Following my latest four-part series on social media’s psychologically damaging effects, Wired’s Jesse Hempel coincidentally releases an article about the problems with social media. It is a rare moment of self-reflection. It almost recognizes the root problem but just doesn’t quite get there.
One of the conclusions of the “Our minds can be hijacked” series of articles was that in order to reverse the current anti-social trend of cliquishness and group-think, social media needs to be stigmatized. Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms need to be recognized as a net detriment to society, particularly if used habitually by large swaths of the population. Those currently stuck in the social media bubble lack the humility and self-introspection to recognize the problem, hence why Hempel’s article is so rare.
On its surface, #MeToo has the makings of an earnest and effective social movement. It’s galvanizing women and trans people everywhere to speak out about harassment and abuse. It’s causing everyone to weigh in on systemic sexism in our culture. In truth, however, #MeToo is a too-perfect meme. It harnesses social media’s mechanisms to drive users (that’s you and me) into escalating states of outrage while exhausting us to the point where we cannot meaningfully act. In other words, #MeToo—despite the best intentions of so many participating—is everything that’s wrong with social media.
Outrage is central to the design of most social media platforms—for very good reason. It’s an emotion that inspires sharing, which causes all of us to spend more time engaged with the platform.
For most of the “virtue signalling” crowd, it is much easier to write scathing words about the alleged “privileged” classes to win the approval of others who already think like them than to take real, physical action.
It is all talk and no show.
These social media movements absolve personal responsibility on a superficial level and is mostly confined to those that have not yet experienced reality, but gives the impression that they too understand the problems in the world (real or manufactured) and are doing something about it.
Going beyond what Hempel discusses, by observing these echo chambers from the outside, it is easy to see how manufactured problems from postmodernist ideas gain traction uncontested via these social media outrage brigades. The co-opting of alleged disadvantaged groups by the postmodern movement eliminates rational debate by overpowering logic and reality with sustained and amplified outrage.
Many of the social media addicts are misplacing their outrage, unknowingly supporting nefarious leaders that propose to solve manufactured problems of social injustice. Social media and its proclivity to isolate and classify people in to groups, pitting one group against the other, is the same type of class warfare propagated by communists. If the leaders promising social justice gain a critical mass of support, it is not far-fetched that the dissenting groups will be suppressed by violent means.
Hempel does recognize to an extent the anti-social epidemics of group-think and “virtue signalling” but doesn’t quite make the connection with the growth pattern of murderous communist states. The term “useful idiots” is becoming relevant again.
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