Social media, kind readers, is fucking nuclear power.
Once the atom was split and the astonishing amounts of energy released, humanity has tried with overall success in placing the danger in the right social filing cabinet diving the evil of total annihilation with the good harnessing of power to fuel cities. I think we all know what happens when nations do penis measuring with the size of their nuclear missiles from the lessons learned in the Bay of Pigs.
Social media is a fucking nuclear bomb, and I hope within my lifetime I can see it properly harnessed. I see little chance in that happening, since it depends on every single individual who plops themselves in front of the screen to show responsibility as to what they contribute to the blooming mushroom cloud.
I was that guy contributing to the mushroom cloud.
My fury over the election of the current president, the daily disasters created by the moron failing at running the government, built such a self-entitlement to barf on social media. Daily. I thought I took the high road. I only posted articles from reputable news sources, I did some fact checking before I posted to make sure the same nugget crossed between other reputable sources, and I stayed away from memes and images and speculation. I debated people with opposing opinions, I reveled in the fellatio of people agreeing with me and contributing. I wasn’t going to touch the whole Russian thing in the early stages, because that was only whispers of rumor. As more and more information and evidence started appearing the press, I decided to let my fury rain on the possibilities of a foreign government purchasing an election, facilitated by the current moron in charge, despite there being no trial with an ending verdict on any of the news stories I inflated in the sharing.
I was taking the high road. I made a few factual errors in the reposts and was corrected, as I should have been. But I kept the rampage alive.
I fell into the draw of the nuclear power. The overwhelming majority of of the people in my social media circles shared the same ideas and principles and I did. Then the dozen or so people on my social lists of over a hundred, I admire tremendously from their work within the community, from their principles and the occasional contact I got from them in real life events. Even the one or two that had opposing ideas that I engaged with debate. The majority of people on my social media, I have no idea where they came from, what connections they have to me, and saw nothing from them except to throw the occasional two cents into the fountain of discussion.
Then I started reposting memes from other social media groups, most of which were sited and I could find the original sites. I started posting editorial cartoons, forgetting (or not caring, since it bloated my own confirmation bias) these were editorial, not factual. More and more social media friendly images with nothing but confirmation bias in them. I stopped questioning sources and just hit the share button and sat back and waited for the fellatio. And down the primrose path I went, skipping along and sprinkling more and more bullshit and less and less journalism.
Then came the gun debate.
I know lefties have this hatred for guns based on deaths reported in the media, and get all sucked into themselves on the initial report of people killed without waiting to see a potential motive from the shooter. Despite not knowing anything about guns, never shot a gun, couldn’t tell if a gun was loaded or know how to find out, the majority of lefties with no gun knowledge seem to feel entitled to take a position based on ignorance. I do realize that in Bakersfield most people have shot a gun, have guns, and been around guns enough to disparage the claim of ignorance, but it seems to me it still is based on knowing little to nothing about the subject. They have the same imposed ignorance some have about drugs [marijuana]: I’ve never done it because it’s bad and even dipping my toe into the water taints me. But I still have an opinion about something I personally know nothing about and have no desire to change my ignorance. Because guns are icky. Drugs are icky. Ban them because they make me feel icky.
Another mass shooting, another chance for the left to use the tragedy to bloviate about taking rights from people. I stand firmly in the support of gun ownership, even going as far as supporting the NRA’s version of the Second Amendment – the one with the extra comma – not Thomas Jefferson’s. After a day or so of watching the left bark at a tragedy, I posted as much, saying the tragedy of the mass shooting at Las Vegas makes me feel personally responsible since I support all forms of gun ownership.
All things unholy.
