Lost in a Digital Nightmare

#nightmare hashtag project
Image by Misspixels

Attention and reputation. That’s what we fight for online, particularly those of us vested in building personal identities and businesses through social media.

By doing so we sacrifice more than we possibly imagine.

We’re wild animals caught, caged and put on display at the zoo. Every check-in, status update, photo, error, and other digitized personal detail will be housed in a database for mining, extrapolation and exploitation to benefit commercial interests.

“I update, therefore I am.”

Andrew Keen‘s words begin and echo throughout Digital Vertigo. This cutting commentary discusses our world of social, and how it’s destroyed human individuality and privacy.

A must-read tour de force, Digital Vertigo walks us through history, from the minds of industrial era philosophers and writers to today’s leading Silicon Valley social innovators. Keen explores how the quest to end loneliness (and gather tons of personal data for commercial use) through social will end up savaging conventional human rights. In the process, Keen takes social media luminaries Mark Zuckerberg, the @quixotic Reid Hoffman and others to task.

“We twenty-first century social networkers–especially aspiring super nodes like myself–are becoming addicted to building attention and reputation. But, the truth, the reality of social media is an architecture of human isolation rather than community,” says Keen.

We’re left to update or our reputation perishes. To succeed, we have to talk about the topics everyone else does, otherwise we lose attention. Social media produces groupthink that bludgeons the individuality out of you.

When we step outside the lines of the accepted groupthink in our sector, cultural eddy, or online circle? SMASH! Ostracization. Don’t think so? Try stepping out and doing something your friends think is unconventional or not normal on the social web. Watch the negative comments come in.

It takes courage to stand against the tide.

Instead, most will succumb. We’ll be stuck online, playing the game, sacrificing every aspect of our real lives in updates, and fearful to be ourselves lest we get beaten down online. Fake plastic trees everywhere. Most will be so tied to our online identities and how many Likes we’re getting, we will lose perspective on real world cares.

This is our modern Orwellian nightmare. We have lost our way.

“Visibility is a trap,” said 20th century philosopher Michel Foucault (cited in Digital Vertigo). If he only knew.

What do you think? Will social save us from loneliness or will it destroy the very fiber of individuality and privacy society has built?