7/18/2013 07:15

The New SM

It seems to me that every few generations there is a renewed fascination with some sort of SM. When I was young, the SM which found its way into popular, mainstream media included profiling the original Marquis de Sade in Time magazine as well as "news" reports (used broadly) about the passing interests of artists and young adults.

Of course, many people never had the least interest in the old SM of that day and many who read articles in Time never pursued any deeper interest than the mild voyeurism of reading feature articles about real voyeurs.

Now that we are well into the 21st Century, we have a new SM with its own articles in popular media and shallow dabbling by swarms of otherwise normal citizens. I am referring, of course, to Social Media.

According to the latest stats I found (in a 37-second search of the internet) some individual SM websites can claim over 1 billion users, counting both frequenters and voyeurs. That's a little more than 1 of every 7 people in the world. Another report shows that almost everybody who use any SM are part of that same 1 billion, so the total of all the SMers is still 1 in 7.

And of course some of those users are really people, but corporations.

One difference between the new SM and the old SM is that groups engaged in commerce and culture have embraced the new SM and are actively and openly promoting it. (I can't remember for sure just how openly commercial operations were promoting the old SM; there was more social stigma attached to that.) This is especially true in the United States and other "western" nations where that 1:7 ratio is skewed. In the US, close to two-thirds of people admit to having at times been active in the new SM.

Apparently, if one color appeals to 60% of your target audience, there is no reason to stock a second color for the other 40%. The goal of these cultural and commercial enterprises has shifted (or so it seems) to driving as many of the minority onto SM as possible ... and then driving the rest away.

This shouldn't bother me very much, because I am busy driving away those very same commercial operations. I want them to give up marketing to me. I hang up on the spam phone calls and block the advertising web servers and never, never visit any SM sites. Yet I don't want to be isolated.

This is not a struggle over choice of media. It is a struggle over choice. My goal is for me to decide whether and when I have contact; their goal is for them to control information flow. In the old SM, the argument was made that people should be able to seek out pain if they wanted to; it was hard to argue against that if you believed in freedom -- and accepted the claim that sadists didn't hurt unwilling victims.

In the new SM, the presumption is that the landscape of information and opinion I see should depend on the wealth and ingenuity of other people who are seeking to shape my ideas. That's a hard argument to support if you believe in in freedom -- unless you think that Walmart, British Petroleum, and your local private college are and will remain both benign and objective.

No matter. The newest reports about the SM phenomenon suggest that this SM will fade from popularity as surely as the old SM did. Not that either one is going away. All kinds of silly things have a permanent place in our society; graft and altruism, fraud and charity, responsibility and profligacy, conservation and destruction, SM and SM. All have some place and role in the actual reality in which we live and play. None of them should be casting an evil spell over our attention.