Why we can’t have anything nice.

ZMan had a great piece on Takimag Monday.

Really put some clarity on why most of social media has been ruined by nitwits.

It was only in the past decade that what we think of as social media came online and made it easy for the left side of the bell curve to join the fun. This is when the sorts of people who seek to regulate speech came barging into internet culture, telling everyone else the internet was broken. It is the technically inept latecomers who have made these internet platforms into ideological war zones.


Left side of the bell curve, indeed. I’ve been online since Prodigy and Compuserve. FWIW, back in 1990 or so I could order groceries online. It was about as useless then as now. Some things, you have to get eyeballs on before buying. Fresh food is one of those. For the longest time, the technically inept were to be found on AOL.

When Facebook and the like started up, it really became rocket fuel for the neurotic and stupid to enter the fray.

This is where Musk can not only fix Twitter but set an example for other platforms when it comes to managing the scolds and busybodies. Fixing online culture is primarily about who, not how. A lesson from the early days of online communities is that the rules need to be about selecting against the scolds and busybodies. Make the platform less appealing to them and you quickly reduce their numbers and their victims…

This is a lesson from the meatspace. In daily life, no one likes the woman who is always creating drama. People organize their lives to limit their exposure to that person and anyone who enjoys her drama. Further, the guy who keeps talking about Hitler or how much he hates the left gets ignored. They keep this stuff to themselves so they can be included in the community. Social pressure works.


Those older boards, like BBS and Usenet had reasonably decent moderation. On a typical BBS, at least the ones I frequented, you were invited. And just as fast, kicked out if you misbehaved.

Scolds and busybodies have made these platforms useless. Although I think Twitter was pretty useless from the start. I have Nextdoor, which is useless for most but lost dogs, and LinkedIn, although I may still delete that. Other than that, I’m on Gab and Social Galactic. Social Galactic, I you have to have a subscription. Gab, if you are a moron, you get pig piled. It was a great platform, but when Twitter clamped down and a lot of the crazies waddled over to Gab. Every time I see a moron flame thread, the instigator is a noob.

Fact is, some of these people are just like that in meatspace, and they don’t pay a price nearly as high as they would in the past.

Removing all of the mechanism to report other users takes away the appeal to the scolds and busybodies. If they are stripped of their ability to rat out fellow users, most of the fun of the platform goes away for them, as well as the people who enjoy taunting them.


Sweet Jeezis I hate tattletales. That’s NextDoor’s issue. Crack a harmless joke or wrongly categorize something, Karen goes to the manager and you get a yellow card. Facebook is worse. You’ll get friends of friends pig-piling over an innocuous comment.

Message board communities figured this out long ago. These systems give users reputation scores based on the up votes and down votes. Inevitably, “Nazi guy” and “progressive gal” destroy each other’s reputation so that everyone else can conveniently ignore them. In other words, the people who are always the problem are allowed to marginalize themselves. Twitter could easily do the same.

Another lesson from the golden age of the internet is that the sorts of people who want to be moderators are the people who should never be moderators. It is the scolds and busybodies who lust for these positions. The Trust and Safety committee of Twitter is composed of the worst, most petty despots humanity can produce. The platform would improve greatly if Musk just threw these people off the roof of the building.

A $50 billion tech company should be able to replace these harpies with software to enforce a minimal number of clear rules. A searchable database of banned words and topics would make the rules clear, and the software engineers should have little difficulty coding those into the regulatory system. The culture inside the company improves because the scolds and busybodies have been removed.

There are other things that can be done, like allowing people to buy extra privileges on the platform, but the goal should always be to select against the scolds and busybodies who make life miserable for everyone. A reorienting of the moral hierarchy that places these people at the bottom, rather than the top, not only fixes Twitter, but sets a positive example for the rest of the public platforms.


He’s right on the money here and it’s sort of how Social Galactic works. I can honestly say there aren’t any freakshows on Social Galactic. Least not that I notice. And I’ll gladly toss in a few bucks if I find the platform useful, even if it’s just for entertainment.

As we see with Twitter, when you empower maladapted weirdos they quickly invert the social hierarchy, placing the deviants at the top and normal people at the bottom. This inverted moral universe inside Twitter is what is killing it, but it is also what is killing civic life in general. Musk has a chance to set the tone for reversing this and maybe restore some decency to public life.


You see this a bit on Gab, or at least a microcosm of it that doesn’t work like the others. You’ll get the noobs, and on Gab the biggest numbnut invasion happened January 2021. What they do is start badgering the people that have been there forever and have great posts. Your feed gets gobbed up with inane gibbering slapfights. There are a few I follow, some of them women, that have super sharp intellects and wit. Some of the verbal beatdowns they’ve delivered have been hilarious. But there are others that had been there since inception that either took a hiatus or left altogether rather than deal with nitwits. I simply block these morons as soon as they pop up in my feed.

These people are completely unable to use the same social tools you’d need in meatspace that they should be using online. When I go into a room with people I’ve never met, I scope things out a bit before socializing. And when I do I move slowly. It’s a lesson I learned from being an asshole when I was younger.

You should be using the same manners and tact you’d use in person when online.

But others don’t do that, and that renders the platform useless over time.

And that’s his point. It would serve these platforms well to introduce the same feedback loops/controls that you would experience in life.

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