Professor Forte describes the wasteland of social media

Summary: Professor Maximilian Forte provides a brilliant analysis of social media & us. Unlike most of us, he acts on his conclusions. More of us should follow his example.

Internet in my hands

Deactivism: The Pleasures of Life without Social Media

By Maximilian C. Forte,
From Zero Anthropology, 22 February 2018.
Reposted with his generous permission.

Leaving social media.

Finally, on February 21, I decided to completely withdraw myself from the two main social media accounts that had kept me busy online for nearly a decade: Twitter and Facebook. My account of leaving these two so-called social network sites is not any more special or deserving of attention than any of the countless others. All I have done is to rejoin the overwhelming majority of humanity which, regardless of all the hype designed to promote social media, remains wholly disengaged and indifferent. Being like any other person in this majority is hardly a special achievement, worthy of a lengthy essay, but I do feel regret for not giving a proper farewell to the nearly 8,000 who subscribed to my Twitter feed, and the nearly 5,000 in Facebook.

The final straw, but not the primary reason, was finding on the last morning that just overnight (precisely, during the night), I had been stripped of dozens of followers (others reported losing many thousands). For three solid months I had seen a mysterious pattern — the exact moment I logged in after a few months’ absence in late 2017, I instantaneously lost 84 followers (and I had not even typed a word). For the months that followed, and for the first time ever, my net gain in followers was consistently negative. Constantly I saw that former followers had been either deleted or suspended, or the total number of accounts they followed was always reduced to zero — they were forced to follow nobody.

I also saw a political pattern: the accounts were always those of libertarians and conservative populists, especially Italian, British, and American. On my last day, I investigated further and found that each of the accounts that had been stopped from following me or anyone else, had a statement posted on them by Twitter: “Caution: this account is temporarily restricted” — as if it were some radioactive contaminant.

It was reported by many others that a purge was underway in Twitter, focused on anti-liberal accounts {WaPo}, which only added to previous rounds of shadow bans, account deletions, censored trending topics, etc., with similar measures to suppress posts and persons in Facebook. The idea that I was spending time on sites where unseen managers would decide what I was permitted to see or read, was absolutely galling. My continued presence simply validated the censorship, by taking the selfish line that as long as I was not directly and overtly censored (yet), then the system was still acceptable. Why should I? Who made me do it? How many insults can one take?

This moves us to much larger issues, and I would encourage others to both experiment and reflect on their practice. First, I had taken several periods of absence from “social media” (to use that idiotic term) — sometimes an absence would last mere days, other times a couple of weeks, and on three occasions it would last several months. For a few years, I refused to post anything on Sundays or during major holidays: the idea was not to cheapen treasured days of rest and celebration, by being obsessively focused on building content for Twitter and Facebook.

I noticed from each of these absences was how immensely beneficial they were for me: the peace of mind, the increased clarity, the development of new plans, with more time devoted to exercise, relaxation, spending time with those that matter to me, and reading serious work…as in books. As a result, over the last year I deliberately began to scale down my involvement with sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Second, those absences reminded me of all the ways I had grown to resent the intrusion of the Internet as such, the Internet as a whole, remembering how much better things were before 1994, when I first started using the “World Wide Web” (and even then because a professor at SUNY-Binghamton forced me: to compel us to get email accounts, he decided grades would only be communicated to us via email). I did not own my first computer until the late 1990s. I have thought of the millions of jobs lost thanks to the Internet, and the way that daily social interactions had been perversely altered. Displacement and dispossession of economies and geographies is the ongoing gift of the Internet.

Gathering information in the new era – from our new info oligarchy.

Gathering information was once a fully social and even multi-sensory experience. Sometime in the 1980s, when I needed an Amnesty International report for a research paper after reading a reference in a newspaper article, I could not just visit a website and download it. I could telephone their office in Toronto and ask them to mail it, but there was the issue of paying for it, which had to be done in person. So getting this document meant setting aside time on a Saturday afternoon, showering, getting dressed, walking, taking a bus, then a subway, seeing people, a chance encounter with a friend downtown, then walking further downtown, visiting the people at the AI office, getting the document, having a conversation (and obtaining further leads), and then doing the return journey, with a stop at a café along the way, and then a record store, all the while enjoying a beautiful sunny day. By the time I reached home, I had already read the report in full and made notes. That was life without the Web: slower, healthier, and friendlier.

