As I was having a conversation with a few friends on the topic of extremism and populism, fake news and poor scientific data evidence, I produced a text that they asked me to publish, as they consider it could help others make sense of the recent wave of lack of empathy and lack of integrity one witnesses all over the globe. I hope this text helps you think about your own opinion rather than taking mine for granted. Disclaimer: These are my own words and opinions, and not of my colleagues.
On the Toxicity of Social Networks
... In my view, this is all so simple that sometimes we even end up labeling these ideas as conspiracy theories, but in reality they are only proposals for explanation. But where conspiracy theories take facts beyond a rigorous interpretation, those of us who ponder life with more impartiality perceive things differently, and when they are obvious they leave no gaps. I will now explain what in my perspective has been going on with the world for about 25 years or so.
The Internet emerged for most of us in the early 1980s I suppose; it was a military thing and it was easily understood that in terms of business it would be much more profitable to make it publicly accessible. It was such a turnaround in society that by the end of the early 90s, end of the millennium, its creators lost control over a new reality of communication that did not have time to adapt to the current legislation, and vice-versa. There was plenty of space for users to learn more about the web than the web to learn about its users. What is happening since then? Social networks gain strength not only as a tool for meeting up and communicating, for pleasure, mutual knowledge, education and entertainment, but also as a very useful tool to take pulse to ideas of the public. Commercially, there was a genuine interest from corporations in getting to know the target audience, in order to make their campaigns more acceptable, their targeting more effective. But they soon realised that an even more radical change was taking place in this new communication system, the emergence of Influencers. People with a banal presence, until then unknown to the media, suddenly gained strength because they operated in the same communicative and intellectual pitching as the people who listened to them. Influencers started to have more audience than the most popular television channels, companies started to understand that Influencers and their novel channels (creating and sharing content) were the most prolific weapons in creating trends. Money was then put in the hands of such people, and such people came to power, learned gradually how to control this new system, almost without knowing their own worth, originally with the sole intention of communicating their own thoughts, but surreptitiously and naively generating public opinion.
And in order to create more and more public and necessary polemics, plots and scripts are needed for touching directly to people's souls. And people started to join this populist recording because they are the ones who give one, followers. [Certain politicians and companies] just debit what the commoners want, that is, promises of blood, sweat and tears. But above all what people most want to hear is that it's not their fault, they want total lack of responsibility, they want responsibility to be attributed to a third-party. [In certain countries] they blame the Blacks, the Immigrants, or the Russians, the Communists and so on and so forth. [In other parts of the globe], it is the fault of the West, Americans, of Capitalism, and the like. And this is broken down into all sectarian and sub-sectarian contexts of our worldly reality. Until you reach the most classic and most contemporary example of our times (forgive me the contradictory innuendo) - the so-called Millennials, turned Generation Z. Who knows exactly the nomenclature of this nouvelle vague of masked netizens.
I do not hold them responsible for nothing, but I hold us Netizens responsible for everything. Because, it was in this way that a new wave of victimization surged. The brand new Netizens of this Millennium are the true creators of social irresponsibility. Those who live in their technology bubbles, in virtual worlds where people are brave when typing on keyboards, but never truly brave in their souls; those who release incendiary opinions behind an avatar, criticise and burn certain agents but without ever showing up their real identities. Nevertheless, if someone points a finger at them, they will soon be feeling victimized. [Fill-in-the-blank-shamming], shamming shamming shamming. All the people who criticise this new wave of Netizens are now immediately classified as bullies. When exempting themselves of responsibility for everything and anything, these Netizens started defending themselves in the easiest way possible, protecting themselves from everything that brings them a taste of inconvenience to their mouths. Two parallel worlds were thus created, that of exaggerated victimisation and that of exacerbated populism.And the only solution is for people to realise that social networks are a neoplasm, metastatic and dangerous. They grew far too quickly, obeying to a growth rate that did not allow the regulation of legislation and the adaptation of society to these new viral societal values. And the only solution is a brief but nonetheless extremely necessary pause to reflect, to think and hold these virtual social platforms accountable, as they are not virtual anymore. They have metastasised into real uncontrollable lobbies... Since holding the individual accountable is almost impossible in practical terms.
But from the moment these platforms are made responsible for promoting extremist ideas, uncontrolled messages, poor scientific evidence and the like, this dark-web of nuanced social networks becomes a sensitive organism and temperance can be generated. But then they say, 'ohhhhh, but freedom of speech!'. Very well, everyone has and should have freedom of expression at all times. But I want the person who shouts Death to Blacks, Death to Whites, Death to Immigrants, Promote Animal Abusing, Disrespects Disabled People, etc etc etc, to have a name and a physical identity visible to everyone, and not being Pintas997 or SexyMummy12. Freedom of expression must always be associated with an ulterior and anterior value that is eternal and untouchable, which is to be associated to a physical existence who professes responsibility of the Being. Because many opinions are being created by bots, the so-called virtual operators that exponentially debit an individual's opinions making it appear more numerous than actually is, making it one that has a large audience when in fact it is not so.
This is the greatest danger ever present in people's lives from now on. Ergo, if it is not resolved, it will open up space for an Orwellian world, an 1984, but one that is not Utopia.
Photo by Rahul Chakraborty on Unsplash