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Inside Blogball: “Was Social Media A Mistake? Here’s An Experiment To Find Out” by Robert Tracinski


[Note: I don’t write a lot about “blogging” mostly because it always feels like some arcane techno version of Inside Baseball. Today’s article by Robert Tracinski, however, makes some valuable and salient points about our rush to convenience at the expense of free speech and free expression and a free and uncensored internet. — GVDL ]

“Was social media a mistake? Two recent events crystallized my answer to this question. First, conservative comedian Steven Crowder had his Twitter account suspended for a week because he posted a video on YouTube that was critical of “gender fluidity” and used a Bad Word. The video was also pulled from YouTube, which you might not think of as a social media platform, even though it definitely is.

“Then Brandon Morse noticed Twitter was preventing him from tweeting a link to an article by a controversial conservative columnist. This follows stories of Google-owned YouTube “demonetizing” videos by conservatives, unplugging them from the ability to make money from ads, and Facebook and Google targeting conservative sites for hilariously inaccurate and tendentious “fact checks.” It’s becoming clear that the big social media companies are targeting ideas and thinkers on the Right, and not just the far-out provocateurs and trolls like Milo Yianopoulos, but everyone.

“What strikes me most is the contrast between this and the Internet era before social media, before Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube swallowed up everything. I’m talking about the 2000s, the great era of the blogs. Do you remember what that blog era was like? It felt like liberation.

“The era of blogging offered the promise of a decentralized media. Anybody could publish and comment on the news and find an audience. Guys writing in their pajamas could take down Dan Rather. We were bypassing the old media gatekeepers. And we had control over it! We posted on our own sites. We had good discussions in our own comment fields, which we moderated. I had and still have an extensive e-mail list of readers who are interested in my work, most of which I built up in that period, before everybody moved onto social media.

“But then Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube came along and killed the blogs. There were three main reasons they took over.

“The first was that maintaining your own website is kind of a bother. It doesn’t cost much money to buy a web address, set up hosting, load up WordPress, and get going—but social media sites are free. It does cost a fair bit of time to set up and moderate a blog and to deal with the various technological complications that arise. Figuring out how to post ads or take subscriptions and get paid for your work is even more time-consuming…..

[snip]

“So the blogs were mostly outcompeted. A few of the best and most interesting blogs became full-fledged online publications, but a lot of the small, quirky, one-person amateur bloggers moved onto social media. That turned out to be a big mistake, because the era of social media has recentralized the media. Instead of a million blogs—what Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame called an “Army of Davids“—we now have a social media economy mostly controlled by three big companies: Twitter, Facebook, and Google.

“So we get shadowbanning, arbitrary Twitter suspensions, and Twitter throttling the traffic of people they don’t like and controlling what articles you can tweet links to. We traded the old mainstream media gatekeepers for new, worse, less publicly accountable gatekeepers in Silicon Valley—a new breed of pinch-nosed Puritans with pink hair, piercings, and tattoos, who will shut us down if we don’t use the right pronouns….

RTWT AT  Was Social Media A Mistake? Here’s An Experiment To Find Out

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  • Bilderback March 20, 2018, 10:37 AM

    Interesting that Instapundit had an article regarding this very thing today, encouraging folks to leave social media and return to otherwise hosted blogs. I have nothing profound to offer other than noting Tumblr is a giant in blogging and should be avoided at all costs. They’re much like the others, subjecting users to suspension and deletion of accounts for wrong think, while happily hosting lunatic feminist, lesbian, antifa, any general leftist material no matter how conspiratorial or violent, not to mention the most vile porn. All that stuff is acceptable, anything approaching conservative thought is not.

  • ghostsniper March 20, 2018, 10:38 AM

    I never bought into the whole social media thing, didn’t see the point. I have been frequenting blogs since their inception, are they considered social media? I suspect so but on a different, more personal level.

    Having been online in one form or another since the late 80’s (and if you consider communicating with others through a computer via a telephone line online, then I’ve been so since 1981) there seems to have been several peaks then a long decline in the quality.

