Does Social Media Cause Anything?

by Kevin Munger on July 3, 2024

In the 18 months since I quit Twitter, I can feel the atrophy of my vibe detector. I’m reading more than ever, on Substack and the FT, Discord and group chats — much of the same “content” I would’ve encountered on Twitter, in fact, but without the ever-present spiderweb of the social graph, the network of accounts, RTs and likes that lets me understand not only what someone thinks but what everyone else thinks about them thinking that.

So while I know that I’m missing the vibes, I cannot, of course, know which vibes I’m missing. Knowledge of vibes means never being surprised when someone says something: I know what kind of person they are, and I know what those kinds of people say. This is why Twitter users participate in The Discourse rather than in human-to-human dialogue: given the unknowability of another person, when we openly converse with them, we can always be surprised by what they say.

Although various Discourses now take place both on and between other platforms, the architecture of Twitter is ideal for textual Discourse and it seems to remain the hub.

The first time I was realized I was way off of the main vibe came from the response to Jonathan Haidt’s The Anxious Generation. My readers will know that I am extremely sympathetic to at least part of his argument, which I’ll split up as follows:

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