In the autumn of 2016, I published an Op-Ed in the New York Times that challenged the prevailing belief that individuals must establish a strong social media presence in order to succeed professionally. According to the article, a whopping eighty percent of online adults used social media in the same year. I argued that amid a capitalist economy, the market rewards rare and valuable things. Social media use, on the other hand, is neither rare nor valuable. Instead, I suggested that knowledge workers develop useful skills to set themselves apart in their chosen fields.
The article gained significant attention and topped the paper’s most-e-mailed list for a brief period. However, it was met with criticism. The New York Times even published a response Op-Ed titled “Don’t Quit Social Media. Put It to Work for Your Career Instead,” written by Patrick Gillooly, the director of digital communications and social media at the career site Monster. Gillooly presented a detailed argument against my opinion, suggesting that social media could benefit individuals seeking careers.
The responses to my criticism and similar ideas marked a cultural immune response during that time. Author and technologist Jaron Lanier, among others, had garnered popularity for their takes on the potential negative effects of excessive internet use, but there was a reluctance to completely step away from social media and technology. This reaction bore semblance to Neil Postman’s assertion in his book “Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology,” where he describes the submission of all forms of cultural life to the sovereignty of technique and technology.
Postman’s book helped shed light on the immediate reaction to my ideas, equating the disregard of a new tool like social media as something to render irrelevant. Nevertheless, the monopoly of technopoly soon began to wane, particularly during the Trump-Clinton election cycle, which led to growing bipartisan concerns about censorship, foreign disinformation, and data privacy. This moment marked a shift in perception and a rejection of the demand to embrace every new innovation.
Today, a different attitude is emerging as individuals are increasingly challenging the rapid pace of technological developments. This is evident in moves by organizations such as the Writers Guild of America, which has won significant constraints on the use of A.I. tools in writers’ rooms. These actions suggest a growing resistance to the idea that we must accommodate and embrace every technological advancement.