it easily makes the conversation jargon-filled. But I am interested in solutions. I'm considering a blog post now about Walt Disney's creativity strategy as outlined by Robert Dilts which includes three roles: dreamer, realist, and critic. This could help outline where each makes sense and how to align them all within an individual and a larger conversation.

      • Joseph says:

        That starts to sound like Orwellian Newspeak! Come to think of it, the positive thinking crowd might frame this whole debate as thoughtcrime: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thoughtcrime

        The parallels are quote extraordinary.

        As Brother Wiki says, “Technology played a significant part in the detection of thoughtcrime in Nineteen Eighty-Four — with the ubiquitous telescreens which could inform the government, misinform and monitor the population”…

  4. Evan says:

    Well, positive thinking and self-development aren't the same. Though there is much overlap.

    People controlling what is said on their blog isn't terribly problematic if they let people publish their own blogs.

    Blogs are social media. Duff has his – it seems criticism can exist quite happily in social media.

    I can't really see a problem with doing something positive with your own work. I hope my work makes a positive difference.

    On my blog I am free to write about up-dating the ideas we formulated in childhood, learning from mistakes and so on. In this sense the space is relatively censorship free.

    • EricSchiller says:

      This post isn't directly about censorship, however it is important to note that the real censorship is systemic. It doesn't matter if anyone can post on their own blogs if the system is stacked in the favor of powerful bloggers. No one will read the small time blogs if the "A-List" people don't link to them. Then the "openness" and "freedom" of starting your own blog is an illusion of having power when in reality you have none.

      • jackchristopher says:

        Super true. I've harked at this point a lot. The problem is inherent to the blogosphere/blogging technology (and others) in general. It's pseudo-egalitarian.

    • There is some truth to this notion. Anyone who disagrees can post on their own blog, etc. But this is akin to saying that if you can't get on television to express a viewpoint that is missing from the public dialogue (that claims to be "fair and balanced" or "challenging the status quo" etc.), then you can always make a YouTube channel (which you have no real way of letting people know exists).

      The ideology of personal development in social media says we are about openness, being unconventional/authentic/free, yet the power structure of the conversation is biased towards the patriarchal, the "mavens," the neo-liberal/libertarian, up to and including censorship of dissenting views.

  5. Eric Normand says:

    Great post.

    I especially like the conclusion that we should inject more criticism into social media.

    There is one point I'd like to express my disagreement with. While I agree that in social media sites, positivity is encouraged and critical thinking is discouraged, I don't think the problem originates in social media. I think the real problem is that most people in America are not ready for the level of discourse you are bringing to the table. Most people I talk to in daily life cannot carry on a scholarly conversation. These are the same people on Twitter.

    So, in that light, social media might be a good vehicle for bringing critical thinking skills to the masses and increasing the average intelligence of the population. It's a hard battle, but a worthwhile one.

    • EricSchiller says:

      Eric, I agree with you here. Perhaps I should have made a stronger distinction between the culture of social media, and the technology of social media.

      As I noted in the conclusion, my goal is to change social media to be more critical. I'm not saying social media as it stands will always foster a culture of ignorance at all. I'm just suggesting that it often does regardless of what the culture itself thinks it is doing. There are obvious exceptions of course.

      • Eric Normand says:

        That's an interesting point that's worth exploring: do the "social media" in themselves (regardless of who uses them) encourage "positive thinking"? Certainly the example you gave shows that once coupled with selling stuff, the "winner-takes-all" property of popularity, and the ease of censorship easily lead to a dominant ideology.

        I've definitely had fruitful and intellectual discussions via inter-blog posts. I read a post, comment about it on my blog, and they read it and comment back on their blog, etc. That's what it used to be about, before people realized that they could get back links by commenting everywhere. Of course, those sites, and mine, weren't selling anything. Once you bring selling into the equation, you have an incentive to censor any dissent. At least, that's how it appears.

        Amazon publishes bad reviews of books along with the good ones. I don't know if they censor. If they don't, it's a good case against censorship.

        Just some thoughts. I totally agree with you!

    • I'd add that Chris G. and many other A-list personal development bloggers have undergraduate and even graduate-level education. They are certainly capable of critical thinking, but simply do not engage in issues of much depth in their writing. I have to ask "why not?" Why is there a cultural taboo against thinking within these circles?

  6. Cole Tucker says:

    I definitely agree with Cassandra. This post seems directed at a small, though perhaps vocal, segment of social media users. I’m also unsure of where the claim of corporate control of social media comes from. BBS systems ran locally, free of corporate control. Even when I joined the game, fairly late, the vast majority of my social media networks had no corporate/marketing influence. I remember a huge blow-up when kuro5hin.org started asking for donations to cover server costs and upkeep.

    I think the concerns in this article, and many expressed by Duff severely underestimate individuals. I do not believe that “A-list” bloggers have as much influence as you suggest; that their power necessitates instituting a “cycle of criticism” into the protocols of social media. Many of the criticisms I see directed at the personal development movement appear much more authoritarian to me.

    “Thus when marketing, social media, and positive thinking are combined, the result is a wide-spread authoritarian control of ideas within the social network.”

    Sure, but there’s many more than one social network, and it’s easier than ever before to try others out and shift allegiances. The trend moves away from authoritarianism. As Mark Pesce points out in his Personal Democracy Forum talk, every example we have of authoritarian structures colliding with open networks, the authoritarians bear the brunt of the damage.

    The noosphere seeks novelty, information, routing around networks of group think. Sure, we will always have the poor in spirit around, but there’s a whole world of great people waiting to meet them when they are ready to open up.

