Like any other technology, whether nuclear power or the printing press, social media is only as good as the people who use it—and over the past decade, we haven’t exactly used it well. What began as a promising prospect for connecting communities and amplifying new voices has gradually evolved into an engine for sowing upset, distrust, and conspiracy. As the next generation of social-media sites emerges, one question is: Can we do better?
I think so. Rather than holding out for unlikely top-down solutions from Washington or Silicon Valley, users can solve our problems from the bottom up. As individuals, we can’t necessarily make better social-media platforms, but we can make better choices on them. So whether you’re joining a new site like Threads or trying to get more out of an old haunt like Facebook, here are some tips for how to use social media without it using you.
Have a block party.
In real life, if someone crashed a gathering of strangers and started disrupting conversations while shouting abuse, they’d quickly be bounced from the party. Yet on social media, this sort of caustic conduct is not only tolerated but sometimes celebrated. In our day-to-day lives, getting disciplined for misbehavior is how we learn to be better. But because such norms were never upheld on the internet, many spaces turned toxic, and many people never got the feedback they needed to grow out of their bad habits. Blocking is part of that feedback. When people realize that their opinions won’t be heard if they express them in a certain way, they stop. Even if they don’t, you have no obligation to accommodate them. Your social-media feed is your party and you decide the guest list. By doing so, you’re not being thin-skinned; you’re being a conscientious host who cultivates good vibes.
Read the room—correctly.
The admonishment to “read the room” is one of the lazier retorts on social media. It’s a way for the intellectually unserious to dismiss an argument without engaging with its substance by gesturing to the reaction of an imaginary audience. But the concept contains a kernel of truth. On social media, we all operate in different rooms and have different people in mind when we speak. A lot of online conflict results from crossed wires, when conversation intended for one context (an ironic in-joke for like-minded people) bleeds into another (among people who don’t understand the joke). But this problem has an easy fix: Before posting something, ask yourself if this is the right platform for what you’re about to say.
Some pronouncements are meant for the group chat, not the entire internet. Others benefit from the widest possible hearing. Want TV or travel recommendations? Ask the hive mind of Twitter or Facebook. Trying to share your scenic vacation? Instagram it. Want to discuss sensitive personal stuff or work through a thorny political question? Hit up your friends in the chat or just send a private message to a trusted confidant. Done right, reading the room shouldn’t stop you from saying what you want but rather help you say things where they can genuinely be heard.
Don’t use social media as a proxy for public opinion.
Precisely because different platforms are good for different things, they attract different types of people and discourse. This means that these sites are pretty poor barometers of popular sentiment. To take one example, the Pew Research Center has found that only 23 percent of American adults use Twitter—the site now known as X—and of those people, “the most active 25% … produced 97% of all tweets.” Put another way, nearly all U.S. tweets come from about 5 percent of adults. There’s nothing wrong with this. In general, social-media sites each serve their own niches and communities. The problem arises when people try to use these platforms as something they’re not: representative samples of the public. This tends to result in wrong conclusions about our world, because the sites were never meant for this purpose.
Places such as TikTok and Twitter tend to privilege the loudest, most entertaining, or most abrasive voices—not necessarily the wisest or the kindest. Moreover, as is the case with most new technologies, the user base of social-media platforms skews young, which means one is less likely to hear from the elderly about their perspectives and experiences. (This is one reason why political candidates like Joe Biden tend to perform poorly on social media but better at the ballot box.) When adopting new platforms and using old ones, we should keep their limits in mind, and not uncritically permit what’s popular on them to influence the course of entire companies or countries.
Resist rage bait.
“The tricky thing about twitter is: you see how angry people get about injustice, and you’re like ‘oh this is a great place’, but then you scroll a bit further and the conversation about apple sauce is just as angry and you start to think maybe it’s not so great after all.” This 2020 observation from the video-game streamer Stephen Flavall perfectly captures the way that social media runs on outrage and othering, to the point that seemingly every online subculture is eventually overtaken by the angriest and most oppositional version of itself. There’s a reason for this: Rage travels.
