Social media was supposed to lead to more thoughtful discourse. But it hasn’t turned out that way, according to Financial Times columnist Tim Harford.
“Amid the bullying, the misogyny, and the endless outrage, it’s hard to tell the bots and the people apart, largely because so many humans have lowered themselves to the level of the bots,” Harford writes.
Harford is right. We all remember the hatred that was spewed out on Facebook and other channels in the 2016 election by Russian operatives trying to interfere in our election.
It’s still going on to a degree, and it isn’t happening only in social media. Email is now a vehicle for delivering vile rhetoric while raising funds.
Worse yet, email is also used for threatening journalists, politicians and anyone else you don’t like.
Case in point: the experience of Siemens chief executive Joe Kaeser. He was sent a death threat from the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Stef Schrader faced a different problem. Someone maliciously signed Schrader up for dozens of email lists, and her inbox was flooded, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
Earlier this year, CPJ surveyed reporters and found that all too many feel vulnerable.
“Ninety percent of U.S. journalists and 71 percent in Canada described online harassment as the biggest threat facing journalists today,” the CPJ writes. “And 50 percent of those surveyed said they have dealt with online threats.”
Most online threats are hollow: It’s easy to be a tough guy while seated at a computer keyboard. But there are always the one or two crazies who might follow up on a threat.
Personal danger is one thing. Then there’s the general level of cacophony, and the privacy threats inherent in online media.
“Now we carry around powerful and highly distracting devices,” Harford notes. “They observe our behavior, buzz insistently to get attention, and leverage our desire to fit in, communicate and reciprocate.”
Harford has a solution: for himself.
“I cannot break Facebook up by myself, but I can plan to do something more constructive with the time and energy I often spend on social media. I hope I am not the only one,” he writes.
Interestingly I have seen real signs that China might be the next threat. How? Over the past three years on Facebook, there have been a very large number, over 1,000 of Chinese accounts that come from Shenzhen, Guangdong. The problem is if they want to follow my sweepstakes account, we only publish American and some Canadian sweeps. These Chinese could not even enter. So why bother? Shenzhen is also the city where the Chinese military intellegence is locaated. Or this is this a Facebook click fraud mill. Either way, Facebook I am sure knows. The best way to slow this corruption down is to have Facebook, Twitter and others broken up by countries.
Harford might simply unfollow his politically-charged friends without unfriending them. Or snooze them 30 days. The tools are there. You can even Hide All from unwanted sites followed by your family. It's a whack-a-mole game to play when you don't want to miss other messages with baby photos. Another tool is the third-party FBpurity app, which blocks certain words if they appear in Facebook posts. It helps me maintain peace in the family. And forget about persistent buzzing from apps: Your phone can be set to turn off notifications if you bother to learn the menus.
Thank you for catching up and using the phrase anti social media. It will help more than you know and let it go out and multiply. We have met the enemy and it is us.
Craig, Shenzhen has a population of 12+million. Does 1,000+ seem a disproportionate amount in that population?
John, I have been researching what I believe is totally disproportionate. My ST Facebook account is about USA sweepstakes. Meaning the sweeps I publish can only be entered by Americans and few Canadians. Unless all 1,000 is totally dumb about rules and laws, then the reason for them to show up in a friends possibilty doesn't hold water. I have been publishing sweepstakes for 16 years and look at trends and anomalies. I raised this because the Shenzhen numbers even for Facebook is so far out of the norm, this is not an accident nor real.
OK. I didn't realise you had a geo-block (not that they are hard to circumvent). Given that fact, yes it is disproportionate and odd.
Thanks. I have a very big target on my back by the bad actors. In this case it is either a State actor in China or possibly Facebook padding numbers with false clicks, views, likes and whatever else.