Social Media, Not Religion, Is The Opium Of The People

Via Global Macro Monitor,

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. – Karl Marx,  A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

Social media is becoming the new whipping boy and poster child for all that ills our culture and contributing to its decline.

We added our two cents in a recent post,  Why Google Is A Short,

…social media probably generates negative productivity.  We read some time ago the average American spends 40 minutes per day playing Farmville.   How does planting virtual corn add to the GDP?

Though we are more ambivalent about Google, Facebook is doing some severe psychological damage to an entire generation, including my 15-year daughter.   They spend much of their time competing with trophy photos loaded up on Instagram.  Never gonna win that game, which leads to increased anxiety and depression for an entire generation.

The Google Short

That brings us to the Google (we are old school and can’t bring ourselves to call it Alphabet) short.

Imagine when a politician has his/her epiphany that all those porn searches they have done over the years on Google are stored somewhere and could be hacked and released to the public?  That will ignite a prairie fire of potential legislation, which will spread faster than you can say SNAP.  – GMM, Apr 24th

Our Friend Weighs In

We received this email from a very close friend yesterday,

Yesterday I downloaded the data Facebook has stored on me.  407 pages including every message I sent, every like, every picture, on and on.  Below I pasted just one of these pages, the list of advertisers who requested all my data.  I know nothing about most of these companies and to my knowledge do not use them. Just saying.

Psychological Damage On Children

In 2013, one of my daughters was seeing a therapist to help her work through the psychological complications of her just diagnosed epilepsy.   She is  in good company –  Julius Caesar and Chief Justice Roberts.

The therapist had all the right credentials from all the right institutions,  Harvard grad, Ph.D. from Stanford.   Until I asked her about the damage smartphones are doing to children.

She began to justify, almost saying they were good for kids.

The takeaway quote I recall, she had just attended a seminar and smartphones are good for children, “it is changing their brains.”

No shit.  I fired her on the spot.

Moreover, I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with friends who have trouble with their children’s use of social media.

Nefarious Activity On Social Media

By the way, I came out of that meeting with my daughter’s therapist to find my trading account had lost several thousand dollars as some dickhead  ‘bots hacked into AP’s twitter account posting the White House had been bombed and President Obama was injured.   Stocks plunged and I was sold out of my long postions by deep out-of-the-money stops.

 The FBI and SEC are to launch investigations after more than £90bn was temporarily wiped off the US stock market when hackers broke into the Twitter account of the Associated Press and announced that two bombs had exploded at the White House, injuring Barack Obama. – The Telegraph

I couldn’t figure out what happened to my account as the S&P was higher than before I entered the meeting.  Until I looked at the chart.


We are not as negative on Twitter as much as Facebook but this is just another example of why the government has to take a closer look at social media.   Furthermore,  and more important, many believe that even the  fate of democracy hinges on the future of clickbait.

Noah At Bloomberg Opines

The great Noah Smith of Bloomberg penned a must-read yesterday,  Social Media Looks Like the New Opiate of the Masses, with the subtitle, Researchers have found some troubling parallels with addictive drugs.

Here are the non-wonkish money quotes:

  • I suspect it will be many years before the true scale and scope of the changes are appreciated, and even then much will never be fully understood. The era when humans interacted mainly by gathering in physical space, or maintained personal networks through one-to-one connections, has drawn to a close, and the next generation won’t even really understand what that era was like. Social media has changed the meaning of human life itself.

  • But many of us who lived through the shift from Internet 1.0 to the new age of social media can’t help but feel a nagging worry. In addition to concerns about privacy, electoral influence and online abuse, social media seems like it has many of the qualities of an addictive drug.

  • Research isn’t conclusive on whether social-media addiction is real. But it certainly has some negative side effects that loosely resemble the downsides of recreational drugs.

  •  experiments found that smartphone deprivation induced anxiety among young people, a phenomenon that certainly has parallels to drug withdrawal.

  • once the internet offered an escape from the real world, now the real world is a much-needed escape from the internet.

  • If social media really does act on many users in a manner loosely analogous to cigarettes or heroin, that means the benefits are less than people’s willingness to pay. Junkies would pay quite a lot for their fix, but that doesn’t mean the money would be well-spent.

  • before we conclude that social media is like tobacco. And even if it is, the harm would need to be very substantial in order to get government policy involved in limiting social-media use.

  • Whereas Karl Marx declared that religion is the opiate of the masses, our modern capitalists may have invented a better one.


Who in their right minds would have thought five years ago we would be comparing Facebook use to tobacco addiction?

We are less sanguine than Noah on the future of our social media economy.

More so, not because of the addiction thing, but because of privacy issues.  The behemoths will surely try and adapt their business models to survive. Will you pay $120 per year for Facebook?   There is no free lunch, right?

That brings us to investing.

Are the toothless F$%Gs out of the woods?  Hardly.  It is only two outs in the top of first, in our opinion.   The blowback is just getting started.

For the above reasons,  a long-term sword of Damocles is hanging over the market and these companies, in particular.  Their stocks, which have heavy weights in the indices,  will experience fits of volcanic eruptions and existential crises to periods of calm and euphoria.   In other words, prepare for a Key Stone Cops chase scene.

