I’ve been writing stupid things on the Internet since 1998, and in that time it’s rare for me to have a story I haven’t told anyone before. So, you’re in for a treat. I want to tell you about a beautiful woman named Ashley, the biggest disappointment in my life, and how a fantasy I have explains why the myth of social media persists long after its debut in 2007.
In 2002, I took a year off from Alfred State College because my first year was … not a pleasant experience. Mostly for reasons I documented in Social Media Is Bullshit.
Returning to Alfred State was not high on my list of things to do. At the time, I would have rather been anally penetrated by Wolverine’s adamantium claws, but then I met Ashley and all was right in the world.
Ashley was absolutely beautiful, and I was in love with her the moment I saw her. Unfortunately, I spent most of my life being functionally retarded, so my attempts to get her to pay any attention to me were met with horrible and hilarious failure.
(On the upside, I did get a sweet cat out of this mess, but that’s a whole other story.)
For a brief moment though, a light appeared at the end of the tunnel. The last day of school had arrived, and after numerous attempts to get Ashley to hang out to me, Ashley called and left a message on my answering machine saying she wanted to do so.
And for a few seconds, I felt amazing. Like I was proclaimed king of the world, having earned that crown after strangling Jack from Titanic with some razor wire I found in the street.
But as it goes with anything in my life, as soon as something amazing happens, something even worse immediately follows. This happens almost like clockwork, so much so that I can safely predict that if my book hits The New York Times Best Sellers list, you can bet I’ll be dead the next day. Probably smothered in my own feces by a crazed social media marketer seeking revenge.
And so … the next message on the machine was from my parents, saying they were only ten minutes away from Alfred State, and I had to have everything packed and ready to go by the time they got there.
I still had one test to take, meaning I had to ask the professor if I can take it early, leaving my parents in the room to pack. This resulted in another phone call from Ashley, this time between her and my Mom. Something my Mom would only tell me about years later, before saying Ashley’s last name and adding, “That doesn’t sound Jewish”.
On the way back from taking the test, a final for a poetry course I was taking just to be around her, I ran into Ashley and had to explain why I was leaving. I have a photo from the end of that conversation, with her walking up the stairs and out of my life. Ashley looking back at me with a mixture of annoyance, disappointment, and hate.
That was the last time I ever saw her.
Eight years later, I still feel like I’m in love with her. Isn’t that crazy? I know. I know. It’s just a fantasy. A fiction my mind created because the situation was left unresolved, and it’s a powerful fiction that leads me to believe stupid things despite all the evidence that says I’m being an idiot by believing in it.
This is a lot like the fantasy people have with social media and why they still cling to it. You don’t need me to tell you social media is bullshit, it’s obvious to anyone who takes a close examination of any of the claims made about it.
The idea that you can do something that’s funny or amazing and that all you need is the power of Twitter to spread it, or that if you “hustle” and have “passion” and you follow all these different cockamamie strategies that you’ll become rich and famous, or perhaps overthrow your government, or “disrupt” an established industry, it’s so obviously bullshit. But … it sounds great on paper. And given the record high unemployment rate and the general economic conditions America and most of the world currently has to deal with, anything that offers the promise of riches is what we’re going to cling to, despite all evidence to the contrary.
And because the myth sounds great, we make up these fantasies of what these platforms can do for us, and those fantasies get lodged so deeply in our minds that it’s virtually impossible to remove them.
Believe me, I know. I still think about Ashley. So when I argue with someone about how social media is bullshit, as frustrating as it is to have them just repeat the same specious “proof” that I’m wrong over and over again, I know deep down in my heart that the reason why they can’t accept the truth is the same reason this Ashley thing still exists in my mind: It’s because the truth sucks.
We want to believe that the beautiful woman can love the ugly guy. We want to believe that Twitter can give us a voice equal to a major news network, but … life sucks. There’s no other way to put it. And it sucks because neither of these things are not, and never have been, true.
But here’s the difference between my fantasy and the one involving social media: I’m not hurting anyone by believing in it. I don’t stalk Ashley or interfere in her life in any way. But with social media, there’s an entire cottage industry of assholes, which I call the Asshole Based Economy, that exists for the sole purpose of packaging and selling harmful information in order to further their own financial interest. And their prey? The people who believe in the myth of social media.
And because of The Asshole Based Economy, the myth of social media, the fantasy people have about what it claims it can do for them, it’s time for it to end.
As far as this Ashley thing goes, my life is currently a crippling vortex of shit. One with no end in sight. So I’m going to hold on to that fantasy for as long as I can. But the next time you hear someone talk about social media and how great it is, I want you to remind them of something.
And that something is this: Marketing, all of it, is a fiction created by salesmen to get companies to buy ideas they don’t need, in order to sell customers what they don’t want, to an end that only benefits their own. And how marketers get people and companies to buy these bad ideas is by coining buzzwords like social media, which really just refers to stuff the Internet and Web does and has done since their creation.
As long as people know this, and it’s our responsibility to tell them, then the myth of social media, the fantasies surrounding these platforms will die, because once people realize this and take a closer look at the facts, they’ll know the truth, and that truth will put the marketers out of business.