My good friend Mike Fletcher has some interesting observations regarding Facebook, not to mention its absolute and utter worthlessness:
Maybe it has changed the world. It’s made us all a lot more angry. We’re more polarized than we’ve ever been.
But when you post for your own pet cause, or religion, or weight loss miracle, you’re not changing minds. Neither am I.
More than likely, we’re just pissing people off. I’m not brilliant, no wait I am, but that’s not the point.
It wasn’t brilliance that made me see this. It was experience. I spent several years as a political blogger convinced that if I could just get people to see the truth, then they would believe as I do. It didn’t happen. And it’s not going to.
That’s why I don’t play that game any more. Never mind the fact that my working in the arts doesn’t necessarily mesh with my political background (oh, don’t pretend you don’t know my resume).
Truth be told, I’ve been tempted to give in to the same temptation and discussed this very topic with my consigliere. Why bother adding to the cacophony of noise when, frankly, the entire conversation has devolved to Cass Sunstein’s prediction in Republic.com.
How do you hold a meaningful conversation amidst a million narcissists? Isn’t that what we’ve all become in a social media driven world, where individual brands and selfies are rivaled only next to cat pictures?
At the end of the day, punching out might feel good for the first three months or so, but the siren song of culture, arts, poetry, music, philosophy, theology, and ultimately political considerations would be irresistible.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
The mergers and acquisitions phase of the Virginia blogosphere turned the 20 or so of us who really cared about these things into political bloggers of a sort, a straightjacket many of us have been struggling to get out of ever since.
Like Mr. Prufrock, we have discovered that disturbing the universe has a cost.
Yet, as Mr. Fletcher states, engineering the Internet is an impossible and thankless task, as it should be. Here, as in most things, Nozick’s advice remains apt:
“My thoughts do not aim for your assent — just place them alongside your own reflections for a while.”
That’s the middling space. Soviet dissenters used to prize the idea of speaking out when thought earned the derision of the state. Today’s totalitarians are of a different sort, and use the very different weapons of shame and slander — but they exist.
…and so all the more duty to speak, because we can.