But also without a doubt, it has become a means of destroying civil societies including that of the United States.
Writing at Real Clear Politics, Frank Miele, a retired editor of the Daily Inter Lake in Kalispell Mont., warned that over time, as the Internet matured and the rise of anonymity in chat rooms gave way to similar anonymity on social media platforms, “we digitized” mobs.
“The few dozen people surrounding a statue are not the problem. The few hundred people confronting police are not the problem. The few thousand people looting stores and throwing rocks are not the problem. The mob on the street is not the problem. The mob on the street is the symptom,” he wrote.
“The millions of people acting without moral restraint, without reason and without fear of consequences on the Internet are the problem. Indeed, the digital mob is the unintended consequence of the Internet itself. Connecting the world via technology was supposed to encourage communication, understanding and a breaking down of barriers. Instead it has resulted in a world divided into silos, special interests, identity groups,” he added.
Miele noted further that instead of unifying, people are instead embracing like-minded individuals and groups that now have the ability to literally shut out, ban or block anyone they disagree with.
Worse, the platforms are also used as political weapons with which to expose opponents to ridicule, discipline, and violence. Someone who tweets the ‘wrong’ thing or posts an ‘incorrect’ thought on their Facebook page is now subject to digital (and often physical) harassment, a potential job loss, and global humiliation and condemnation.
“That has emboldened people to be the loudest, harshest, most vulgar voice in their group. Such uncivil behavior can bring fame and money. And yes, praise,” Miele writes.
If you jump onboard the wagon to group-shame anyone who dares to cut against the grain and have their own (opposite) opinion about an issue of the day, “you will be echoed, retweeted, and revered,” he notes. But if you take the ‘wrong’ approach and defend that ‘wrong-thinking person,’ you are vilified and threatened. (Related: Black Lives Matter supporters are officially domestic terrorists: Group storms Target store in DC declaring, “We will shut your business down!”)
A former Internet mobster wrote in an anonymous confession on Quillette, “I was the Mob Until the Mob Came For Me”:
“Every time I would call someone racist or sexist, I would get a rush. That rush would then be reaffirmed and sustained by the stars, hearts, and thumbs-up that constitute the nickels and dimes of social media validation. The people giving me these stars, hearts, and thumbs-up were engaging in their own cynical game: A fear of being targeted by the mob induces us to signal publicly that we are part of it.”
That fear of being the target likely is what drives big corporations like Nike to hire a widely shunned sports figure who disrespects the flag during the playing of the National Anthem, praises Fidel Castro, and wears ‘Cops are Pigs’ socks. Or big companies and major sports leagues to bend knees to groups like Black Lives Matter, rather than stand up and point out that not all BLM demonstrations (and demonstrators) are peaceful.
Do that, and you are viciously attacked and labeled a “racist bigot” by people who have never met you but have already made up their minds about who, and what, you are.
The problem now is, there doesn’t seem to be any way to walk back from the abyss. Social media and the platform they provide to group-shame political, social, and cultural ‘wrong-thinkers’ is not going anywhere. In fact, it’s only likely to grow in popularity, meaning we can expect more mob ‘digitization,’ more fragmenting and tribal societal behavior, less comity, and far more violence.