All that has been replaced by sitting in a chair for hours (murder for one’s health) and harvesting a vast number of PDF documents, which I rarely have the time to read, and which I sometimes re-download forgetting that I already have them. Fast yes, but also unhealthy and isolated — efficiency without substantive gain. Working at a computer could just as well be done in prison, because at this stage surroundings no longer matter.

The fact of the matter is that we do not need the Internet, we do not need social media, and we certainly do not need “smart phones”. What are you, a brain surgeon, that you always have to be available in case of an emergency call? Listen to what people say when they use these “essential” gadgets, as I listen to the hordes on campus — the most typical utterances are: “Hey, what’s up? Yeah I’m on the escalator. Ok, see ya later”. Impressive. Clearly, it’s money well spent. It is almost as if individuals have become afraid of a moment of silence, possibly because they intuitively fear discovering that inside, they are empty.

Third, there is the political economy of social media, whose nature I find entirely objectionable. All of us who use these “social media” are doing free labour. It is work, where we generate content, promote engagement, and build audiences for advertisers. In return, we get none of the revenue — so our work serves to make certain individuals immensely wealthy and powerful. In return, they arrogate to themselves the right to decide what we can read, what we can say, and how to say it — there is not even basic respect in return.

Some argue — almost righteously, as if they had pounced on a major discovery — that Twitter, Facebook, etc., are private corporations, that supposedly owe us nothing: “they’re not public utilities”. Exactly, and therefore they deserve none of the public’s support. Moreover, even when dealing with paying customers, like RT, which spent hundreds of thousands advertising on Twitter and Facebook, they were treated like a dog turd in return: bans, limits, stripped of advertising revenue, and their private business with these agencies was promptly reported on in detail by executives for these companies, who testified at various congressional hearings. A private company that “owes nothing” even to paying customers, is hardly one whose business should be sustained.

Fourth, there is the question of national hegemony. It ought to be plainly clear to everyone by now that these so-called globalized social media, are simply just American media. When tensions build, they are all too ready to remind us of this fact. People outside the US, who are impacted against their will by the US, are not allowed to share their opinions about US politics on such platforms, because that’s “meddling”. Well, if you want it for yourselves, then keep it to yourselves, and stay out of our affairs while you’re at it. But don’t go around preaching that you stand for globalization, openness, inclusion, diversity, the free market of ideas, free speech, democracy, etc., etc., ad nauseam, because you are not fooling anyone (save for those who are already fools and cannot be repaired). Social media then are just the latest tools in the armory of US cultural imperialism, and deserve to be shunned.

Fifth, add to the above the ways in which this tool, developed for the US military, is a gift that keeps on giving back to the military-security-intelligence state. Why would we voluntarily place ourselves under its surveillance? People have lost their jobs, or job opportunities, over a single tweet or Facebook post, as part of the growing totalitarianism that is post-liberalism — and these acts of exclusion and punishment are ironically performed in the name of diversity, tolerance, and inclusion. Encourage people to become engaged, but then don’t tell them how they can suffer the consequences — ordinarily, this might be called entrapment, and it was supposed to be illegal.

Sixth, there is the abominably debased quality of the “social” in “social media,” specifically where political debates are involved (or “deadbaits” as I prefer to call them). Any media that pride themselves on “virality” should be enough of a warning sign: what is ultimately being promoted is instantaneous mass orchestrated reaction. Social media are thus the preferred training tool pushed by globalists — such media prioritize acceleration, instant consumption, and mass response over slow, careful, critical deliberation.

Mobs on the internet. Rational thought not allowed.

Me-tooism is the new brand of mob formation. “Dragging” and “calling out” are low-calorie substitutes for lynching. What prevails in the moments between “viral” events is nothing better. Crusades of outrage are routinely launched; there are relentless acts of petty partisan tribalism. Righteous indignation is rendered routine.

