Social Media Freedom: a Utopian Dream Gone Horribly Wrong

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Answered by: Emiliya, An Expert in the Social Networking Category
Social media platforms are not for the faint of heart, I recently concluded. If you have nothing useful to do with your time, they might be the answer to dealing with your ennui. But even then you will likely get way more than what you bargained for!

The problem is that most social media outlets have gone from being useful tools to enablers of the stupid, nasty, ridiculous, meaningless, or downright macabre. When you read about Facebook these days, chances are it’s nothing good. It used to be announcements about a useful new feature, improvements to security, or better ad targeting (though most users couldn't care less about that). However, it’s mostly horror stories these days: Facebook has its hands full trying to police the platform so we don’t get to see suicide, murder, or some other savagery broadcast live.

Then there’s Twitter. It might not have people streaming gruesome stuff in real time, but it’s a mecca for trolls and abusers, not to mention fake news disseminators. It has come to the point where none other than Evan Williams admits that the lofty ideas of social media freedom have backfired with a deafening bang.

For those not familiar with the name, Williams is a co-founder of Twitter. He had established several internet companies before helping launch Twitter in 2007. Williams served as CEO until 2010, when Twitter’s board sent him packing.

But Williams’ career journey is not the focal point here. That said, it’s relevant because he has been there since the dawn of social media and has been instrumental in driving its evolution. And Williams now has his fair share of regrets, telling the New York Times that “the internet is broken” and the mess requires serious fixing. On the whole, he is positive that the situation will improve but it will take time.

As it turned out, tweets can also determine the course of a nation and not necessarily in a positive way. In the NYT interview, Williams apologized for Twitter’s role in the latest US presidential elections. Donald Trump moved into the White House thanks to Twitter, as he himself believes. If that’s indeed the case, “I’m sorry,” Williams told the newspaper.

I am a reluctant user of social media. They do have certain benefits but, in general, they are exhausting, not to mention frequently dangerous. Unfortunately, I don’t believe that Williams and like-minded individuals can fix the internet. It will remain a mixture of the useful and the harmful because they can’t really change human nature.

I don’t rejoice in saying that. In fact, I’m profoundly sad. I wish we all behaved with restraint, dignity, and consideration online. Maybe that will happen in some distant future, who knows? The day may come when we will have evolved enough to enjoy our social media freedom without abusing it or making it a tool for self-validation. I have my doubts but remain hopeful nonetheless. Until then, each of us has the responsibility to help keep the online discourse clean, tolerant, useful, and dignified.

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