Simanaitis Says

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YESTERDAY, WE saw the dark side of today’s social media, as detailed in Annalee Newitz’s Quest for Better Social Media, in The New York Times, December 1, 2019. Today in Part 2, she shares thoughts on improving matters.

Image cropped from Delcan & Company original appearing in The New York Times, December 1, 2019.

Curate Your Own. Newitz writes, “Mr. Scalzi thinks we should turn the whole system on its head with ‘an intense emphasis on the value of curation.’ It would be up to you to curate what you want to see. Your online profile would begin with everything and everyone blocked by default.”

“This,” Newitz continues, “would be a first line of defense against viral falsehood, as well as mobs of strangers or bots attacking someone they disagree with.”

Safe Real-Life Gatherings. “As Erika Hall pointed out,” Newitz says, “we have centuries of experience designing real-life spaces where people gather safely.”

Image cropped from Delcan & Company original appearing in The New York Times, December 1, 2019.

“After the social media age is over,” Newitz says, “we’ll have the opportunity to rebuild our damaged public sphere by creating digital public spaces that imitate actual town halls, concert venues, and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks.”

She continues, “That’s because in real life, we have more control over who will come into our private lives, and who will learn intimate details about us. We seek out information, rather than having it jammed into our faces without context or consent.”

Image cropped from Delcan & Company original appearing in The New York Times, December 1, 2019.

Slow Media. UCLA professor Safiya Umoja Noble proposes what she called “slow media” as an improvement over the current situation. “That slowness,” Newitz says, “would give human moderators or curators time to review content… …they could behave like old-fashioned newspaper editors, fact-checking….”

What a novel idea: checking for facts.

“The key to slow media,” Newitz writes, “ is that it puts humans back in control for the information they share.”

A PBS Model. Self-curators would no longer be (non-consenting) products for social media to peddle. So where’s the necessary income?

“This could take many forms,” Newitz says. “Crowdfunding could create a public broadcasting version…. There would also be a rich market for companies that design apps or devices to help people curate the content and people in their social networks.”

“Public life,” Newitz concludes, “has been irrevocably changed by social media; now it’s time for something else. We need to stop handing off responsibility for maintaining public space to corporations and algorithms—and give it back to human beings.”

Speaking as a Facebook algorithmically defined non-person, “Amen to that.” ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2019


  1. sabresoftware
    December 14, 2019

    I have avoided Facebook, Twitter and others because I never really understood why.

    I did sign-up for Twitter once at a particular event (a multi day mountain retreat event called Christmas in November) where participants were tweeting messages about the sights, sounds and tastes from sessions on cooking, mixology and decorating which were shared on a large screen in the dining room at mealtimes. I deleted the account immediately after the event.

    I did subscribe to LinkedIn, a professional version of Facebook, at the request of a boss about ten years ago, but dropped it a while later because of all the unsolicited “friend” requests from total strangers, most in fields totally unrelated to mine. I could see fellow structural engineers, where exchange of ideas or even job opportunities might be of interest but most of the requests were coming from people where we had nothing in common. I did rejoin last year when trying to arrange a reunion of people I worked with in my first engineering company, because one of them only used LinkedIn and had no standalone email. As we have now done two reunions and plan to continue I have maintained the account, but I am amazed at the job opportunities that are offered as suggestions that might interest me, such as minimum wage, no skill positions, that somehow some idiot thinks a highly paid professional would quit their job to pursue. It might be because I have not filled in much on my profile, but I find little real purpose in the service.

    In the last thirty five years and 4 jobs each of those jobs found me (I wasn’t actively looking at the time) through face-to-face networking (i.e. people that I knew either offering me the job or recommending me to others).

    WordPress is a form of social networking where the content owner moderates, and I joined a watch forum a number of years ago where the sub forum that I spent most of my time was well moderated, with virtually zero tolerance for trolling and abuse. The moderator would quickly warn of off-topic conversations and lock threads quickly. Also the key members of the sub-forum knew not to take the trolling bait.

    • simanaitissays
      December 14, 2019

      Thanks, sabresoftware, for this thoughtful assessment. As you may note, I appreciate WordPress’s content owner moderating. From time to time, I discard outright spam (typically, folks peddling unrelated stuff). Fortunately (knock wood for luck), I’ve had to discard very little trolling.

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