Social media platforms, their proprietors, and their investors thrive on our addiction to unpleasantness, contention, and drama.
Our thoughts are not thoughts, they are “posts,” and they constitute “content.” “Content” (which those of us who are active on social media produce collectively, liberally, mostly for no compensation) lures us and others in, where we become part of a platform’s algorithm designed to generate as much interest and money as possible.
We and our pithy (or, more often, pissy) complaints, allegations, reactions, attacks–the eternal chorus of ugliness we produce and reproduce–are what make Mark Zuckerberg and his ilk filthy rich: every post we write, read, like, dislike or share not only gives data to the company and its advertisers so they can better target us, but also, our freely-given opinions (often in response to trolls and bots) keep others logging on and reading. Our posts cost Facebook, Instagram and Twitter nothing, but are worth (to them) the “engagement” they spark and the economic activity that results from that “engagement.”
Our social and political bile, along with our gossip, gems of wisdom, playful images and conspiracy theories, are social media’s product, and their product sells other products. We produce, reproduce and consume waste (wasted time, wasted feelings, wasted thoughts) for entertainment, and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram turn it all into gold. I contribute to the wallets of billionaires, with no compensation for me, when I write then post this: I have willingly provided free content.