(Photo: Me outside the Parler world headquarters, a gift shop on Saint Simons Island. OK, maybe this isn’t the Parler headquarters, but I bet the proprietor loves Parler almost as much as he hates liberals.)
Like a lot of my conservative friends, I now have an account on Parler — the conservative, wild west social media alternative to Facebook and Twitter, where facts are never checked, conspiracy theories are welcome and their version of a “retweet” is called an “echo,” which is fitting because it is definitely an echo chamber.
Of course, you’re going to be mighty bored following my account on Parler because I don’t intend to post anything or fact-check anybody. I’m just rubbernecking this fiery crash on the information — or disinformation — superhighway.
It seems the primary reason that folks are fleeing to Parler right now — beyond their being mad about the election outcome — is they believe conservatives are being censored and silenced on social media. They’re tired of Twitter flagging posts as misleading or false, and they’re tired of Facebook attaching links to posts where folks can go for more information. And I agree that they may have gone too far after previously opening the flood gates to disinformation and propaganda campaigns. Still the folks running social media platforms must not realize that people don’t go to Twitter and Facebook for information but for affirmation.
No one’s mind is ever changed by social media posts. No one is there to see something contrary to their preconceived notions and biases so that they can reflect and say, “Hmm, I never thought of it that way. Let me look into this other perspective.” No, it’s quite the opposite. You just keep scrolling until you find something that tells you what you already believed.
“Don’t worry, honey, I found it. Bigfoot did vote in Michigan! Four times! And he’s been dead for 10 years! I knew it! Diamond and Silk are talking about it in this Facebook Live video right now. It’s official.”
I agree that Twitter might be a little overzealous in its efforts to fact-check conservatives and especially President Trump. The man’s whole presidency has been conducted by Tweet. He may have singlehandedly saved Twitter and made it relevant again. Heck, our news the last four years has been (1) what the president Tweeted today, (2) the reaction of Republicans who claim they haven’t seen the Tweet despite having popped about 12 headache pills when they first opened Twitter today, and (3) a panel of four liberals and one conservative debating the impact of the Tweet on CNN. On Fox News, of course, that would be four conservatives and one liberal. On Newsmax, it would be five conservatives and no liberals. On OANN, that’d be one liberal being clubbed by four conservatives. It’s basic broadcast journalism.
I first learned about Parler when I saw a conservative friend of mine — a close friend of Vice President Pence (which makes me just two degrees of separation from Mr. Pence and merely three degrees of separation from America’s most popular housefly) — tell his friends on Facebook and Twitter to follow him on Parler. A slew of other conservative friends have followed suit and turned their Facebook profile images to a simple orange cirle (Parler has an orange theme, like the president). Well, I guess that’s better than the usual defriending on Facebook. By the way, I’ve only counted three folks defriending me on Facebook after this election, a new record low. And, really, there are so many better reasons to defriend me than politics. Show some originality, folks!
There’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to be in a bubble on occasion. I don’t go to Jimmy Buffett concerts so that some guy with a mullet next to me screams “Freebird!” every five minutes. Likewise, I don’t visit my secret cabal of Parrotheads on Facebook to hear someone argue that they prefer Alan Jackson’s version of “Margaritaville.” I like the temporary comfort of my tropical bubble.
But if you spend too much time in a bubble — left, right or Parrothead — you get a little bit of brain rot. And if you spend a lot of time in a Parler-like echo chamber, you get a lot of brain rot. And be careful what you say on Parler because if you read the terms of service, you’ll see that if you get sued over false or dangerous posts you make on their platform, you are 100% liable.
My hope is that even the folks fleeing to Parler will open their minds to a variety of viewpoints, facts and perspectives. My brain knows that’s probably not going to happen. I can’t stomach the thought of being somewhere that my every comment is met with “Ditto!” “Exactly” and “Yeah, boy!” but I know there are folks who might find that kind of sheep-like environment comfortable, like a wool sweater. I’m afraid that, indeed, folks will spend way too much time in the Parler and nowhere else, which means I must issue this warning to my friends who run pizza joints:
“Lock the door to your basements! They’re armed and coming to rescue the stolen children!”