I have a million ideas. Most of them are legitimately idiotic, impractical, or make little to no sense when spoken aloud. But like a broken clock, occasionally, I’m onto something huge. In the past, I’ve Thomas Alva Edison-ed up such ideas as the swivel front-facing toilet paper dispenser, the re-branding of small sized condoms as “High Effort Stallions”, and a flaming red hot Cheetos chip bags that inside-out as a wet-wipe. What have you done for humanity?
This time, I’ve really done it. I’m about to break the Internet without taking topless selfies and watching women’s magazines apologetically refer to me as empowered. This is the big one: FacebookSafe. Also, TwitterSafe, InstagramSafe, YouTubeSafe, etc. I know. I’ve done it this time.
Social media platforms have taken over the known universe with their combination of addictive technologies, algorithms that serve as misdirecting jargon for baked-in owner preferences, and the implicit vanity and weakness of the human condition. Porn, fantasy football, shopping, and social media dominate the Internet. These are not the prominent pursuits of a healthy species. Given that most other animals live entirely to defecate, eat, and procreate, the bar is pretty low. Somehow, humans are limboing right beneath.
All would be fine with this dopamine blitzkrieg, omnipresent technology were it not for the divisive nature of expressed opinions, words, and viewpoints, that pit brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, and beta male against anything that might offend his dominant partner. As noted in my credo for this very site:
Somewhere along the line, words went from informative, inspiring, and interesting to simply terrible. Words frighten people now. Let us embrace the terror.
That was the vision. To embrace the horror of words and thoughts and ideas with which we don’t agree or make us uncomfortable or go bump in the night. That hope certainly waned against the tide of huddled four-year college grads yearning to rant to their social bubble. A wise man knows when it’s time to fight and when it’s time live to fight another day. We freedom of speech lovers are at the unyielding precipice of retreat.
The word “censorship” derives from the Censors of Ancient Rome, the dual magistrates tasked with upholding the moral standards of the Empire. They banned writing or teaching or public displays that were deemed unsavory. But unsavory to whom? To the Empire, naturally. Therein, censorship has been a political process since its etymological inception two thousand years ago.
Private companies can’t censor. That’s a government function. But mega social media companies can subordinate, delete, or ban content and content creators from their midst (or conversely, promote purveyors and members to their liking, for moral or commercial reasons). Thus we’ve been forced to endure the dawn of a new word, “de-platform”, meaning, for Facebook or Twitter or YouTube or other social media and content hosting sites to remove content, or even individuals entirely, from their outlets. Few in America openly object to the theoretical principle of private property, or the We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to People Not Wearing Clothes type of indulgence granted to business owners. But given the awesome size and scope of these platforms and the manner in which they’ve come to be essential for many persons and businesses to earn a living online, de-platforming might as well be defrocking for a nun, or a lifetime ban from the NFL for, well, nobody since they cover up most of their player crimes.
These social media outlets have become not only the most popular and impactful source of news and information in our society, they’ve become a necessary commercial avenue for millions of businesses and individuals. Between Google and Facebook, they control the vast majority of online advertising dollars. Whether you’re a big enterprise or a guy in his basement selling Pelosi Rocks My World custom tees, you need to be on these platforms. As such, the consequences of being blocked, banned or de-platformed are immense. To the point that you must now measure your own online speech against the potential of being exiled or lesser variations of having your content or promotions heavily restricted.
As somebody who’s been banned from using Twitter advertising for what was deemed “potentially offensive” content in a promoted post, I assure you it’s not a small thing. As somebody who nearly lost a Facebook page with 1 million plus followers due to “the sight of a nipple”, I assure you, it’s a very big thing.
Given that these dominant social media enterprises are prone to be incredibly reactionary to any number of random users claiming offense, and themselves have the legal right to assert their own political, social, and moral prejudice upon content on their platforms, there is a rising increase in power to the self-appointed monitors of correctness and virtue (whether they be earnest in their outrage or simply looking to hurt an entity who they dislike) and a decrease in the openness of speech, contrarianism, and thought and opinion that challenges the mainstream media culture. Thoughtful, confident people side strongly with freedom of thought and speech over the rights of people to not feel offended. The converse holds true as well for less rigorous souls. Call it triggered to make it sound ominous, it’s still offended, and you’re an objectively weaker member of the species for being unable to process such feelings in an adult manner. Yet, these numbers of sheeple are growing.
FacebookSafe solves all of this. Each of the major social media platforms can develop two separate social networks under their aegis. One, FacebookGrownUp, i.e., which would allow for largely unregulated, legal speech and content across its platform. In contrast, FacebookSafe would be heavily content controlled, manipulated, regulated, and screened for potentially offensive content or words likely to hurt people’s feelings if they are prone to such offense in the first place. The latter would work well for minor children and the more timid adults and Silicon Valley moral leaners among us.
“Safe” versions of these platforms may sound wild-eyed, but understand that Facebook and Instagram and YouTube and Twitter already provide tremendous privacy, screening, social circling, and blocking options within their applications. One could rather easily create their own “safe space” on any of the platforms in a matter of minutes, and a couple more minutes per month of time. But that voluntary walling-off process is somewhat counter to the benefits of the outraged to feed their outrage. Also, people are really lazy. Therefore, the numbers of users who control their own online environment to prevent feelings of discomfort, unhappiness, or being forced to think about ideas and concepts counter to their existing hardened beliefs, is minimal. FacebookSafe solves that by forcing the underlying issue of one’s desire to trade liberty for feelings of security front and center.
When choosing FacebookSafe as your preferred haven, you will be immediately protected from posts, content, promotions, or ideas that might cause you to question the world around you or common practices or government and societal standards. There will be a series of categories of content that will be entirely banned from your feed; content that you can not find even if you went searching. A full womb of protection.
With FacebookSafe, TwitterSafe, YouTubeSafe, etc, one could protect oneself from the discomfort experienced when exposed to thoughts or ideas contrary to mainstream cultural norms. Choosing the “Safe” environment will be optional, though highly recommended for recent liberal arts college graduates, suburban women, Soul Cycle enthusiasts, and tweens. FacebookGrownUp will exist largely as dark web mythology, filled with Reason magazine stories, political debates, and peer reviewed studies. A taboo “other side of the tracks” social media outlet that will appeal to libertarians, teachers of hard science, and, naturally, Hitler.
There’s no economic or technological or cultural reason why the great divide in this nation between those more comfortable under the Censors, and those willing to risk being offended in an open speech environment can’t be solved by one great platform divide. Contention will subside. The need to report or exchange vitriol will disappear within each sphere. Banning and de-platforming will cease to be an issue.
Technology and the social media revolution have not changed anything about human nature. It has merely exposed the hidden truths. Selfies didn’t create vanity, emojis and text speak and TV clip GIFs didn’t turn intelligent people into sophomoric hipsters, and the free exchange of opinions and ideas online didn’t create the underlying desire of many to Stalinize speech. What technology can do is create a smoother transition to the Balkanization of the Western world. It can create walls for people who state their obvious distaste of such barriers, but longingly desire them in so many forms personally.
Good fences make good neighbors. Let’s build a big one dead center across social media. FacebookSafe. It’s simply genius.
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