Erik Hoel urges companies to stop trying to make a good social media site. After Matt Yglesias was bullied off Bluesky by users like a teen girl named Hannah who wrote “we will beat you with hammers,” it seems that all it takes to tank a network’s atmosphere is for it to hit some sort of critical mass.
This process will inevitably continue until the site becomes as terrible as all the big social media sites, transforming into places of witch hunts, derision, barely formulated thoughts, snuff videos, clickbait, and occupied with all your favorite anime avatars threatening to kill you. For a new social media website, going from “omg it’s so great, we’re inviting another 5,000 people!” to “we will beat you with hammers” takes about two weeks.
The piece makes a pretty strong point about why pessimism is probably warranted with almost any new social media platform. In short, the problem is not the rules or the technology. It’s human beings.
Companies try a litany of changes: It’s open-sourced! It’s decentralized! It’s got good governance! We’ll ban whatever you want! We’ll ban nothing! It doesn’t matter. You’re limited by your materials, which is mostly the people who really thrive on social media.
I like the point Hoel makes at the end about social media being comparable to cable news. Few people under a certain age get their news from a cable network. Hoel reasons that the next generation may feel the same way about social media as the younger generation feels about cable news.