The same people, patting me on the back for taking stances with which they agreed, turned. Out came the immediate discussion, first civilized. Out came all the statistics I have already seen, contemplated, and the finger pointing at recognized facts about guns killing people. I engaged every bit of it, remaining on topic. Guns do not kill people; people kill people with guns. I have read the statistics, I have seen all the bar graphs. I have previously joined camps with gun control. I have spoken out against the NRA and “gun nuts.” The image of Charleton Heston yelling, “From my dead cold hands,” while the crowd had a group orgasm still haunts me. But for me, the issue is about personal freedom for the majority of gun owners who aren’t the outliers that shoot crowds of people. Point at the mass shootings every day, which are an undeniable problem, and my feet still stay grafted to personal freedoms granted by the Constitution and the in depth conversations by most of the Founding Fathers about the rights of citizens to bear arms. I will point at the majority of gun owners who collect, shoot and hunt for sport as a hobby, or a method to feed their families, that the left totally ignores. (I loathe the whole “protect my home with a gun” argument, because I have methods to protect my home from intrusion that will fucking kill someone if I use it. No gun needed. Guns aren’t necessary to protect the home.) Lefties can marginalize those basic freedoms, can keep trying to inch regulations stripping rights a half step at a time, and I will still quote Jefferson concerning only this issue: “I’d rather live in a dangerous freedom than a peaceful slavery.”
The discussion went livid since I wasn’t engaging in the social media fellatio. Out came the people that bury discussion in obtuse philosophy, the old “hit them in the head with lofty language and ideas because I’m so much smarter than you are.” Out came the people accusing me in perpetuating violence against women, because guns kill women. Out came red herrings distracting from the original concept: the tone of my whole post. I reflected on taking personal responsibility for the mass shooting since I support gun rights. It turned into, “How the fuck can you support gun rights? Don’t you know blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda,” and nothing to do how I felt about my support of the issue. The thesis of my statement.
People only reading what they want to see and reacting badly to it.
I stepped away from the fray for a day. Thought about the issue. Took a litmus test concerning my own ideals. Was I wrong? Considering the reasonable discussion at first, then the wingnut flaying I got later, maybe supporting a basic right granted in the Constitution’s first ten amendments was wrong.
Nope. Fuck that.
I won’t let a crowd bully me into standing against my principles.
I generated a pleasant analogy, figurative language, about how chainsaws kill trees. A tool wielded to with the sole purpose to cut trees. All sorts of different chainsaws with different horsepower that have the purpose of killing trees. Automatic chainsaws that will rip a tree to the ground in seconds. Other chainsaws that will grind a stump into dust in the dirt. Whole forests being annihilated by chainsaws and the irresponsible or uncaring people wielding them. Maybe we should ban chainsaws based on the danger they represent to trees. There are the responsible chainsaw owners that cull sick trees from a forest to save the forest, that use the chainsaw to trim a tree to save it’s life from overgrowth, but fuck those people because of the people destroying whole rain forests and altering the ecosystem because of it. Ban the tool, the chainsaw.
Oh, the lefties didn’t like that one bit. I got hit with straw man, which I countered with saying this is a figurative language analogy, go yell straw man at poets for doing the same thing. Another comment said, a person can’t stand at a floor of a hotel and kill 200 people with a chainsaw. Who said anything about killing people? I did comment that some people can use chainsaws for murder and suicide, bolstering my argument for banning chainsaws, but the crux of the figurative analogy was chainsaws killing trees, not people. I said nothing about guns, and asked where the left’s self-righteousness about irresponsible outliers killing huge populations of trees with chainsaws.
That discussion – about guns, not chainsaws – lasted well into the afternoon, with pleasant, rational debate from people I admire, and the frothing accusations about standing for gun rights from others. I took up the debate, focusing on the outliers creating the problem with guns (instead of my analogy about trees), and the run of numbers of the mass shootings coming from people who are mentally ill. Stable gun owners don’t mass shoot, kill their wives, walk into a restaurant and shoot ten people. No, you can’t use the argument of potential of having a gun creates the potential for killing people. There is potential for all sorts of actions to take place that never do, like every single car moving through an intersection to create an accident. Maybe if the health care system was different, more proactive, toward mental illness, the obvious problem with guns might be alleviated somewhat. I hammered a single phrase, “Force, not fulcrum.” Change the force generating the action of the lever, not remove the fulcrum from the lever. Out came the bloated soliloquy from “I’m so much smarter than you, listen to obtuse viewpoints backed with theory that hasn’t been implemented yet.” Everyone else faded away because I wasn’t engaging in thier trotting out of statistics, news reports from liberal sources, and sticking to my position: “I’d rather have a dangerous freedom than a peaceful slavery,” and, “Force, not fulcrum.” And I finished the day with another round of self-reflection concerning my stance on the position.
