My Latest: Socially Challenged
A conversation with The Atlantic's Gal Beckerman about social media and social movements
It has been one year, seven weeks, and four days since I deleted my Twitter account. I don’t miss it. Not one bit. (I'm also 16 years sober as of this week, and I’ve never missed hangovers, either.)
I mention my self-liberation from Twitter only because it's relevant to my new piece, an interview for LA Review of Books with Atlantic senior editor Gal Beckerman about his new book, The Quiet Before: On the Unexpected Origins of Radical Ideas—a brilliant historical and journalistic exploration of the role communication media play in the development of transformative politics. We talked, back in February, about the ways our media technologies, social media in particular, can help or hinder social movements and the ideas underlying them. At the moment, social platforms seem to be hindering more than helping, just when our democracy — and our planet — can least afford it.
Some of you on this list have known me since my long-ago years at The Atlantic (1994-2001), when I was a zealous young digital revolutionary, reinventing (!!) literary journalism for the internet age (that’s right, baby! it was wild!). I'd like to think that we could have avoided ending up in our current techno dystopia — and maybe we could have, I’ve never believed in historical inevitability — but some of us always suspected, back in the day, that corporate monopolists would kill our buzz and put an end to our innocence. Few of us, though, dreamed how thoroughly and royally they would fuck it up.
Perhaps we need some radical ideas to free us from our now dominant modes of connection and communication. In the absence of any large-scale systemic solutions on offer, here’s a personal one: delete your socials.