All methods of communication start out as this breakthrough way to communicate and then deteriorate into name-calling and eventually we lose it.
I make my living in free speech and I don’t want to see any limitations. Free speech means you have the right to say what you want, but I have the right to have an opinion about it. And then came social media…
In Bill Gates’ book from the 90’s, “The Road Ahead,” he reports that the Guttenberg Press was the first real mass communication tool. The first book produced on the press was the Bible and soon they were printing medieval books of pornography. He made the case that every form of mass media has that arc. He recalls he initially wanted email to be kind of like an E. E. Cummings poem, all lower case letters and no pictures. He wanted the exchange of ideas to be just that, the exchange of ideas without the bias of knowing anything about the person sending it. And for a while, that worked.
But technology moves forward. From the wheel to the super computer or from the letter delivered in person to the “Insta” post and a DM. I was lamenting to a colleague that George H. W. Bush is probably the last president that we will have a long record of his thought written in his own hand to review. My colleague points out that President Trump has a long record of tweets that could be used. I guess he’s right but the jury is still out on what to think of it. It’s definitely a record of what he thinks at any given time and since he’s attacked about everything, it’s his way of communicating directly with the world and for him, it’s working.
Everyone says we need social media. Audrey Mullen told me in 2004, “Martha, you’ve got to do this Facebook thing. You can post your columns and link to them without having to get them published.” So I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. And for a woman of a certain age, I do all right. But is it real?
I think if you approach social media with the idea that it’s a limited universe with lots of people mostly talking to people they agree with, you might be okay.
What I hoped it would be is a universe of lots of opinions and people engaging civilly. In the beginning of accessnorthga.com, the precursor to accesswdun.com, we had comment boards and there was really good discussion. My friend, Dan Summer, loved to engage, but then the name-calling started. I have comments on marthazoller.com and it has deteriorated into a bunch of what appears to be Russian and Chinese bots who are trying to hack personal information so I’ve turned that function off. If you want to comment to me, email me at email@example.com or find me on social media. I’ll try to get back to you and I will be civil.