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Street Smart

The problem with social media


In 2014, I opened a Facebook account. I was taking a job overseas, where I thought communication would be a problem. Although I’m kind of a “technophobe,” my grandkids were in their early teens and I wanted to stay in touch. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

At first, I really liked Facebook. I was able to keep up with the grandkids and really appreciated all the photos sent to me. However, as time passed, I saw what I believed to be a sinister side of the technology. I finally stopped using Facebook when I saw so many of the conversations becoming political. It wasn’t politics as a subject that bothered me, it was the way those conversations evolved. I witnessed people I had known for years completely change their persona when posting something political. People I had known to be reasonable, respectful, and in some cases even timid, became aggressive, abrasive and sometimes threatening toward anyone who opposed their point of view. This occurred across the board too; it wasn’t just a liberal or conservative phenomenon. I cancelled my account and don’t miss it at all.

How did this happen? I read a meme this morning that got me thinking about all of this. It said; “Social media has made too many of you comfortable with disrespecting people and not getting punched in the mouth for it.” As silly as it may sound, I think that meme kind of sums it up. People believe that anything can be said and there are no consequences. It’s one thing to type something threatening/derogatory to or about a person. It is something altogether different to say those same things directly to that same person. I’ve used the term ‘keyboard warriors’ to describe these people and I include friends and family in that category.

I think social media is a problem and has become too powerful. If I had my way, it would be banned tomorrow. Clearly that’s not going to happen, so how should we move forward?

Last week, Facebook upheld it’s ban on former president Trump’s use of the platform. I think that act alone proves that social media has become too powerful. Who made them arbiters of what is or is not appropriate speech? What happened to the First Amendment? I read that the Facebook Advisory Board would make a final decision regarding the ban on Trump’s right to post his thoughts. Hasn’t that job already been delegated to the Supreme Court or am I missing something? Although I am certainly not a fan, where is the ACLU in all of this? That organization used to be front and center on any First Amendment abuses. Why are they silent now? When you carefully pay attention to what is happening with all social and liberal media, it becomes quite clear that conservative speech and thoughts are being suppressed.

As an extraordinarily simple example, let’s compare the verbiage of two prominent politicians: former president, Donald Trump, and current senator, Maxine Waters. If the social media “powers that be” deem that Trump’s language on January 6, 2021, was incendiary, logic would demand the same conclusion would have to be made regarding Water’s words on April 19, 2021 (while the jury was deliberating in Derek Chauvin’s case in the death of George Floyd). Yet, Trump was banned and Waters was not. For those unfamiliar, review the transcripts of each and then draw your own conclusions (don’t rely on social media). After review, I’d enjoy reading an explanation from someone who felt one was appropriate while the other was not. I don’t think I’ll read that, but, we’ll see. We certainly won’t see that contrast explored in what is so commonly called ‘mainstream media’.

I’m not sure of the origin of the quote, but it has been written that, “While I may disagree with what you say, I will fight to the death to protect your right to say it.” Doesn’t that quote sum up the First Amendment in one simple sentence? The ACLU would be the first to explain that protecting the First Amendment is a fundamental component of protecting America. If that’s part of their mantra, where are they in all of this?

I’ll provide a few personal examples of what I’m trying to express. As much as I personally disagreed with and resented Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling, my only issue with his protest was the fact that it was done during the singing of the national anthem. I’ve said numerous times that he (Kaepernick) has an absolute, constitutionally guaranteed right to protest. It was his timing that I found offensive, not his protest. I’ve worked dozens of demonstrations where the American flag was burned in front of me. While I found that act personally offensive and disagreed with the behavior, that sort of protest has been deemed protected as a First Amendment right. I didn’t like it, but my personal opinion was moderately interesting. As the boss said, “It’s the law. Enforce it.” I did.

So, what’s next with social media? Does some techno guy just get to decide what is appropriate to publish for public consumption? If that’s where we’re headed, I don’t want to go. Social media has become most people’s news source and I see that as a significant problem. People have become too lazy to research a topic on their own. Why should they? It’s all right there for them to read. The problem? Who’s providing the information? In my view, the information provided isn’t balanced. Think about that.

Blaine Blackstone is a retired Los Angeles Police Sergeant who enjoys the simpler life in Thompson Falls.


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