Schubart: Social media, free speech, and the right to bear arms

Schubart: Social media, free speech, and the right to bear arms

Bill Schubart is a retired businessman and active fiction writer, and was a former chair of the Vermont Journalism Trust, the parent organization for VTDigger. The term “social media” has never made linguistic sense to me. It seems like an oxymoron. To me, “social” implies my predigital childhood, where people I knew walked and talked together, slept together, met in shops, cafés, theaters, libraries, churches, cemeteries, parks and participated in civic meetings — school board, town meeting and selectboard. What exactly is “social” about social media? What we call “social media” is mediated by transducers: mics, cameras, earbuds and screens that limit audio and video range and are themselves limited by network speed — all robbing our communication of the scope and intimacy of being together. We can’t see or hear the whole person. We can‘t shake their hand, hug them, look into their eyes, sense or convey emotions except with lifeless emoticons. When I was young, my life was divided between two worlds: the real world in which I was growing up and the dream state I inhabited when asleep. This rich nocturnal world was incoherent but rife with imagery, people, places, emotions and eventually lust. A precursor of today’s “social media” was our four-party phone line. We could pick up the receiver, cover the mic end, and listen to what our neighbors had to say — gossip, news, scandal — but it was one-way only. We could only listen; a sneeze and you were outed. Today, we […]

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