Social Cuts Both Ways

Peter Stannack
3 min readJan 11, 2021


Having recently been de-platformed from Facebook, (I am so proud, even though I have no idea why) I thought I might launch a scathing attack on social platforms.

So, here goes.

Is social and mainstream media hijacking your trust?

Course they are. But you don’t care. Why should you? Unless…

I have been watching Pretend It’s a City with Fran Lieberman and Martin Scorsese over the last few nights. And — like her- sometimes I wake up and am not entirely certain whether it is 2021 or 1971.

When Fran was six, the field of marketing was notorious for the infamous ‘‘subliminal advertising’’ hoax perpetrated by James M. Vicary the owner of a marketing research firm. He infamously claimed to have flashed DRINK COCA-COLA and HUNGRY? EAT POPCORN in white block letters using a tachistoscope at 1/3000 of a second every 5 seconds during the movie Picnic at a Ft. Lee, New Jersey theatre, and he claimed that Coca-Cola sales went up 57.7% and popcorn 18.1% over a 6-week period.

Around this time Vance Packard’s book Hidden Persuaders, which reported onthe “depth approach” being tested in marketing and advertising,suggesting that :

It is about the large-scale efforts being made, often with impressive success, to channel our unthinking habits, or purchasing decisions, and our thought processes by the use of insights gleaned from psychiatry and the social sciences. Typically these efforts take place beneath our level of awareness; so that the appeals which move us are often, in a sense, ‘hidden.’ The result is that many of us are often being influenced and manipulated, far more than we realize, in the patterns of our everyday lives”. (Packard, 1957: 3)”

Now, of course we’ve moved on from subliminal advertising to social media targeted advertising in which people who claim to be — at worst- ‘friends’ of ours and — at best- ‘just like us’ so we can ‘trust them’.

Now trust come in many forms. Two critical approaches underpinning trust are normative- based on rules- or predictive- based on expectations. Sometimes these are linked. Other times they travel apart.

Often, there is another A third is personality or psychologically based trust where you trust a person because of the way in which you represent then in your head. And they represent themselves to you.

But the problem is that — like so many human constructs- trust shifts. And while Vicary was discredited, what is the impact of some — or any- of our friends and contacts on social media betraying our trust by recommending an experience of a product which was excruciatingly awful.

So, when we are building the next generation of social platforms, will there be enough trust left to support the next generation of funding for such platforms when the advertising becomes as ineffective — and fake- as Mr. Vicary’s subliminal Coca-Cola and the weaknesses of Mr. Packard’s hidden persuasion become more transparent?

And, what will happen if trust breakdown turns into a trust collapse that increases the fault lines between/within social media and mainstream media. Or even between/within digital and ‘real’ life.

And sure, I don’t even know what that last thing is. Do you?

But when we lose touch with it, we seem to experience…problems

Which are just opportunities anyway. Get in early. While you can. You are probably immune anyway. Aren’t you?