Fishing For Engagement: The Comment Section Welcomes Awful Conversation

Love, hate, clout and the consequences of using social media algorithms to create an audience built on controversy.

Social Media Programmers Are Snake Charmers

I enjoy reading comments. It’s become an addiction that I have had to manage by periodically shutting down my Instagram. I enjoy the random mix of real people hiding, real people not hiding, and bots all weighing in on complex, nuanced situations with the finesse of a sledgehammer wielded in an OSHA-free construction site. Someone is going to get hurt and the throwback reptilian wrinkles laced into my medulla are tickled by it. The part that doesn’t learn too much from experience but instead relies on drinking from the same instinctual well that never runs dry and is completely void of emotions. I have learned that it is best while engaging in the comment section to completely shut down anything that could enter into the limbic system. It has to stay in the lizard section. Observing those who are engaging in the comment section activating the higher regions of the brain, the parts that rule emotion, purpose, and connection, is at most times striking a gold mine of cringe. The irony of all of this, is that the comment section is so weighted by people just wanting to be seen and acknowledged by the group, that none of the emotional subtext can be trusted. In fact most of these commenters, human or bot, are just commenting to capture some of the engagement. They are just casting a net, so they too, can drink from the strange well drawn on the artificial canvas for the superego, social media. 

Follow Pages That Aren’t Aligned With Your Worldview

There’s an odd illustrator that I started following during the pandemic that uses his own drawn memes to poke and prod the current paradigm and infuse it with his worldview. I don’t necessarily agree with his worldview, but I appreciate his genius. I can disagree with someone’s perspective and still follow them; I highly recommend practicing that to avoid groupthink trappings. The other day he posted a meme that had a mother talking to a boy saying, “It’s important to be well adjusted to society.’

The boy responds, “What if society is sick?”

The comment section chimed in and quoted J. Krishnamurti, “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” A resounding truth was echoed. The meme and its intent landed. Mostly because its completely obvious, at least to those who are not trapped inside of the primal and instinctual mind via social media capture. Yes, this society is very sick and we have been the ones to provide some products to forget or escape or medicate away from that feeling of that sickness. I have had to come to grips with the strange and undeserving power some of my posting has claimed. I say undeserving, because I too have wielded the power of some small portion of groupthink by posting simple memes to affect the paradigm in cannabis without fully knowing how to earn that power without social media. Finding a nerve to strike does not make me a specialist in the nervous system. It might make me a satirist. In fact I hope it does, for legal reasons at least. Satire is, maybe, the last corner where we can start an honest conversation, but it is also a veil. A disguised message, which is different than a disguised person behind an anonymous account enacting tweaked justice as a revenue stream or a way to capture followers.

The Unseen Costs From Unseen Admins

This has come at a cost. Much of my online audience was gathered by being a snarky contrarian, pushing back on trends calling out patterns that are indicative of greater fraud. There have been a few times were I missed the mark and it hurt someone who really didn’t deserve it. There have also been a few time where the arrow was dead on and what came next were strings of death threats, doxxing, false stories and allegations or whatever could be put out in the online and real world to destroy my mental well-being, livelihood and reputation. Still I leaned in, weighing some pseudo-courageous online-hero nonsense over common sense and my personal and family safety. This almost came at a great cost and at times I think the cost has yet to come as the world offline becomes more and more mad with naturalistic compulsions. Naturalistic compulsions elevated and rewarded by social media

My compulsion to post a biting meme or comment still lingers but now at least there is a bell that rings when the edge is close. I have to trust that the same way I fell into a trap of my own making so will the crooks, conmen and hucksters with their own. My hand is not needed in picking the low-hanging fruit and smashing it front of everyone that already knows. 

A close friend said to me once, “You’re not wrong with what you’re posting about, but how do you know that guy doesn’t go home and beat his wife after reading that post?”

This rang true. The online takedown is one without the intimacy of combat. We do not know what other costs are paid when we nail someone up on some cross while in a locked house thousands of miles away.

Social Media Has Created A Modern Junkie

Every day people online give other people online power, and then in the comment section they either resonate with that power or they try to take it back or away. A psychic tug-of-war over who is most subjected to the dopamine-triggering mechanics of social media. Junkies flopping around in an alley over the next hit. I am one of the junkies, but at least self-aware of it now because the real consequences did show up at my doorstep.

So do these platforms provide us true power and influence or do they just slowly leach it away from all of us, subject to the natural instincts of the mind, creeping farther from reason, reflection and critical thinking?

Oh, I think we all know the answer. You might be reading this article right now so you can post a comment about it or High Times or me. There might be a little takedown nugget, some leaking arrogance or weakness of self in my writing, that can be used to try and take my power away online. Well, as much as I enjoy the false power of social media, what I enjoy less, is the real power social media has had over my life. The critical moments of family life lost in the ether, because I was feverishly responding to some comment infringing on my social media cannabis community optics or status. The trauma posting, the exposing of the corruption in this industry full of outlaws and crooks (lulz), the memes, the sharing of thoughts and ideas in hopes that more of me will be acknowledged, it’s gone off the rails. It’s gone off the rails for everyone in almost every aspect of life. 

Turn It All Off Whenever You Want And Don’t Post About It

So I turned it all off for a bit, a few times. I didn’t tell anyone except a few business associates. I went fishing with my kids. I put my phone in the other room when it was time for dinner. I started to reconnect with what mattered, with what I thought I was fighting for. The noise, the threats, the hate and the engagement slowly tuned out, and it’s power over my day-to-day waned. So I turned it back on, and the noise started to creep back in. Now I am writing this article for you and for me as a reminder. Don’t let this trap become you. Don’t let this trap become me. Let us not become the ghost in the machine. 

We post and comment to be seen or heard. The engagement is the carrot and the algorithm is the stick feeding that engagement into a complex system of pattern recognition based off of the reactions to what we post, shaping the behavior of artificial intelligence and the updates to the algorithm. We do not need to fill the software in when we need a break from it. If you have a big audience, I get it, nobody needs some conspiracy why they disappeared offline to pop up. Still, we should be able to normalize not engaging and not having to explain why. 

We Are The Programmers For The Future State

What has AI learned? We are easy to control when driven into a triggered reactive state. When we are ruled by emotion over reason. All of our input into this new intangible world is affecting our material world at breakneck speed. Faster than we can observe, and faster than we can reflect why something someone posted triggered an emotional response. We jump into social media to escape the world, to avoid boredom, to get some sort of fix, to say something that will feel purposeful, to market something we sell, or to feel less alone, all the while feeding our weakest and base natures into a system of heartless machines and software. But soon, if not already, the pattern will know our minds, how we are weak and strong and with that know how to sway or pierce our hearts in every way. This is not a bug in the algorithm, this is a feature. A feature designed to hook us. 

Here’s a tough bleach colored pill to swallow, we are Big Brother, the heart of the algorithm. We are shaping the groupthink with every contribution. We are Dr. Frankenstein. We are allowing a series of apps and their programming that elevates our worst natures to shape our world view into a chaotic blur of instinct and irrational emotion. We are giving our power away to some anonymous asshole who has fallen for the lie that clout sits above humanity. Let’s not stop there, at the moment in this sick society, clout does rest higher in the hierarchy than our humanity. We made it so. Humanity has become a relic of the past and the online world just flounders around the ocean of ones and zeros trying to form some weak image of it. Strong enough to sell but full of enough holes that the slightest canceling breeze can knock it down. Humanity has become some sort of constantly updating version of an operating system. There aren’t enough patches to fix this, but we can seek recovery. We can start practicing response over reaction. We can slowly pull our minds out of the trap.

Online Adversaries Are Your Future Family

This is what I will share in closing. I have met amazing people online who have become real people and real parts of my family in the material world. I am writing this piece now, for a publication that has a world-changing legacy, because I trolled Jon Cappetta. He is now a friend. But I developed, with some practice, the ability to pull out of the lie that is social media long enough to engage in real thought and dialogue with people that disagree with me and my posts. This isn’t where I started with the online world but it’s where I am trying to land. I am slowly trying to recapture my power, not from you or some other persona, but from the immaterial technology I have given my power to. This is also why it is dangerous to play Batman in this social media world. It will end poorly because the power of clout has superseded that of rational thought, discernment and our humanity. You will be corrupted by this tool and some person in the real world will show up at your door with the consequence, and because so much can be skewed while the group plays Big Brother, the consequence will more than likely land on someone innocent. Or you could run into a few people who have been so consumed by the fix that clout provides, they are willing to do terrible things to hold on to it. Like a junkie.

I will leave with a final verse from the great 1980s poet and master of all things tantra, Gordon Sumner, where he switches the subject and the speaker of the song illuminating the coup de grâce that occurs more often than not in any sort of Faustian bargain. 

“Devil and the deep blue sea behind me
Vanish in the air you’ll never find me
I will turn your face to alabaster
When you’ll find your servant is your master
You’ll be wrapped around my finger”

My name is Nelson, I am addicted to trolling and have been clean for 0 days.
Instead of following will you join me into recovery?
Before becoming consumed by a bitter fruit we never wanted to cultivate. 
I am not sure the demon that planted it can be conquered alone.

  1. Big Shout Out to President Donald J Trump for the 2018 Farm Bill that made all this possible! The LEAST someone can do is name a strain after DJT…and make it the BEST. i’ll be surprised if this comment is published but now you know that DJT is the People’s President! TRUMP 2024!!!

    1. So why didn’t the “people’s president” stop persecuting millions of people who prefer near harmless cannabis over addictive, very harmful alcohol?

  2. its like the Trump bots are non-stop even on this thread! Trump is possibly the largest online turd of all social media currently. People cant seem to get enough of the half-formed banal garbage that keeps rocketing out of that dotards spleen. Crazy.

  3. It’s less complex than that. Every town used to have their town square, usually with a gazebo and a park, where the citizens would come together and discuss the weighty issues of the day.

    That’s gone. In their place we have on-line forums and comments sections. – That’s evolution.

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