  7. @jmknapp53 says:

    Fantastic post, Eric! I think most of us who criticize self-help gurus, abusive churches, cults and the like experience this Toxic Positivity on a daily basis. So often expressed as "concern" for our well-being.

    I'm battling such a situation right now with Transcendental Meditation Marketers.

    Your clarity helped me find words for thoughts and concepts vaguely floating at the back of my brain.

    Thanks!

    I'm off to tweet about your post now! (I heard about it via @duffmcduffee)

    J.

  8. I feel that social media reflects what happens in society as a whole, but McLuhan was no slouch either… the medium is also the message. It's been happening for a while, this whole echo-chamber effect where people only welcome friendly opinion and isolate themselves from anything that does not fit their world view. The web amplifies this effect. People only visit websites that are comfortable, site owners delete comments that are challenging, and the echo in the echo chamber gets louder.

    It is an interesting parallel to the corporate media conglomeration that's been happening in mainstream media since the 1980's.

    It does make those of us hell-bent on providing alternative viewpoints more creative in our communication to get it past the filters.

  9. Josh Buckner says:

    Does criticism put food on the table?

    I can imagine/project Guillebeau’s rationale: I’m helping the author promote his book and simultaneously helping people achieve success. Win-win scenario! If I make a little money while I’m at it, then that’s probably the law of attraction at work.

    Positive thinking and business-oriented personal development are in love this win-win mindset. Maybe that’s why the authoritarianism and narcissism stay hidden beneath their noses.

    Eric and Duff, you guys aren’t being very productive, in the sense that you threaten the wealth of successful people without generating much wealth yourselves! You are a pest to the real movers and shakers in the world :)

    • EricSchiller says:

      I disagree that we are a pest to the "real movers and shakers of the world." I argue that those people aren't really moving or shaking anything other than their pocketbooks. They promote the same old ideas with new packaging. Is that really helping anything? Let's move beyond the notion that money is the indicator of success here.

      Duff and my productivity comes in the form of shaping culture (hopefully for the better). In my opinion that is far more important than some brainwashed former travel blogger turned internet marketer and ubiquitous pop-marketing author's pocketbooks. But that's just me. I realize your comment is somewhat kidding though.

      • Josh Buckner says:

        Very true, any smart businessperson or serious pdev guru would recognize the value of your criticisms.

        I have hope that the consumers of these products will stop responding to the echo chamber of praise and back-patting. For instance, I find it suspicious when I find only positive reviews of a company or product on the web. Over time, people will develop a more sophisticated understanding of the marketing tactics being used against them, forcing the marketers to respond to the criticism by either evolving or going extinct. That's why I appreciate what you're doing here with Beyond Growth; among other things, you help us understand what lies behind the messaging.

        On the other hand, some of these internet personalities are only loyal to who's signing their paychecks. The internet is an information war zone, and there are tons of influential social media mercs for hire. Criticism is simply opposition to these types of folks.

    • Darn those successful people and their wealth! :)

  10. Sean O'Brien says:

    Here's a bit of criticism:

    Life-hacking is just another name for self improvement, one small habit at a time. Our interest in improving ourselves an our environment is what drives civilization. Yes, it is healthy to be critical of it, but how far are you wiling to take that criticism? What's the point of any self-improvement at all? It seems to be that there is ultimately no point, then the situation is looked at with a relentless critical eye.

    Regarding those who suggest that you're offering criticism without offering something positive, here's a different perspective: Why not turn that criticism inward and do some serious inquiry? Why not criticize your own motives, intent, beliefs, and everything that makes you up? I know that suggestion makes this comment somewhat hypocritical, but inquiry it could be more fruitful.

    In terms of positive thinking infecting social networking, I think this is just a backlash (where it happens) against years of destruction of discourse by trolls. Some take the censorship too far while others still don't censor at all. Perhaps that's not the case with most self-improvement blogs, but I don't read that stuff. Is it really a trend in social networking in general?

    In my opinion, social networking is what you make it. It takes a lot more energy, time, and thought to write a post like this instead of just unfollowing someone on Twitter or declining to read bullshit marketing or self-help blogs. I'm not suggesting that criticism is not important for pointing out said bullshit, but the level of discourse and criticism seems far more varied than what you are describing in this post. Fortunately, for those who are interested in criticism, social media offers a platform for any critique. Sure, blog comments can be censored, but Google and Twitter search results can't. Are you really outside of the conversation if you're just a click away? I don't think so. Sure, A-list bloggers and sites can filter out stuff they don't want, but does it really matter if your critical comment is one of 200 on a given post?

    • Regarding those who suggest that you're offering criticism without offering something positive, here's a different perspective: Why not turn that criticism inward and do some serious inquiry? Why not criticize your own motives, intent, beliefs, and everything that makes you up?

      Sean, are you saying that one should engage in self-criticism instead of cultural criticism? Or are you suggesting that the positivity-promoters engage in more self-criticism?

      • Sean O'Brien says:

        Hey Duff,

        I'm specifically suggesting here that you and Eric might benefit from putting the energy and intellect you are now devoting to cultural criticism to better use by practicing inquiry, which could be though of as a higher form of self-criticism. Perhaps you both already to this privately, and of course, it's possible to do both.

        Yes, it would also be useful for the positivity-promoters to engage in more self-criticism, but that wasn't what I intended to state here.

        • Are cultural criticism and self-inquiry contradictory? Do you know that Eric or I are not engaged in self-inquiry?

          • Tyler Prete says:

            I think that's just another way of telling you to keep it to yourself. It's an extension of the idea that you shouldn't judge other people until you've judged yourself, but it's not one that's well thought out. As you noted in a previous comment, the same personal development gurus judge others constantly, i.e. those with normal jobs not "fighting the status quo."

