Tri-City Ledger -

By Pete Riehm
Guest Writer 

The bane of social media

 

August 2, 2018



Social media has invaded the daily routine of people across the planet; and the younger you are the more likely it saturates your life. Older generations remember “My Space” and are aware of if not using Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter, but the youth gleefully indulge Instagram, Snap Chat, Periscope, and others elders don’t even know about. Seemingly harmless, it’s a tremendous tool to connect people around the world.

It can be quite enticing and even useful, but some raise concerns it’s addictive like gambling, pornography, or video games. Like any activity for amusement or pleasure, it can become a problem for those who become obsessed, but those are typically individual challenges not group contagions. Beyond personal use, vendors are finding it good for advertising and small businesses are finding it more economical and effective than their own web sites.

Social media is a boon for widely disseminating information and connecting people remotely disbursed, but it cannot be all things to all people. Facebook is probably the posterchild for trying to do too much. The recent travails of Zuckerburg’s pet project particularly losing over $100 billion in value in one day was satisfying to many, but any rumors of its imminent demise are grossly exaggerated. Other companies who have endured similar gargantuan losses, like Apple, Microsoft, and Exxon/Mobile are all still with us.

Facebook for personal use is great. In a highly mobile world, we have family all over the place, so it’s hard to keep up since very few folks write letters anymore. But on Facebook, you can keep up with births, graduations, and family vacations without calling – just follow and “like it.” You can keep up with school chums, old neighbors, and military pals you sort of like, but don’t care enough to call. It’s also handy to advertise or find goods and services; perhaps too handy when boots or fencing ads mysteriously follow you for weeks.

Facebook and more so Twitter bill themselves as open forums for the free exchange of ideas, but this is where the trouble starts. There should be standards in public and many people don’t fully grasp their posts are public; like posts promoting indecency or violence are inappropriate. But how does a supposedly open forum fairly assess political thought? Or how do they determine fake news? The Enquirer’s series on Presidential candidate John Edwards’ peccadilloes was considered tabloid trash until overwhelming evidence made it mainstream.

The point is that in free speech, there is room for tabloid trash, conspiracy theories, whistle blowers, and UFO sightings. It is up to the reader to determine what they believe. It is the epitome of arrogance and quite frankly dangerous that any one person or group should determine what information is available to the masses. The people are smart enough and have the right to decide for themselves.

It’s impossible for Facebook or Twitter to adjudicate what news is fit for consumption because all consumers don’t agree. The very real threat is elite arbiters are molding the news to shape opinion to their biases; it’s unavoidable. The people can only be truly informed if they sift through the chaff themselves to find the valuable nuggets. And we will dispute the findings, but that is how a free society sorts out what they believe. Censoring news is just half the problem. Twitter shadow bans and Facebook suppresses posts by slanted algorithms to isolate certain opinions and groups creating the perception those opinions are rare or unsupported. This is the stuff of Orwell’s 1984, brazen attempts at thought control.

There cannot be and never will be uniform thought in a free society. Some people will watch CNN and others Fox News, but all should have the opportunity and right to choose. Facebook and Twitter will not go away, but they must be recognized as unreliable and intensely prejudiced mediums. We actually need more social media vehicles like multiple news sources where every brand of thought can find a home. One size does not fit all.

“For there is no truth in their mouth; their inmost self is destruction; their throat is an open grave; they flatter with their tongue.” Psalm 5:9

 
 

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