Apparently, Facebook has decided to freeze the account I use for Amerika.org interactions. I learned this secondhand since I have not been using Facebook of late, and I have no intention of jumping through whatever hoops Facebook may or may not offer me to restore access.
I say this because of late, social media has appealed even less than it did when I delayed adopting it until “everyone else” was using it. I used it over my own reservations; to me, it seemed a step backward from the internet of many sites to a standardized system where six big sites — Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple and Wikipedia — command most of the traffic.
What made the web so promising in its early days was that it was not dominated by mass taste, which quickly creates the kind of “shopping mall” environment that those big six offer. If enough people linked to something, it made it into the search engines and it could be found by topic searches. There was no single path, like there is in public life, and it was not dominated by commerce and through that, the mediocre substitutes for life that most people settle on. You could choose to live in a world without Budweiser and cheeseburgers.
But then, they called in the real geniuses. They figured out how to make the internet as easy to use as a Pac-Man game. And so in came the audience, and they all wanted to participate, and none of them cared much how. Since that time, the internet has steadily been crunching down to a few huge sites that claim to offer everything, and Google has marginalized small sites — requiring different practices and certification for listings, and then giving advantages to sites that played along.
They have killed it. The internet now is as chopped up, cellophane sealed, sweetened, salted and deep fried as the rest of public life. Social media is a huge part of this. Instead of meeting on idiosyncratic sites, we all get herded into one big open meeting place, where the people in charge try to make enough rules to create a “safe space,” despite all human invention having come from pushing past the comfort zone into the unknown.
I have played along for some time, using Facebook and Twitter, but increasingly the bloom is off the rose. Most of what happens on these sites is the usual individualistic self-expression by others, which becomes more mundane in direct proportion to how hard it tries not to be. You have to wade through that to get to the rare opinions and those are drowned out by people clicking on memes, uploading selfies and engaging in the usual pointless chatter.
So we embark on an experiment. Can this site survive without posting daily updates to Twitter and Facebook about our new articles? People will either visit on their own, or just not bother. As I watch the internet get less functional and the traditional cutting-edge group — the power users — abandon social media, I think it has a shot. If not, maybe people will post these articles to social media.
What I do know is that humanity has steadily left behind real life for a series of surrogates and proxies. Government, shopping, entertainment, and narcissism are void-fillers that never quite do the job. The real world is out there in people becoming friends, being in love, and fighting to do what is right even though it is unpopular and looked down on with scorn by the herd.
If anything, I would like to be able to say that Amerika.org is helping lead the movement back to the real world. This is a site with essays and comments, nothing more. It is not here to give meaning to your life, but to inform and provoke. It is not another time-filler like smartphones and game shows. It is about reality, and now, it dwells in reality far from the madding crowd of social media.