    Newsgroups peaked about 1997 and then sloughed off and blogs peaked about 2008 and started declining. About 2014 I started observing fracturing across all lines on the web and that corresponded with outright futility of all computer systems in general, including all “gadgets”. Most websites are dysfunctional in various ways, email is abused beyond belief, the ads, the spam, the harrassment, the speedbumps, pop-ups, pop-unders, and on and on and on. Being online has become like a job you don’t like.

    I have long dropped updating my website because navigating godaddy’s dashboard has become more than I can bear and most likely at some point I’ll just stop sending them money.

    Almost forgot, after dealing with amazon since they only sold books, this past year a seller on there found it necessary to steal my bankcard info and bought $800+ worth of building materials in Dubai, stayed at a 5 star hotel in Rio and put more than $5k down on a new ride in England and did all that between 7:53 and 8:04 am the same day. I can’t pinpoint which seller because I did several transactions over as short span but amazon supposedly has their eye on the recent ones. Nevermind that the amazon consultant that called me said they can’t go after the thief because there are so many. WTF??? I had never had anything like that done before even after thousands of online transactions but I see it becoming more prevalent since they don’t prosecute the violators.

    Where is all this going? I don’t know but what I do know is that everything digital is becoming lessened in my life and a I know several people that have pulled out entirely. I’ve been predicting this year will be my “last year” but I keep kicking the can down the road and each year I kick with less fervor than before. I suspect a large event will occur in my life that will pull me away and then I’ll just never come back. What that event will be I have no idea but I keep feeling like it’s right around the corner. Eerie, but exciting, and I’m always optimistic.

    And 5 years after the dust has settled I’ll reflect on those 3 decades I spent with computers and wonder, “What in the hell was I thinking?”, and I’ll answer, “Why, I wasn’t thinking at all, the machines were doing it for me!”

    “Am I in the Matrix?”
    –gs, 2099

  • John Venlet March 20, 2018, 10:57 AM

    In regards to Mr. Tracinski’s 4 step experiment:

    1. I’ve never been on Twitter, and never plan to be.
    2. I have a smartphone, but only use it to make phone calls, text, take photos, and very rarely, like three or four times a year, check something online.
    3. I’ve only ever checked my roster of bookmarked blogs via computer. I don’t Facefake, Instabrag, Twit, and I don’t have any apps on my smartphone.
    4. Occasionally I think about firing up my blog again, which I ran from 2001 to 2012 or so, but I can’t seem to of a good sound reason to do so.

    I guess I’m ahead of the curve.

  • Sam L. March 20, 2018, 11:11 AM

    I don’t do social media. Don’t have a smartphone, and won’t.
    I read blogs, and occasionally comment.

  • Doug March 20, 2018, 11:48 AM

    Would you trust this chinless douchebag?

    https://goo.gl/images/sqWvtc

  • Bill in Tennessee March 20, 2018, 12:22 PM

    Participating in none of the social media platforms (because I knew from the beginning that they would be too invasive and too pervasive), I do wonder why some tech savvy, wealthy entrepreneur doesn’t create a venue for Conservative, Libertarian, and alt-right views; one that can discriminate against leftist ideology and ban them to the outer darkness upon a whim. Ah well, I always have my mail account, I guess.

  • tim March 20, 2018, 12:51 PM

    Blogging’s peak coincided with the post 9/11/01 world. Places such as ‘Blackfive’, with its military insight and expertise, was invaluable for an audience hungry for knowledge in a world suddenly saturated with war, Jihad and all the crapola that is Islam. The comment section was often times more worthy than the main content.

    Now pushing 20 years past that infamous day I dare say we’re back to living fat and happy, or at least relatively. Thus the lure of short, fast, McDonald’s take out style communication of ‘social media’.

    I miss blogs, the stories, the people and the feeling of community. I enjoyed the insight and learning from some seriously intelligent folks in a variety of subjects. Much fun was had in the banter of the comment sections, something that is missing in ‘social media’. (The multi person long form beats the one on one short form hands down, no contest.)

  • Rob De Witt March 20, 2018, 2:30 PM

    Social Media a mistake?

    You mean encouraging the most spoiled/entitled generation in history to indulge their narcissism 24/7? What could go wrong?

    And surely no one would take advantage of a total lack of privacy. Would they?