  • One is pressed into thinking the very worst of the designated opponents. Ad hominem attacks and other substitutes for logic abound.
  • No one is to be credited with making a good point, if they are said to have made other, “bad” points in the past.
  • Entire arguments, however well reasoned and well researched, are dumped because they were published in a non-approved source.
  • Anonymous nobodies, following behind their iconic “thinkers,” spend hours each day in the act of policing the boundaries of their partisan camp, or of their factional splinter group.
  • You get lectured on transparency and honesty by anonymous trolls, who obviously lack any understanding of irony.
  • Arguments without evidence, or arguments in spite of evidence, demand respect solely for the passionate force used to make them, or because they serve “the cause,” or because the person(s) making the argument have the right identity.

If you are a professor, you learn that the years (or decades) spent acquiring knowledge in a subject area, plus all the resources devoted to the task, not to mention the training that went into preparing you, are worthless: everybody else always knows better, with their deep knowledge gained on the fly.

Anti-intellectualism does not just come from outside the university’s walls. You get lectured at by snarky graduate students with deep insecurities who fashion themselves as activists, called “stupid” by barely literate undergraduate students who misspell their protest signs, and are immediately denounced as “racist” for the mere act of disagreeing with one of these imbeciles.

The obsessive moral narcissism on display in social media correlates with the fastidious adversarial forensics around specific, single words. This is the crowd that thinks that “words matter” and “words can do real harm” — they need to assert this, because their professions and perhaps their very being counts on others believing this to be true. “Information is power,” the word-obsessed like to tell each other, when information is actually as good as a pile of junk. When you have little, or less power than others, then sometimes delusions of power set in and you cast about looking for make-believe substitutes for power, like information. Equal access to information is celebrated — when there can be no equal access under present conditions. Access is reduced to the mere act of gaining hold of data, but what renders it “accessible” depends on resources that are still distributed highly unequally, such as the training necessary to make sense of the information.

Attention whores galore.

Seventh, social media are especially useful in providing free publicity for celebrity activists and journalists, the two groups that most monopolize debates in social media. The rest of us are there seemingly just to promote their careers, for free and without any thanks. There is little to no actual discussion between the iconic writers and their loyal followers, or their critics. If you fail to “follow,” no worries: inevitably someone pops up to tell you to follow Glenn Greenwald, or whomever else is deemed to be capable of doing our thinking for us. We have self-styled “rogue journalists” — it’s all about style, and having a big mouth — who do not actually “report” on anything at all: their specialty is outrage, and telling us what to think. Their other specialty is intellectual dishonesty, as they recycle and appropriate the work of others as if it was their own. And while we professors are idiots, there is nothing like poaching on the work of eggheads and then signing your name to it, to the applause of an instant 30,000 retweets.

Is there any social utility to social media?

Eighth, social media have achieved little or nothing of value to the societies of their users — because they are not truly social, nor are they about achieving any collective gain. The ceaseless “deadbaits” ought to teach their participants the meaning of futility, but for some reason they soldier on, continuing the endless cycle of repetition of complaint, accusation, snide fake-humour, and self-promotion. Many are quick to seize on the latter point, so in between complaining about power and denouncing rivals that are nearly identical to them in every respect, they mope about their personal lives and then post “selfies” (and it’s mostly women who do this) — because what one needs is a regular dose of large close-up photos of some juvenile sucking bubble tea through a straw.

The only value I see in social media, especially in having withdrawn, is understanding that the movements that thrive with such media are busy achieving their own implosion. Having created echo chambers, the only way for individuals to excel, to gain notice, to capture attention, to secure some pre-eminence, is by attacking those that are readily available, i.e., from one’s own circle. The external enemy has been removed or distanced, so now the attacks are primarily against one’s own: that is where one proves one’s worth as a supremely critical firebrand, one who possesses the ultimate moral purity and correctness of political vision. Thus I witnessed cretins on the left cannibalistically turn on Slavoj Žižek, their former designated thinker, launching petitions and protests against his imaginary “racism” and “fascism”. Or steamy accusations that Chelsea Manning was not a bona fide Marxist, not one of our own, but a “closet libertarian” (and so what?). Or that Julian Assange is an actual rapist, and an actual CIA agent, who somehow supported the Iraq war; and that someone celebrating immigrants was guilty of “othering,” while their critics were judged guilty of committing an “intersectional lapse” (whatever that means in Newspeak).

