Social Media as Cancerous Sprawl

Sprawling Jesse Darling on Social Media

Sprawling Jesse Darling on Social Media

“Social media is to the Read/Write Web what sprawl is to the metropolis of modernity: a homogenous, cancerous, rhizomatic junkspace that expands exponentially outward on a sludgy wave of strip malls and sponsored links, greed and induced demand.” ~ Jesse Darling (The New Inquiry)

Jesse Darling (@jessedarling) does not mince words.

Assumptions? Yes. Stereotypes? Yes. Norms? Yes. Egos? Yes.

But not words.

She sharpens them. Flexes them. Fuels them. And then she unleashes them. Sometimes playfully. Other times lethally. Often cunningly. Always intelligently.

I’m stretching when I say, “Always intelligently.” I don’t know Darling, nor am I familiar enough with her work (words, photos, digital, etc.) to speak so broadly. But what I’ve read/seen so far is searingly smart. Angry, flip, sarcastic, edgy but smart.

I don’t always agree with Darling, but I respect her bravery. She takes risks. Says what she thinks. And supports it. Intelligently.

The passage above, part of a provocative response to Evgeny Morozov’s The Death of the Cyberflâneur, is a powerfully articulated version of a observation about social media that’s been sloshing around in my head for some time. Sloshing but not uttered. The sort of observation that time will temper, prove or disprove. Most of us wait and see. Darling paints the graffiti on the wall. Today. And then moves on.

Social media is unchecked sprawl, and much (most?) of it is MSG enhanced junk with nominal real value. But cancerous? Potentially, yes, but Darling’s sweeping generalization inevitably oversteps. Such is the role of art and artists, of course, but Darling’s assertion overlooks the healthy aspects of social media (semi-democratizing the previously oligarchic media, empowering global collaboration and open source initiatives, dilating artistic possibilities, etc.). Unfortunately, social media sludge is more difficult to avoid than strip malls. And more enticing…