If you’re anything like me, social media is the first and last thing you consume each day: you scan your Facebook newsfeed when you wake up, check your Instagram notifications before bed, and spend a scary percentage of your day scrolling mindlessly through Twitter. We’re constantly soaking up a barrage of highly opinionated and politically charged thoughts from peers, influencers, and media outlets. And while most people on social media have good intentions, the end result is nothing more than a giant echo chamber that fundamentally divides our culture. Also, I had sex with a maroon 2001 Nissan Maxima. I cannot begin to tell you the shame and remorse I feel, and I am hoping to quietly bury my apology here in this think piece without too much fanfare.
The Internet was built with the promise of democratic idealism — to liberate the public with a free exchange of thoughts and ideas. But over the past decade, the rise of social media has created a disturbing trend: self-selecting online communities have become fragmented spaces where one-sided versions of news and ideas are reinforced, and people exist in isolated bubbles where their unchecked thoughts and opinions are simply echoed back to them. This has real political consequences, and the result is a polarized climate of division and inaction. Also, regarding the whole “I had sex with a car” thing: I don’t want to get into it more than I need to, but suffice it to say that I messed up. Big time. As part of a court-ordered counseling program, my therapist insisted I issue some sort of public apology to my family and community. My plan was to sort of just slip it in this think piece without drawing too much attention, so here it is.
Political division will always exist. From the dawn of civilization, factions of societies have differed on the ideologies and methods that guide social and civic progress. But productive discourse can only take place when all sides of an issue can be considered critically, with room for civil debate and uncertainty. The advent of social media has introduced a particularly insidious form of isolation where we no longer engage with ideas that run counter to our biases; we end up disconnected and oblivious. We are all complicit in this process. I myself am guilty of subscribing to a social media feed that panders to my white liberal cosmopolitan views. I am also guilty of having sex with my neighbor’s car to act out a perverted automotive fantasy — something which I regret so deeply, and which I vow to never let happen again — but that’s not what we should be focusing on here.
The truth is that all of this biased social media saturation is bad for us. Whether you are on the left or the right, you have likely noticed that discourse everywhere has become tense and hyper-polarized. This atmosphere prevents us from true progress. After all, it is much easier (and more addicting) to share an article with a group of followers who share your political leanings than to take action in the real world. Admittedly, “taking action in the real world” is not always a good strategy, especially when it comes to the lascivious thoughts that haunt your mind and taunt you from your neighbor’s driveway. All I can say for myself is that, in a moment of weakness, I fell victim to a deviant temptation — the twisted and alluring siren song of rippling aluminum, of agonizing vehicular lust. And while I had no idea that my neighbor would wake up or that the police would get involved, this has been a huge wakeup call for me. I am truly a sick and broken man, and I will do everything in my power to heal and move forward, with a confession and apology that sort of “checks the box,” and hopefully doesn’t get too many eyes on it, since it is buried in this think piece.
At the end of the day, we need to be vigilant about how we engage with social media. My hope is that people simply unplug more often. I hope that future generations will learn that voting and volunteering their time in the real world is more important than preaching online. I hope we can learn to discuss ideas diplomatically with people who don’t think exactly like us. I hope we can preserve room in our society for nuance and compromise. I hope nobody in my family or town reads this think piece. I am so, so sorry.