{Editor’s note: for more examples, see “‘Mother Jones’ Senior Reporter Asks Medium To Silence Antiwar Leftists” by Caitlin Johnstone.}

Social media are thus the perfect way to box all of this up, and then we can kick the box away. The movements that are built on such foundations, will destroy themselves, or be destroyed by the generous backlash they provoke.

The next time you see me…

The next time you see me in social media, it will only be because I am paid to do so. In the meantime I continue here, because it serves my purposes: I mostly write for myself; to help clarify my thinking; to learn what I do not know; to express an opinion which I am later free to discard; to keep myself from bottling up certain thoughts for too long so they do not fester and become seeds of extremism; to raise questions that others are failing to raise; to ensure that, for the record, no one can claim there was total unanimity among scholars on this or that subject; and, if others find this useful, then that is an additional benefit. I can always hope that it inspires others to do better, so that I can learn from them in return. I am otherwise beyond the point of needing to prove anything to myself, or others, when it comes to research and writing. This I do because of the sheer pleasure of it.

Other articles of interest

Only because they came out recently, and are relevant to some of the issues above, I recommend the following articles:

———————————–

About the author

Maximilian Forte

Maximilian C. Forte is a Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Concordia University in Montreal. He is the author of numerous books, most recently Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa (2012) and Emergency as Security (New Imperialism) (2013). See his publications here; read his bio here.

He writes at the Zero Anthropology website (many of his articles are posted at the FM website). It is one of the of the few with an About page well worth reading — excerpt…

Anthropology after empire is one built in part by an anthropology that is against empire, and it need not continue, defensively, as a discipline laden with all of the orthodoxies from which it suffers today. Indeed, the position taken here is that there can be no real critical anthropology that is not simultaneously critical of (a) the institutionalization and professionalization of this field, and (b) imperialism itself.

Anthropology, as we approach it, is a non-disciplinary way of speaking about the human condition that looks critically at dominant discourses, with a keen emphasis on meanings and relationships, producing a non-state, non-market, non-archival knowledge.

For More Information

Ideas!  See my recommended books and films at Amazon.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts by Professor Forte, and these these about social media…

  1. Samuel Adams started the Revolution because he didn’t have Twitter.
  2. Stratfor looks at the power of social media to tilt politics.
  3. A look behind the curtain at secrets of internet advertising.

Two books by Maximilian Forte.

Slouching Towards Sirte: NATO’s War on Libya and Africa.

Who is an Indian?: Race, Place, and the Politics of Indigeneity in the Americas.

Slouching Towards Sirte
Available at Amazon.
Who is an Indian?: Race, Place, and the Politics of Indigeneity in the Americas
Available at Amazon.

 

26 thoughts on “Professor Forte describes the wasteland of social media

  1. Yes, this is right. We should all leave Facebook and Twitter or should never join up in the first place.

    But what he is describing is not really social media, any more than the printing press was Protestantism. Social media is simply a vehicle through which culturally commonplace habits of thought are expressed. And if we turn to his key points about argument, what he rightly describes is happening in the culture is in his section ‘Mobs on the Internet’ — too long to quote here, so check back.

    What we are seeing here, and not just on the Internet, is the consequence of having spent a generation teaching students that statements simply reflect the class, gender and economic situation of the person making them. There is no such thing as objective truth – the idea is simply part of the oppressive class structure of those in power.

