COVID cave-dwelling has offered me opportunities to observe facets of daily life that might serve as useful metaphors or analogies. Today this example: Social media may be like *digital ant poison. See if my ant trap comparisons make sense….
Ant traps/baits contain deadly substances that don’t kill immediately. Scout ants smell and taste the traps’ wonderful flavor, and then head back to the colony’s nest. Along the way, they encounter brother and sister ants, sharing information about the presumed meal. Back home, they invite other worker ants to follow the return trail they’ve established.
Soon enough, a substantial portion of this foraging multitude dutifully arrives at the source of this delightful repast. They linger long enough to sip the new nectar, perhaps neglecting their original ant vocations for a time. The diversion seems pleasurable enough to warrant their changed behaviors. Thus rewarded, these ants also return to the nest to share the good food and the good news—here’s a tasty treat to consume!
48 hours after partaking of this new nourishment—in reality, an acid—the ants’ digestive systems and exoskeletons waste away. The ants’ purpose—to feed the nest—remains unfinished, thwarted completely by the trap’s toxins. The poison has done its job, though. The entire colony—including the queen—is exterminated.
In this metaphor/analogy, social media could be the pleasurable poison. The unique taste of this toxin might hide its corrosive acidity. The scouts? Maybe they’re the influencers whose recommendations spread like a virus throughout society. Possibly like an ant colony, members of the general public might unquestioningly accept these invitations, taking time away from the rest of their lives to experience this new thing. Eventually the distraction devastates individual and collective well-being. None of this is good—for ants or for people.
* Yes, all metaphors and analogies eventually break down, this one included! For example: How are people (not) like ants? In this analogy/metaphor, who’s destroying whom? Is there such a thing as older/wiser ants?
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