But I just can’t deal with the degree to which they have slid off into the abyss, it is too hard to watch, remembering them as they were seems to be the easy way out. For those two there are probably 100’s of thousands if not millions (more?) of others who are equally detached from reality.
This essay is a nice summary of why I say #SocialMediaIsDestroyingSociety. Before the informational overload days, before the internet and the rise of social media, people generally didn’t have access to fringe ideas: sparse “facts” strung together to form specious narratives. You had to really go out of your way to get to them.
Probably the biggest conspiracy theory before the internet was the assassination of JFK, right? But even that whole phenomenon arose because of the availability of facts. The real-time TV and radio coverage of the event led to a lot of speculation of what had happened, and people rushed to fill in holes with their own interpretation of events. Because of the public view of the event, and all the bizarre things that happened (uh, umbrella man, anyone?), and the doubt turned up by the plot-hole-riddled narrative the government was trying to peddle, the government was publicly forced to do an inquiry, which turned out to contain even bigger whoppers than the previous explanations.
Now, literally everything of importance that happens can be dissected and analyzed like a huge government conspiracy. Take any big news story, like the recent invasion of the Capitol building. There are a couple articles about it on every major news site, but the thing is just exploding on social media. Social media has become more important than the news.
Social media. Really? Where everyone is supposedly equal, but which is quietly a gigantic popularity contest? We’re going to let the prevailing sentiment and direction of our country be decided by blue-checkmark “influencer” celebrities? Is this appropriate? Is this desirable? Social media. Where every timeline and information stream is being manipulated by whoever is writing the biggest checks. Did Trump’s election teach us nothing? In one sense, it did. They “fixed” the algorithm, and preventing Trump from abusing the platform this time. In another sense, the 2016 election taught us nothing, because we’re still allowing Twitter and Facebook to invisibly program society, and manufacture public consent. But, hey, as long as it’s working in your side’s favor, it’s cool, right?
And “social media” is not just Twitter and Facebook. Imgur is about 70% reposted Twitter hot takes at the time of this writing. I can only imagine what Reddit looks like. (I stopped going there, if I can avoid it, a long time ago.) I’m morbidly curious to see what my wife’s Facebook looks like.
Twitter and Facebook are throwing Trump off their platforms, along with identified people who took part. It might look like something substantive, but this is just cover for their own exposed culpability in this mess. They’re trying to prevent legislative blowback on their revenue and influence.
For decades, I’ve watched people on the internet complain about censorship on various platforms, and the answer is always, “It’s a private company. If you don’t like it, go start your own platform.” So people did. They went and started Parler. But now that the MAGA crowd has a place to go, people are calling on Apple and Google to deplatform the Parler app. Those poor MAGA people just can’t win! 🙁
A lot of people have been crowing that rescinding the FCC’s Section 230 would cause an undue burden on social media, and essentially force them out of business. Aww, poor babies. I say good! Remove that law, force platforms to take accountability for illegal speech on their services, and let it all shake out. Inciting a riot is illegal, but claiming that the election was stolen is not. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to be hypocritically trying to use the law against speech they just don’t like.
Another thing that people like to point out is that the First Amendment only restricts government, and private companies can do whatever they like. That’s fine, but it shows just how dangerous the outsized influence of Twitter and Facebook have become when we’re arguing about whether the President of the Unites States is allowed to have an account. They have become a de facto governing body now, and I just don’t think that should be allowed. I have a hard enough time with how disconnected I am with my government as it is, and how little influence my one vote has on our process. When I think about the influence my government has on FAANG companies, it makes me despair to be so far removed from something that has become so vital to the national infrastructure.
When Standard Oil started basically running the entire country, the government jacked up the income tax to take NINETY PERCENT of Rockefeller’s income, and he is STILL the richest person to have ever lived, accounting for inflation, beating Bezos or Musk by a factor of over two times. They did this to at least float the country on his success. It is said that his income taxes funded 25% of the government by himself.
Social media companies want it both ways. They get to control the political discourse of the country, while raking in unprecedented profits, but pay essentially zero corporate tax, and their executives probably pay less, on a marginal basis, than I do. They’re breaking how democracy works, and we don’t even get a “kickback” to help, say, fund a proper social safety net during a global pandemic which has caused the highest unemployment since the Great Depression. There’s something seriously wrong with this picture.