If change is possible, carrying it out will be difficult, because we have adapted our lives to conform to social media’s pleasures and torments. It’s seemingly as hard to give up on social media as it was to give up smoking en masse, like Americans did in the 20th century. Quitting that habit took decades of regulatory intervention, public-relations campaigning, social shaming, and aesthetic shifts. At a cultural level, we didn’t stop smoking just because the habit was unpleasant or uncool or even because it might kill us. We did so slowly and over time, by forcing social life to suffocate the practice. That process must now begin in earnest for social media.
A mere decade ago, hack writers for hack publications were suggesting that anyone who wasn’t on social media was suspicious, creepy, possibly worth investigating. Ten years and 180 degrees later, and now they want to make even casual users into pariahs. Leaving aside the highly-dubious idea that any of these pathetic junkies are actually going to quit, it just goes to show that trends will come and go, but the crusading Puritan spirit that animates so many American enthusiasms remains as vibrant as ever. Busybodies, man. Forever pursuing and pawing us with their dirty institutions, trying to constrain us to join their desperate oddfellow societies. Swive ’em all.