SOCIAL MEDIA: MY OPINION
Beyond this web site I don't use social media. I believe it may do more harm than good.
Besides a dormant LinkedIn profile, I have tried Facebook only, 3 times over the last few years, and each time was quickly overwhelmed by the empty, thoughtless jabber filling my inbox.
I have no problem discussing serious issues in context...but have never been comfortable with the idea of artificial community, where anyone can say anything, any time, virtually without consequence.
Social media increasingly enables passion and unconsidered opinion over substance. Dialogue, such as it is, quickly becomes the online equivalent of people yelling at each other in a crowded nightclub--neither hearing nor caring what others say.
Few realize that these kindergarten-level yelling forums are largely hosted by "platforms" which appear neutral, safe, and conducive to "community"...but were constructed specifically to capture and parse personal data, monitor content, and both track and manipulate users.
By enabling "free expression" of anyone's ideas or opinion, these platforms have harvested oceans of data--not just on what we might purchase, but on where we are, what we think & believe, and what we might do (or NOT do) in any given situation.
Even worse, the gradual restriction, skewing, or outright censorship of "controversial" content, by the platforms themselves, has begun in earnest and will only get worse (as of 8/4/2020). Most users don't (and may never) realize this, but startlingly obvious attempts to propagandize or indoctrinate users continue to ramp up daily.
The bulk of this manipulation takes place in time-honored fashion: 1) suppressing (or "debunking") information that might contradict mainstream narratives, 2) pumping up the volume of those same narratives with endless, monotonous repetition.
Uncritical acceptance of the world as interpreted by "big tech platforms" (including Mainstream Media via the wider internet) can be hazardous to your health. We have only to look at how media has misled the general public for over 50 years on diet and health, resulting in the current obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer's and other chronic disease epidemics.
(To be fair, social media can be useful. Facebook, Youtube etc. have immensely aided my wife, a veteran schoolteacher, in her abrupt transition to remote instruction. She is also an artist, and enjoys participating in dedicated creative online communities.)
It's outside these communities that we need to be watchful. Engaging with the world through popular mainstream platforms automatically makes us pawns in a dangerous game. Expression of dearly held views probably draws more attention from media platform monitors and their algorithms than any personal list of recipients, "friends" or followers.
This engagement may also provoke the twitter-horde frenzy so prevalent today--that dreaded chorus of generic opinions, remarks or empty outrage that increasingly reveals itself as algorithmically generated (if not simply hammered out by captive "trolls.") This has become a vastly effective manipulative force.
Apart from blindly ejecting our beliefs and images into cyberspace, simple reliance on media for "facts" and guidance is also problematic. Web, print and broadcast information has been quietly misrepresented, slanted, suppressed or faked for decades, but is now being openly manipulated, in real time.
Today's twin crises of pandemic and social unrest have created a unique opportunity to observe what are or are not considered "safe" ideas for the credulous citizen...raising these questions:
Why should we be insulated from certain information?
Can't we make our own decisions?
Could it be that we aren't hearing the full story?
What would we do if we had ALL the facts?
For now, if we make the effort, we can still look outside the online corral (feedlot?) of mainstream and social media, to locate alternate viewpoints or learn about events or information that fully contradict what most of us hear from conventional sources.
We should take advantage of this while we can.
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