In recent years, the dark side of social media has become more and more apparent with each passing day. Perhaps nobody knows this better than comedian and filmmaker Bo Burnham.
In the wake of Elon Musk's recent purchase of Twitter and the changes he's already made to the platform, a rant from Burnham about social media companies' nefarious goals has resurfaced and gone viral.
Delivered during a 2018 Q&A while promoting his film Eighth Grade, Burnham spoke about the ways social media platforms strive to "colonize every minute of your life" and use each of us as a profit center.
See his rant below.
Perfectly describing the dystopia we seem to be falling ever more deeply into, Burnham explained that as publicly traded companies, social media platforms must find ways to produce infinitely increasing profits. The only way to do that is to sell our attention to advertisers.
As he put it:
"They're coming for every second of your life..."
"...It's because these companies like Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, and everything, they went public and they went to shareholders, so they have to grow. Their entire models are based off of growth—they cannot stay stagnant..."
"It has to get more of you."
Burnham went on to compare the industry to the old-fashioned way of building empires—colonization.
"We used to colonize land. That was the thing you could expand into, and that's where money was to be made."
"We colonized the entire earth. There was no other place for the businesses and capitalism to expand into."
"And then they realized human attention..."
Burnham then said this hunger for ever more profit is leading social media companies to attempt to "colonize" our every waking moment.
"They are now trying to colonize every minute of your life... Every single free moment you have is a moment you could be looking at your phone, and they could be gathering information to target ads at you. That's what's happening."
Burnham, who began his career as a teen on YouTube and attributed his mental health issues to growing up online, has made criticism of social media a theme throughout his work.
Aside from Eighth Grade which centers on a social media-obsessed tween, Burnham went even deeper into the issue in his 2021 comedy special Inside, which was filmed in his home during the COVID-19 lockdown and went on to win an Emmy and a Peabody Award.