Sunday reads: Are we breaking up with the news?
And more links for your Sunday
This week, I read a story by Charlie Warzel in The Atlantic about how readers and social media platforms are breaking up with the news.
He smartly points to the fevered pitch of content creation by news organizations (local and national), that feed into our fear-based feeding frenzy that left us all exhausted and worn out.
From 2013 to 2017, news content was arguably the grist for the social-media mill. Political news did numbers on the platforms, which created a new kind of toxic political engagement. Massive, hyperpartisan Facebook pages sharing aggregated news stories designed to provoke users became, for a moment, some of the most influential media services on the planet. At some point, an argumentative, trollish style of posting became the default language of social media. Throughout the 2010s, activists, journalists, propagandists, politicos, white nationalists, and conspiracy theorists converged in these spaces, and the platforms curdled into battlegrounds where news stories were the primary ammunition. As the researcher Michael Caulfield has written, a tragic mass shooting or even just a story about a submarine disaster became evidence to fit an ideological position—a way to attack an enemy. This toxicity made public spaces hostile to reasonable discourse and marginalized audiences.
I am thinking about the aftermath of all of this. I don’t mourn the contraction of an industry that fed on our worst instincts and I mean both journalism and social media. I know these institutions will survive, somehow, but in what form, I don’t know. In the meantime, bosses and managers, who built a house of cards on top of kindling will act shocked and angry when the house of cards burns down.