            Also, if I might add, if we are to take the claims of Pavlina to heart, that the universe is all just a projection of ourselves, then critiquing others is by definition critiquing ourselves, and so they really have no grounds to object to it.

          • This is an excellent point, Tyler. It's not criticism that is being criticized (an oxymoron in any case), but views that the authors don't like. But when we say it that way, it allows for more open dialogue, for criticism is clearly allowed and already being engaged in within the community.

        • Actually, of anyone I've seen online, Duff practices more self-inquiry than anyone I've seen. Publicly, even. He's not above questioning himself, his thinking, or even his emotional state.

          Those who are all positive rah-rah are usually selling something. Questioning themselves goes against their sales message of "I've got the answer, and that answer will work for you, too!" They appeal to an individual's desire to buy solutions to their problems. Public self questioning would likely be antithetical to their profit motives.

          Changing this might actually require changing the advertising/sales paradigm in our culture. I have no answers as to how that happens, but I'd welcome it. Hey, if only someone could package that as a $47 download!

          • Thanks. I'm not sure that my public self-inquiry isn't some veiled form of narcissism though, and there's always the danger that one thinks that they "have arrived" and are beyond reproach. So I welcome Sean's view, and I'm not sure Chris G. necessarily did "the wrong thing." But as I told Chris, I do find it interesting that critical reviews of Seth Godin's books are voted the "most helpful" on Amazon and critical reviews are censored entirely on his "unconventional," anti-status-quo blog.

        • EricSchiller says:

          While it may not seem so in public, Duff and I are extremely self critical. I don't understand why publicly posting criticism would infer that we do not do it in private on our own, that would seem to be very hypocritical.

          I feel as if your comment is similar to what Chris Guillebeau did, as if to suggest that we should go find something else to do than posting criticism on the web (or even mitigating public criticism by turning it towards ourselves).

          • Sean O'Brien says:

            I make the suggestion because, in more lucid moments, when I find something to criticize in the world, I can see this as a signal to look at my own reactions and patterns.

            Whenever I follow the urge to criticize someone or something publicly, as I have today, I find that I end up defending a perspective, a point of view that I'm holding to be true. Inquiry allows me to question these beliefs and often see through them. Once I turn inward, I'm less likely to voice criticism.

            The intensity with which you post here leads be to believe that you are both spending more time developing arguments for why others are wrong than you are in looking critically at your own opinions about these issues.

            I felt like pointing it out to you both because it seemed that we might share a perspective regarding the importance of inquiry in relation to the criticism of others. I may have been mistaken.

          • EricSchiller says:

            Sean, you criticize us for being critical, and suggest that if we were to deeply consider our criticisms, then we would be less likely to voice them? What about your own criticisms of us? This sounds like a common response to criticism by Bill Harris, when someone disagrees with him, he tells them that their criticism is just a demonstration of their Jungian "shadow." He effectively marginalizes them by suggesting their criticism stems from some deeper issue that they do not yet understand, *but he does*, effectively mitigating the criticism if they fall for it. I realize you are not attempting to do this, however it seems quite related to the rose-colored-glasses thinking we see in the positive thinking movement.

            I'm not sure what gives you enough insight into our personal processes to determine that we spent more time developing arguments against others instead of cultivating the self, but again I will tell you that you are dead wrong. After spending a week at Duff's place we hit on a myriad of different topics, explored ourselves and the world, and VERY few of those conversations will ever see the light of day in the form of criticism here on Beyond Growth. I don't understand your need to question our judgment, then go ahead and judge us anyway.

            Do you understand the notion of discourse? It is a model for how cultures grow, they build something, criticize it, change the thinking, and build something again. While you may think our criticisms indicate some inner lack (and perhaps they do) our role to play here is participating in the discourse of the personal development culture.

            I understand the notion of shadows, and often use that to keep myself in check with my criticisms, however that does not mean AT ALL that we shouldn't be publicly criticizing.

          • I was reviewing Bill Harris' blog last night. I found myself agreeing with much of what he wrote, yet again and again whenever anyone offered anything that disagreed with him, he said basically "that's your shadow–you need to look at that." He never once said, "this is also MY shadow–I need to look at that."

            Commenter after commenter agreed with Bill, effectively creating a void of critical discourse and a harsh authoritarianism.

            Bill's blog is just one small example of a phenomenon we are trying to pinpoint that is much more widespread than most people realize.

          • If we got off on this, had some deep inner void to fill with criticism, I assure you we would be much more prolific with our writing on this blog.

            This is a really good point. I have a ton of ideas to post things on BG, but I usually only do so after a lot of reflection, and even after doing Core Transformation with the parts of me that are involved. If I simply wanted to rant, I would probably post many articles daily. :)

          • Sean O'Brien says:

            Eric,

            Seems like you have some pretty strong opinions here, Eric. Obviously you know yourself better than I, or anyone else, knows you. I have no more to offer on this point, except that I'm glad you are practicing inquiry.

            I'll just point out something from my first comment: "I know that suggestion makes this comment somewhat hypocritical."

            Also, I wish you luck in changing the personal development culture.

          • @seanobrien says:

            Eric, I feel like I owe you a more substantial answer.

            My comment has nothing to do with the positive thinking movement. I'm not suggesting you do something positive, I'm suggesting that you use the intellect that you're using for "discourse" tear apart who you think you are. There's nothing positive about such a process except perhaps the end result.