    Well, teach your children this for a couple of decades, and do not be surprised when they resort to ad hominem arguments, and do not expect to have to use logical principles of argument. You have spent several decades explaining to them that its all relative, truth is true for me, literary texts mean whatever you want them to mean, translation between utterances of different speakers using the same language is problematic and indeterminate, and (astonishingly enough) human history moves in a dialectical fashion in which opposing trends resolve themselves. These movements are inevitable, will happen regardless, but it is still our duty to support and work for them.

    This last proposition is interestingly not simply the expression of a class position of the speaker, but it scientific truth of a sort that the theory says is impossible, which, when you point it out, will simply be treated as more convincing evidence of the truth of the dialectic. And your criticism, adhering as it does to outmoded concepts of logic and reason, simply express your own class position and interests.

    Its not social media that is at fault here. Its idiotic and destructive all right, but in this case it is simply enabling us to see in its full glory the consequences when the Western nomenklatura lost faith in the Enlightenment.

    I don’t know what is to be done. But in a way it seems to me that social media have done us a favor by showing us clearly what has happened to the culture. It would still be going on without them. The teaching would still have had the same consequences in terms of the habits of mind of the young. But it would be happening underground, and that might be still more dangerous.

    If I may recommend a book? Higher Superstition – The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science by PAUL R. GROSS and NORMAN LEVITT.

    1. Simon,

      Thank you for that interesting comment. Many interesting points in there, worth some thought. Esp worth considering how social media are used by different kinds of societies. And, speculatively, how they might have been used by societies of the past. Ancient Rome and Athens? Jerusalem during David’s reign?

      Also, thank you for the book recommendation. These are always appreciated.

  2. I am sorry, however, calling these controlled medias as social is beyond the pale. The proper term should be gossip media.

    As for Fakebook, I learned in short order what the machinery of this business was and its immediate control of free speech, which had no boundary.

    As Dennis Prager has stated, everything that the Leftist touch they destroy. Goodbye Fakebook, cheerio Witter and soon to go the do no evil guys at Gooooooooogle. A plague upon their houses.

  3. Speaking from a leftish perspective, I agree with Forte that social media is for the birds. (Except birds are smart enough to leave it alone.)

    I have friends who, broadly speaking, are in the cohort that Forte is addressing in his eighth point. I would add a ninth point, which is that it doesn’t bring THEM any satisfaction or success, either. (Maybe a few people with Patreons or similar crowdsourcing situations.) I have seen people form complex relationships with a nebulous crowd of people shouting about a topic, to the detriment of relationships with actual people or more concrete groups (“my place of work” vs. “people arguing about a movie or a journalist”.)

    I can say that there’s a bunch of complaining about Twitter and Facebook on what I suppose Forte might call the leftist/globalist side as well, though whether this is a happy sign of people realizing it’s a filthy habit, or a sign that it has truly become a fundamental part of society.. well, I don’t know.

    1. SF,

      “form complex relationships with a nebulous crowd of people shouting about a topic, to the detriment of relationships with actual people or more concrete groups”

      "Love and Friendship" by Allan Bloom

      This is, imo, the big one. People refer to social media “friends”, when most are nothing remotely like real friends. Just as so many marriages in the age of easy divorce — with community property and child support — are not real romances (no matter how lavish the wedding).

      As always, Allan Bloom was far ahead of the rest of us. His great book Love and Friendship discussed how far we had fallen, using comparisons with models from literature of our past.

      It is an easy and fun read. Everyone will gain something from reading it.

  4. I never understood the attraction of social media in the first place. I look at Facebook every day or so but never spend more than about 10 minutes there because that is how my family communicates these days and I do care about my family.

    Mid-2016 I got the Social Fixer add-on for Facebook that limits me to the 50 most recent posts. It might be the best free app I ever downloaded. My stress levels during the election and the aftermath went way down.

    1. Pluto,

      I agree. But this is mostly a generational phenomenon. Young people have social media on their cell phones and are wired into it second by second. That seems to be the generational marker.

    2. I understand what you say about the generational thing but my sons, aged 21 and 24 have relatively few friends who behave that way and I am very grateful for that.

      My best guess is that since my sons are not deeply into social media, they select friends who are also not into social media.

