To the Editor
My son is a huge comic book fan and one of his favorites is The X Men. It follows two groups of mutants, a subspecies of humans with superpowers, The X Men led by professor Xavier and Brotherhood led by Magneto. Xavier is aspirational and thinks the human race is redeemable despite its flaws, ultimately there is faith the humans are teachable. Magneto was born out of the Holocaust atrocities and has seen the depravity humans are capable of, always driven by their self-interests and lack of empathy for people different from them. Essentially, Magneto is a realist having experienced human cruelty firsthand and feels they need to be controlled.
Extraordinary times sometimes require extraordinary measures. Social media has destroyed democracy and discourse in our nation. Algorithms, created predominately by privileged white males lack diversity and nuance, and perpetuate ugly mob mentalities. They feed you the news you want to hear, the memes you prefer to see, and suggest groups that serve as private ideological echo chambers. In effect, it feeds your confirmation bias and reinforces you’re right and your friends (really acquaintances) are gravely wrong. Back in its infancy, social media was novel and fun(ish). Today, 60 percent of people consume news through their algorithmically curated feeds. Facebook has 2 billion logins a day, that’s 60 billion logins a month. Its prime users are age 45 to 65 yrs, who aren’t the most technologically savvy users. In essence, Facebook is the perfect instrument to manipulate democracy and its institutions by foreign entities, recruit angry disenfranchised white males into white supremacy groups, and promote dangerous conspiracy groups like QAnon. It has morphed into a megaphone for anyone to take advantage of, and it reaches the most active voting block in the USA. (45 to 70-year-olds) It has turned us into barking carnival clowns separated into like-minded camps. Moreover, it arguably contributed heavily to electing a barking carnival clown to the highest office in the land. There’s an anti-intellectual faction of social media users that lack critical thought and are extremely susceptible to enemy foreign entities tampering in elections. Meanwhile, CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey hide falsely behind perceived violations of free speech. They view their platforms as town squares but in reality they are commercial products and not covered by freedom of speech. They could remove vile content without violating Freedom of speech. Freedom of speech applies to government entities censoring press, not corporations. In addition, Section 230 is a piece of Internet legislation in the United States, passed into law as part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 which generally provides immunity for website publishers from third-party content. Section 230 legally absolves them from legal action but not moral judgement. Twitter and Facebook make more revenue during political strife and polarization. More clicks, means more data collected, more targeted ads, and more data sold. This further refines their algorithms which in turn feed the polarization of people in our communities or even family.
better or worse, Twitter and Facebook have exposed a vein of ugliness stoking our “friends” lack of empathy towards the unfortunate or different among us, or at the very worst their racist attitudes. Was this caused by social media, or did social media peel away your “friends” facades and expose traits that were already there? Sadly, I’m realizing it’s the latter. I’d like to think that Xaviers exist in this world, but social media and its design flaws have put me firmly into Magneto’s camp. I’m shocked at what people post in pseudo anonymity. People who I looked up to, coworkers I once respected, and most disturbingly, family members. A dormant recessive gene of racism has reared its head in the Republican party. Paraphrasing Maya Angelou regarding racism, “if someone shows you who they are, no matter the medium, believe them.”
Social media has become a tool for scaled sociopathy. I feel sad and angry having associated with people who stealthily disguise their prejudice and racism out and about every day. The toxicity these platforms foment are the main reason I’m considering dumping my social media footprint after the election. However, the one thing I appreciate social media for is shining a light on these closet racists and sociopaths and allowing me to filter that ugliness out of my life. More people should consider excising social media accounts from their lives too, for their country, their communities, and their sanity.