“People get addicted to feeling offended all the time because it gives them a high; being self-righteous and morally superior feels good.” (Mark Manson, self-help author, and blogger)
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 CSB)
What blogger Mark Manson says in the above quote reveals why social media succumbs to the Conquer and Dominate drive so easily. It’s why our Subdue and Rule Mandate went sideways, and humanity turned on itself. When we’re self-righteous, we are “convinced of one’s own righteousness especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others.” Righteousness is “acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin.” Therefore, we are “morally right or justifiable” (merriam-webster.com).
Aye, there’s the rub. With which Supreme Divine Being are we in accord? God or the paper god that we all think we are. “But that’s not true,” some may say. “How do you dare say that? Do you know what’s in my heart?” Nope. But the mouth speaks out of the fullness of the heart (Matthew 12:43), and our fingers type out the same, only non-verbally. When we get our shorts in a twist because someone has offended us, and our response goes nuclear, it indicates that the offender has “crossed the line” per our self-righteousness. Our moral outrage must be expressed because, “By golly, no idiot’s going to get away with offending me, the Master of My Domain.”
Yup. Paper god.
Our Subdue and Rule Mandate warped into the Conquer and Dominate drive when Adam and Eve decided to become the Master of their (actually, God’s) domain, and the rest is history. People attack one another and tear others down as they jockey for first place at the top of the social heap to prove their superiority, moral or otherwise, over everyone else. Sound familiar? It should.
I just described the ugly side of social media.
According to dreamgrow.com, a resource for entrepreneurs, the biggest 15 social media apps are Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, Weixin/WeChat, TikTok, QQ, Douyin, Sina Weibo, Telegram, Snapchat, Kuaishou, Pinterest, and Reddit each reaching between 430 Million to 2.74 billion active users.
That’s a lot of information rivers merging into the social media ocean, and because it’s people-driven, there’s a lot of sewage flowing along the current. You’d better be careful where you dive in.
What is social media? “According to Tufts University, ‘Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.’ In other words, social media is an electronic form of communication and information-sharing where users can create and distribute unique content or view the content of others” (socialmediavictims.org).
Social media was made possible by the advent of the internet and the subsequent launch of “online communication service CompuServe, America Online, and Prodigy.” Remember those dinosaurs? It wasn’t long until the social media platforms we know today began to ride the internet beast. What started with the Six Degrees profile uploading service in 1997 expanded to Friendster (2001) and then LinkedIn (2002), followed by Myspace (2006) and the famous (or infamous) Facebook (2008) (online.maryville.edu). Many other platforms and the money to be made in the social media biz have followed suit.
How prevalent is social media in the United States? About 75% of adults and over 90% of teenagers are immersed in social media usage (Ibid.). Those are staggering percentages when considering how interconnected that makes just our part of the world. Now multiply that globally. The complexity of the information web of social media is mind-blowing. How could anyone possibly control the flow of ideas, opinions, and information zipping worldwide through fiber-optic lines or bounced off satellites?
And yet, with all this interconnectivity, how intimate are our relationships over social media?
Anthropologist and evolutionary psychologist and a specialist in primate behavior, Robin Dunbar, conducted a study that claimed a ratio between a primate brain size and social group size. When applied to human beings, the number Dunbar and his team discovered (150) was remarkably consistent with people. “Dunbar’s number applies to quality relationships, not to acquaintances – which account for the more casual outer layers of our social networks, beyond our 150 meaningful friendships” (theconversation.com). According to Dunbar and other social scientists, the limit to close relationships is 5. If a person is married, that drops to 4 “since they’re already investing a lot of time and effort in the object of their affection” (businessinsider.com).
Since the limit of close relationships is five, social media is a superficial connection between people except for one’s close friends who use the same application. Social media becomes a numbers game of social influence or self-revelation to the world.
The following may come as a shock, but most people on social media care more for their “likes” than like the people who like them. For example, “‘We and others have done a bunch of work to show that if your real friends online say or do something, it affects you. But if you are online acquaintances say or do something, it does not. People, on average, have about 106 Facebook friends, but only five or six real friends.’ In this quote, sociologist and physician Nicholas Christakis brings to our attention that most people we are engaging with on social media platforms personally don’t mean that much to us.” (marketsplash.com/quotes-about-social-media, italics author)
Subdue and Rule social media
If social media is so impersonal, why use it? Because social media is good for many other things, just not building solid and close friendships. Considering our Subdue and Rule Mandate, social media can be vital to fulfill our desire to shape our world. Social media platforms can be instrumental in informing, coordinating, communicating, entertaining, and providing social interaction.