  5. I agree with Professor Forte on nearly all points, but I have as much nostalgia for slow scholarship, as I have for an enforcement of the Slow Food movement on my doings in the kitchen.

    1. Sun Village,

      I totally agree. But I often hear people nostalgic for things they associate with the golden days of their youth.

  6. I am not sure I see the difference between Facebook and twitter and a blog like this. The possible corruption by manipulating followers is troubling, just as the censoring of opinions on blogs is troubling – a reason why I stopped following realclimate.com. Personally, I probably spend too much time on Facebook – but that is me, not the medium.

    As for the internet’s role in research and finding papers, I think the Professor is plain wrong and talking like a city slicker – though, of course, there are benefits to meeting and talking to people as well but that will not get me the article I am looking for.

    1. Bernie,

      (1) “I am not sure I see the difference between Facebook and twitter and a blog like this.”

      Are you kidding? The most obvious is the length of the postings. The average length here of posts is 1000-1500 words, and comments about 150 words. On Twitter it is probably a few dozen words (even including sequential tweets). I don’t know about Facebook — my guess is FB posts are 50-100 words and comments are a few dozen.

      It’s like comparing the New York Times to graffiti painted on walls.

      (2) “just as the censoring of opinions on blogs is troubling”

      I see both sides of that problem. Just as with newspapers, there is a need for selectivity when posting letters to the editor. Without some moderation, comment threads become food fights. See these website proprietors discussing this problem. That’s why places like Reddit are great, for people who just want to chat — the e-version of the corner pub.

      But magnitudes matter. The liberals (or leftists – pick your label of choice) running websites tend to find heterodox thought disturbing — and ruthlessly moderate it away least it infect the faithful. I’ve seen this at “Guns, Money, and Lawyers”, Brad DeLong’s website, and “Naked Capitalism”. RealClimate took it to the next degree, editing comments that challenged the faithful to make them look dumb. This reveals much about the modern Left.

      I’m sure that some right-wing websites do so, thought I’ve not found any.

      I understand the impulse. The FM website has no moderation. All comments get posted, except for those declared to be spam by the Great God Akismet, without whose protection these comment threads would be 90% spam. Those I review, and post those that are not spam.

      As a result, there are numerous debates with trolls. They misrepresent, lie, and so forth. Eventually their troll-nature becomes beyond doubt and I moderate future comments. There are five such people at this time. Smarter people than I say that my tolerance is foolish, for the many battles with trolls has made my comments in general far too harsh. This is true.

      As usual, I can see the problems. Solutions are, however, slightly beyond my grasp.

    2. Larry:
      I guess I was talking about the difference from the readers’ and commenters’ perspectives. Clearly on most blogs the initial posting is longer. The exchanges, however, are surely the things that keep people coming back? Those tend to be much shorter. I did not see or intend my comment as disparaging to anyone – just a tad ironical is all.
      As for censorship and trolls – I also see far more tolerance on “centrist” blogs than on “activist” blogs. I certainly have detected censorship on FM. I also sympathize about the need to sometimes police commenters. If I ever over-step the mark let me know. Your house, your rules.

      As a retiree in a small rural town and somewhat of an intellectual desert, I value both blogs like this and Facebook. It might be different if I lived in a larger city or college town, but I don’t.

    3. Bernie,

      Your comment was of general applicability, whatever your intent!

      Comments are a tiny — even microscopic — fraction of the overall traffic. A typical post here gets very roughly a thousand pageviews in the first week, and perhaps a dozen comments. Few subscribe to the comments; I doubt many people return to the post to see new comments.

      Note the comment threads here used to be much longer, although still a small fraction of the traffic. I suspect that commenters have in general moved to places like Reddit, or safe spaces where challenging comments are prevented so folks can vent their biases without fear of being exposed.

      “I certainly have detected censorship on FM”

      LoL. Those accusations are by trolls who are liars. I don’t delete comments (except for actional slander and language). Everything gets posted (i.e., no moderation before posting). Only a microscopic fraction of people get temporarily moderated or banned (roughly one every few months). Almost everybody does more aggressive moderation. Even Reddit, which is the Wild West compared to most places.