            My insight can be found in sayings like, "whatever you resist persists," and my understanding of the notion of surrender contained in every spiritual tradition. I also feel the need to fight at times. An example would be my correspondence with Bill Harris where I vigorously argued that it was wrong and stupid for him to even threaten to sue Duff. Many of the sentiments I expressed privately to Harris have since been made publicly by others. Even while I was writing to Harris (and getting obnoxiously long replies), I questioned whether there was any point to my exchange with him, just as I question my motives for leaving this post. All I was trying to do here is suggesting that you do the same, if you're not doing so already.

            You say that you "don't understand your need to question our judgment, then go ahead and judge us anyway." Really? How is hard to understand why I would suggest you expend SOME energy toward inquiry? You say you're already doing this. That's great. Why even bother taking offense at that a few sentences out of several paragraphs in my initial comment? What about the rest of the comment that calls into question the premise of your entire post? You haven't responded to what I feel is substantial criticism of the ideas you put forth here.

            As far as your condescending question asking if "I understand the notion of discourse?" Yes, I understand it, and it seems like a nice hobby – as worthwhile as anything else to spend time, if you're driven to change the world. I honestly hope you make a difference, but I do think SOME of your time would be better spent dissecting the person who gives a shit (you). If you're already doing that, why get defensive? You'll notice that I never suggested that you shouldn't be publicly criticizing.

          • You haven't responded to what I feel is substantial criticism of the ideas you put forth here.

            Sean, are you referring to your ideas on social media and censorship from your first comment? This thread seems to have been derailed by the other part of your comment that went into whether Eric or I should be writing critically at all (which is part of our very critique, that certain topics are off-limits within personal development culture).

          • There's always some truth to this notion of course. I've sometimes found as well that by doing self-inquiry when angry for instance, afterwards I feel no need to express what I was feeling to the person I felt angry towards. Other times after doing some inner process, I felt it was more important than ever to express what I was feeling. In relationship specifically, I've found that I can't totally work through "my own stuff" without having difficult conversations with those I am in relationship with. I think this is the reason for cultural criticism–some things can only be worked out together.

            In addition, I've often noticed that I've blamed myself for things that have much more to do with cultural or even economic forces than personal psychological problems. I've also noticed that non-activists often think that activists are overly angry about things that don't really matter to the non-activists. I've observed myself on both sides of this–both seeing others as overly angry and being seen as overly angry or critical.

            There is certainly a balance to be struck between inner and outer. I feel I'm personally doing the best I can. I regularly practice techniques of inner, psychological work, but I also feel it's important to engage in certain discussions even if I'm not perfectly peaceful about them.

          • Sean O'Brien says:

            I hear you, Duff. Perhaps I'm projecting my ideals onto you guys after noticing less of a desire to fight or try to change things once I relax certain opinions. Obviously I still have plenty of those.

          • I didn't expect my own opinions to arise as they have, so I can't expect that anyone else would either!

          • EricSchiller says:

            Sean, you criticize us for being critical, and suggest that if we were to deeply consider our criticisms, then we would be less likely to voice them? What about your own criticisms of us? This sounds like a common response to criticism by Bill Harris, when someone disagrees with him, he tells them that their criticism is just a demonstration of their Jungian "shadow." He effectively marginalizes them by suggesting their criticism stems from some deeper issue that they do not yet understand, *but he does*, effectively mitigating the criticism if they fall for it. I realize you are not attempting to do this, however it seems quite related to the rose-colored-glasses thinking we see in the positive thinking movement.

            I'm not sure what gives you enough insight into our personal processes to determine that we spent more time developing arguments against others instead of cultivating the self, but again I will tell you that you are dead wrong. After spending a week at Duff's place we hit on a myriad of different topics, explored ourselves and the world, and VERY few of those conversations will ever see the light of day in the form of criticism here on Beyond Growth. I don't understand your need to question our judgment, then go ahead and judge us anyway.

            Do you understand the notion of discourse? It is a model for how cultures grow, they build something, criticize it, change the thinking, and build something again. While you may think our criticisms indicate some inner lack (and perhaps they do) our role to play here is participating in the discourse of the personal development culture.

            I understand the notion of shadows, and often use that to keep myself in check with my criticisms, however that does not mean AT ALL that we shouldn't be publicly criticizing.

          • Tyler Prete says:

            You do realize that the personal development guru's message is criticizing the world? Telling you to "escape from cubicle nation," "fight the status quo," etc., are all criticisms of something in the world. I don't see why you don't say the same to them.

            Also, shouldn't your advice apply to yourself? That you should pursue self-inquiry before suggesting they do?

          • @seanobrien says:

            Tyler, I don't and won't bother criticizing the personal development gurus, because I don't waste my time reading their blogs. If you actually read my comments, you'll notice that I do apply the advice to myself.

          • Again I must mention that pursuing self-inquiry and cultural criticism are far from opposed–they often go together as Tyler mentioned.

            For example, Chris G. openly criticizes what he sees as "the status quo" in culture as the very basis for his blog, which is a conclusion entirely consistent with his personal development and travel interests.

  11. EricSchiller says:

    "Perhaps most of all, readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe, an emotion that the researchers investigated after noticing how many science articles made the list. In general, they found, 20 percent of articles that appeared on the Times home page made the list, but the rate rose to 30 percent for science articles, including ones with headlines like “The Promise and Power of RNA.” (I swear, the science staff did nothing to instigate this study, but we definitely don’t mind publicizing the results.)"

    This is an interesting look at which memes spread and why: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/09/science/09tier….

  12. Cassandra Yorgey says:

    It occurs to me that this criticism thing is a problem relatively specific to the self-help/personal development circle, not social networking in general. Don't forget that different social circles and genres have different ways of using social networking.

