Nobody likes a guy going around asking people, “Have you made an effort to understand?” Especially if that guy has written a book of the same title.
But few people have it coming like New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow, after his Sunday piece admonishing readers that “you don’t need Twitter—or any social media—nearly as much as you think you do. In fact, your life would likely feel much fuller if you too went on a strict Twitter diet.”
Seven months ago, Blow “stopped publishing original thoughts” on Twitter, using the platform “only to alert people to things like the publication of my column or my television appearances.”
Getting off Twitter was difficult for the national columnist and frequent television pundit. “At first, when I had thoughts about news I read or saw, it was hard not to immediately share those thoughts.” But eventually, Blow got used to settling for his national column and his frequent television appearances (not to mention his two published books) as a means of self-expression.
And now, Blow thinks every American should follow suit (and in fact would be crazy not to follow his lead):
I think that one day we will look back on this moment in human history with astonishment. Social media companies turned us all into an unpaid work force, willingly producing free content because of our desperation to be seen, heard and liked.
We published our thoughts as they came to us, and strangers voted on those thoughts with likes. We came to crave likes. We began to chase them. We began to judge the value of our thoughts by them.
And for the social media companies, all this content was a product alongside which ads could be sold, personal data that would produce valuable consumer profiles.
Insecurity was monetized. Narcissism became a commodity.
To be fair, Charles Blow doesn’t think that only New York Times columnists, frequent television pundits and book authors should enjoy the feeling that maybe, during their short movement of life, they could have their voice heard beyond their next-door neighbor’s fence.
Not at all, Blow insists:
I think the apps are great for performers. They have given a stage to many who would otherwise not have had one. I like to watch their performances. I send funny clips to my friends every day.
But we have to remove the expectation that we should all be performers. We are not and shouldn’t be. And there is nothing wrong with that.
Frequently, in his New York Times columns and television appearances (and perhaps in his books), Charles Blow laments the hatred that some people have for “elites,” who they perceive as thinking they know best. When in reality they have lived in the chattering class so long, they no longer have the empathy God gave them.