The Plague Of Social Media

While I am sure there is some element of Old Man Yells At Cloud to what I'm about to say, I don't think I am entirely off base.

Social media is an absolute plague, a pox on the Internet and mankind as a whole. I'm only being mildly melodramatic; I truly believe the effects these platforms, chiefly Facebook and Twitter, have been grave and we're only beginning to notice them.

Among the many issues I have with social media, the following phenomena was described perfectly in a tweet by Vincent Bevins (author of The Jakarta Method):

I tweet this every few weeks but the internet absolutely does not work any more. You are corralled on to one of the few infinite-scroll brain-death experiences, and if you try to leave to actually go read something, an assault of pop-ups and broken paywalls forces you back here.

The majority of content worth reading has been locked away behind a paywall. I can't tell you how tired I am, of clicking on a cryptic link generated by a shortening service (bit.ly, link.to, etc), only to slam right into a message that goes something like "sorry - we hope you enjoyed your free articles for the month, subscribe here."

So, yeah, everyone just ends up back on the only site you can read stuff on, the giant open chat room. From there, we all get innundated with a stream of thoughts, bombarded with the tension and anxieties of our fellow posters. And we go fucking crazy!

I'm not at the point of deleting my Twitter account, something I have had for 12 years and counting. I consider it, but never to any serious degree. Theoretically, I can just not post — or post less. Right?

It's always difficult for me to break routines, and this runs a lot deeper than just having a place to put my stupid thoughts. I have that here; you're reading some of my numerous stupid thoughts right now! But I've always had an online hangout of sorts. In the 90s and early 2000s, it was forums, the mid-2000s was a mix of forums and in-game chat platforms.

I had an early Facebook account, back in 2005. Hell, I also had an Orkut and a Google+ account too. I started my Twitter account shortly before I moved out of my first apartment, in 2009. I did not actually begin posting on it until early 2010, however; I was way too busy living paycheque-to-paycheque to post on the early Twitter frontier — when it was largely just an alternative to Instagram for those who wanted to show everyone what their lunch looked like.

The platform evolved to be a mix of breaking news and funny joke posts. Like all good things, this was never destined to last. By 2015, like everything else, Twitter became subsumed by the presidential aspirations of Donald Trump; the platform was already another battleground in the neverending Culture Wars, but, on November 9th, 2016, everyone's brains broke a little — we've never truly recovered either.

I do have some positive things to say about my time on Twitter, but I still worry about the long-term effects. Not just of the platform itself, but the further atomization of society that it helps facilitate. The stratafication of society along economic lines is accelerating, and online communication is making it increasingly possible to avoid human contact to any significant degree if one so chooses.

I don't know what the end of all this looks like, but the pandemic has accelerated a lot of problems, and growing social dysfunction is among them. I will be re-visiting these thoughts again; right now, all I have is this gnawing feeling that we are really fucking ourselves up. And I say this as someone who enjoys my time alone more than most people.

Published: February 21st, 2021.