  13. Cole Tucker says:

    "Thus when marketing, social media, and positive thinking are combined, the result is a wide-spread authoritarian control of ideas within the social network."

    I think that this is the intended takeaway from the post. A lot of my initial confusion came from reading it as applying to social media (SM) generally, as opposed to personal development oriented social networks. The suggested solution for building a "continual cycle of criticism" makes much more sense in this regard.

    The structure of this critique appears to assume a closed, or at least bounded, SM space. Fortunately, I do not think that this accurately maps the SM landscape. In a hyperconnected world, all public social networks are highly permeable. Also, the cost of entry for laying the foundations of new social networks are negligible. In such a world, any dissidents to an authoritarian network can simply move on to a space where they can freely share, even criticizing the closed culture.

    Scientology provides an excellent example of how this plays out. An extremely hierarchal, authoritarian organization, the Church of Scientology, attempts to expand its control over members by revising canonical texts. In response to this, several high status members leave the church. They began contacting each other through traditional social networks and link up with anti-cult groups. This results in the formation of outside networks of critics and practitioners (non-affiliated Scientologists). Hyperconnection has expanded this even further into projects like the International Freezone Association. Hyperempowerment of individuals through SM led to the Anonymous movement. These networks provide the information and support for any individual to leave the CoS safely.

    If the Church of Scientology can't keep the ranks inline, what chance does a loosely affiliated, heterogeneous group like the for-profit personal development movement stand?

    I think that we have to accept that many people want to immerse themselves in authoritarian structures. With a long-standing history of authoritarian groups using SM, I can't imagine someone saying that the tools make authoritarian networks impossible. On the other hand, I do believe that they make it so that only those who wish to will participate in them.

    As for building self-critical loops into the system, I think that BeyondGrowth provides pretty good evidence that the function emerges when necessary, within the network ecology.

  14. …then if you still can't be positive after taking the personal gtowth course (workshop/book)…better start your new round of anti-depressants. Just can't be right to feel a sense of dissatisfaction in this world.
    Big mahalo for speaking up and finding words for thatt "something just aint right" feeling I get!

  15. Toby says:

    Great post Eric! I believe both you and Duff in your recent writing are touching on the idea of cultural hegemony as defined by Antonio Gramsci.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gramsci

    "Capitalism, Gramsci suggested, maintained control not just through violence and political and economic coercion, but also ideologically, through a hegemonic culture in which the values of the bourgeoisie became the 'common sense' values of all. Thus a consensus culture developed in which people in the working-class identified their own good with the good of the bourgeoisie, and helped to maintain the status quo rather than revolting."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_hegemony

    Basically, social media creates the illusion of participation, democracy, and individuality; corporate marketing creates the illusion of choice, and PDev gurus create the illusion of self transformation and growth. But really, as you point out, in most cases, each is just serving to regurgitate and reify the existing authoritarian capitalist structures around us (which benefit the well educated white people most involved in social media, corporate marketing, and PDev).

    What's so beautiful about this blog is that Eric and Duff are creating a critical pedagogy designed to destroy the existing cultural hegemony within psychology/self help — just as Gramsci created a critical theory of capitalism (in the 1920s and 30s) and as Freire (in the 1960s and 1970s) created a critical pedagogy to dismantle the self-reinforcing structures in education. Cultural criticism is a key step in the path of any movement of liberation.

    • Right on, that's exactly what we are touching on–cultural hegemony. Thanks for the language to express this better. I'm still reading Freire, now I may need to at Gramsci to my list!

      • Toby says:

        Yeah I'm new to Gramsci too but I'm fascinated by the way in which the writings of these early critics of capitalism are really quite helpful in sorting out what's happening today in our culture (especially in the wake of the collapse of the global financial industry).

        The Secret and the so-called Law of Attraction reinforce the current corporatist status quo. A positivity bias by both traders and regulators led to the recent housing market bubble and the collapse of the global financial industry. Self help gurus who emphasize the power of positive thinking inevitably profit from and reinforce the status quo (indeed they encourage and legitimize the corporatist Wall Street bullies). Oprah in many ways is the biggest religion/psychology brand in the country — and she is a corporatist dream — rarely if ever rocking the boat and telling people to change inside rather than challenging the system. (Don't forget, Oprah had George W. Bush on her show during the 2000 election and did NOT have Al Gore on her show — that right there is the difference in the outcome of the 2000 election.) In almost every case, a positivity bias benefits those at the top of the pyramid, those who profit from the labor of others. This way of thinking then becomes the conventional wisdom, common sense, and to challenge that is to risk being frowned upon by "polite company." (Just think about that phrase for a second — being polite implies not questioning deeper structures in our culture.) But again, liberation (political, economic, psychological, spiritual) can't happen until we have an accurate assessment of exactly what's going on — and that necessary includes both the light and the darkness.

        • A positivity bias by both traders and regulators led to the recent housing market bubble and the collapse of the global financial industry.

          Right–this is Ehrenreich's thesis in Bright Sided. The critically-thinking bankers and regulators have been systematically eliminated through cultural hegemony.

          I've heard rumors (can't verify yet) that Oprah negotiates affiliate cuts from sales of products that are promoted from the guests on her shows. Even if this isn't true, Oprah is hardly a tough interviewer, asking the difficult questions of her pop-psychology and New Wage guests. I give a lot more credit to Larry King, who had James Ray on his show, but also interviewed James Ray's victims post-death-lodge (as well as Ray's lawyer on a recent episode).

          In almost every case, a positivity bias benefits those at the top of the pyramid, those who profit from the labor of others.

