Social media, especially Twitter, has become not only a platform where political activists can discuss the news, but a venue for individuals to actually obtain it. People no longer need a newspaper or a cable show to inform them because now, one scroll down twitter in the morning can serve as a daily and constantly updated briefing. The phenomenon is only exemplified by the fact that it is conveniently accessible in your handheld device following you around all day in your pocket.
There are many dangers that are associated with this. For instance, people don’t read long newspaper articles anymore, which isn’t good for a generation that desperately needs to read more. Additionally, your social media feed only portrays the articles and analysis of those that you follow. Obviously leaving a biased and presumably partisan slew of articles on your timeline given that most people primarily follow those who they align with ideologically.
But while the aforementioned concerns outlined above are serious, they aren’t as detrimental to the millennial mind as the following one. The problem is that easy access to “expert” opinions and the reality of twitter “communities” cause young people who go to twitter for information not to think for themselves. Twitter is causing us to not think individually. The latter is worse than the former issues listed because the former just makes people dumber but the latter makes people ideological robots.
Anyone who uses Twitter knows that a community of people who are interested in the same things as you end up being who you interact with most. I personally have been tied in to “Jewish Twitter,” “martial arts Twitter,” and mostly “young conservative Twitter.” This does have its benefits. It helps you meet quality, impressive, like-minded individuals who can sometimes open doors for you or introduce you to people who can. It also makes social media more fun when people can rack up retweets by using buzzwords that they know will work well with the community.
But herein lies the problem from the perspective of politics. Often, the communities rally around individuals who have reached success and they turn into the group leader, so to speak. So when millennials go to Twitter to find news they often see the opinion of that “leader” (and therefore the chosen opinion of the community) prior to even seeing the report or article. Furthermore, since the user knows that he/she generally agrees with this individual they might form an opinion on the matter before even reading up on it.
The problem gets worse when a Twitter user decides not to speak his mind freely out of fear of being excommunicated from his/her community. Of course, no one is being thrown off Twitter for one view, but in the interest of being well liked, there should be a concern that someone might censor their own tweets. But that seldom happens because generally, the scroll-er is in line with the rest of the community because it is the first opinion that he/she gives credence. Perhaps this might be why you rarely see anyone concede in a Twitter war, because they have to fight for the “team.” Alternatively, it is a problem if people are waiting to see what one or two people say about an issue on Twitter before forming their own opinions. Just because someone has more followers than you it does not mean they should be dictating your beliefs through their internet platforms.
This is a problem that I have noticed mostly in the conservative community perhaps because that is where I find myself when online. But we have been criticized, called “Shapiro-bots,” and “Levinites” for ideologically adhering to the opinions of successful opines like Ben Shapiro and Mark Levin. Going to these brilliant minds to break down a complicated issue is commendable. But having them tell us what our opinions are is not.
I am in no way suggesting that Levin and Shapiro have intentionally brainwashed people into believing whatever they say. I happen to be a big fan of both of these gentleman. But they make money by growing a following and certainly will not combat a movement that is growing behind them. These are individuals who preach intellectual honesty and against group-think so if asked, they will tell you that forming an opinion based on theirs is silly. But it is incumbent upon us to realize that they will not alienate their own followers by doing so and that it has to be us who puts their commentary to the side until we have formed our own beliefs. Afterward, of course it makes sense to hear their arguments and potentially change your mind, but if you are doing that you should do it to both sides.
Recently, in an article was published by The Hill, Kassy Dillon – a young conservative Twitter powerhouse in her own right—argued that “Conservakids” don’t read anymore. That the culture of 140 character arguments and short bombastic videos are all that we are able to digest. I will add to her argument that the reason Conservakids aren’t reading anymore isn’t because they aren’t interested in the intellectual pursuit. Rather, they are interested in having the “correct” opinion so that they can grow their followers and become the next online presence that will form opinions for the next generation.
I would not be surprised if the same trend happens to the alt-right, the left, and any other ideological group that has an online presence. How else would clowns like Mike Cernovich, or Hamas supporters like Keith Ellison and Linda Sarsour effectively grow a social media following? But as young conservatives, the warriors fighting the battles of liberal indoctrination on campuses, aren’t we hypocritical if we don’t ourselves break the trend? We have to make clear that we are thinking for ourselves, only then are we intellectual superiors to our adversaries who don’t think but spit back buzz lines that their ignorant college professor imprint in their brain.