Houston, we have a problem.
As I got online this morning and checked my social media feeds, I just wanted to crawl back into bed and pull the covers back over my head. On Twitter, there was rage about the mess that is the Iowa Caucuses. The same on Facebook. And then the conspiracy theories, as on Twitter, the Bernie crowd saw this as proof the Democratic Party hates Bernie. On Facebook, it was more of the same. One friend had accused the Democrats of being right-wing. His friends thought it odd that the Iowa returns crapped out as Bernie had momentum. But, wait, no, Pete Buttigieg claimed he had momentum. Meanwhile, the Iowa Democratic Party is currently out in a cornfield somewhere trying to find its arse in broad daylight with both hands and a spotlight. Never has the donkey been a more apt symbol of the Democratic Party.
Meanwhile, the conservatives. Most of them on Twitter were laughing at the Democrats. Fair play. But on Facebook, it was a bit more outrageous, as one friend was equating Bernie Sanders’ socialism with communism and linking Bernie’s beliefs with Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong, to say nothing of Pol Pot.
Polls keep telling me how Americans are suspicious of democracy. A Washington Post poll from 2018 suggested millennials were keen on non-democratic forms of government. And only 40% of respondents had happy thoughts about American democracy. But, wait, there’s more. That same poll found that 76% of Republicans were happy with American democracy, but only 44% of Democrats were. Ah, there. That makes more sense.
I have realized something in the past few weeks. When I call Bernie supporters out on social media for either their rampant misogyny, or mock their conspiracy theories, I immediately get someone, usually a white, middle-aged male, telling me that they’ve never seen such things, with the obvious inference being that I am making it up. I am delusional. Meanwhile, when I question the Bernie conspiracy theorists, I get accused of being a Republican. And then when I call out the conservatives for their inability to recognize the difference between communism and socialism, I get called naïve.
And so, today, I shut down on social media. I logged out of my Twitter account on my MacBook for perhaps the first time ever (I’m not sure I know what the password is, to be honest). I deleted it from my iPhone. I long ago removed both Twitter and Facebook from my Kindle. I have logged out of Facebook and am seriously considering deleting my account. The same with Twitter. But at least for today, I can’t deal with the world.
Social media is killing us. It is destroying everything. Sports, politics, life. Everything. We’re a culture of rage and aggression. We’re so quick to judge people we don’t know, so quick to attack. I have done this. So have you. All social media platforms have become means of attacking women for, well, being women. Facebook and Twitter have serious culpability for some shady dealings in elections in the US, UK, and Canada in the past half decade. Facebook has decided that lies in ads are not copacetic, unless, of course they are political ads. Twitter will not intervene at all. Instagram is owned by Facebook, of course. And until we reign in social media, it’s not only not going to get better, it’s going to get worse.
I am old enough to remember when the promise of the internet and an ‘information superhighway’ was a beautiful thing. And then Web 2.0 and social media turned it all into a cesspool.
To quote Walter Sobchak, in the wake of Donnie’s death, ‘Aw, fuck it, Dude, let’s go bowling.’