          You got it. Then any protest, or even discussion of the systemic oppression is seen as "rude" (as Chris Guillebeau claimed about my comment) or "negative" or due to "shadow" and the content of such protest from the oppressed is easily marginalized and dismissed.

          I think it's about time we stopped being so damn polite and started asking difficult questions about the oppressive, hegemonic power structures within personal development culture as well as American culture and society in general. At the same time, I think we can do this while maintaining respectful communication. The false binary of polite and obedient vs. rude and disobedient is itself part of the cultural hegemony that marginalizes dissent.

        • @mrteacup says:

          One important thing to note is which values are hegemonic? It's not the traditional values of conformity, obedience, conventional thinking, just the opposite. Today capitalism bombards us with demands that we take risks, disturb the status quo, break the rules, be impolite, push past our limits, disobey the rules to reach our highest potential, etc.

          Haven't they just co-opted this language and sold us a false revolution? I claim they haven't. Today's capitalism is a state of constant upheaval and crisis has become the norm, even profitable. For example, they want to exchange the stability of social security for private retirement subject to continual market fluctuations; even white collar workers can't expect job security, now we're all effectively temporary workers, and positive thinking is used help us accept these instabilities as an opportunity for growth and transformation; innovation and creativity are used to openly circumvent the Geneva conventions and allow us to torture prisoners.

          This is an absolutely genuine revolution. When the powers-that-be are radical, demanding that we break the rules, the only way to refuse is for the Left to become conservative, and insist on following rules that they can't afford to follow.

          • Interesting thoughts, as I have come to expect from you.

            What kinds of rules would the Left insist on following if we are to oppose the hegemony that demands we break the rules? I'm trying to wrap my head around this–a specific example (whether you agree with it or not) might help me to understand this notion more easily.

          • @mrteacup says:

            At a minimum, we have no organized communist party. Why not?

            The Left has adopted a strategy of fighting only local battles, opposing concrete situations where there's exploitation, rather than any large scale cause. In response to the tragedy of Soviet communism, they've made two wrong moves: first, to oppose themselves to "totalitarianism", which is a neo-liberal frame. Why tilt the playing field against you? Second, there is very little critical re-interpretation of Marx and the basic Marxist ideas–the idea is that philosophically, we are fine, the mistake that the Soviets made that we should avoid is succumbing to the totalitarian temptation.

            One manifestation of this is the rise of independent voters, with fewer people are identifying with political parties. If we're naive, we'd say this is a good sign, more people are seeing that a two party system provides a false choice, etc. But the truth is that the overwhelming majority of independent voters behave exactly like partisan-identified voters in the voting booth. And in a way, this is worse–they have this attitude that they don't blindly follow the crowd, are free from the ideological brainwashing of the major parties. The idea basically what Orwell believed: that ideology is basically the same as groupthink, and we can guarantee a critical perspective by maintaining a distance from external influences, and "thinking for ourselves". The struggle against exploitation is mistranslated into a struggle of the individual against the collective.

            The problem with this is when we reflect on what provides us with this independent ability to think for ourselves (and choose different forms of enjoyment for ourselves), the answer that springs to our minds: consumer capitalism.

            This is the ideal position from which to support the status quo. We know that ideology represents individuals who threaten it's hegemony as disordered, mentally ill. Isn't this how the victims of James Arthur Ray, and even cult members who submit to authoritarian masters are presented in the media? Of course, concretely, these are legitimate abuses of power, but there is a kind of excessive media fascination with these events, as if we are viewing a horror movie. Isn't there an additional ideological message in the media spectacle, that this is what happens to you if you disobey the demands of capitalism?

            The proper response is to say that this kinds of tragedies occur because we lack a genuine revolutionary emancipatory vision that people can participate in. In response, various forms of personal development arise to take their place, which are failed approximations that serve to sustain the status quo. All of these false forms of revolution are responding to the stresses of postmodern capitalism, and attempt to give conceive an alternative, but it's like the philosophical DNA is messed up, perverted by ideology, and what is created is a monstrosity that is then paraded around on television to warn us away from the dangers of authoritarianism. Against this, we should insist that their desire for self-sacrifice was a good one, only ideology caused them to misunderstand their problem as a subjectivized failure to be self-actualized and conform to the demands of the system rather than a product of the system itself.

    • Also interesting is that Grasci suggested that this consensus culture helps maintain the status quo, when Chris Guillebeau's blog is called "The Art of Non-Conformity" and his home page says "fighter of the status quo" and "challenging authority since 1978."

      Again and again personal development blogs online emphasize their supposed "non-conformity," which is something specifically that ur-guru Seth Godin speaks of again and again. Godin goads his blog readership to "be remarkable." The deeper message is to proclaim your remarkability (be a "purple cow") using gimmicks and rhetoric whilst continuing to unremarkably propagate the same structures and processes of neo-liberal Capitalism.

  16. @seanobrien says:

    Well, it seems that neither of us appreciates the other's style of communication. I found the conclusions of your post without merit and attempted to clearly communicate some honest criticism. After reading your reactions so far, I have no interest cleaning up my "messy" post to more brightly illuminate the flaws in your argument.

  17. Sean,

    Again just to give specific examples, Bill Harris says again and again in the comment section of his own blog that if you disagree with him, it's your shadow and you need to go work on it–implying that you'd have to be crazy to have a different perspective on his manipulative marketing techniques or neo-liberal economic views.

    Similarly, Harris' buddy Genpo Roshi in his recent Buddhist Geeks interview implies that if you don't agree with his very controversial fund-raising program (5/5/50), then you have money/greed/power shadows you need to go work on (luckily he teaches how to work with such things–how convenient!).

