September 27, 2023

For this paper I will summarize a 20 year study into the effects of social media on the human mind, concluding that people derive a Religious experience from social media.

Marriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines religion as, “a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.” Which is easily applied to the use of social media, not only in the way in which people use social media itself, but in how they express themselves through the use of social media.

“Obsessional Neurosis”

Freud concluded that religion was, “the universal obsessional neurosis of humanity.” Which can easily be seen throughout all social media users, as they often become obsessed and compulsive in their responses. Obsessed in terms of patterns or trends of social media they view or look for and compulsive in terms of how they respond to these nodes of communication; with their repetitive behaviors expressed on social media. Let us look at one specific phenomenon, one that I have observed over the last 7 years, we can see this “obsessional neurosis,” from the social media lens.

On October 28th 2017 someone claiming to have top level security clearance and working for the United States government posted on a website called 4Chan, they signed their name “Q,” claiming to have what was called “Q clearance.” According to a Wikipedia page, “Q clearance or Q access authorization is the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) security clearance required to access Top Secret Restricted Data, Formerly Restricted Data, and National Security Information, as well as Secret Restricted Data.(web) There is also information suggesting that it is a Biblical reference to the lost years of Jesus, from ages 12 to 29 there is no account of Jesus’ life. The 17 years is a reference to the number Q which is the 17th letter in the alphabet, and the Latin or English Q is the Greek Koppa, which can mean; “to pierce the veil of ignorance.” These are some definitions found behind the meaning of “Q,” the real phenomenon and “religious” experience comes from the fanatic obsession of its followers. This cultural phenomenon originated on a message board, making its way to other social media platforms and also gaining headlines on many news stations. The question is not whether or not President Donald Trump is really fighting an underground ring of devil worshiping pedophiles, the question is how can people become obsessed with this idea so much that they themselves would believe they are “Q?”

I have met dozens of people online who claim to be Q, who say they started it, and what I found is that if you use Bormann’s Symbolic Convergence Theory, anyone should be able to come to the same conclusion. Which leads me to believe that the whole thing is an online LARP, even if it was real, they have LARP’d it into existence. Symbolic Convergence Theory, “shared fantasies provide group members with comprehensive forms for explaining their past and thinking about their future – a basis for communication and group consciousness.”. People believe things like Q simply because they want it to be true, not because it is true or even believable, just that they want it to be. Which is why most religions are based on confirmation bias, “people’s tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with their existing beliefs.” (web) This would show the connection between the theories and how it can be viewed as “Religious Consumption.”

“Opium of the people”

Karl Marx said in his Communist Manifesto that religion is, “opium of the people.” (p. 145) Religion itself numbs the individual mind too the reality that surrounds us, it gives us blind faith that no matter what happens in this, our eternal soul will be “saved.” Opium provides a dopamine effect on the brain, numbing the physical body of pain. There are many studies that show that technology use, specifically when individuals engage in the use of social media through technology, has similar effects on the mind as the effects of opium. A few likes here, someone reposting your post, or even commenting on what is said; gives individuals a constant dopamine high. I would add to the quote, “the religious consumption of social media is opium for the people.” Because of a constant need for validation is the desire of the ego driven individual. This can be seen on social media and how people consume information, even if the information consumed is false. This need for validation has a numbing effect on the mind similar to that of opium, it also seems to provide an experience for individuals that is similar to ones found within religion itself. This need for validation and desire to feed one’s ego on social media can be seen as a numbing effect on the mind, similar to that of religion. You have helped “change” the world, by posting nonstop on social media or for liking a social cause “you” have deemed worthy, even if you first gained understanding of the cause from other media sources.

Social Media is media, and the media is normally used to sway the perception of reality. Since, reality is perception and what we tend to see, we often believe. Then we can see how social media can be an “opium for the people,” similar to how religion is “opium of the people.” Putting them together just makes sense, considering that people consume social media similar to how they consume religion; from the perspective of someone else.


Wikimedia Foundation. (2023, January 15). Q clearance. Wikipedia. Retrieved March 4, 2023, from
Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (2023, February 3). Confirmation bias. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved March 4, 2023, from (web). Retrieved March 11, 2023, from
Pals, D. L. (2009). Introducing religion: Readings from the classic theorists. Oxford University Press.