According to socialmediavictims.org, the pros of social media is that it:
· Connects people all over the world in mere seconds,
· Allows instantaneous discovery of news and real-time information,
· Fosters easy and instant communication,
· Creates marketing opportunities for business owners to reach a wider audience,
· Can promote public participation and civic engagement,
· Can save you in emergencies with time-sensitive information and announcements,
· May be used for content discovery and brainstorming new ideas, and
· Provides a great source of entertainment.
All of these positives easily fit into our “bring the world under control and manage it” drive through interpersonal cooperation, inspiring, encouraging, coordinating, and advising, as we would assume Adam and Eve needed to do as they cultivated and guarded Eden and expanded its borders into the untamed planet.
But like everything else we human beings put our hands to, social media can quickly become a tool to Conquer and Dominate others into submission and force them under our control to a degree. What makes social media morally good or bad depends on the users’ moral standards and whether they express themselves God-righteously or self-righteously.
Conquer and Dominate social media
Social media is a fantastic way to exchange information from the vital to the mundane. However, social media is also a swamp infested with the slimiest creatures unleashing their inner hatred from behind digital invisibility. Petty tyrants cloaked in anonymity take potshots at their helpless targets, seeking to Conquer and Dominate them by winning arguments, trash-talking them, and smearing their adversary’s online image. Ask anyone who has participated in an online “flame war” against someone bent on winning the argument.
When I pointed out that the social media platforms ride the internet beast, I was reminded of Revelation 17 and the image of the Prostitute riding the Beast. The woman is described as “sitting on a scarlet beast that was covered with blasphemous names (anti-God)…dressed in purple and scarlet, adorned with gold, jewels, and pearls (materialistic)… (holding) a golden cup in her hand filled with everything detestable and with the impurities of her prostitution (defilement)… drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the witnesses to Jesus (persecuting God’s people).”
The dark side of social media is precisely like that Prostitute, willing to ride the world system and sell itself out to promote ungodliness, lust for things, unrestrained sex in any form, and highly keen to attack anyone, especially those who stand for Jesus.
Am I wrong?
Conquer and Dominate social media manifests when users attack or try to control people. In that case, I refer to it as “antisocial media.”
Conquer and Dominate social media is the online cyber-arena where people fight for supremacy by elevating themselves and smashing others down in manifold ways. On the self-elevation side, some social media users strive for visibility among the most people possible. Social media provides a way for users to find recognition, fame, and validation, all of which are alluring, especially to those who feel “lost in the crowd” in the real world. Social media becomes a way for their face to be seen, their voice to be heard, and their opinions to be known.
Sadly, social media has contributed to the growth of narcissism among young adults. “Narcissism is often defined as a fixation with oneself and one’s physical appearance or public image” (newportinstitute.com). According to Newport Institute, Young Adult Mental Health & Substance Abuse Treatment Centers, “young adults are becoming more narcissistic, and social media isn’t helping.” Their research reveals two aspects about social media-driven narcissism that empower the Conquer and Dominate drive. 1) “Grandiose narcissism, characterized by feelings of superiority and entitlement,” and 2) “Vulnerable narcissism, characterized by hypersensitivity to criticism and a constant need for reassurance.”
Under the Conquer and Dominate rubric, the first group is likely to use social media to Conquer and Dominate others to establish and secure their sense of superiority. The second group will likely fall victim to the first group, allowing themselves to be dominated if only they won’t be criticized and receive affirmation. This arrangement is simply a cyber setting “pecking order.”
Because of social media’s popularity and global reach, it’s become a playground for celebrities, politicians, sports stars, businesspeople, et al., seeking attention and establishing themselves as influencers. On the benign level, an influencer is “one who exerts influence : a person who inspires or guides the actions of others.” More specifically, an influencer is “a person who is able to generate interest in something (such as a consumer product) by posting about it on social media” (merriam-webster.com). Yes, they are glorified cyber-salespeople.
In general, being an influencer can be low-level Conquer and Dominate because the emphasis is exerting influence over other people to get them to become or do something per the influencer’s will. In many cases, social media influencers earn products and money from sponsors by providing an audience for advertising. One of my family members has quite an online following through social media, and a cosmetics company sponsors her. Why? Because her influence has boosted the company’s sales.
However, a social media influencer’s drive to Conquer and Dominate becomes pathological when their influence purposefully harms their target, such as promoting immoral or illegal behaviors or urging their followers to participate in dangerous acts such as the infamous Tide pod challenge (yes, eating a laundry detergent pod), the blackout challenge (choking oneself to unconsciousness which has led to fatalities), and the Sleepy Chicken challenge (cooking chicken in Nyquil – yuck, and also potentially fatal).
