Idols that fail: Social media — more isolation, not less

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Social media eats into life at home. (Photo Laura Schmalenberg)

Social media eats into life at home. (Photo Laura Schmalenberg)

A case in point where technology not only fails but threatens a humane life is social media: Facebook, Twitter, the whole tribe of which I avoid like a rabbi shuns pork chops.

By Franklin Sanders

One valid charge laid against the modern age (for all its technology) is that it dehumanizes. Whether in work or society, the centralizing state has emasculated or eliminated all the mediating institutions – family, community, and guild, church – that once protected the individual. As a result, individuals feel isolated, atomized, rootless, pointless, lawless, powerless, depressed, and alienated. Social media, we are told, will make good the modern age’s alienation by re-connecting people. Well, maybe so.

But maybe not. Nothing substitutes for a human hand on your arm, especially if it belongs to a friend rather than a cop.

Certainly, social media don’t bring more people together face to face. Rather, they substitute virtual, electronic presence for bodily presence. In fact, they confer on their users an excuse to make less effort toward enjoying face to face human presence. They isolate more.

Walk into any restaurant and look around: how many diners are face down in their cell phones, ignoring the others at the table?

Social media trivialize friendship and social intercourse. No, I don’t want to know what you’re wearing today or what you had for supper last night or breakfast this morning or what brand of underwear you prefer. All that is a counterfeit of soul to soul intercourse.

Indecent overexposure?

What horrifies me much more, and makes me suspect so strongly that the CIA or intelligence community invented social media, is what social media convince their victims to confess. They thoughtlessly, recklessly puke out all the private details of their lives, more than any government rap sheet. Why does the surveillance state need a search arrant to investigate you?

You’ve already bared all on Facebook, silly. You’re already naked. No search warrant needed for naked people. Social media have accomplished the final destruction of the barrier is “trending” on social media? If you think it is a randomly operated, objective software program, an innocent, value-neutral algorithm, raise your hand so I can talk to you later about some fabulous Florida swamp land you’ll want to buy.

Nor is this merely my anti-government paranoia. On 3 May 2016 Gizmodo published a story about Facebook’s “news curators” who pick – and unpick – trending news to highlight.

They were also told to select articles from a list of preferred media outlets that included sites like the New York Times, Time, Variety, and other traditional outlets. They would regularly avoid sites like World Star Hip Hop, The Blaze, and Breitbart, but were never explicitly told to suppress those outlets. They were also discouraged from mentioning Twitter by name in headlines and summaries, and instead asked to refer to social media in a broader context.

News curators also have the power to “deactivate” (or blacklist) a trending topic—a power that those we spoke to exercised on a daily basis. A topic was often blacklisted if it didn’t have at least three traditional news sources covering it, but otherwise the protocol was murky—meaning a curator could ostensibly blacklist a topic without a particularly good reason for doing so.

So, let’s see: Facebook’s news curators were instructed to avoid including “conservative” sites in trending topics, and to favor “liberal” sources. And they blacklist certain topics or outlets.

Once again, news editors have power to exclude or include topics. Because they include it, it is “the news.” Not including it sends it on a trip whizzing down the memory hole.

It never happened, it’s not important. In Obi-Wan Kenobi’s famous words, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for. . . You can go about your business . . . Move along.”

Technology – maybe you ought to look a little closer.

Franklin SandersUsed by permission of The Moneychanger, a privately circulated newspaper published monthly. ISSN 0899-1391. Its goal is to help Christians prosper with their principles intact in an age of monetary and moral chaos. Common law copyright 2016. Price: 12 issues, 14 silver dollars (371.25 grains fine silver, Std. of 1792), or $22 in US 90% silver coin, or other gold or silver equivalent; F$149 if you have nothing but paper “money.” Single copies, $3 in silver, F$10 in paper. Franklin Sanders, P.O. Box 178, Westpoint, TN 38486, phone (931) 766-6066

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