On Social Media

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2019
Original album - Agenda (EP)
Producer - Pet Shop Boys, Tim Powell
Subsequent albums -(none)
Other releases - (none)

The second track on the 2019 Agenda EP continues the satirical social-commentary thread of its predecessor, "Give Stupidity a Chance," only this time focusing —as the title clearly states—on social media. The core message is that, while the 19th-century politico-economic theorist Karl Marx maintained that "religion is the opiate of the masses," social media has largely taken over that anesthetizing role in the early 21st century:

While democracy is losing its way
And greed is getting greedier
Console yourself with a selfie or two
And post them on social media

The lyrics catalogue the many ways in which people use such social media tools as Twitter and Facebook in efforts to improve their image, both to themselves and to others, and to achieve a sense of belonging—or, as the song puts it, feeling "part of the conversation." For the most part, the song paints a seemingly rosy picture (keeping in mind, of course, the satirical undercurrent). But Neil can't resist exposing social media's darker side as well:

And sometimes you can fuel the debate
By biting the hand that feeds ya
Expressing pure anonymous hate
When you're on social media

My favorite part, however, is when he slips in a linguistic meta-reference—"You're feeling hashtag-blessed," possibly borrowed from Bruno Mars's 2016 hit "24K Magic"—that manages to cast the whole phenomenon in a more than faintly absurd light.

The Pet Shop Boys are hardly the first cultural critics of social media, and they may appear to be preaching to a choir of their fellow baby-boomers, who very often look askance at the obsession of younger generations with it—at least when they're not participating themselves. But their sarcastic sermon is devoted to an fundamentally lost cause. And, no doubt, they know it.


List cross-references