The coining of the term “social media” was not the observation of a new phenomenon or some new way for people to interact. Bulletin board systems had been around since the early days of the internet. By the early 1990’s, there were millions of people posting on these systems. Newgroups and e-mail lists were also around in the early 1990’s, as cheap modems rolled out to the public. Message boards came along in the mid-90’s and soon took over as the dominant community platform on websites.
The new term to describe what was happening was the signal that new controls were coming to discourse on the internet. Something that is social, community owned, must have community standards. Those standards must be enforced and that means people must be given the authority to enforce those standards. In other words, it was the starter’s gun unleashing the totalitarians and pink skits to goose step in and start pushing people around on-line. Now, everywhere you go, there are posting rules and moderation.
What was fun about the internet in the olden thymes was the lack of rules, at least in terms of what you could say and how you could say it. Debates on bulletin boards or news groups were
viscous vicious (It was late and one “slipped” through editing) and no holds barred. The term “troll” used to mean a poster who trolled for attention by posting provocative things. That’s what made these things fun. The early on-line communities were experiments in social dynamics, without the usual social limitations. This old list of Usenet types gives you a flavor of it.
Un-monitored and unregulated arenas for people to speak freely are a danger to the established order, so it did not take long for the usual suspects to start looking for ways to put an end to it. There was also the fact that millions of people were getting on-line, without knowing that internet culture was a bit rough. Polite always triumphs over right and before long all but the underground sites were heavily regulated. Sites like Faceberg and Twitter were built on the idea of pleasing the easily offended.
The trouble with policed communities, is the old saw about who will police the police. The sort of people that go in for being site moderators, are exactly the sort of people you never want in those positions. It’s not long before they start abusing their power and people start getting banned. It’s why Faceberg is mostly for old people to view pics of their grandchildren. It’s also why Twitter is imploding. When milquetoast users like Instapundit are deemed out of bounds, it’s a matter of time before all the interesting people are gone.
It’s also why alternatives to the mainstream options are growing up all of a sudden. Gab is the first alternative to Twitter with any chance of succeeding. Quitter is actually a better platform, but it has not caught on with English speakers. Gab is targeting the alt-right and troublemakers like me, promising an anything goes environment. They are also improving on the concept, rather than trying to please the managerial class. Longer message lengths and a better interface are the two obvious improvements over Twitter.
Vox Day is behind the alternative to Wikipedia. It’s called Infogalactic and it is intended to be the non-PC version of an on-line encyclopedia. Like Gab, they are using better technology to improve the user experience, but the real point of the effort is to be an alt-right alternative to Wikipedia. To quote the associated blog, “The single biggest problem with Wikipedia isn’t Jimmy Wales or its outmoded 1995 technology, but the fact that it is patrolled by 532 left-wing thought police who aggressively force their biased perspective on the rest of the world.”
My bet is someone is plotting an alternative to Facebook or simply something better, that serves a similar purpose, but without the social justice warriors. The fact is, Facebook is not doing anything all that clever from a technological point of view. There’s also the alternative media sites with open comments, that are the intellectual engine of the rebellion. This story in the neocon magazine American Interest about the boom in high brow sites catering to heterodox opinion is worth a read.
I think what we are seeing is two things. One is the Progressive enforcers have squandered their legitimacy enforcing rules that are unenforceable. People get tired of being treated like children by depressed women taking revenge on the world as forum moderators. So, there is demand. There’s also the fact that people trafficking in the ideas popular on the fringe want to debate with others into the same things. There’s nothing more dull than reading a comment section filled with mainstream drivel.
The downside of this, and the inevitable consequence to the current social unrest, is a balkanizing of social media. Gab will be Twitter for hate thinkers, while Twitter will be the home of the establishment, assuming Twitter remains in business. There will be those who get their news and analysis from hate thinkers like Sailer and those who read establishment sites. The internet will be a world of fractured reality and that will inevitably show up in society as a whole. To some degree, that already exist in terms of who watches which cable news channel.
The downside of this process is it means the alt-right, Dissident Right and whatever else this thing we’re doing is called, is going to self-ghettoize. The people who still read National Review, for example, will not see comments from hate thinkers like me. At the same time, hate thinkers will stop reading the mainstream press and lose perspective about the greater world around them. Instead of “bringing people together” social media will end up amplifying the balkanization of American society.