Why are such ridiculous and dangerous challenges inviting to young people? “Social media rewards outrageous behavior, and the more outrageous, the bigger the bragging rights. It’s a quick moving, impulsive environment, and the fear of losing out is real for teens. That environment plays into a teen’s underdeveloped ability to think through their actions and possible consequences” (healthychildren.org). Sadly, some influencers experience a sick sense of superiority by motivating others into bizarre and potentially fatal acts.
As you can see, social media is rife with opportunities to Conquer and Dominate other people in the quest for control, from low-grade to nuclear, and nuclear is where we go next.
Weaponizing social media to Conquer and Dominate
Social media is potentially devastating as a Conquer and Dominate weapon because it gives fallen human nature a mentally and emotionally immediate but physically distant platform. Anonymity gives users the cover they need to launch verbal barrages at their enemies without fear of exposure or responsibility.
Social media is used as a weapon,
· To attack people who refuse to submit to control and remain compliant. With social media, attackers use what you share to act against you.
· To curate information and control the narrative to control the people. It isn’t easy to make good decisions when we don’t have the whole truth or any truth at all or we don’t know the entire story. Selectively sharing information is not about whether it is accurate or inaccurate but about controlling the information we receive by those seeking power to move our thinking and actions toward their desired goals.
Because social media is so prevalent and influential among the global population, it has become one of the primary means of the power to control via the control that comes with power.
Weaponized social media is used to silence unacceptable facts and opinions, invalidate legitimate arguments, obfuscate the truth, and deceive the masses. Who hasn’t heard of the notorious Facebook jail, the Twitter bans, and other social media cancelation techniques? China uses TikTok to encourage China’s children to excel by presenting examples of achievement, health, and wellness while crippling Western nations with videos promoting homosexuality, transgenderism, hopeless messages, glorification of suicide, and other antisocial behaviors while scooping up millions of its user’s personal information and conducting cyber warfare against the United States.
But it’s not just China that uses weaponized social media to conduct cyber warfare against its enemies. Like Tokyo Rose during World War 2, nations worldwide use mis/dis/malinformation via social media to feed socially destructive material toward targeted societies to weaken and corrupt them or sway whole societies to a particular way of thinking.
Closer to home, Conquer and Dominate attackers use social media’s weaponization to threaten personal or group reputations or harm a company’s brand to get their target to submit. Smallbusiness.chron.com points out that social media “can dissuade people from even considering the purchase of your products or services” via negative online reviews and comments.
On the Attack
Some of the inherent problems with social media are distance and anonymity. It’s difficult to confront an adversary when physically nose to nose with them. When I was young and foolish, I quickly learned that I had to stay out of arm’s reach when verbally sparring with my brother, or I could easily get clobbered. (Yes, he once laid me out on the floor with a single punch after I taunted him.) To be safe, I learned to keep my distance while hurling nasty words at him, which precisely describes too much social media today.
Distance depersonalizes the “other.” Depersonalization makes atrocious acts against another human being possible. Ask Hitler or Stalin or any other demonic despot who ever lived. Wars are easier to fight when conducted at a distance rather than duke it out face-to-face with one’s opponent. Naturally, the drive to Conquer and Dominate cowardly seeks cover when launching attacks and to be insulated from reprisals.
The ultimate distancing in the online arena is anonymity. Anonymity provides cyber-cover, allowing us to prosecute a verbal war against another person because no one can attach our face or name to our shameful behavior. Therefore, anonymity lends itself to increasingly harsh attacks to vanquish one’s online enemy and claim superiority.
Yup. Conquer and Dominate in all its hideous glory. By the way, do you want to know how to start an argument on social media? State your opinion. Then count to ten.
Here’s a list of social media tactics many of us have used to Conquer and Dominate our online opponents to gain supremacy over another person. I share these to raise awareness and sensitize us when we slip into these actions:
· Rude comments and personal attacks.
· Verbal abuse to intimidate, humiliate, and silence.
· Painting one’s opposition as evil or ignorant.
· Character or reputation assassination.
· Spreading false or misleading information. These deeds fall under the mis/dis/malinformation heading. This is done by spreading slander (false information that shouldn’t be shared) and gossip (true information we’re not permitted to share).
· Cyberbullying. This tactic deftly uses sarcasm for the attack. Sarcasm means “to tear flesh.”
· Doxing (aka Doxxing, dOxing). “The term ‘Doxing’ is short for ‘dropping dox,’ ‘dox’ being slang for documents. Typically, doxing is a malicious act, used against people with whom the hacker disagrees or dislikes” (kaspersky.com). Like gossip, doxing shares personal information online without permission. The intent is to expose one’s opponent publicly and direct further attacks against them.
