Online is increasingly where people live. My average screen time this past week was close to ten hours a day. Yes, a lot of that is work-related. But the idea that I have any real conscious life outside this virtual portal is delusional. And if you live in such a madhouse all the time, you will become mad. You don’t go down a rabbit-hole; your mind increasingly is the rabbit hole — rewired that way by algorithmic practice. And you cannot get out, unless you fight the algorithms to a draw, or manage to exert superhuman discipline and end social media use altogether. […]
In the past, we might have turned to more reliable media for context and perspective. But the journalists and reporters and editors who are supposed to perform this function are human as well. And they are perhaps the ones most trapped in the social media hellscape. You can read them on Twitter, where they live and and posture and rank themselves, or on their Slack channels, where they gang up on and smear any waverers. They’ve created an insulated world where any small dissent from groupthink is professional death. Watch Fox, CNN or MSNBC, and it’s the same story.
Point out missing facts or context, exercise some independence of judgment, push back against the narrative — and you’ll be first subject to ostracism and denunciation by your newsroom peers, and then, if you persist, you’ll be fired. The press could have been the antidote to the social media trap. Instead they chose to become the profitable pusher of the poison.
This is precisely and tragically correct.
I immediately wrote to Andrew to tell him that he needs my new book, stat. But even Andrew, who writes on a weekly basis, who has stepped back from the moment-by-moment insanity of journalistic Twitter (and from the hour-by-hour insanity of the old Dish), probably doesn’t have time to step back a bit further still over the next few weeks and read some old books.
Or doesn’t believe he has time. Maybe, and maybe for journalists more than for anyone else, this is in fact the perfect, the ideal, the necessary moment to recover “real conscious life outside this virtual portal.” One might begin with the epistles of Horace, a man who in exile from Rome learned to love the countryside. Just a thought.