Is Our Social Media Economy Good For The Economy

This is one issue where the president is right-freaking-on.    Building a ballroom trumps building a chatroom, as it creates more income and real wealth.

Think back when GM and Ford dominated the economy.   How many secondary jobs were created when a car rolled off the assembly line?   Gas stations, tire shops, mechanics, smog inspectors, auto body painters?

They still do with imported BMWs (especially German cars, they are so expensive to repair) but the input multiplier is not as great.

We won’t fix our economic problems by reducing trade, especially with tariffs, but by making auto workers more productive with both human and physical capital investments.  Maybe 3-D printed cars will eventually rule the day?

This type of anufacturing is more likely (cannot say with certainty, we have not done the research) to have a greater jobs multiplier than the social media economy, and is more egalitarian in income and wealth distribution.

We will concede that the social media jobs  multiplier is not zero.  For example, vendors of, say, banana flavored condoms can sell their junk over these platforms.   But, come on, man!

The Bigs And AI

The one big caveat to our view is that the Facebooks and Googles are big spenders and on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence (AI), which is subsidized by their advertising revenues.  Soomeday they may be big players in the AI/robotic manufacturing displacement that is already here and only  surely to accelerate.

But will they have enough time? Uhh...probably.


J S Bach DingleBarryObummer Sun, 05/06/2018 - 15:02 Permalink

As with so many "isms" in our modern world, the name "social media" is the opposite of what its name implies.  Its solitary nature (people spending hours alone staring at their phones or computers) is about as anti-social as it gets.  Personal contact - whether one-on-one or in group situations - is getting more and more difficult for young people.

As to the ZH poster comment - I spend maybe 10 minutes at a time perusing this site, occasionally posting a comment and then moving on.  Personally, I don't like spending hours sitting and staring unless there is mental stimulation involved.  This is probably why I see so few movies, too.  It better be damned good if I'm going to allow Hollywood writers to input their scripts into my mind unopposed.

In reply to by DingleBarryObummer

serotonindumptruck J S Bach Sun, 05/06/2018 - 15:13 Permalink

Social media caters to the desire to be recognized, and hopefully, appreciated by society.

Once people realize that they're really not that interesting or important, then depression and melancholy establishes itself.

That's why people post constant selfies and photos of their breakfast, lunch, and dinner platters, especially if those meals are served at upscale restaurants such as Denny's, Outback, or Olive Garden. /sarc

In reply to by J S Bach

two hoots serotonindumptruck Sun, 05/06/2018 - 15:46 Permalink

There is no current opium and why we have drive through's and shooting gallery style massacres.  Something like, universal income or a single nation with guaranteed income is the likely replacement but that will be short-lived for all the reasons.   Social media is just a temporary place where many people search for acceptance on the extremes of poor me or everything is wonderful.   We are in between what was and something unknown.  It's not likely Nirvana.


In reply to by serotonindumptruck

pigpen serotonindumptruck Sun, 05/06/2018 - 16:15 Permalink

Serotonin dumptruck, you are correct social media already won appealing to our narcissism, greed, vanity and boredom.  Most people including me live very boring lives - I'm fortunate that I have accepted that and don't need to share my mundaneness.

I will not let the socal media monetize my data and I encourage every citizen to download mobile adblocker an destroy the goobook monopolies by devaluing digtal advertising.

I use brave browser as brave blocks advertising malware and tracking by DEFAULT on any device and operating system rendering digital advertising model useless.

Whoever controls the browser controls the digital advertising model.

What is value of an ad if it can't be served viewed and tracked?

Download brave browser or equivalent mobile adblocker today.



In reply to by serotonindumptruck

curbjob besnook Sun, 05/06/2018 - 14:45 Permalink

From the article; 

"…social media probably generates negative productivity.  We read some time ago the average American spends 40 minutes per day playing Farmville.   How does planting virtual corn add to the GDP?"

... 40 minutes huh, so bout the same time as the average poster here spends on ZH ??

In reply to by besnook

TechnoCaveman curbjob Sun, 05/06/2018 - 15:01 Permalink

   I see your point and raise you one. Entertainment tonight v.s. Zero Hedge, Drudge report, Mark Dice or googling the BBC. 
   Same time - different parts. Some like Poppy seeds on a bagel, others like opium on a spoon. 
   "Its not that people are uniformed. They just know so much that is not true" R. Reagan. Face book, twitter and Instagram promotes that. Much more than cute cat videos is "buzz feed". 
    Not everyone watches SNL nor Rachel Maddow nor listens to PBS but they do watch FB. 
   Here one point of view can be replicated with bots. Millions entertained so they do not google the facts. Keep them busy enough they never look up to see what is going on. 
   Paul Joseph Goebbels would be astonished and envious. 

In reply to by curbjob

Count Cherep VWAndy Sun, 05/06/2018 - 23:02 Permalink

Religion may be in its death throes, (and I will not mourn its passing) but what will replace it? Will it be knowledge and reason, or crass materialism, consumerism and hedonism? Another form of subjugation and oppression?