Extreme forms of Conquer and Dominate social media use include:
· Blackmail and extortion. Yes, people are foolish, especially young people who haven’t learned boundaries or realize the consequences of their actions. Sexting, “the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone” (merriam-webster.com), is an open invitation to exploitation. Blackmail and extortion are blatant control mechanisms.
· Grooming. Online predators seek to exploit underage and vulnerable people and use social media to connect with impressionable youngsters. They intend to foster relationships to trap their target and control them for personal use, usually sexual.
· Psychological abuse. This tactic targets vulnerable users to entice them to perform unhealthy and dangerous challenges, self-harm, or commit suicide. Coercing others into self-harm is genuinely a sick form of control.
· Coordinating attacks to influence, intimidate, and threaten others to “fall in line.” The goal of doxing is to facilitate these attacks. A recent example was the release of U.S. Supreme Court justices’ home addresses during their deliberations to overturn the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling in 2022.
· Identity theft. Social media is often used to scrape personal information or hack accounts for deceptive purposes. Facebook is a notorious arena for this, as hackers use a compromised account to send friends requests with malware to create a chain of hacked accounts.
Manipulation and control – individuals and groups
Aside from social media being used to attack people, it’s also used to control information and manipulate public opinion. The “black hats” seeking to control the flow of ideas, opinions, and information zipping globally through fiber-optic lines or bounced-off satellites have quite the challenge before them. How can any person, group, organization, or government curate all of that information for its benefit? Rather than attempt pinpoint control over individuals described above, these gatekeepers put kinks in the flow of information between what’s sent and received.
Who are the gatekeepers? Those with the power, authority, and drive to control the masses, usually governments, businesses, institutions, and influential nonprofits. These gatekeepers capitalize on social media’s influence to bend others to their will. Sadly, over the last seven years of President Trump’s administration and the COVID pandemic, we’ve watched as social media platforms were weaponized by one political side against the other in a grand push for control over an entire nation and on a global scale.
The gatekeepers’ tactics include:
· Coordinating repeated information to “push” people in specific directions and toward predetermined goals, often gradually. You know, the frog in the pot of boiling water. The truth can be replaced with lies by sharing biased info and shutting down unfavorable information. “When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker a raving lunatic” (Dresden James).
Facebook’s recent role in censoring information regarding COVID-19 vaccine-discouraging content is increasingly being exposed. “Through a series of tweets on Thursday, Rep. Jordan said that these never-before-released internal documents, obtained via Judiciary Committee subpoena, proved that Facebook and Instagram altered their content moderation policies and censored posts under pressure from the White House” (thegatewaypundit.com).
· Manipulating the masses through propaganda. The gatekeepers learned well from the Russian media, which effectively used dezinformatsiya (the art of disinformation), agitprop, (agitation propaganda used to stir up emotional topics), and kompromat (compromising material to damage reputations by making false accusations) (forbes.com) to take down their enemies.
· Selectively allowing or punishing users depending on their moral, political, or philosophical beliefs.
· Deplatforming, the ultimate Conquer and Dominate social media “kill switch.” Deplatforming is deployed to “remove and ban (a registered user) from a mass communication medium” (merriam-webster.com) and is not limited to restricting social media access. Deplatforming is often deployed across all media platforms to silence a user’s online presence.
Over the last few election cycles, the media (news, internet, entertainment, and social) repeatedly restricted and removed conservatives from accessing the masses through online communication. Even when conservatives created alternative media like Parler, Google stepped in to deplatform the platform, and Parler was shut down for a long time.
Deplatforming has become the Conquer and Dominate tactic of choice to remove people with unacceptable beliefs and opinions from the public square, even to the point of endangering their personal lives. Deplatforming has also extended beyond the media to economics, where a bank uses a person’s social media content to determine whether the bank will do business with the person. In some cases, account holders like Nigel Farage, British former Leader of the UK Independence Party, have been “debanked” for their political views (gbnews.com/politics/nigel-farage-debanking-website-natwest-account-closure).
The justification for much of the deplatforming on social media falls under the “hate speech” category I addressed earlier. Free speech includes so-called hate speech, although what constitutes speech as “hate” requires the divine ability to fully judge another person’s motives (snide wording intended). Simple minds often label speech as “hate” because they hate what’s being said. Once again, per the Counterspeech Doctrine, “the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” Enforced silence is the coward’s way out of a discussion. Free speech must include hate speech because if it is disallowed as a category, whoever holds Conquer and Dominate power can hate your speech, label it as a moral evil, and justify any action against you. In Europe and Canada, individuals have faced criminal charges and prison for using Bible verses to speak against the LGBTQ-ETC lifestyle. Imprisonment is also a form of deplatforming a person from society.
