A Parasitology of Social Media
Again, the imposture has succeeded; the parasite is well hidden behind his mimicry, behind his representation. The operation of collection vanished behind the activity of simulation. Everyone sees the blindness of the host. Everyone is blind for seeing only the hypocrisy, for seeing only mimicry.
Michel Serres, The Parasite
Scroll, scroll, scroll. It’s a phenomenon now so pervasive that it’s got a name: zombie scrolling syndrome. (The security company McAfee coined the phrase in 2016.) We are the undead of lore, shambling through the world, moaning and groaning with half-closed eyes. I’d like to be able to tell you this is a fantastical bit of exaggeration, that we shouldn’t be so hard on ourselves. I can do no such thing.
Matt Simon, Learn From These Bugs. Don’t Let Social Media Zombify You, Wired
It is half past six in the morning. The puppy is scratching at the bedroom door wanting to be fed. my eyes are barely open. I fall back to sleep. My wife feeds the dog. When I wake back up I awake to the din of a screen. My wife is doing her rounds on social media. I yawn and stretch one arm to grab my phone so that I too can “connect” to the outside world. Ah, this is modern love. We share news articles and funny videos or memes without even leaving the bed. As one might suspect: we have been infected.
‘Instant gratification’ is the immediate attainability of satisfaction and happiness. It is a way of experiencing pleasure and fulfillment without delay or patience because it provides a spike in dopamine without effort or discipline.
With the internet, twitter, and texting, instant gratification of your desire to seek is available at the click of a button. You can talk to anyone just by sending a text and they’ll respond in a few seconds. All the information you could want is readily available by a google search.
Reece Robertson, Why You’re Addicted to Social Media — Dopamine, Technology, and Inequality
Dopamine, you are delicious. You are a series of one night stands. You are my drug of choice. You make me feel like the belle of the ball. You give me that wham bam thank you m’am treatment and I love it. You leave me wanting.
We play host to this parasite. We are the system to its subsystem. We created it. We gave birth to it. We gave it an environment to flourish in beneath our own skin, within our organs and in our brains. It produces the moments for us to consume and produce the dopamine which we both crave.
The parasite doesn’t stop. It doesn’t stop eating or drinking or yelling or burping or making thousands of noises or filling space with its swarming din. The parasite is an expansion; it runs and grows. It invades and occupies. It overflows, all of a sudden, from these pages. Inundation, swelling waters.
Michel Serres, The Parasite
There seems to me too much misery in the world. I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae [parasitic wasps] with the express intention of their feeding within the living bodies of caterpillars …
Yet here we are. Feeding off of one another. Being fed off of by the technologies we created. Human like systems suspended in the corporeality of our mental states and neurochemistry. Taking home in our bodies. The psychological devastation that this has a caused. A sort of zombification of the social. Sociopathy is the new normal in a world where capitalism has been succeeded by social capital and the pure consumption of the image. The parasite has so perfectly mimicked us, we have come to believe that we are these desiring hedonistic machines; however, it is the parasite adorned by our flesh as clothing. We now operate to fulfill its wishes. We feed off of the living bodies of each other. We see the hypocrisy of the social parasite, yet we do nothing to rid ourselves of it. We lay in bed, lovers, speaking to each other secretly through devices the parasite has given us to to obscure itself and to blind us. The world is easy. Miserable, but easy.
T. gondii is a common protozoa (parasite) that once ingested travels to the brain, where it can cause subtle changes over time … The results showed testing positive for the parasite was significantly tied to higher scores on the scale, which would indicate a higher risk of a future suicide attempt.
Catharine Paddock, Common Parasite Linked to Suicide Risk
The subtlety of loneliness can easily be seen in that soft glow of a smartphone screen. We are alone in crowds. Always craving more. My wife and I are having dinner. I check my phone three, four, five times in half of an hour. My hand reaches for it habitually. We are having a great conversation. Still, something inside me tells me I need more. This parasite is growing in all of us. We like to think that we inhabit it as if it were another common space; however, it inhabits us, our bodies, and distorts our sense of time and space. It provides the perfect environment for us help it reproduce. In the world it creates for us, we are already dead. We are perfect simulations of ourselves. Dream caricatures that dangle in front of us like golden carrots. These simulations are lures in which the parasite waits for another human to bite. It spreads this way. It spreads through an inauthentic network that it has created.
Reproduction is often crude and ugly. Social media is the perfect environment in which to hide the authentic nature of the parasite. Like pornography, it is staged. The better the simulation, the more blind we are to it. We play host to each others parasite, to one another’s loneliness. We consume one another, not out of boredom, but out of necessity. The parasite is always hungry.
If you are a wolf –
a carnivorous wolf
like fence posts, like speed bumps, like a corduroy road –
or a fairy-tale wolf embarrassed out of your mind to be caught
wearing Grandmother’s dressing gown, frills
down to your kickass knuckles,
knuckles with fur on them that just now clutch
the tangled strings of a pink bonnet –
if all you wanted was a cup of sugar,
the whole thing a case of being miscast –
if you are a scared wolf,
an endangered wolf, a
disappeared Newfoundland wolf,
or a hungry, or a mother
wolf who wants to feed her pups
you must put your teeth
into the neck and the fur of a wild animal
with hooves like flying hammers,
an animal that bites and kicks and wants you dead,
and you must kill it
with your mouth.
A girl walks into the woods and the Prussian-green
trees grow together like joined eyebrows.
The bend in the road has always bent –
it is she
who has just
Cornelia Hoogland, Woods Wolf Girl