In 2021, researchers at the University of Cambridge and NYU found that tweets about a person’s ideological opponents were more likely to be shared, and more likely to evoke angry responses, than tweets about their political allies. Disagreement, in other words, proved more viral than agreement. Meanwhile, researchers at Yale found that likes and shares of angry posts encouraged those who wrote them to make more angry posts in the future. Taken together, these studies illustrate how social media creates a feedback loop in which users are encouraged by the platform itself to post progressively more unhinged utterances about their enemies. Behavior that gets rewarded gets repeated.
Marinating in spaces optimized for outrage has many negative consequences for both our civic discourse and mental health. If everything is outrageous, nothing is, and we lose the ability to express opprobrium when it’s genuinely necessary. Professional trolls have weaponized the fury of others for personal profit, purposely provoking outraged responses to their content in order to elevate their profile. (One of them even became president.) But there’s a simple way to escape this trap: Boost things you like and ignore things you don’t. Block bad actors rather than engaging with them. There can be exceptions to this rule, but sticking to it as a default will greatly improve your online experience and disincentivize incendiary individuals from attempting to hijack our collective attention.
Put down the pitchfork.
In June 2020, Peter Weinberg trended on Twitter and was inundated across multiple platforms with vicious, excoriating messages from people he’d never met. The 49-year-old’s home address was even posted online. The reason: He’d been captured in a viral video assaulting a girl who had been posting flyers in support of George Floyd. Except he wasn’t. The entire affair was a case of mistaken identity on the part of amateur internet sleuths. Weinberg had been at the scene of the incident—the day after it occurred. He also wasn’t the only victim of this drive-by vigilante justice. As New York magazine reported, “Another man, a former Maryland cop, was wrongly accused, too. The tweet accusing him was retweeted and liked more than half a million times.”
Outrage mobs are perhaps the most pernicious manifestation of social media’s pathologies. Many of these pile-ons are mistaken in their choice of target and nearly always disproportionate to the offense. Because you can’t know in the moment whether you are joining an outpouring that is justified or misguided, the responsible choice is to abstain. If you wouldn’t want your existence upended over a grainy partial video clip or a poorly phrased post, you shouldn’t help upend someone else’s. And frankly, getting repeatedly exercised over the antics of individuals you’ve never met and wouldn’t know existed if not for social media is neither a healthy nor productive use of our limited time on this Earth.
Choose your lane.
When it seems like everyone is talking about something, it’s natural to feel compelled to talk about that thing. In this way, social media prods us to perform as pundits and comment on events as they unfold in real time. Plenty of people ignore this impulse and just keep posting pictures of their grandkids or dog. But others give in to it, which leads to all sorts of problems. That’s because no one is an expert on everything, and we all have plenty of blind spots that could lead to embarrassment—whether about communities of people we don’t know or intellectual topics we haven’t studied. In real life, we usually don’t run into many situations where these blind spots are exposed, and when we do, we hopefully have friends who will gently correct us. A platform like Twitter is not so forgiving—it’s more like a string of ideological banana peels laid out in front of an audience of millions of strangers. Every day, something on the site or its many successors tempts us to comment outside our expertise. But we don’t have to do it.
Not only will such restraint save you from embarrassment, it will prevent you from overreacting to the latest breaking news, and it will help you make a difference when you have something important to say. The more topics you publicly pontificate about online, the more likely you will slip up and give people reasons to discount whatever else you say. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be outspoken on the internet! But you should limit yourself to your areas of actual expertise, where you most hope to be heard or influence people. The last thing you want is for your off-the-cuff take on a culture-war issue to discredit your deeply informed insights on the things that truly matter to you. This is also why journalists and academics, who rely on public trust to get their message across, should stick to their beats rather than post about subjects outside their ambit. When in doubt, recall the wisdom of the first-century rabbi who said, “All my days I grew up among the sages, and I have found nothing better for a person than silence.”
Read before burning.