      If that is too much for you, start your own website. If it becomes active, you will quickly learn why almost everybody else moderates. As I recommended, see what active website operators say about this.

  7. A rather interesting essay from Professor Forte. It takes a great deal of courage to speak out against what is now fully embraced by the American public.
    On ethical grounds, I refused to partake in these new medias because I could clearly see, as the Professor finally did, the anti-free speech and authoritative side of the machinery of the corporate elite.

    His message is profound, as well as an indictment of all of its flaws. Where I do part from his prose, is the sable rattling of the Internet, which has manage to liberate countless of vacuous minds, with not only “information” but enlightenment. Think of those, in the greater hinterland, which do not have readily access to all of those conveniences conveyed upon urban dwellers. In fact, his “industry” has taken an agnostic view of the Internet to propel education into the modern era, rather than its current backwater state. The vastness of the Internet, has harnessed knowledge as never known before, which is significant, in light of the fact that human ignorance is universal and abundant.
    For the purest, print will always command loyalty. It is portable and storable. It should be made a member of the household, as a valued possession. The good news is that download ebooks have appeared to have ebbed.

    Again, there is no such thing as a “smart” phone but rather a data device. Look around you where people are seated and more half will be distracted by their data device, despite the fact that a human is within normal speaking range. Oh, what advancement in socializing this inanimate object abridge. Its primary function has almost been reduced to obscurity, only saved by an occasional ring.

    The most frightful thing that technology has wrought, is an ever increasing isolation of human beings. Human interaction, is now reduced to its most elementary computer language of zeros and ones. Varies activities takes place without the need of a fellow human and in many cases, this is most welcomed. It now takes a “village” of computers rather than homo sapiens.

    Technology and computers are already asking the question, at what point does the human traveler become redundant and irrelevant.
    Hal, can you hear me? Hal, where are you? Hal, have you forsaken me?

    PS: When the teacher enters the class, all students should promptly rise to their feet and remain so until instructed otherwise. Those whom fail to comply should be summarily dismissed from class.

    BTW, it would be a pleasure to be incorporated into one of Professor Fortes’ classes. A studious mind, for the dolts of us.

    1. Kind of off topic, but your PS reminds me of a story.

      The son of our family dentist wangled an appointment, from Sentor Mike Mansfield, to the Naval Academy in 76 or 77. There were two things that I remember about his experience…

      T was a hard worker and deserved his appointment, but the first year at Annapolis was hard… On a trip back home, his Sophmore year, he decided to take a side trip to Missoula to check out the University of Montana. Where a number of his friends from high school were enrolled. It was the start of classes, and he was tagging along with a friend to sit in…

      The first class was rather large lecture class, and when the Professor walked, in T immediately jumped to his feet and stood to attention… Then realized he was the only one to do so. So he sat down and noticed most of the students were still engaged in whatever it was they were doing… As his Dad related, the lecture started with the Professor telling the class he didn’t care about them, the class, or whether they learned anything at all. Then he proceded to speak for an hour, before turning and walking out.

      T cut his visit short, and drove home to tell his Dad he had no regrets about his choice…

      The second was that T recognized that Annapolis was an Engineering school, and since he wanted to make the Navy a career, he chose to be one of the few students to choose a major other than an Engineering discipline. (Political Science, I believe.)

      Guess it worked for him, as I’ve followed him over the years and I believe he rose to the rank of Rear Admiral.

      —–

      Back to the topic at hand… I’ve been TV free since ’93. Haven’t touched Twitter. Have a Facebook page with one post, as I created it for use as a test account when doing contract work for a nationwide telecom provider years ago. Don’t ever look at it. I maintain, sporadically, a LinkedIn profile and that’s about it.

