commentary / Meandering

Meandering Monday about The Uncivil Hazards of Social Media

Technology has brought us many gifts, one of biggest ones has been the internet. Whether you’re trying to find, buy or sell product, or learn something new, seeking information, news, or like-minded people, it’s all out there. You can talk with anyone in the world at any given moment (barring, of course, those who have been banned or muted by our BIG TECH OVERLORDS; their dictatorial behavior shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering how willingly they went along with dictatorial regimes oppression of their own people. Birds of a feather… Absolute power corrupts…)

Social media catches a lot of flack. The BIG TECH companies themselves have created a situation where they’ve become gatekeepers of what is and isn’t allowed to be said – what opinions or ideas are allowed to be expressed. Wrong-thinking will be punished (or shadow-banned, or outright banned.)

One of the hazards of the internet is the amount of information available, and how, since anyone can put anything out there (if they are allowed to), all of it is suspect.

This includes trying to use social media as a gauge of public opinion. One of the biggest problems with social media is how it distorts the perception of what the MAJORITY thinks. I usually only look at the posts of people I’ve chosen to follow in my feed, and that’s what I comment on. I rarely look to see the comments of others – when I do, it’s amazing how many of the comments skew against the poster. It isn’t just trolls – there seems to be a concerted effort to marginalize some posters by overloading their comments with insults and jibes, to make it look like they are all alone in their opinions. But it’s all a distortion – considering that if we are to believe how the 2020 vote went, the country is split roughly 50-50, why would almost all comments go against one side?

Some of this distortion is caused by the nature of social media – there is nothing to prevent groups of trolls going after a person, or even organized “farms” (sorry, don’t remember the technical term) being set up to so a small group’s opinion is amplified to look like millions of people.

I think the main problem with social media is something deeper and harder to correct.

Social has to do with people, and it’s people that are the problem.

There’s an unfortunate human tendency to gang up and pile on. I happen to be a member of NextDoor – a neighborhood app that’s main purpose is to help neighbors stay informed about what’s going on around them. It helps organize crime watches, neighborhood gatherings, improvement initiatives, etc. But some people find the need, regardless of the nature of a post, to find something to argue about, and soon they’re belittling each other. We shouldn’t be surprised by this – social media allows us to be somewhat anonymous, and unfortunately, people seem to have less inhibitions about acting like jerks when they aren’t in immediate danger of being hit on the nose with a rolled newspaper.

I’d like to think we might be better served by a return to the old time PHYSICAL town square, but judging by the fascist violence we’ve seen on our streets for the last year or more (or, heck, in restaurants, for that matter), our traditional societal conventions of civility have been badly eroded. It is already scary enough out there that many people are afraid to speak up for fear that their wrong-thinking will rain not only words, but sticks and stones.  

Yeah, something needs to be done about the BIG BROTHER aspects of BIG TECH and their control of information, but we also need to do something to encourage civility and with our fellow humans. We can’t survive as afree society without it.

Just saying…

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William Mangieri’s writing has been published on Daily Science Fiction and The Arcanist. His ninety or so short stories and related collections can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:

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