Scott Brooks

Waxahachie Sun Publisher Scott Brooks

Having worked for a few large newspapers in the north, I’ve experienced first-hand the challenges facing companies with a union workforce. Since all of those experiences came while sitting on the management side of the table, it’s fair to say my views are embedded there.

With deep care for employees and the desire to never view unions as enemies, though, I learned to work through issues that would have otherwise compromised company and employee growth. In Buffalo, we had 13 unions in a company of 1200 employees. The same approximate ratio was true in Pittsburgh and Baltimore although both of those newspapers were bigger with respect to number of employees. In any event, it takes patience and skill to keep management and union staffs in sync.

In the years of training to be more effective in negotiating, handling employee discipline, developing contracts, and the like, the principle of dialectics became a central tenet of understanding. Not to over-simplify, but dialectics is an art form of communication that made unions necessary in certain parts of the country. It is also a means by which unions in America began many, many decades ago and how some of them became incredibly powerful, as well.

In layman’s terms, dialectics is a method of subtly, effectively injecting an issue or problem into the workplace in such a way that makes the parties impacted by those problems believe a mediator is necessary. Suggesting to employees that wages may decrease, benefits are at risk or that workloads may expand are a few examples of dialectics. The moment management and workers feel the wedge forming between them, unions are quick to respond and be seen as the only means by which the issues can be resolved. Dialectics is also a part of the divorce process where an attorney is seen by both parties as necessary if solutions are to be found. Dialectics is one way some divorce attorneys make a lot of money, as well.

Facebook and Twitter have become masters of dialectics. That is, both companies have created online environments millions of users simply believe they cannot live without. In his book, “Hooked, How to Build Habit-Forming Products,” Nir Eyal states that social networking sites like Facebook “hook” people using four elements: a trigger, such as loneliness, boredom or stress; an action, such as logging in to Facebook; an unpredictable reward, such as scrolling through a mix of juicy and boring tidbits in the newsfeed; and investment, which includes posting pictures or liking someone’s status update. Each of those “hooks” are, as I see it, dialectics.

To further substantiate the tactics and effects of these sites, consider what Siva Vaidhyanathan of the University of Virginia said in his book, “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy. According to Vaidhyanathan, “Items advocating hatred and bigotry, conspiracy theories or wacky health misinformation generate massive reactions — both positive and negative. A false post about the danger of vaccines would generate hundreds of comments, most of them arguing with the post. But the very fact of that ‘engagement’ would drive the post to more News Feeds. That’s why you can’t argue against the crazy. You just amplify the crazy. Such are algorithms and feedback mechanisms.”

It should be clear to all of us by now that both platforms are creating enormous havoc in America today. Whether fake news, personal attacks, life distortions, uncontrolled expressions of hate, intense contempt, and now political censorship, just to name a few, both sites increase in value as these behaviors and addictions intensify. In other words, the more hate-filled and argumentative users become on these sites, the better for Facebook, Twitter, and the rest. It is insidious, at best, and deeply destructive, at worst. That said, believe me when I tell you that I’ve struggled with the impact these sites have had not only in my life but in my family’s life, as well. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, sites like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, etc. have a similar effect. In total, the mayhem is real and the results devastating for many. Yet, like an addiction to drugs and alcohol, the use continues for millions.

So, what do we do? According to Jack Morse of Mashable, we should “absolutely delete these sites from our lives. Honestly, you won’t miss that much. Oh, and by ‘delete’ I mean delete. Facebook is very good at making it difficult to leave its soul-sucking ecosystem. Those that attempt to do so are directed to the option to ‘deactivate’ an account, which is very much not the same thing as deletion. To truly delete your account you have to navigate your way through a bunch of garbage options before you are finally presented the real chance to make an escape.” I’ve learned that much the same can be said of the other sites, as well.

Even when attempting to delete Facebook, by example, the company is going to take plenty of time letting you go. Facebook says it may take up to 90 days to remove your information from its servers. Morse also says, “While deleting your account won’t translate to a 100 percent Facebook-free life, it’s looking like a better first step each and every passing day.”

My hope is that you won’t take any of this lightly. Society is suffocating under the weight of its own inability to free itself of social site evils. It’s as good a time as any to take stock of the way we feel not only when using these sites but how we feel when taking the ever-brief break from them. There should be no doubt as to the strategic purpose Zuckerburg of Facebook, Dorsey of Twitter and the others deploy at our expense. That purpose may result in another billion or two for these guys but the impact on a country once stabilized by a general respect and care for each other is becoming more calamitous by the day.

We must stop drinking the poison.

Scott Brooks is the Publisher of the Waxahachie Sun and may be reached at scott@waxahachiesun.com.

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