    Tony Robbins sells his very expensive advanced seminars in his Unleash the Power Within introductory seminars in part by saying if you object to the price of the advanced seminars, this is just your limiting beliefs about money that will keep you poor forever if you don't break through them now. Meanwhile all this does is make Robbins himself a rich man, often by bankrupting his customers. Robbins also encourages people to write a post-dated check if they don't have the money in their bank account for the deposit for "Mastery University." James Arthur Ray has been reported as using similar (and worse) techniques for overcoming objections.

    Steve Pavlina recently said on his blog that if you think his purchase of a $500 shirt is too much, it's your scarcity consciousness. Etc. etc.

    We are not implying that you are crazy to disagree with us, but instead engaging in a political discussion (which are often heated because they engage our important values and hidden assumptions). In addition, we are saying that it is important for this discussion to occur, for not having it maintains unjust power structures in society.

    Whether you in particular decide to participate or not or in what ways is of course totally up to you (and I personally appreciate your participation thus far). But most importantly, you are not insane or have a psychological problem if you disagree with our views!

  18. Tony says:

    As Neil Postman wrote when he compared George Orwell to Aldus Huxley:

    "What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy"

  19. Toby says:

    Ya'll also might be interested to check out, "The Society of the Spectacle" by Guy Debord.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Society_of_the_S…

    "When Debord says that, 'All that was once directly lived has become mere representation,' he is referring to central importance of the image in contemporary society. Images, Debord says, have supplanted genuine human interaction."

    Debord wrote Society of the Spectacle back in 1967 but it seems that the trends that he is describing have accelerated dramatically with the invention of Twitter, Facebook, and other forms of social media. Now we can write ourselves into the Society of the Spectacle with an endless string of tweets and status updates that basically amount to, "Hey look at me!!!"

    I believe the full text of the book is available in a footnote at the end of the Wikipedia link above.

  20. Isn't it just slightly eccentric to be using free debate in a social networking environment to prove that free debate doesn't happen in social networking environments?

    I agree there's an issue with consumer authoritarianism, especially among the various toxic marketingisms that exist – which would be most of them. Especially those by happy-think scamologists like Godin, and his merry flock of aspirational squidites.

    But it's quite a stretch to suggest that Twitter and WordPress are tools of oppression and WE SHOULD BE AFRAID.

    Especially, you know, on a blog with comments, and all.

    • Toby says:

      lol. Yeah good points.

      However, it seems to me that the argument in this post is that Twitter, FB, social media are tools of distraction. If people are always buzzed out on the dopamine high of constant curiosity seeking — then 1.) they'll be less likely to grapple with the deeper problems in society and 2.) they'll be less likely/capable of organizing to fight against problems in society (organizing takes longer than a few seconds to work on and in the curiosity craving cultural we're building, that may be just too long) . So it's not that social media are oppressive per se. It's that they serve the status quo at a time when the status quo is actually pretty messed up.

      Now of course there are a counter arguments and examples to all of this. Indeed there are now many many advocacy organizations who are hiring on-line organizers to do political organizing online. But the issue of attention and how it gets split up into thousands of tiny pieces as a result of social media (and always on app phones and such) does make me wonder about the future of our society — and the future of really deep engaged thinking and connection that are often some of the richest moments in life (and the source of rebellion when the status quo is out of alignment).

      There's also lots of stuff in there about how a positivity bias ends up serving the status quo. Again that isn't oppression per se. But because the status quo is a disaster right now (a political system completely unable to function, a global financial industry that collapsed, was revived with public dollars, and may collapse again…) many things that serve the interests of the status quo are cause for concern it would seem.

  21. SaltyDroid says:

    This post has received my seal of approval … a distinction worth zero dollars.

    Criticism is very valuable to capitalism. But it's disruptive so it needs to be protected from entrenched interests … much like innovation needs protection.

    What to ensure that criticism gets its fair share of the time in the marketplace of ideas? Get rich off this blog … and then throw a couple of big parties on some obnoxious yacht with a bunch of beautiful people eating fish eggs. Suddenly the expression: "everyone's a critic" will take on a whole new meaning.

  22. SaltyDroid says:

    The Droid prefers ostentatious displays of the virtual variety ::

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzcirEwN2Sg

  23. Peter says:

    I agree that criticism and what may be termed negative analysis is vital to systemic improvement, and that vested interests tend to stifle revolutionary blows to reigning paradigms.

    However, if the reigning paradigm IS criticism and negative analysis, how does one arrive on grounds firm enough to take action other than criticism? Usually the successful revolutionists of today become the defenders of the status quo tomorrow.

    If we are numbered among successful revolutionists at present, we must beware when we criticize authoritarianism in an authoritarian fashion. Our criticism may return to bite us.

    If censorship of criticism restricts helpful change, permitting unhelpful criticism may damage something worth keeping. And if we demand respect for our criticism, will we not in turn respect those in our eyes who err? They say humility is a virtue as well as boldness; brashness a vice as well as cowardice.

  24. [...] Social Media: Moving Towards A Brave New World? A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley depicts an ordered society where humanity is tamed and controlled through the use of excessive pleasure.   This pleasure comes in the form of unlimited sex, a designer drug named “Soma,” and a caste system that designs people specifically for their social roles, eliminating unhappiness in the work force.  The society as a whole is conditioned to believe in a consistent set of values, primarily designed to keep everyone in line and the system of consumption functioning at a near perfect level of efficiency. Those are not fitting into society are encouraged to enjoy themselves by taking Soma, as its hallucinogenic and anti-depressant effects allow them to snap back into blissful conformity with ease. (tags: socialmedia) [...]