  • Mike G. March 20, 2018, 3:40 PM

    I still have a blog, but haven’t posted anything for over two years. I got on Twitter and Facebook to promote my blog, but don’t pay any attention to them anymore either.

  • PA Cat March 20, 2018, 4:04 PM

    What Sam L. said.

  • Cobb March 20, 2018, 4:23 PM

    #BringBackBlogs
    I haven’t stopped blogging in a decade, but my volume is way down. I waste a lot of time on Facebook and Quora but still do my real writing on my blogs.

  • M. Murcek March 20, 2018, 4:25 PM

    Best thing since sliced bread. Until it isn’t. That’s an old story…

  • M. Murcek March 20, 2018, 4:28 PM

    My most antisocial fantasy: Kicking Stewart Varney in the teeth every time he says “Twittah!”

  • Vanderleun March 20, 2018, 5:30 PM

    “I do wonder why some tech savvy, wealthy entrepreneur doesn’t create a venue for Conservative, Libertarian, and alt-right views; one that can discriminate against leftist ideology and ban them to the outer darkness upon a whim. ”

    THAT WOULD BE gab.ai a twitter like site set up for conservatives and everybody else. Almost nobody is banned there except for illegal postings.

    That site again is GAB

  • Vanderleun March 20, 2018, 5:30 PM

    And Cobb is the man of the blogs .

  • Vanderleun March 20, 2018, 5:31 PM

    And he is found at Cobb: Stoic Observations

  • Howard Nelson March 20, 2018, 8:32 PM

    @PA Cat comment.
    Iconic comic laconic.
    Purr-fect!

  • Gnawbonejack March 21, 2018, 5:42 AM

    I suppose I’m with Sam L. I only read blogs and a faithful reader of very few: American Digest and Instapundit.

  • DLJ6 March 21, 2018, 6:18 AM

    No social media for me.
    I am unable to recall the year I replaced the nightly news with daily pre-“blog” / site reading, but it was a while ago. Belmont Club, Here, Black and Right, Ace, Real Revo, Never yet melted.
    I often wonder what happened to Mark …..http://markinmexico.blogspot.com/

  • Larry Geiger March 21, 2018, 8:34 AM

    I guess that I’m a blog sort of guy. No twitters or insta… anything or face… anything.
    Most every day:
    Watt’s Up With That
    realclimatescience.com
    junkscience.com
    wmbriggs.com
    americandigest.org
    bluebirdofbitterness.com (love the face pix and “I can’t brain today, I have the dumb”)
    I miss Sippican. What happened to him? I miss the boys songs and tales of the basement remodel. Oh well.
    Occasionally some Manitowoc Minute, Intellectual Froglegs (politically Joe Dan is ok but the entertainment value is great!!), ChiefIO and some Moonbattery.
    Briggs statistics make my head swim sometimes but I love the picture at the top of the blog.

  • GoneWithTheWind March 21, 2018, 9:34 AM

    I got onto facebook a couple of years ago to communicate with my grandson and a cousin. To me it is like standing in a store window naked. I would see all of my cousin’s and grandson’s comments and their friends comments and I think even friends of friends comments. I immediately became paranoid and quit face book. I am on it again but under a fake name and the only person I friended is my wife and thus I can see my son’s face book page. That’s it so far and maybe all I will need from face book.

    About 6 months ago I got a smart phone. I got it for two simple reasons, internet access and being able to tether my computer when we travel. I have added one app, it allows me to see my inhome camera which is nice when you are away from home for a month at a time. I like what the phone has given me that my stupid phone does not. But I do not like the size and fragility of it and would prefer a simple small flip phone. Mostly I keep it shut off and enjoy the peace and quiet. But as a former anti-smart phone person I now like them for what it can do for me.

  • Andy March 21, 2018, 3:01 PM

    I spent too much energy trying to blog the way that I thought the internet wanted me to blog. Trying to figure out what would work best, instead of just writing. Maybe I’ll get a little crazy and fire up The Dipso Chronicles again, even though I don’t drink anymore.

    I sure am glad you’ve kept it rolling here at American Digest, Gerard. You and Lileks are about all I do anymore.

  • Uncle Mikey March 23, 2018, 9:13 AM

    Social Media, making information impossible to find since 2007