The ironic part of using social media to Conquer and Dominate other people into submission and control regarding silencing them is that much deplatforming is driven by the ideological Left, once the Free Speech Champions of the 60s. But the 60s radicals now hold a great deal of institutional power, and what did Lord Acton say about power? “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
So, what determines whether social media is in Subdue and Rule or Conquer and Dominate mode? When it’s used to encourage freedom among people or establish control over people.
Subduing and Ruling the Conquer and Dominate social media controllers
The remedy for this situation is the same as for other media forms. One remedy is to walk away and not use social media. But then again, there are many good things you could miss out on. (How is that for a dose of FOMO – the Fear Of Missing Out?). A better remedy is to become a discriminating user. An excellent remedy is to support alternative social media that replaces the social media used as a club to beat people into submission.
For example, many video content creators have moved from Youtube.com to Rumble.com after their videos were blocked as “unacceptable” or “violating community standards.” But be advised; free speech includes the stuff you don’t like. Therefore, use caution because the Conquer and Dominate abusers have joined those alternate platforms.
Frankly, I’ve had to distance myself completely from online abusers by unfriending and blocking them, as I’m sure some have done to me. That’s not bad since nothing is ever achieved by keyboardingly abusing people (Hey, look at that! A new word.)
Don’t worry about social media when it goes woke or tries to Conquer and Dominate its users. Let the market work. Like me, people tire of abuse and will walk away. I don’t have to stand in place and let someone keep hitting me with a hammer.
Examining ourselves under the Holy Spirit’s bright light is also good. How are we handling our social media presence? It’s time for some self-evaluation under the Holy Spirit’s searchlight. As Amy Morin, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Podcaster, and Author, wrote, “Examining your behavior on social media could give you insight into your own personality as well as how others perceive you. You may think you’re presenting yourself in a certain light, only to discover other people view your behavior completely different.”
We must ask ourselves, “What are we revealing about ourselves on social media?” Are we the Conquer and Dominate snipers shooting at everything that displeases us? Are we social media flame war champions, crushing our opponents with our rapier wit and bruising words? Or are we reflecting Jesus to the world? This doesn’t mean we must become doormats for every Facebook or Instagram tyrant. Jesus was loving even to those who abused Him, and He was forceful and direct when needed. But everything He did was according to His Father’s will (John 6:38) and to reflect His Father to the world (John 14:9).
We properly fulfill our Subdue and Rule Mandate when we work according to our Heavenly Father’s character and will. That’s the Gold Standard for using social media (and yes, I’m still a work in progress).
Here’s the Golden Rule for using social media, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 CSB).
You Can Only Maintain So Many Close Friendships, theatlantic.com/family/archive/2021/05/robin-dunbar-explains-circles-friendship-dunbars-number/618931
Dunbar’s number: why my theory that humans can only maintain 150 friendships has withstood 30 years of scrutiny, theconversation.com/dunbars-number-why-my-theory-that-humans-can-only-maintain-150-friendships-has-withstood-30-years-of-scrutiny-160676
There’s a limit to how many close friends you can realistically have at once, businessinsider.com/friends-limited-number-of-close-relationships-2018-3
The Evolution of Social Media: How Did It Begin, and Where Could It Go Next?, online.maryville.edu/blog/evolution-social-media
The Manipulative Role of Social Media and Its Effects on the Society and Military, hilal.gov.pk/eng-article/detail/NzAxMA==.html
The Dangerous Art of Social Media and Messaging Manipulation, forbes.com/sites/forbesbusinesscouncil/2020/08/03/the-dangerous-art-of-social-media-and-messaging-manipulation/?sh=1dc750853f69
Effects of Social Media, socialmediavictims.org (An excellent resource!)
Social Media Narcissism in Young Adults, newportinstitute.com/resources/mental-health/social-media-narcissism
Dangerous Internet Challenges – Understanding Their Appeal to Kids, healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/Dangerous-Internet-Challenges.aspx
What is Doxing – Definition and Explanation, kaspersky.com/resource-center/definitions/what-is-doxing
FACEBOOK FILES Part 1: Rep. Jim Jordan Releases Smoking-Gun Documents Proving Facebook Censored Americans at the Request of Biden Regime, thegatewaypundit.com/2023/07/facebook-files-part-1-rep-jim-jordan-releases
Pastor Jay Christianson
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts