This photo illustration taken on March 22, 2018 shows a woman looking at Social Networking applications Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Twitter, Messenger and Linkedin on a smartphone in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo by Manan VATSYAYANA / AFP) (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP via Getty Images)
Usually we have to wait until the end of Lent for the torrent of articles by journalists flagellating themselves over their social media addictions. Easter came early (or is it late?) this year, however. Over at The Spectator USA, columnist Bridget Phetasy published an article aptly titled, “Twitter Has Stolen My Life.” In it, she meets her aged self on her deathbed. Bridget the Elder asks, “How do you feel about the time you spend on Twitter?” Bridget the Younger gives a mixed report. On the plus side, much of her professional and personal success is owed to social media. She’s an expert at promoting her “personal brand” in the digital age.
But there are downsides:
Well. Where do I begin? Like everyone, I have a love-hate relationship with social media. To be honest, I’ve always been skeptical of it and never really wanted to join in. Twitter is my fix, but you can insert any other social media platform you’re addicted to and what I’ll say will probably be true with minor variations.
The downside is that it robs me of joy.
That was my experience, too. I couldn’t have said it better myself: Twitter robbed me of my joy. That’s why, about three or four years ago, I decided to delete all of my social media accounts.
I haven’t looked back.
I’ve written about my opposition to Big Tech here and elsewhere. In short: social media makes you mean, stupid, impatient, and depressed. It takes a serious toll on your social, physical, and mental health.
Even the upsides given by Ms. Phetasy are cyclical. Sure, Twitter allowed her to flourish as a journalist in the Age of Twitter. But wouldn’t it be better if there was no Age of Twitter at all?
When it comes to social media, we all suffer from a weird kind of Stockholm Syndrome. We accept Twitter as a given and dare not imagine life without it. The most we can do is thank Big Twit for occasionally showering us with its favor. It’s like hearing some apparatchik say, “Yes, the Communist Party killed hundreds of millions of people and stole my humanity. On the other hand, I wouldn’t have gotten that cushy job in the Politburo without it!”
These confessions by social media addicts are always well-received by their readers. Ms. Phetasy’s article is currently the second-most read article on the Speccie website, and I expect it will overtake the first before it disappears into the blogosphere’s vast elephant graveyard. It’s obvious that many (perhaps most) Americans resent social media. But it’s as if they’re stuck in an abusive relationship: they want out, but they’re too afraid to change the locks.
Now, if this were only a matter of personal wellbeing, I’d be happy to keep playing up my Luddite schtick. The problem is that Big Tech, having successfully privatized the public square, uses its power to advance the progressive agenda.
Like the averse health effects of social media, this isn’t exactly breaking news. From censoring campaign ads to biased “fact-checking” to curating search results, Silicon Valley is openly working to undermine conservative and Republican causes. Surely, then, the sane thing for conservatives and Republicans to do would be to boycott social media.
And yet we don’t. We have voluntarily handed them the right to censor our political discourse. We know it’s wrong, both for ourselves and for our country. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to do anything about it.
This is why—despite my admiration for folks like Josh Hawley and Elizabeth Warren, who want to break up the Big Tech monopolies—I can’t endorse their efforts. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram aren’t really monopolies. They don’t use price controls to maintain their market dominance. The service they offer is totally, completely, 100 percent free to consumers.
What Senators Hawley and Warren (like Ms. Phetasy) actually resent is Americans’ total lack of self-control. Almost three-quarters of American adults use social media. If they wanted to, they could simply walk away. But they won’t. They lack the willpower.
Every time I turn on some right-wing television channel or log onto some right-wing website, I hear the conservative masses wailing at the lack of “free speech” on these social-media sites. Guess what, folks? Facebook and Twitter are private companies. So far as they’re concerned, you have no free speech. They’re not bound by the First Amendment. They have no Constitutional duty to represent your “viewpoint.” That’s like walking into a Catholic Church and demanding the freedom to give a sermon praising same-sex marriage. It’s like sitting down at a vegan restaurant and insisting on the right to BYO filet mignon. Private property doesn’t go away just because you find it inconvenient.
In fact, Jack Dorsey could ban Donald Trump, Sean Hannity, and Ben Shapiro from Twitter if he so chose. Why not? It’s his website. If that awesome power alarms you—and it absolutely should—then deactivate your account.
Herein lies the bitter truth. Conservatives lack any whiff of self-discipline. That’s why we can’t organize a boycott to save our lives, even though progressives have been delivering our business leaders’ heads on silver platters for at least sixteen years. It’s why we completely gave up the fight for traditional marriage the moment Obergefell v. Hodges was handed down. (In fact, Dear Leader has been assiduously marketing himself to the LGBT voting bloc in the runup to 2020.) We’re all sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Let’s draw a line in the sand. If we conservatives can’t bring ourselves even to delete our Twitter and Facebook accounts, we deserve to lose. If we can’t reclaim the public square from progressive oligarchs, then they ought to rule the day. If we can’t break the ties that bind us to those Silicon Valley moguls—at no cost to ourselves—then we’ll get what we deserve.
“I have not yet begun to fight!” cried John Paul Jones in 1779. Nor have we. We’ve not allowed ourselves to suffer the slightest inconvenience in the defense of our way of life. If we continue giving our implicit consent for the Dorseys and Zuckerbergs to police our political discussions, then we may as well surrender now.
If you God-fearing, freedom-loving patriots really wish to “reclaim the narrative” from the Left, then stop giving them carte blanche to set the parameters of acceptable opinion. And don’t switch to some “alternative” platform, like GAB or Parlor. Stop choosing the lesser of two evils. Make a rule for yourself now: no evil, at any time, for any reason.
Then, delete your accounts. Swear off social media forever. If we can’t make this one small sacrifice—not only for our own good, but for the good of our country—we will lose battle after battle in the Culture Wars. And we will deserve every humiliating blow.
Michael Warren Davis is the editor of Crisis Magazine. He is the author of The Reactionary Mind (Regnery, 2021).