We’ve all done it. Incensed by a headline, tweet, or screenshot of an article, we shared our upset about a story—without actually reading the piece in question and finding out whether the headline was accurate or the context of the excerpted quotation changed its meaning. Doing this may seem harmless in isolation, but in practice, it’s not happening in isolation. Many social-media users today believe it is perfectly reasonable to pass judgment on content they haven’t actually consumed, and the collective accretion of such potemkin pontification has the effect of polluting the public discourse.
Your first-grade teacher had this one right: Don’t judge a book by its cover, or, in this case, a story by its tweet or headline. Commenting confidently on material you haven’t bothered to read isn’t just intellectually dishonest; it disrespects your followers by telling them you don’t think enough of them to read the things you share with them. It turns social media into a farce in which individuals spar over imagined arguments that nobody actually made. No one wins these debates, and no one emerges any wiser. It’s time to collectively commit to ending this practice, and, when necessary, call out those who engage in it.
Oh, and if you got to this point before commenting on what’s written here: congratulations. You’re already part of the solution. Now feel free to tell me why I’m completely wrong.
Chris Christie has a message for Donald Trump after latest social media attacks – CNN
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Who is Lachlan Murdoch, heir apparent of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire?
For Lachlan Murdoch, this moment has been a long time coming. Assuming, of course, that his moment has actually arrived.
On Thursday, his father Rupert Murdoch announced that in November he’ll step down as the head of his two media companies: News Corp. and Fox Corp. Lachlan will become the chair of News Corp. while remaining chief executive and chair at Fox Corp., the parent of Fox News Channel.
The changes make Rupert’s eldest son the undisputed leader of the media empire his father built over decades. There’s no real sign that his siblings and former rivals James and Elisabeth contested him for the top job; James in particular has distanced himself from the company and his father’s politics for several years. But Rupert, now 92, has long had a penchant for building up his oldest children only to later undermine them — and sometimes to set them against one another — often flipping the table without notice.
Given Rupert Murdoch’s advanced age, this might be his last power move. But there’s a reason the HBO drama “Succession” was often interpreted as a thinly disguised and dark satire of his family business. In Murdoch World, as in the fictional world of the Roy family, seemingly sure things can go sideways in an instant, particularly when unexpected opportunities arise.
Lachlan Murdoch has lived that first hand. Born in London, he grew up in New York City and attended Princeton, where he focused not on business, but philosophy. His bachelor’s thesis, titled “A Study of Freedom and Morality in Kant’s Practical Philosophy,” addressed those weighty topics alongside passages of Hindu scripture. The thesis closed on a line from the Bhagavad Gita referencing “the infinite spirit” and “the pure calm of infinity,” according to a 2019 article in The Intercept.
Béatrice Longuenesse, Lachlan’s thesis advisor at Princeton, confirmed the accuracy of that report via email.
After graduation, though, Lachlan plunged headlong into his father’s business, moving to Australia to work for the Murdoch newspapers that were once the core of News Corp.’s business. Many assumed he was being groomed for higher things at News Corp., and they were not wrong. Within just a few years, Lachlan was deputy CEO of the News Corp. holding company for its Australian properties; shortly thereafter, he took an executive position at News Corp. itself and was soon running the company’s television stations and print publishing operations.
Lachlan’s ascent came to an abrupt halt in 2005, when he resigned from News Corp. with no public explanation. According to Paddy Manning, an Australian journalist who last year published a biography of Lachlan Murdoch, the core problem involved two relatively minor issues on which Lachlan disagreed with Roger Ailes, who then ran Fox News.
“The real point was that Lachlan felt Rupert had backed his executives over his son,” Manning said in an interview. “So Lachlan felt, ‘If I’m not going to be supported, then what’s the point?’” Manning did not have direct access to Lachlan for his book “The Successor,” but said he spoke in depth with the people closest to his subject.
Lachlan returned to Australia, where he has often described feeling most at home, and founded an investment group that purchased a string of local radio stations among other properties.
