Morning Belz, Oct. 1
Facebook’s under pressure after the Wall Street Journal dug up an internal presentation showing the company knows the damaging effect Instagram can have on teenage girls. Here are slides from that presentation. But we all know it’s not just Instagram and it’s not just teenage girls. Different social media platforms bring different flavors of tedium and toxicity. Facebook is the middle-aged marketplace of unfortunate ideas. Reddit has its younger mobs and groupthink. Snapchat, as far as I can tell, is a magnificent time-suck for teenagers.
For me, the platform is Twitter. I love it and hate it. On one hand, the app is a wonderful way to find news and populate this newsletter. It has also helped me build a national audience for my soccer podcast, something that really wouldn’t have been possible in the 1990s. On the other hand, as probably my primary avenue for engaging with the wider world, it gives me the false impression, every day, that the world is full of angry, sanctimonious, bad-faith ideologues. I can try to make the distinction between real life and Twitter, and that’s my official line, but I’d be lying if I said this past decade on Twitter dot com hasn’t affected my general approach to reality.
Even if the details are sometimes difficult for our largely geriatric legislative body, social media is a massive (and from what I can tell, under-studied) influence on modern life. It’s not, however, a problem of any one specific company or its algorithm. All the platforms have destructive effects. The problem is human connectivity. It’s not going well. We thought it would be good to be in touch with everyone everywhere all at once, and it turns out in many ways to be awful. Why? I’m curious what you think.
The best I can come up with, and admittedly it’s the equivalent of a tipsy theory espoused from a barstool, is two things: 1) humans are actually not good, but bad, and the badness compounds thanks to the connectivity of the Internet, and 2) the human brain can’t process all the information that’s available to us now. There’s too much. So we cope with it by constructing formal and informal filters that speed up polarization, or by gravitating toward over-simple theories of everything (QAnon, the Church of the Democratic National Committee, Jenny McCarthy’s vaccination ideas).
Anyway, this stuff is obviously a big deal. If you’ve seen anything thoughtful written about these issues (not company-specific critiques but rather the ways social media is changing humanity) I’d love some recommendations.
Henry Thomas’s audition for E.T. — YouTube
A Romanov just got married — Moscow Times
More on China and “common prosperity” — Jonathon Spine
PwC goes remote for 40k employees, permanently — Reuters
“What changed yesterday
Will have to change tomorrow
Just as I change
In this distant land.” — Mercedes Sosa, 1985
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Morning Belz comes out most weekdays and is written by Adam Belz, a former newspaper reporter who lives just outside Chattanooga, Tenn. Hope you benefit from it. Please shoot me a note if you have suggestions, ideas or corrections, share it with anyone you think might enjoy it.