Benefits of a social-media-free world range from resolving terrorism to literacy to homelessness…
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) On Thursday, President Donald Trump, smarting from a new Twitter policy of arbitrarily—and inaccurately—fact-checking his tweets, pushed back with an executive order to hold Silicon Valley more accountable for its biased and unethical practices.
Liberals, not surprisingly, offered knee-jerk opposition to the idea. But given the pernicious role that tech companies have played in creating or exacerbating many of America’s biggest 21st-century challenges, those objections may be misguided.
The list below shows a solid argument could be made to sell both sides on curtailing the influence of our social-media overlords and the benefits that would likely result:
10. Increase Productivity and Economic Growth
Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit. From the first days of MySpace, employers have struggled with the disruptions caused by those daily social-media breaks. Schools, likewise, now face the scourge of inattentiveness and distraction, which has helped to amplify the downward trends in intellectual rigor and accountability. Many households probably feel the same way.
As the post-pandemic economy works to regain its footing, the challenges of overcoming shutdown sloth will be great. But a society free from social media would enjoy a greater sense of focus and purpose, while helping to ween folks from their doorstep deliveries back into the world at large.
9. Reduce Polarization
Another obvious side-effect of the online culture, universally experienced by anyone who has ever encountered Facebook and Twitter feeds, is the acrimonious divisiveness of our current political and cultural views.
In our virtual existences, we have become the curators of our own realities, filtering and hiding all that we find objectionable, challenging or just plain annoying.
The loss of healthy conflict, in turn, has driven civility out of the picture when those forces do, inevitably, collide.
8. Discourage Mass Shootings/Violent Extremism
It isn’t the guns but the glory that has led to our sporadic epidemics of mass, public violence.
The deepening sense of social alienation, paired with the prospects of an enduring (albeit heinous) legacy, create a toxic brew for the disaffected, psychologically disturbed or mentally vulnerable portions of the populace. Often, mass shootings are not random acts of spontaneous terror but carefully calculated cries for attention, replete with manifestos.
Meanwhile, the media mantra “if it bleeds it leads” has only been amplified by click-driven social-media-based models (more on that below) that pander to the morbid curiosity of audiences.
But not all evil-doers fit the lone-gunman profile. Sites like Twitter have aided and abetted violent extremism, even becoming a valuable recruiting tool for terrorist groups to radicalize impressionable young fanatics.
7. Protect Children
Mass shootings and terrorism are not the only unspeakable horrors that can befall today’s young people. Social media also has provided powerful platforms for things like sex-trafficking and pedophilia.
Of course, cyber-bullying alone can be bad enough with the powerful megaphones that a massive social-media following entails.
In a world where teenagers can garner millions of fans and become instant celebrities from the comfort of their rooms via outlets like the Chinese spying/video app TikTok, social ostracism by one’s peers is a lot scarier than the bathroom graffiti of yore.
6. Improve Literacy
To be fair, language has always been an ever-evolving organism. A strong case could be made—and has been—that emojis are the new hieroglyphics.
While the shorthand acronyms of textspeak that once seemed like Greek to adults have become more commonplace in our vernacular, today’s Zoomer generation may come to regard cursive writing as all but extinct.
Likewise, the reliance on autocorrect, when it is working properly, has shifted the paradigms for spelling and typographical errors. And the character counts on platforms like Twitter have encouraged syntactical sloppiness.
A world without grammar nazis may, arguably, be a good thing, but the sacrifice of linguistic complexity and tonal nuance mean it is only a matter of time before Dr. Seuss is the new Moby Dick.
5. Prevent Foreign Election-Meddling
Of the many things Russia was accused of doing during the 2016 election, only one has proven to be unequivocally true: Its coordinated misinformation campaign using false articles and bots to manipulate public discourse and sow chaos.
With China now sabre-rattling about retaliation against GOP senators, it will likely be worse come November. Nor are left-wing elites helping matters by supporting their own domestic propaganda initiatives.
Some have questioned the impact that the Kremlin’s 2016 efforts had on voters—or noted that the supposed failures within the system were endemic to the limitations of democracy. After all, discerning voices of reason have always been drowned out by slander, sensationalism and demagoguery in the public discourse.
Either way, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others have been unsuccessful in containing the spread, and their overtures to do so often create even greater problems by censoring valid points of view.
4. Save the Legacy Media
Coronavirus shutdowns may finally have signaled the death knell of many legacy media outlets, a protracted process reminiscent of Monty Python’s Black Knight.
Journalism elites have only themselves to blame for losing touch with the needs and demands of news consumers, leading sites like the one you are reading to splinter off from the once-monolithic mainstream media.
If those niche audiences were like the knight’s various extremities, hacked off one by one, then social media was the sword. But while tech companies typically do not compensate content creators, they haven’t hesitated to poach the advertisers that previously sustained them, the industry’s gushing lifeblood.
Despite offering a greater potential to reach large than ever before, Google, Facebook and the like have also declared themselves the gatekeepers of information. By constantly tweaking the algorithms that determine when and how content appears, they make it impossible to adapt long enough to develop a lucrative business model that relies upon them—and that’s assuming the sites aren’t capriciously blacklisted, shadow-banned or otherwise censored.
Alternative media solutions, such as crowd-sourced or patron-backed funding—or worse yet, government-subsidized news—will do greater damage to media independence and diminish the quality of reporting so long as social media maintains its stranglehold on the market.
3. Block Out ‘Big Brother’
No longer is it possible to live “off the grid” in our interconnected world. However, the degree to which our lives are intruded upon by government and corporate interests remains staggeringly shocking. Some track our every move; others monitor our searches and clicks and eyeball movements and emotional responses, developing composite dossiers of our lives that it then markets to the highest bidder.
Demands that claim to serve our best interest as public safety measures, such as facial recognition software and coronavirus tracking, undeniably come with a dystopian dark side, even under the best of intentions. But, of course, who’s to say that those entrusted with the information have our best interest at heart?
2. Curb California’s Homeless Epidemic
Just as social media has succeeded in crowding out the virtual market to monopolize the media, so has it done literally in parts of California, where tech billionaires have driven up real-estate in the more desirable regions like San Francisco and Los Angeles.
But these playgrounds for the wealthy have become unaffordable for those making less than six figures, and even while the Golden State’s massive tax-and-spend policies drive out the wealthy to refuges like Lake Tahoe, the income gap has become more pronounced for those left behind.
Sanctuary-state immigration policies and other social-engineering programs that incentivize welfare abuse have also made things more difficult for the indigent population that most needs it.
1. Restore Mental Health
Casting aside all of the added stress-factors above, studies have long shown the link between social media and depression that results from the innocuous act of trying to keep up with the Jones in an artificial cyber-landscape where everyone else appears to be wart-free and thriving.
On the other hand, it may also be that social media is deliberately trying to manipulate your emotions as part of a mass psychological experiment it was never given permission to conduct.
Trying to figure out whether your paranoia is justified will simply take you deeper down the rabbit hole. But while the debate rages over how to rein in the enemy that probably knows more about you than you do, take comfort in knowing that everyone else you connect with is probably in the same boat.