While he was away, News Corp. entered choppy waters. The U.K. phone-hacking scandal, in which tabloid journalists at the News of the World and other Murdoch-owned publications had found a way to listen to voicemails of the British royal family, journalistic competitors and even a missing schoolgirl, had seriously damaged the company. The fracas led to resignations of several News Corp. officials, criminal charges against some, and the closure of News of the World as its finances went south.
Manning said that the damage the scandal inflicted on News Corp. — and on both Lachlan Murdoch’s father and his brother James, chief executive of News’ British newspaper group at the time — helped pull Lachlan back to the company.
“He was watching the family tear itself apart over the phone-hacking scandal,” Manning said. Lachlan was “instrumental in trying to circle the wagons and turn the guns outwards, and stop Rupert from sacking James.”
While it took more convincing, Lachlan eventually returned to the company in 2014 as co-chairman of News Corp. alongside James.
Not long afterward, Ailes was forced out of his job at Fox News following numerous credible allegations of sexual harassment.
Lachlan Murdoch has drawn criticism from media watchdogs for what many called Fox News’ increasingly conspiratorial and misinformation-promoting broadcasts. The network hit a nadir following the 2020 election when voting machine company Dominion Voting Systems sued Fox News for $1.6 billion, alleging that Fox knowingly promoted false conspiracy theories about the security of its voting machines.
Fox settled that suit for $787.5 million in March of this year. A similar lawsuit filed by Smartmatic, another voting-machine maker, may go to trial in 2025, Fox has suggested.
In certain respects, though, Lachlan Murdoch’s behavior suggests some ambivalence about his role at News Corp. In 2021 he moved back to Sidney and has been mixing commuting and remote work from Australia ever since. “I think there’s a legitimate question about whether you can continue to do that and for how long” while running companies based in the U.S., Manning said.
Ukraine war: US to give Kyiv long-range ATACMS missiles
US President Joe Biden plans to give Ukraine advanced long-range missiles to help Kyiv with its ongoing counter-offensive, US media report.
They quote US officials familiar with the issue as saying Ukraine will get some ATACMS missiles with a range of up to 190 miles (300km).
This would enable Kyiv to hit Russian targets deep behind the front line.
A Ukrainian military source told the BBC that the attack in the port of Sevastopol used Storm Shadow missiles, which are supplied by Britain and France.
Such missiles have a range of just over 150 miles.
NBC News and the Wall Street Journal quote unnamed US officials as saying Mr Biden told his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky that Kyiv would get “a small number” of ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System) missiles. The two leaders met at the White House on Thursday.
The WSJ adds that the weapons will be sent in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post cited several people familiar with the discussions as saying Ukraine would get ATACMS armed with cluster bomblets rather than single warheads.
Neither the US nor Ukraine have officially confirmed the reports.
After the Biden-Zelensky talks Washington announced a new tranche of $325m (£265m) in military aid – including artillery and ammunition – for Ukraine. America’s Abrams tanks will be delivered to Kyiv next week.
However, both presidents have been evasive on the ATACMS issue.
“I believe that most of what we were discussing with President Biden yesterday… we will be able to reach an agreement,” Mr Zelensky said on Friday during a visit to Canada.
“Yes, [this is] a matter of time. Not everything depends on Ukraine,” he added.
Kyiv has for months been pushing for ATACMS to boost its tough and bloody counter-offensive in the south.
It says key Russian supply lines, command positions and other logistical hubs deep behind the front line would then be within striking distance, forcing Moscow to move them further away and thus making it harder to resupply troops and weaponry.
Russian positions in the occupied Ukrainian regions in the south – including Crimea – would be particularly vulnerable, Ukraine says.
President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and the Biden administration was initially hesitant to provide Ukraine with modern weaponry.
But its stance has since shifted dramatically, with Kyiv getting high-precision Himars long-range rocket systems and Patriot air defence missiles.
President Biden has been hesitant on ATACMS amid fears that such missiles could bring a direct clash with nuclear-armed Russia closer.
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Who is Lachlan Murdoch, heir apparent of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire?