On Facebook being the Matrix and how I still need the Kool Aid

I learnt recently that Matrix 4 was being created. Although I am cynical, I also still think of the Matrix as one of the all-time greatest statements on society ever made (I may also harbour some secret feelings about its potent mysticism and ‘awakening’ properties, but let’s not go there).

Some part of me is looking forward to the release of Matrix 4 because I wonder if it can seek to address, at least in part, some of the immense problems that the Matrix, i.e. reality, is facing at present. But the other part of me is also sadly aware that it has well and truly gone passed its prophecy powers and will most likely be at-worst an action-packed superhero flick, or at-best a Bladerunner 2049-style masterpiece. I mean, could it really be to 2019 what the Matrix was to 1999?

Anyway, I digress. Or more to the point, I have begun this post with a digression because every time I try and discuss this topic, I am overrun with multiple tangents and I figured I may as well begin with one as a way in:

Over the last four months I have tried to reduce how often I use Facebook, and whilst it was an initial success it has now gone the other way, with both Facebook and Instagram acting as my vein-tapping delights for both a morning and evening dose of gape-mouthed scrolling. Whilst social media use conjures up many suspicions in me, not the least of which that it subconsiously encourages me to compare myself to others and berate or aggrandize myself in the face of their achievements, I have been turning to it as a salve against the sense of disturbance that I feel from the rapid uptake in general news media that has accompanied my weening off the ‘book.

Why? Well, as most of us have already been discussing on a near day-to-day basis, the world seems really fucked right now and the levels of fuckery that it is capable of reaching feels to be hastening multiple potentialities for the (either fast or agonizingly and horrifyingly drawn out) apocalypse of some kind. (Haha, that’s so funny how I’m exaggerating and being melodramatic! Isn’t it. Ha. *delirious smile*).

As I ween off Facebook and try and re-intelligent myself on the world by intaking multiple sources of news from various reputable sources, I end most reading sessions with a heavy sigh and a density that is stifling to carry through the day.
Whilst I can understand that I am in the process of coming to grips with the terrifying reality of a world that is absurdly and persistently cruel, incapable of logic and humanity, transparently corrupt, and driving with full force towards event horizon, it is a separate realisation that irks at me:

What if the world was always this way and we were just buffered from it?

It is important at this point to identify that there are multiple worlds of fucked-upness that we could be talking about. I feel the need to articulate these:

A) The ‘world’ of fucked-upness that we perceive if we use Facebook a lot (which is algorithmically and network-ly inclined to feed certain kinds of information through)

B) The ‘world’ of fucked-upness that we perceive if we read a range of news media from reputable sources regularly.

C) The ‘world’ of fucked-upness that we perceive if we read a range of news media from reputable source regularly, crossreference those with other articles to fill in gaps of bias, and read books and independent news journalism from around the world that are non-corporate affiliated.

Admittedly, I am only just coasting B) level ‘world’ right now, and I can tell you that it is significantly different from A) level ‘world’ (Note: Guys.. FB seriously fucks with your news media. If this is the primary news source, the reader may as well be in a timeless loop of outrage and baloney).

But my point is not to make you feel guilty, or outraged, or even that you should particularly give a shit about any of those levels of ‘world’. I am simply pointing out that the more I am finding out about B) level ‘world, the more I find myself dipping back into A) level ‘world’ for a hit of the good fluffy stuff. And it feels to me like I am slowly just plugging myself back into the Matrix.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the scene in The Matrix where Cypher (Joe Pantoliano) is sitting with Agent Smith (evil guy) at the restaurant and selling out the secrets of his comrades so that he can get set up with the perfect faux-life. He describes the woman he wants to be with, the house, his wealth. And then he holds up a piece of steak on a fork and looks at Agent Smith and says: You know.. I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know when I put it in my mouth; the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years.. you know what I realize? Ignorance is bliss.

Is it though? I think it is more like: ignorance is manageable. That is, it is easier to feel that there is an X out there that is large and looming that we do not know than to scratch the surface of the giant meteor coming towards earth that may or may not be X.

Do you remember the good old days when we used to watch “the news”? When you would come home from school and monopolise the television until 7pm when your parents would wrangle the remote away because “the news”. When Ian Henderson and Lee Lin Chi and Indira Naidoo would tell us everything we needed to know that was important in the world. And then, we would all move on with our lives (i.e. with Seinfeld or Friends or whatever the hell was on after the news).

I think nostalgically about this memory, missing those gatekeepers that we trusted to sift the news from the chaff. But the more I think about it, the more I realise that those gatekeepers might have just been our 90s Facebook. And although we trusted them more, and they seemed to fuck with us less than they do now, all of it is still the proverbial Matrix and we were, and are still, plugged in. The only difference was that back then we didn’t have a choice, and now we do.

A friend and I were discussing the other day that perhaps growing old is just a process of moving from idealistic hope to cynical realism; a gradual decline into accepting the cruel, cruel world described by Dr. Cornel West. I don’t necessarily think that thinking the world is a piece of crap and spending each day in existential panic should be part of this, but I do wonder if it is some sort of rite of passage to shift from fear and outrage to a sort of post-horror ‘wokeness’ (for want of a better term). What if our outrage is not new? What if the corruption of the world at large is a stablemate of our species? What does it mean for us to break the cycle if we are Matrix-ly inclined to reenact the rhetorics that perpetuate it? How do we self-define and what ‘issues’ are we doing that in relation to? Where did we get that information from and what path are we performing?

These are all questions I am pondering as I toggle between Facebook and my ‘self-curated’ Google News feed. For now, I keep sipping from the Facebook Kool Aid to numb the reality of the world and to share my blog (even though fuck you Zuckerberg for consistently selling private data, overseeing the circulation of fake news, interfering with democratic process, promoting climate change denial and extremist hate speech)

At some point, I hope to Neo-up and just pull this junk straight out of my head, leaving only the scars of sobriety behind. Even if the red pill seems likely to have one hell of a comedown.

Image: NI, Istanbul,

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