  25. [...] Social Media: Moving Towards A Brave New World? A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley depicts an ordered society where humanity is tamed and controlled through the use of excessive pleasure.   This pleasure comes in the form of unlimited sex, a designer drug named “Soma,” and a caste system that designs people specifically for their social roles, eliminating unhappiness in the work force.  The society as a whole is conditioned to believe in a consistent set of values, primarily designed to keep everyone in line and the system of consumption functioning at a near perfect level of efficiency. Those are not fitting into society are encouraged to enjoy themselves by taking Soma, as its hallucinogenic and anti-depressant effects allow them to snap back into blissful conformity with ease. (tags: socialmedia) [...]

  26. Peter says:

    I agree that criticism and what may be termed negative analysis is vital to systemic improvement, and that vested interests tend to stifle revolutionary blows to reigning paradigms.

    However, if the reigning paradigm IS criticism and negative analysis, how does one arrive on grounds firm enough to take action other than criticism? Usually the successful revolutionists of today become the defenders of the status quo tomorrow.

    If we are numbered among successful revolutionists at present, we must beware when we criticize authoritarianism in an authoritarian fashion. Our criticism may return to bite us.

    If censorship of criticism restricts helpful change, permitting unhelpful criticism may damage something worth keeping. And if we demand respect for our criticism, will we not in turn respect those in our eyes who err? They say humility is a virtue as well as boldness; brashness a vice as well as cowardice.

    (Submitted again since I did not see this posted.)

  27. @rosshudgens says:

    Thanks for this, excellent post.

  28. [...] .@hidama I have over 4,000 so-called followers. Only about 2 RT’d this – http://bit.ly/b6VRXM .@hidama Lotsa nonsense passing off as wisdom. Like: “Privacy is [...]

  29. noodlebowl says:

    We need to each a certain amount of fiber in order
    for our digested food to bulk up and progress at a healthy rate
    through our digestive tracts.

    A Rude Metaphor:

    Good, well conducted critical thinking is the equivalent of keeping society’s
    cultural digestive process moving at a healthy rate.

    If you have all positive thinking and no criticism, you get the equivalent of a fiber free
    empty calorie diet–and the intellectual equivalent of constipation and gas.

    The folks peddling the intellectual equivalent of fibre free empty calories get rich quick and
    those basing their mental and emotional diets upon this stuff end
    up with unhealthy gunk between the ears, and risk developing intellectual cancers if
    led into cults.

  30. [...] Any form of criticism is defined as being linkbait or an attempt at capturing attention. As the web continues to saturate and it becomes more like the real world it will only get more absurd. We are no longer in an “Information Age.” We are in the Age of Noise. Falsehoods, half-truths, talking points, out-of-context video edits, plagiarism, rewriting of history (U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, for example), flip-flops, ignoring facts (Cheney and torture for example), neatly packaged code words and phrases, media ratings focus, dysfunctional government (fillibusters have more than doubled, but most don’t realize Republicans are blocking everything), mainstreaming fringe causes….I could go on and on. [...]

  31. [...] Any form of criticism is defined as being linkbait or an attempt at capturing attention. As the web continues to saturate and it becomes more like the real world it will only get more absurd. We are no longer in an “Information Age.” We are in the Age of Noise. Falsehoods, half-truths, talking points, out-of-context video edits, plagiarism, rewriting of history (U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, for example), flip-flops, ignoring facts (Cheney and torture for example), neatly packaged code words and phrases, media ratings focus, dysfunctional government (fillibusters have more than doubled, but most don’t realize Republicans are blocking everything), mainstreaming fringe causes….I could go on and on. [...]

  32. [...] a few of them, and plan on some of your words being taken out of context and used against you.Any form of criticism is defined as being linkbait or an attempt at capturing attention. As the web continues to saturate [...]

  33. [...] Any form of criticism is defined as being linkbait or an attempt at capturing attention. As the web continues to saturate and it becomes more like the real world it will only get more absurd. We are no longer in an “Information Age.” We are in the Age of Noise. Falsehoods, half-truths, talking points, out-of-context video edits, plagiarism, rewriting of history (U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, for example), flip-flops, ignoring facts (Cheney and torture for example), neatly packaged code words and phrases, media ratings focus, dysfunctional government (fillibusters have more than doubled, but most don’t realize Republicans are blocking everything), mainstreaming fringe causes….I could go on and on. [...]

  34. njs says:

    Hi,Duff, you doing ok? Is everything all right? How about you, Mr. Schiller, I don’t know you, but you can share my concern for people, is everything going well for you?

    I hope so.

    You both take good care of yourselves.

    So long!

  35. [...] Beyond Growth: Social Media: Moving Towards A Brave New World? [...]

  36. [...] relative silence reminded me of Eric Schiller’s post on Social Media – and how it, largely, is a vacuum of positivity and smiles, something that creates a [...]

  37. tarryn says:

    I have always wanted to read Huxley's book, thank you for a great summary of it. We are definatly heading in that direction albeit not exactly the same… Whole lot of comments here cover just about most directions already..
    My recent post Your Thoughts

  38. [...] Подрбности Социальные медиа: Дивный новый мир? Автор: admin | 25.04.2010 | 11:23 | В рубриках: Вести, Взгляд beyondgrowth.net [...]

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  41. [...] -           Schiller, Eric. “Social Media: Moving towards a Brave New World” 9February 2010, Beyond Growth, 10 May 2011 <http://beyondgrowth.net/social-criticism/social-media-moving-towards-a-brave-new-world/&gt; [...]

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