      With regard to the antiseptic nature of everything online… (Keying on the OPs comparison of pre internet research -vs- internet research.) I think for a considerable number of tech people that’s a feature, not a big. Sometimes I think the whole reason Jeff Bezos wants to drive Amazon into *every* aspect of commerce is so that he can live his life without *ever* having to interact with a person face to face. I think the whole *purpose* of these social media *innovations* is to allow people to avoid any face to face interaction at all…

      I’m a software contractor and do a lot of embedded real time stuff, process recovery, etc. Getting newer engineers to walk down to a manufacturing floor to work on a problem is like pulling hen’s teeth. “Can’t we text? -or- I’ll send an email” No – We’re gonna walk over and talk to S, then we’ll listen to what they have to say and discuss what we’re going to do to get the line running again… Horrified look follows…

      —–

      I do enjoy the blog – It makes me mad sometimes, but I always use that to ask the question why? Which usually leads to me learning something about myself or the world around me. Keep up the good work!

  8. “But magnitudes matter. The liberals (or leftists – pick your label of choice) running websites tend to find heterodox thought disturbing — and ruthlessly moderate it away least it infect the faithful. I’ve seen this at “Guns, Money, and Lawyers”, Brad DeLong’s website, and “Naked Capitalism”. RealClimate took it to the next degree, editing comments that challenged the faithful to make them look dumb. This reveals much about the modern Left.”

    Good list, Mr Kummer. There are many more. IMF.blog (L); Brooking Institute (L); Angry Brear (L);
    GregLaden.com (L); Economist’s View (L); AEI.com (R); Econlog (R); Scottgrannisblog (R); Kitco.com (R);

    Upon being censored or redacted, it should be incumbent upon the subscriber
    simply to pack up and leave.

  9. I have always perceived it as anti-social media. Hence why I prefer direct communication. What % of people can interpret a few words of text differently?

    Thanks for the post! Interesting read as usual.

  10. Facebook and Twitter are too easily regulated. The evolution of “social media” is toward a blockchain based open source system that cannot be so easily controlled. Monitored, yes, like phone calls. But with increasingly sophisticated encryption.

  11. I wonder if social media to some extent moved into a vacuum left when a lot of the places people used to meet and socialize went away. I think there were once things like bridge clubs, poker night with the guys, neighborhood bars and taverns within walking distance and so forth. Sports clubs or ball teams maybe. We’ve gotten more spread out and more isolated physically. Social media is a poor substitute for real people in our lives, and I wonder if it would have taken off the same way it did back in the 50s, even if the technology had been around.

    For the record, I have a Twitter account, but I use it mainly to follow a few interesting Twitter feeds or keep up with a few writers or musicians that I like. (I follow the FM Twitter, for example. Also Micheal Tracy, Jill Tracy, and a few other, including Professor Forte until he nuked his.) I don’t Tweet and i don’t spend a lot of time on Twitter. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a card carrying member of facebook.

    1. The Man,

      “when a lot of the places people used to meet and socialize went away.”

      That’s a great point! The collapse of American’s community institutions has isolated us. See Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert D. Putnam. We’re like people who have run out of food, so are eating the plastic fruit from the table decoration. Looks great! Filling! Not much nutrition.

  12. Social media with real names is good for only one purpose: To re-connect with old friends from previous jobs, college, K-12, etc. Any conversation beyond that quickly degenerates into competitive virtue-signaling. Wow, you hate Trump? I hate him even more!! Etc.

    The productive discussions are found on sites like this one, where people lay down the bare truth under disposable identities. You have nothing to gain by virtue-signaling when no one knows who you are.

    At the other extreme are the chans, where conversation is impossible because everyone posts as “Anonymous”. You have to explain the same things over and over because readers cannot connect your latest comment to what you said earlier in the same thread.

    1. “You have nothing to gain by virtue-signaling when no one knows who you are.”

      This is an aside, but I don’t think that’s true; you may satisfy some interior urge or feeling. Even if it’s hypothetical, or addressed at a nebulous group. Enough people make anonymous or pseudonymous boasts of doing something to “piss off the liberals” or “#resist Trump” that they must be getting something out of it.

  13. Nice story, BrianC. Mr T not only had self-discipline
    but respect for his superiors, something quite lacking
    in today’s society.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.