Initially, things started out good. People connected with long lost pals, family found ways to send out group alerts to cousins and aunts and uncles. Dogs and cats being adorable abounded.
But over time we've seen an increase in social isolation, hostility among people with different opinions, and fake news.
Social media platforms have had the effect of creating echo chambers, realities in which people generally see the things they already agree with, and little of what they oppose.
The result is "groupthink," a situation in which the group makes decisions and judgments rather than individuals; it is a mob mentality that destroys creativity and individual responsibility.
Communications professor Roslyn Layton says companies that run these platforms have fallen into a similar pattern in their company culture and employee management. Google fired James Damore for advancing what was called "harmful gender stereotypes." Facebook too had an ouster of employees who disagree with popular media memes, and has been trying to create adversity among its own advertisers.
What is the solution? Some suggest limitations to the First Amendment and regulations of these tech giants. Layton suggests that's not right.
The First Amendment states that 'Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.' But for years, regulators have been exacerbating the problem with policies such as Title II Net Neutrality, which concentrates power with online platforms.
Instead, says Layton, liberation of the Internet will allow new ideas to flourish.
To create a marketplace of ideas online, regulators should remove the barriers to entry which limit the ability of other companies to compete in the online advertising space. If forced to compete for ad dollars, Silicon Valley would have less incentive to placate its own bias and the market will have more meaningful platforms for different kinds of speech.
This is a part of why TPOH moved to The Maven. We want to be able to share ideas with people freely, without being subjected to the groupthink approach that has come to define other social media platforms. It is only when people are exposed to the marketplace of ideas, and are able to freely and respectfully talk with each other, even when they have strong disagreements, that we will find workable solutions to make our communities better places to live.