We really need Two Minutes of Hate, every day
Just two, that is. For everybody.
This is a concrete proposal to eliminate, or in any case significantly reduce, the possibility that ANY “public” personality of any kind foments violence, abuse, political upheavals… just for its own personal gain (yes, as unthinkable as it seems, it may happen!).
In George Orwell’s “1984”, the Two-Minutes Hate are literally two minutes every day, during which all the Party members must gather to watch a clip of enemy armies leaders.
In those two minutes, all participants experience “a hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer”.
Sounds like mandatory doomscrolling? Keep reading then.
The political purpose of the Two Minutes Hate is to make people deflate. They exploit and deflate conscious and subconscious feelings and frustrations, by redirecting them “away from the Party”, towards whatever objective is convenient for the same “Party”, on that specific day.
Two Minutes? Those were the days…
The Two Minutes Hate technique is well known. There are even rumors that some media may have been using it for years now.
Here, I propose to go back to Two Minutes of Hate, because what we have today is 60x24x365 = 5.5 million minutes of hate, all the time, every year.
I propose to turn the Two Minutes of Hate concept upside down. I propose to reboot it as ballast to deflate hate and, in general, every unchecked, toxic influence and instinct, that is pushed from “above”.
In practice, I propose that all “public”, that is all publicly visible social media, should be required by law to limit, in measures proportional to their influence:
the amount of time during which they can publish every day
That is, something like:
- up to 1000 followers: publish how many posts you want per day, any moment you want (1)
- from 1000 to 5000: 20 posts/day, every other hour
- over one million followers: no more than five posts, for two consecutive minutes every day, always at the same time
Each user could decide when, exactly, his or her two minutes of the day should be, and could change them in any moment, but not on the spot, as in “Your request to move your daily window from 10⁄10.02am to 4.30⁄4.32pm has been received, and will be effective starting next Monday”.
We can discuss exact numbers (together with the unavoidable, necessary exceptions) later. We may also discuss if limiting also the number of “posts” the super users can actually publish in each of those timeslots would help. But this is the basic idea: daily time caps, inversely proportional to one’s visibility, that is influence.
This is nothing but Spiderman, applied to social media: with great power comes great responsibility. Therefore, the more followers you get, the less frequently you can post, to give you time to ponder the consequences of what you say, before actually saying it in public.
A mechanism like this has, in my opinion, four important advantages:
Yes, the same would be true for much of the Arab Spring. But since the same social media that made that triumph of free speech and democracy possible have had the opposite effects afterwards, maybe it is time to try something new, whatever one’s political goals are.
Second, it’s simple. An automatic, unconditional “brake” like this, for all user, is extremely simple to implement, on any social media. Surely way simpler than any other solution I’ve seen around in the last month, or year.
Third, it helps to keep the Web one. For individuals, allowing the big influencers to always reach their followers immediately, in any moment, is a major contributor to the destruction of shared reality coming from the hypersegmentation of news.
At government level, the idea that what is decided or said about them through another country’s social media can spread instantaneously and unstoppably, just like Harry Potter’s Fiendfyre:
is enough of a reason to push many governments to make their own, completely separate Internet. Wherever you live, you don’t want to happen.
Fourth, instantness as a public, social “service” is harmful, regardless of politics. This is true even for “local” networks like Nextdoor, just look here. Making public social media non-instantaneous, as I have been saying for two years now, would greatly decrease their general, anxiougennic addictiveness.
Instantness in communication between two distant individuals has a reason to exist. Ok, make that four, or five. Public, “social” non-stop instantness, instead, is something that should end yesterday anyway. Regardless of politics, in many other public fields, like for example Amazon-like shopping. And then there is fast trading, and then fast fashion… Technology can do a lot of good. Fast “just because we can” technology, much less.
What about “secret” networks?
A time cap on users as proposed above would not impact at all the toxicity, even political of instant messaging services like WhatsApp, Telegram and so on.
With services like those, however, we could apply the same principle to groups, instead of users: instant messages among up to N users, say five, could remain as instantanous as bandwidth permits. Posts sent to groups with more than N members, however, would be delivered only at a rate of N members every N minutes.
If this feels like a bad thing, think how much it would have reduced all the stress and waste of time already inflicted until now by WhatsApp groups, thanks just to the lack of such a rule.
So, shall we demand time caps for social network superusers, or not?
- Yes, as of today that would include me, unless you like so much, and support, what I do to push me up :-)