First, the good news: There's a new social media platform!
Now, the bad news: There's a new social media platform!
It's called MeWe, which could be the most infantile name for a website until WinkieTinkle comes along. It's quite popular, with 2.5 million sign-ups in recent weeks. By contrast, Facebook has 11 billion members, which includes everyone on this planet and the backup duplicate planet the tech giants have built on the other side of the sun. (It's full of clones.)
I signed up for MeWe immediately, for several reasons.
1. I always stake out my own name on any new platform, so no one takes it. I use my own name online, because it keeps me honest and civil. You're more inclined to act like a sanctimonious ranter if you're Bob945. Of course, if your name is really Bob945, let 'er rip, I guess.
2. As an involved, modern person who is interested in technology and its effects on society, I have to see where this is going. Short answer: straight to hell, probably. Anytime someone comes up with an "alternative" to the popular platforms like Twitter or Facebook, it's promptly swamped by all the rabid maniacs who were kicked off the other sites.
You've heard of Parler, which was shut down for failing to delete high-octane crazy stuff that violated their own terms of service. Twitter is just as bad. For weeks before the inauguration I was reading the tweets of a guy who insisted that Donald Trump would use the Space Force to cause strategic power outages, then use the Global Broadcasting System to announce that everyone at the inauguration would be arrested for pedophilia. At least, that was the plan, we were assured.
Often Twitter will attach a warning: "This claim of imminent space-based coordinated mass incarceration has not been verified." But it still is believed by people who inhale Reddi-wip propellant.
There will never be a call to shut down Twitter, because people love it. I love it. If you're careful about whom you follow, it can be quite informative, and it gives me something to do when I'm riding an escalator and can't bear the terror of being alone with my thoughts for 27 seconds.
3. MeWe hopes it will become an alternative to Facebook. It's an interesting approach: Hey, you know that time-suck thing you cannot escape and sometimes feels like a chore? We're just like that! Except no one you know is here. Perfect for everyone who likes to spend their idle hours yodeling in an empty barn.
No, that's not fair. MeWe's difference, they say, is simple: They don't "sell your data." That's a fancy term for hoovering up everything you read, like, buy, hear and speak and then packaging it to advertisers. I'm not particularly paranoid, but I don't have Facebook on my phone, lest it decide to study what I'm doing in case I need an ad for a car wash or a laxative. When I do log on to read something, I have the focus of a 007-type sent behind the Iron Curtain. Get in and get out. Oh no, I clicked on something! Sirens and floodlights! Twenty-seven friend requests!
Obviously, I am alone in this view. Most people find Facebook useful and enjoyable, or they wouldn't spend a lot of time endlessly scrolling to the bottom that never appears, a glazed look on their face, waiting for that moment of resolution or self-disgust that makes them turn away. It's useful for keeping in touch with people, of course; before Facebook, no one could ever make contact with fellow humans, and family reunions were awkward affairs where everyone made strained small talk, trying to figure out if this guy was your cousin or brother.
But it's imposed a stifling uniformity on everyone. All the pages look the same. Oh, you can customize the banner at the top of the page, but Bob945's page is essentially the same as Bob946's. But now we're at the point where people who don't have a Facebook page are hopelessly out of it and are considered less techno-savvy than the people who go on Nextdoor to ask if anyone else heard that loud noise at 11 p.m.
Anyway, I wish everyone on MeWe well, but I fear Facebook is the dominant paradigm for the foreseeable future. Then again, before there was Amazon, there was Woolworth's. Before there was Google, there were libraries. Things do change.