Moderation Is Not Enough.
Well, Trump was finally banned from Twitter.
But clearly, the damage is done. Even when he says something innocuous, his believers believe there’s a hidden, underlying code. They’re willing to commit violence based on his vague inferences.
And it’s not just Trump supporters: People can and do fall headfirst into conspiracy theories, convince themselves they’re the chosen one, and use confirmation bias to prove…whatever it is they want to believe.
And social media sites have their shocked Pikachu face on. But really, what is to be expected when the goal, the point, of most websites and apps is to drive users to keep using them?
We have figured it out. We have figured out how to gameify the internet. We have turned it into a casino, a free one, where the sunlight doesn’t come through, and the lights, sounds, and reward system is so intoxicating to our minds that we do not want to stop.
We have our Casino Internet. We get prizes. Free things! Stuff tailored to us! And someone comes by and gives us coupon codes every so often, for stuff we really want! Also, people tell us whatever we want! Yes, mom is a bitch! Yes, women suck! Yes, I’m understood here!
So, we keep using. We become addicted and then struggle to moderate our own use…we download more apps to help us contain our use of the internet. What?
And moderators struggle to contain the poison — they see the worst of the worst. They get PTSD. They develop anxiety issues they didn’t previously have. They are told they’re so super duper important and given an Amazon gift card as a bonus.
Moderation is not enough. Our Casino Internet has got to go. It is, by its very nature, a toxic environment. It lends itself to doomscrolling, to over-spending, to browsing hunks around the globe instead of making small talk with the cute boy neighbor. It is divisive. It gives us too many sexy choices, and no way of reaching our dreams. It makes reality disappointing in comparison. It feeds our worst impulses and offers us an escape.
Moderation and banning Trump now seems almost silly. Trump built his entire presidency on Twitter.
The fact of the matter is, he knew how to use the Casino. He did what it was made to do.
So what is the internet, if not a Casino Internet?
A Utility Internet, maybe. Who hangs out at the DMV all day? No one. Maybe that’s better. You use the internet to do what you need, and get out.
Just as we used human psychology to make the internet addictive, we can use human psychology to make the internet a more productive…maybe even a more boring…place. Maybe the internet becomes a place you use to get recipes, information, knowledge about classes, and little else. Maybe going into those rabbit holes and doomscrolling becomes less fun. Maybe there are fewer rewards — Stay on the internet too long, and your recommended videos become more boring, instead of more extreme.
Yes, what I’m saying is — the moderation has to start with the product itself, instead of something tacked on at the very end.
Allowing someone to build a voice on a platform and then ripping it away seems like censorship — It seems like you’re taking away something important from people. But what if the internet simply encouraged more moderate use?
Maybe we trade a radical, interesting internet to one that’s more useful and sane. Maybe the age of the Casino Internet is over, and now, we evaluate websites by their usefulness, not their extreme content.
A Utility Internet tries to get us in and out, quickly. A Utility Internet offers a diverse range of opinions and never funnels you into a toxic corner of the web. A Utility Internet focuses more on what you’re searching for, and less about forking you off to different, darker recommendations. A Utility Internet encourages us to gather and talk about specific goals, and then take those actions into the real world. It’s more local, maybe, and tries to show us what is happening in our own neighborhoods, or just tells us to walk around it ourselves.
A Utility Internet doesn’t radicalize — it bores. It saps the fun out of trolling, so that the biggest reward is…getting off of it.