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Much of the political anger directed at digital tech today is aimed at social media. On the left, people fret that social media gives bad people big platforms or influence behind the scenes. On the right, social media is blamed for suppressing free speech and coarsening the culture.
A particular fear fuels this anger. Regardless of their partisan bent, critics frequently treat social media as the vanguard of digital life. Almost everyone agrees that no institution today can stop digital tech from dominating our everyday. So the fear has arisen that, increasingly, what happens on social media will control or invade real life. People worry that if social media trends aren’t stopped now, or if social media isn’t stopped, the things that define the social media environment will swallow up our whole lives.
Story - Core - Assumption - Mistake - Critics
This is certainly a scary story. But is it true? Can it be true, if its core assumption is a mistake? Even very smart critics can reflexively talk as if social media is the ultimate in digital living. Yet today, news keeps rolling in that would make calmer people draw a much different conclusion. Perhaps strangely, the drumbeat of ostensibly “new media” companies “pivoting to video” has become a source of gallows humor about failing startups, rather than a recognized source of knowledge that social media is more old media—specifically, television—than new.
Consider the latest “shocking” development involving BuzzFeed, long hailed and even envied as one of the most digital, meaning social, media companies on Earth. In a staff memo, BuzzFeed News Vice President Shadi Hilton announced that “we’ve decided to move to a production model that is more like our TV projects”—and to move away, the memo made clear, from the company’s podcasts and in-house producers.
Years - Journalists - Media - Observers
Nothing about this should be surprising. For years, journalists and media observers have watched...
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A pox on both their houses!