A few days ago, I chose to engage in a Nextdoor.com thread about a woman who took her daughter to Burger King drive-thru only to be met with workers who weren’t wearing masks.
(It’s important to note she took great pains to point out she was not proud of taking her daughter to Burger King, and she would probably never do it again, lest you’re judging her right now.)
For a neighborhood thread involving COVID, it stayed remarkably on-topic. Sure, there were a few posts of COVID or mask studies, but generally, the conversation was centered around whether people would spend their money with that Burger King and just how deadly is COVID, anyway.
It was so innocuous, I barely remember what, specifically, I wrote on the thread. I know I pointed out that immunity from having had COVID is more effective than the vaccine. I also shared a joke I had heard: “I have a COVID joke, but there’s a 99.7684 chance you won’t get it.”
I didn’t really weigh in on the mask debate or the effectiveness of vaccines. But it didn’t matter. When I returned to the thread a few hours later, I was met with this message:
That was it. There was no indication of what I said that warranted that message. There was no refutation of whatever it was I wrote that earned me this suspension. No mention of what mechanism was used to “fact check” whatever it was I wrote.
How am I supposed to learn from my transgressions if I’m not told what I wrote that earned me this account disablement? Was I reported? Is it an algorithm that got me? Did some community moderator simply decide that I wrote something inconsistent with what they had heard in the media or been told by Joe Biden?
But none of that is as troubling as the foundational concept: People all over America are just deciding they don’t like what someone is saying and dismissing them. Erasing them. Just making them go away.
Because we’ve all surrendered ourselves to digitization, we are easily erased, removed, cancelled, barred, disabled, or disappeared. And there’s nothing we can do.
So, you’re interacting with someone online, and suddenly, you’re gone. That person, and anyone else following, is lead to believe you were just pedaling lies and were thusly removed. It’s that simple. No questions. No information. And people go on.
This is happening all over the world, and I don’t think people are anywhere near grasping the seriousness of it. This is how groups of people are truly marginalized or removed from society. This is how voices are truly silenced.
It’s a dynamic problem, because it involves our willingness to give ourselves to digital platforms. It also involves people’s willingness to cede thinking to cultural leaders, like mainstream media, celebrities, influencers, and sports stars.
We’re in far greater trouble than many want to believe, and it happens at this seemingly meaningless community level. We barely notice… until it’s too late.