Over time I have come to discovery that the flaws in the architecture of all social media platforms are irreparable and can’t be redeemed. As a thoughtful and reflective critic, I have no choice but place social media on the figurative supermarket tabloid rack where the National Enquirer and Weekly World News reside.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram—even LinkedIn are all media doomed because of one major fundamental flaw: they presume that the individual should be able to choose the information they encounter and that those same individuals should be able to selfishly screen out the information that makes them uncomfortable and fundamentally question their lives, their beliefs, and even their place in the world. It is really ideas that disturb us, that make us uncomfortable that make us reflective and introspective. Without them, we unquestionably follow doctrine and demagogues, and become entangled in the webs of propaganda spun by authoritarian quacks.
Social media…which should really be spelled….social MEEEEEEEDIA, unfortunately has been responsible for much of polarization and partisan divide that exists in our country. It is a technology that allows individuals to live comfortably in alternative universes and in worlds of alternative facts. It also assumes too much, that those who inhabit their milieus know the difference.
Neil Postman somewhat prophetically captured this fatal flaw in social media way back in 1988 when he wrote:
“Just as the language itself creates culture in its own image, each new medium of communication re-creates or modifies culture in its image; and it is extreme naïveté to believe that a medium of communication or, indeed, any technology is merely a tool, a way of doing.” Neil Postman, Conscientious Objections
We were, I was, naive to believe that social media was or ever would be, “Just a tool, a way of connecting.” It has “re-created” and “modified” our culture in its image, which is a culture where my own beliefs, biases, prejudices, and nonsense constantly validated. The “Me” in social media’s architecture has cultivated a society where what I believe is true and everything else and everyone else on on highways to hell. As a tool for connecting individuals with others, social media has failed colossally.
It is time to stop calling “social media” simply at “tool” with just a communicative purpose. With its algorithms and architecture, it is designed most exclusively as a propaganda tool (which in my thinking is simply a more harsh but correct characterization of the term “marketing”), and is not just a tool to disseminate information. It shoves only the information its users wish to see, only the most propagandistic ideas into the minds of its users. And, add the fact that one can “pay” to promote your posts, and you have the ability to promote ideas, not because they are beneficial or right or just or worthwhile, but because you have financial means to affect the minds of others.
One can only take a look at some of my past blog posts and see that I once believe the stories social media sites used to promote themselves as tools for individuals to connect. But I was wrong. Social media platforms are fatally constructed as they are. They are disinformation and malinformation machines and anyone using them now needs to keep all such sites figuratively located on the supermarket tabloid rack next to the National Enquirer when it comes to what you read therein.