Social Media

social (adj.)

  1. 1400, “devoted to or relating to home life;” 1560s as “living with others,”

from French social (14c.) and directly from Latin socialis “of companionship, of allies; united, living with others; of marriage, conjugal,” from socius “companion, ally,” probably originally “follower,” from PIE *sokw-yo-, suffixed form of root *sekw- (1) “to follow.”


medium (n.)

1580s, “a middle ground, quality, or degree; that which holds a middle place or position,” from Latin medium “the middle, midst, center; interval,” noun use of neuter of adjective medius “in the middle, between; from the middle” (from PIE root *medhyo- “middle”).


For a century or more, we have called a subset of the communicative systems that mediate our sociality “the media”. I.e., “newspapers, radio, TV, etc”.

When the name of a transcendental technique becomes a synecdoche for some commercial industry, another terrifying turn of our mechanization is in the works.

At first, it might have seemed absurd that systems based on regimenting the forms of documents exchanged through the world wide web would be designated “social media”. But now, at a time when these platforms are called the “socials”, we seem to have the better sense to be terrified at the depths of this mechanization of our mediated sociality.

The notion of the free expression of opinion, indeed, that of intellectual freedom itself in bourgeois society, upon which cultural criticism is founded, has its own dialectic. For while the mind extricated itself from a theological-feudal tutelage, it has fallen increasingly under the anonymous sway of the status quo. This regimentation, the result of the progressive societalization of all human relations, did not simply confront the mind from without; it immigrated into its immanent consistency. It imposes itself as relentlessly on the autonomous mind as heteronomous orders were formerly imposed on the mind which was bound. Not only does the mind mold itself for the sake of its marketability, and thus reproduce socially prevalent categories. Rather, it grows to resemble ever more closely the status quo even where it subjectively refrains from making a commodity of itself. The network of the whole is drawn every tighter, modeled after the act of exchange. It leaves the individual consciousness less and less room for evasion, preforms it more and more thoroughly, cuts it off a priori as it were from the possibility of differencing itself as all difference degenerates to a nuance in the monotony of supply.

(adorno81_prism, 21)

On the socials, we construct our subjectivity by marketing to our followers. Our sociability is measured by the size of our following, which is to say, the amount of demand for our products. In producing our “spontaneous” expressions, ideas, emotions, relations, as advert/product to build and sustain our following, we program our minds to operate “after the model of exchange”. This marks another momentous turn in the mechanization of our subjectivity. Difference is ground down into nodes in a network of topical preference and our intellect joins as a cog in the artificial intelligence foretold by Hobbes. Our every thought and utterance becomes a mere permutation in the “montony of supply”.

TODO Web 2.0: Disciplining communication to enforce the segregation of Style and Content

In early ’00s those building the web we’re indoctrinated with the supreme importance of the separation of style and content.


This was a precondition of regimenting communications.

TODO Formal homogenization: all communication reduced to communiques

No more wonky web pages. We get the same boxes and grids to organize and contain all our expressions.

TODO All your base are belong to us: the mimetic reduction of expression

Expression reduced to permutations of the trending formulae. The colonization of all expressive forms by templates and set-phrases.

As with any expressive habit, this is internalized, and we begin to conceptualize in these mimetic forms in our inner monologues. “Is this an authentic thought?”

TODO Quantity over quality: likes, shares, and upvotes

Visibility and virality are determined by minimal-information-carrying signals, allowing purely quantitative filters over the “noise” of unformed expression.

Ideas and information trade and trend just likes stocks and commodities.

TODO Trends: auto-complete, tags, and suggestion algorithms

Variation in forms of expression is reduced at its source: communicators are trained to form their phrases from a menu of pre-constitued sub-phrases.

Variation in interests is managed by prompting the reader to select from trending topics (rather than seeking out connections based on their personal concerns).

Taste is cultivated by training us to ingest streams of self-similar content.