politics Technology

A Social Media Exodus Is Coming

This can't go on indefinitely. People are getting fed up.

For a while I’ve been coming around to the belief that there will be a massive exodus from existing social media platforms in the next 5-10 years. Stories like this one are why. They’re almost not even newsworthy anymore because they’re so common: Person A is discovered by a group of users to believe Idea X, which immediately triggers demands for Person A either to be “canceled” (i.e, be shamed and protested until their presence on this particular social media channel is no longer emotionally or financially advisable) or forced to recant Idea X.

Nathan Pyle’s case is a particularly egregious example of how social media mobs are willing to go through enormous hoops in order to find something to cancel you over. Look at the sheer amount of investigation and fact-finding this kind of shaming campaign requires:

[I]t was discovered that Nathan Pyle, a popular cartoonist whose ‘Strange Planet’ illustrations are all over Instagram, had espoused support for the anti-abortion March for Life two years ago. Pyle, more specifically, had tweeted support for a woman he identified as his girlfriend and who had posted a Facebook message about her own support for the March for Life. But scroll through the fresh replies to that tweet and you’ll encounter erstwhile Pyle fans acting like they were personally wronged and are owed an apology.

This afternoon Pyle posted a brief statement on his Twitter that reads disturbingly like an ideological tax, a price of social media citizenship:

The reason why this omnipresent, increasingly vicious trend bodes ill for the future of places like Twitter and Facebook is that the infrastructure of social media makes a proper response almost impossible. Let’s say you object to the way Pyle was treated but you are also pro-choice. Your options are to i) Voice support for Pyle, and then risk your bona fides (knowing your own social media history can and will probably be mined for Cancellation ammo), or ii) Say nothing at all, refusing to contribute to the pile on but not risking poking the hive, and just go along your day on Twitter hoping you never have the bad luck to be friends with anyone with the wrong views. That’s it; those are your only two options. The only alternative is to say, “Online culture is ephemeral and unreal, and I reject it,” and then leave.

The reason  people who reject the moral dilemma above still stay on social media is, well, where else are we gonna go? How else are we going to know What Everyone’s Saying?

But this can’t go on indefinitely. People are getting fed up. They’re scared of waking up one morning or getting off a plane and discovering their life has been eviscerated. They’re exhausted by the mental and emotional attention that online minutia demands. They’re annoyed with how the most insignificant trends and conversations have become important sorters to separate good people from bad people. Eventually all this anxiety and weariness and frustration is going to overcome a handful of influential people, and the house of cards is going to fold, slowly but surely. Social media is structured around needing to know what other people are saying. If those “other people” call it quits—as they did with blogging, as they did with Myspace, as they’re doing with “live video” and a hundred other innovations we couldn’t live without two minutes before we completely abandoned them—it’ll all be over.

Of course, this all presumes that people like me have consciousness of our mental and spiritual health, and a willpower to do what’s best for both. I guess the trick in the end is that every time I get close to realizing how tired and anxious I am, I just hit “refresh” and check those notifications, even with one eye closed.

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8 comments on “A Social Media Exodus Is Coming

  1. The Speak Life podcast of March 29, with Glen Scrivener, speaks to this exactly. It’s entitled, “Huge, if True.”

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    • I gave up on social media back in its infancy, right before MySpace and years before Facebook. We had instant messaging, blogs, and Web forums. The nastiness was evident from the beginning even on Christian social media. The stress and strain of social media interaction, plus physical pain brought on by typing too many instant messages and forum posts, drove me to give up on social media. Nothing I’ve seen about today’s social media–Facebook, Twitter, etc.–has made me rethink my stand…quite the reverse.

      In my opinion, it is simply not necessary for me to keep up with most of what’s going on with the Internet, the media, etc.. It is enough to deal with the challenges that Providence brings my way through church, family, work, etc.. If I am to make a difference as a Christian witness, I have enough opportunities right there. There is simply no need for me as an individual believer to engage the whole world. God has his people out there, the universal Church, taken from every tribe, kindred, and nation, to bear witness. This was enough before the Internet, and it will continue to be enough until Christ returns.

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      • That’s a really interesting point about the pre-social media days of the internet, because I remember them as well and remember also that message boards were pretty nasty too. A lot of what I think is wrong with platforms like Twitter is how instantly viral things can become, but it’s good to recall that online discourse writ large is usually bad.

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  2. Brad Krantz

    I’ve long believed that social media in general is not the proper forum for discourse on any topics of substance or potential controversy! Unrelated though, I’ ve almost stopped with FB as I find it not beneficial and takes to much of my time.

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