Voltaire pondered the dilemma. Keep in mind when you read his writings that he was a master of sarcasm, sardonicism and irony, and probably wished to keep his head attached to his shoulders...

A Treatise on Tolerance

Whether it is Useful to Maintain People in their Superstition

{1}Such is the feebleness of humanity, such is its perversity, that doubtless it is better for it to be subject to all possible superstitions, as long as they are not murderous, than to live without religion. Man always needs a rein, and even if it might be ridiculous to sacrifice to fauns, or sylvans, or naiads, it is much more reasonable and more useful to venerate these fantastic images of the Divine than to sink into atheism. An atheist who is rational, violent, and powerful, would be as great a pestilence as a blood-mad, superstitious man.

{2}When men do not have healthy notions of the Divinity, false ideas supplant them, just as in bad times one uses counterfeit money when there is no good money. The pagan feared to commit any crime, out of fear of punishment by his false gods; the Malabarian fears to be punished by his pagoda. Wherever there is a settled society, religion is necessary; the laws cover manifest crimes, and religion covers secret crimes.

{3}But whenever human faith comes to embrace a pure and holy religion, superstition not only becomes useless, but very dangerous. We should not seek to nourish ourselves on acorns when God gives us bread.

{4}Superstition is to religion what astrology is to astronomy: the foolish daughter of a very wise mother. These two daughters, superstition and astrology, have subjugated the world for a long time.


No More Myths

or (in case one link or the other goes down the memory hole)


In reply to by VWAndy

NemesisteM Sun, 05/06/2018 - 14:58 Permalink

Even ZH is a form of social media.  It has replaced actual physical get togethers with in depth discussions but inversely it also provides a medium for like minded smart asses like me to find other smart asses who know too damn much about what's really going on in the world.  Fakebook is just worthless.  As far as religion is concerned, who needs it?  We are all going to die and there will be no pearly gates or brimstone.. just eternal oblivion.  

VWAndy Sun, 05/06/2018 - 15:00 Permalink

 Im working on another philosophy video now. Its not as easy as it looks.

 Thats the kind of thing we can do about all the insanity surrounding us all. 

BankSurfyMan Sun, 05/06/2018 - 15:07 Permalink

Bad bathroom graffiti is a religion, those giant bulk rolls of toilet paper, the electronic eye flush, and the latest app, the sign, "Shop Lifters will be Prosecuted"...

Manipuflation VWAndy Sun, 05/06/2018 - 15:50 Permalink

I think it is time get out the Harley and go down to the River.  I wonder how many potholes I will have to slalom?  Fuck it, it is what it is and nothing more.  I'm on my own and can only depend on myself and my actions alone.  If I fuck up after 30 years of riding then it is not your fault.

That really is the whole problem isn't it?  It's always someone else's fault.

In reply to by VWAndy

Manipuflation VWAndy Sun, 05/06/2018 - 17:44 Permalink

I made it Andy!LOL  I was hoping the Old Crab would be home because this is one of those day that you can ride that's just about perfect.  I normally don;t like to to ride with other people but she is my wife I taught her to ride so I guess I can make an exception once in a while.  She always thinks something is wrong her Harley and there never is.  I'll look it over and make sure.  It is my responsibility to make sure her bike is safe to ride.  Or is it?

I just love the double standard that exists between men and women regarding who is to do what?  Then the #MeToo movement on top of that?  But it's the MALE'S job to go and make sure the Harley is OK to ride.  OK, it's another Harley to ride!:-)))  Sounds like a good idea.

Shut up and ride.

Edit:  The key is not where is supposed to be so now what.  This shit pisses me off to no end.  I only have so much time to spend.  She just insists on our playing viola and and I'm paying for that as well and she is at whatever concert.  You don't make money playing viola and she sucks at anyway but is the best one.  It might sound harsh but I won't go to any more of these concerts.  It sounds like a garden rake on a chalkboard.

In reply to by VWAndy

Manipuflation VWAndy Sun, 05/06/2018 - 19:07 Permalink

No kidding there Andy.  I went and rode again.  I do have to burn the gas out from last year.  I put Seafoam in with the gas and fill her up because I don't want rust forming in the tank.  I'm excited to buy some "recreational fuel", which is the real gas and not the ethanol blend, from the new gas station that opened up nearby.  

Riding in the city sucks for sure because it defeats the whole purpose for me.  I'm at the edge of a smaller city so I'm out in the country very quickly.  St Cloud, MN is big motorcycle city and there are lot's of cool bikes out riding.  I suppose I could go fire up the 1978 Honda Twinstar 185 and see how that goes.  That's a 6 volt battery in that so you know it is dead as a door nail.  It was leaking a lot of oil because like an idiot I put synthetic in it because it was free.  The shifter side cover gasket is shot but that sounds like work and I don't feel like doing that now.  That will be a make your own gasket endeavor.  I taught the wife to ride on and I suppose I should keep it and teach the daughter how to ride because she is going to be of driving age soon. 

In reply to by VWAndy