If you’re a millennial, much like me, you’ve been told that you’re the generation that is glued to their screens. Social media is corrupting the youth! They can’t even type correctly anymore! They’d rather FaceTime their friends than speak to their family! I’ve heard it all and I don’t think those criticisms are going to stop anytime soon and, don’t get me wrong, these digs all have a bit a merit. Sure, I pick up my phone as soon as I wake up and sure, I prefer to send a text over a phone call, but I think that people are overlooking the real problem that social media presents, a much more dangerous problem; Hate speech.
For the purposes of this blog I’m going to focus mostly on Twitter. It’s the platform I prefer and it has a long history with what I’m going to discuss. Twitter is one of the most popular millennial social networks (sorry Facebook it’s true you’re a baby boomer platform now) but just because it’s popular does not mean it is well liked or that the platform itself is flawless. Many users, myself included, are growing tired of Twitter’s lackadaisical approach when it comes to blocking or suspending users that spew damaging rhetoric.
This was seen recently with the recent suspension of Alex Jones on Youtube and Facebook for hate speech and promoting a damaging rhetoric. Twitter chose to keep Jones’ profile up, which he then used to blast the other sites for deleting his accounts.
Jack Dorsey, chief executive of Twitter had this to say in a tweet about leaving his account up,
“We didn’t suspend Alex Jones or InfoWars yesterday. We know that’s hard for many but the reason is simple: he hasn’t violated our rules. We’ll enforce if he does. And we’ll continue to promote a healthy conversational environment by ensuring tweets aren’t artificially amplified.”
He later went on to make his point clear by saying that he only thought Jones had a differing opinion and that they shouldn’t delete his account just for that.
There’s a larger topic of free speech that dips into conversations such as these. Would a company such as Twitter be seen as taking away a person’s right to free speech if they deleted their account? No. No way! Jones and many other far-right nazi sympathizers are polluting Twitter with almost no repercussions. If we want to talk about what’s really damaging millennials it’s not the fact that they’re constantly keeping up with the Kardashians on Twitter, it’s the fact that on that same app they could be exposed to racist, sexist, and homophobic rhetoric.
As Clive Thompson states in this article,
“A culture that is stuck in the present is one that can’t solve big problems. If you want to plan for the future, if you want to handle big social and political challenges, you have to decouple yourself from day-to-day crises, to look back at history, to learn from it, to see trendlines. You have to be usefully detached from the moment.”
We have seen this all before. We cannot let this propaganda go unchecked and without repercussion. In my opinion this is scarier than any “addiction” to social media could ever be. We can’t let dangerous people have such a wide spreading voice, this will only lead to radicalization and it needs to be stopped, no question about “free speech”.
Chamath Palihapitiya says in this article that,
“(Social Media) is literally is a point now where I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works. That is truly where we are,” he said. “The short–term, dopamine–driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works: no civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.”
I think people like Palihapititya are missing the point. I think the older generation is intimidated by the younger generation being different and more technologically adept that they can’t see the real worries and problems. It’s not how long Twitter users are spending on their phones, it’s what they’re seeing while they’re on the app.
Let’s face it we’re not going to get people to completely give up social media, Twitter will always be around and so will Facebook and Instagram and unfortunately so will people like Alex Jones. And while Twitter did suspend Jones’ account two days later we need to be better, we need to make the chance of coming across such damaging speech on any social platform to be 0%, then we can focus on how we’re “glued to our screens”.