Writing is a humbling activity.  Writing for public consumption over time is even more humbling.  You expose yourself to others, allowing them to see your reasoning, your intellect, and your ability to organize and convey an argument.  But even worse, you expose yourself to being wrong, irrefutably wrong in your judgments, especially if someone drags out your old essays that widely missed the mark.

So, I have to ‘fess up.

A few years ago, I wrote a post extolling the virtues of Facebook.  Among other benefits, I mistakenly claimed it was free to the user (It’s not, you pay dearly with your personal data, and, probably, your mental health).  Tongue firmly planted in cheek, I also claimed that the real benefit was to be able to stay current and connected with your dysfunctional family and not actually have to be there.  But it seems that, despite my training,  I vastly underestimated the hidden costs of social media was exacting on our Republic and our culture.   Bari Weiss’s interview with Jonathan Haidt is well worth listening to and I will not attempt to summarize it here  (https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/why-the-past-10-years-of-american-life-have/id1570872415?i=1000557220618)  but it is noteworthy that within a few days of this interview, we learn that Elon Musk has launched a takeover bid for Twitter, causing a cacophony of wailing and howling the likes of which we haven’t heard since Donald Trump’s election in 2016.  We can only hope that the takeover attempt, whether successful or not, represents an inflexion point and a curtailment of the excesses of these platforms.  The libertarians exclaimed, “It’s a free market.  Go start your own platform.”  That is very difficult but maybe if someone else buys one, the momentum will start to shift.

My post today is simply to provide a brief summary of my own experience and impressions of a few of the major platforms.  My thinking about them has evolved over the past few years, and so has my use of them.   And they have evolved, too, and mostly not in a positive direction.


At first, I enjoyed Facebook.  It was a painless and easy way to keep up with family members and old classmates and teammates.  It afforded me an opportunity to reconnect with some people that I had lost contact with.  The absolute best part was reconnecting with an old boyhood friend with whom I had spent several wonderful summers trouncing around the woods and fields of rural Wisconsin during the summer as little boys.  More than fifty years later, we got together and seamlessly picked up our friendship, memories and connections.  Without Facebook, this would likely not have occurred.

But then I saw the dark side of Facebook.  The frame-up of the Covington kids in 2019 was a turning point for me.  Posts which depicted a smug teen harassing this poor Native American veteran turned out to be a complete and utter falsehood and misrepresentation.  Worse, I saw posts of people I knew become part of a mob that was ready to pillory young Nicholas Sandmann in the public square.  It was my first-hand experience with a social media mob with participants that were known to me.  Then came Zuckerberg's involvement in the 2020 presidential election, which undoubtedly influenced the election and the banning of Donald Trump just days after Michelle Obama called upon Zuckerberg to boot him. I decided that I would no longer be part of this empire and deleted my account late last year.


I have wavered on Twitter.  I have many of the same reservations about Twitter as I had with Facebook.  The abrogation of free speech principles by de-platforming of people whose views don’t conform to Twitter orthodoxy.  The Twitter mobs destroyed people’s lives and careers.  The ugly exchanges between people that reflect poorly on them exposed their underlying hubris and nastiness.  The personal attacks by Nassim Taleb on Cliff Asness and by Claire Lehmann on Bret Weinstein have coloured my views of Taleb and Lehmann.   I have seen others say things on Twitter that they would never dare to say to a person’s face.   And then there is the whole matter of the shield of anonymity, as went coward Mitt Romney went under the Twitter alias Pierre Delecto.  Twitter also permits reckless impulsivity.  If we are honest with ourselves, most of us can think of instances when we ripped off a tweet that put our own thoughtlessness out there for the world to see, and almost immediately regretted it.  I’m amazed that even more people have not had their careers ruined and reputations sullied with self-destructive tweets.  Many of us have to work hard at not looking empty-headed and banal from time to time.  Twitter invites it.

Still, I have not disengaged.   I get some of my news from Twitter and over time, I learned who is reliable and who is not.  Despite its filtering, you do see something that would never get through the MSM.  And then there is the humour.  There are some truly funny people that sometimes tweet spit-up-your coffee comments.  I have also made some good relationships through Twitter—a few overseas, including a young man in Venezuela with whom I correspond.  In the old days, we would call them to pen pals.  I reconnected with one of my college professors through Twitter and that has been an enriching experience. But I worry about two things.  First, I am concerned that Twitter in the age of COVID is being relied upon too heavily as a substitute for social life.  As Kindle does for reading, Twitterverse is inadequate for experiencing the fullness and rich texture and complexity of human interaction.  One cannot see the facial expressions of the other person, touch them, and cannot build memories with them.  It's quite antiseptic.  I have a few Italian friends that would be stymied.  They simply cannot communicate effectively unless their arm is around you and their nose is inches from your face. Second, I am worried about becoming siloed, about only being exposed to points of view that conform to my own and about being manipulated by the algorithms.   I also worry that its rapid-fire feeds are eating away at my powers of concentration.  There are days when it depresses me, as it seems that I am watching Western Civilization collapse in real time. Depending on the outcome of Elon Musk’s run at it, the answer is probably to severely reduce my time and interaction with it.


I reserve my harshest comments for LinkedIn.  It is the platform with which I have the least amount of engagement and whose feed has the least interesting content.  If it was not a sine qua non of modern professional life, I would delete my profile as I did with Facebook.  Posts are generally benign and vacuous.   They tend to fall in four categories.   First is the brown nose post, announcing to the world how wonderful your organization is and how blessed you feel to be part of the team (gag!).   Since I know many of these posters personally, I know this to be untrue.  The second type is the congratulatory one on a promotion or job move.   Third, is the virtue-signalling type—posting about a mentally challenged person that accomplished something, or how they assisted a women’s shelter or something else along those lines, announcing to the world what an empathetic, caring image they wish to project, rather than the ruthless, cutthroat capitalists they really are (many would happily trample right over that mentally challenged person if he stood in the way of a profitable sale).   Remember, some of these folks are known to me.  

Much is made of “networking” in business.  LinkedIn has gotten me started on de-networking, and I reserve that for the people that post the fourth type—political.  Political posts have no place on LinkedIn and it is made worse by the lack of reciprocity.  The same people that gushed about Kamala breaking the glass ceiling even though she cannot put two coherent sentences together would shriek in horror if you posted ANYTHING positive about Donald Trump or Mike Pence.  Political posters get immediately bounced off my LinkedIn feed, either by muting or disconnecting entirely.  So there.  Flick them off like a bug off your shoulder.

My thinking on social media will likely evolve and the platforms will likely evolve as well.  The emergence of podcasts and substack is another aspect of this but I will save that for another day.  The evidence is that the effect of these platforms on our society has darkened considerably in the last 4-5 years or so, and maybe if I reassess them in another few years, the essay will read quite differently.

One can only hope.

Original Source: https://commonsense-mark.blogspot.com/2022/04/social-media-personal-assessment.html