I stepped away from my personal social media for a long while. And came to a totally different conclusion. This has nothing to do with the stance of a position.
This has everything to do with the vigilante nature of social media. Join the torches and pitchforks, or the torches and pitchforks will be used against you. Doesn’t matter who you are as a person, because there are no people. There are only squares of pictures in front a wall of words. So easy to attack.
There is the concrete good created by social media to spread news, ideas, advertising from individuals that have to compete in the global market and highlighting unpopular ideas going against the crowd and the possibilities of changing minds to different ways of thinking. Getting events in front of people, band gigs, non-profit events, selling tickets online and making connections and sales so much easier.
Then there is complete evil in going with the crowd and creating these circle jerks where everyone masturbates everyone else in a bubble of confirmation bias. It happens from all sides of the political spectrum. The evil of someone going against the crowd with unpopular ideas and the resulting torches and pitchforks browbeating those unpopular ideas. The cycle of getting a bias confronted, the head-spinning of cognitive dissonance where the brain literally goes into fight or flight mode with an idea going against what is ingrained within a person, and the rabid frothing that comes from that fomenting struggle put on social media every day. Doesn’t matter what political stripe, because the majority of partakers in social media do it, and have it done to them. Online bullying is the tip of the iceberg that people rally behind. It’s teenagers doing it to teenagers and how awful that is. Adults recognize it because of the sophomoric tactics. I question those that do it themselves without being aware of doing it.
I did it with the moron in the White House and the browbeating I gave to those who supported him. I gave bloated soliloquies showing how much smarter I am than “those other people.” I did it concerning other issues, dragging out my bag of statistics and references and sited articles and research. All my personal vigilantism.
I forgot my teaching in my college statistics class: don’t believe a stupid bar graph because data can be manipulated for self-serving reasons. Look at the raw data to make a judgement, which is typically never provided. I forgot my teaching in college English: keep in mind no source is perfect, no story is “true.” Some contain a nature of truth, but can never be fully “true.” First-hand sources are best, but even the human mind can distort recollections and create bias in word choice, leave out items necessary to the story because they don’t want to revel them, a whole list of potential wrongs in storytelling. The nature of second-hand story telling, no matter how many direct quotes or references to other sources backing the thesis, still suffers from the person retelling a story, the possibility of error, and applying bias by word choice. Yes, some news agencies have rigorous standards centuries old and have garnered awards dating back as long, but even they are susceptible to the failures of being human.
Calling something true because it confirms your bias is a bullshit move. Backing it with bar graphs and sources may be a higher form of debate, but it’s still vigilantism, attacking someone’s opinion, or bloating it by joining the pitchforks and torches. All of it is a vigilantism social media perpetuates daily, by the people in front of their screens, being able to whip out responses and stick them on a global platform without considering the damage it might inflict.
I anticipate the day people start realizing opinions have the truth value of zero, debate about an issue is only going to be rational from those willing to respectfully engage in it, and in the end, no one’s mind is going to change unless people reflect on the information given. Chances are strong that isn’t going to happen. Even the smartest, best informed people, skilled in debate and logic, confront confirmation bias, create cognitive dissonance, and the snap back to the original beliefs becomes almost violent in the responses given on social media. Or fulfill thier own self-righteousness because social norms say it’s acceptable, even if that norm is completely irrational.
The Courthouse of Public Opinion will consistently win battles against those with unpopular ideas, against people who have had no trial in the court of law but have already been condemned online, and the online vigilantism against people who the herd has deemed unacceptable for whatever justifiable or unjustifiable confirmation bias.
I’m sure humanity has been doing this ever since eschewing individuals from group campfires because they didn’t bang rocks in time with the group. But with information zooming at the speed of a blog repost, a social media blip spreading like a mental virus, and the unrecognized culpability of the herd groupthink swooping with the flitting of an idea matching thier own, this behavior has become nuclear destructive.
I’m going back to posting pictures of cats and the food I’m eating. Fuck engaging in social media.