How did technology get us here?
America is the world’s country; in a sense we are all American, consuming its culture, sports, brands constantly. It’s a great nation that can be counted on to do the right thing when all other options have been exhausted (pace Churchill). Except this time.
Rarely have I seen so many people so affected by a public event for such a long time as the US election. Happiness is down 12% among women, said one study. Holland Taylor compared it to the death of JFK, writing “time kept passing, and it kept being real.”
So many of us felt the election of Donald Trump personally. As well, many of us *took* the election of Donald Trump personally.
Within the tech community I’ve never seen such a strong reaction: dumbfounded VCs, Trump-supporter banning CEOs, women sobbing in 4 million member Facebook groups, in some quarters immediate conversations about how good this could be for business. An online petition to call for faithless electoral college voters, and discussions of how we can organize as a community to address misinformation, provide support to those who suffer the consequences of how he speaks, and organize demonstrations and protests against policies and appointments that would be bad for the country.
Because tech played a central role in the outcome of this debacle. Not going to touch the Hillary emails, but there they were, front and center, daily. Altright Twitter went through visible phases: grassroots, then swelled in popularity, then organized, then weaponized, turning social media platforms into constantly active channels of Hillary hate, dumb Dem hate, and far worse. An inability to distinguish between real and fake news online contributed to the disinformation flow. A presidential candidate used Twitter as his primary communications vehicle to talk directly to the electorate, regularly.
It was effective.
Even when he was trolling.
And now, as both John Oliver and Dave Chappell have noted, America now has that internet troll for president. A Trump presidency would be unimaginable without the internet. How far technology has brought us. Those of us who worked early in social with a certain technoutopianism about the promise of harmony through communications and like minded communities, and true understanding, are thinking about how ironic those concepts seem right now.
Original photo courtesy: Time.com