Big Tech censorship is real, it’s over the top, it’s unfair, and it’s unhealthy for the country. Conservatives, frustrated over censorship of their viewpoints, are attempting to organize a mass “exodus” from Facebook and Twitter to MeWe and Parler. While I’m sympathetic to this reaction, I have a problem with the strategy. It’s going to backfire.
In this blog post, I’m going to dispel three myths about the exodus, highlight several problems, and present a solution.
Three Myths About Big Tech
The problems and challenges with Big Tech are real. In fact, I was one of the first to sound the alarm bells as far back as 2013 on my weekly Web Savvy radio segment on the Girard at Large show. However, the exodus movement relies on at least two flawed arguments.
Myth #1: We’re Sticking It to Them
No, you’re not. Facebook has 2.7 billion active monthly users. If every single Trump voter decided to leave Facebook (70M), that’s 2.5% of their users. They won’t even notice we’re gone. That’s three months’ worth of growth for them – barely a speed bump. Of course, you won’t get anywhere near 100% of Trump voters to leave Facebook. You might get 10%. It isn’t very reasonable to believe that exiting the platform will teach them any lesson.
Myth #2: We Can’t Win
This is less of a myth and more of a rationalization. Conservatives are understandably exhausted by and fed up with the censorship. They want to go someplace they can express their views without getting thrown in Facebook jail and having their links accompanied by dubious “fact checks” and slated “context.”
It’s hard and getting harder, but it’s not impossible. You can persuade people on social media. You can sidestep the censorship algorithms. But it takes creativity and know-how.
Myth #3: Your Posts Are Persuasive
The main reason for the exodus is the censorship of many conservative articles, memes, videos, etc. Here’s the cold, hard truth: They weren’t very persuasive anyway. When conservatives watch a video from PragerU, they see reasonable, insightful arguments. What do you think progressives see when they watch a PragerU video? It’s a trick question… They don’t watch them. They don’t click on your Fox News stories, and they roll their eyes at your memes.
In fact, they generally have the exact opposite effect you think they have. Instead of causing progressives to rethink their positions, it tends to solidify them. If you’re completely honest with yourself, you probably have the same reaction to any content that conflicts with your viewpoints.
The Problems With an Exodus Strategy
There are two flavors of the exodus strategy. One is a wholesale migration off Facebook and Twitter in favor of supposedly censorship-free alternatives like MeWe and Parler. The second is a backup plan on those platforms in case of permanent banning. Both are problematic, though not to the same extent.
Problem #1: Capitulation
An exodus of conservatives from their platforms is exactly what progressives want. They already control academia, the mainstream media, sports, and Hollywood. They have complete and unfettered control over our culture except in one last corner: social media. They’re obviously working to drive out conservative and libertarian viewpoints there as well. An exodus from the two largest social media platforms would excise the last few opportunities to challenge their ideas.
You can’t score points if you don’t take the field.
Problem #2: Preaching to the Choir
If you believe in your principals and want more people to believe in them, preaching to the converted may feel good, but it’s a waste of time. The only way to spread ideas is to expose them to new minds in a persuasive manner.
You can’t score points if you don’t play offense.
Problem #3: Fracturing
There’s nothing wrong with diversification and creating a backup plan. Well, actually there is one problem. Everyone has a limited amount of time and resources. Every social network you plan to use takes some of your time, attention, brainwaves, etc. It’s easy to post to multiple social networks, but it’s hard to engage on them. And engagement is the only way to grow an audience.
You can’t score a lot of points if you split your team up.
Problem #4: Confirmation Bias
Joining a network where everyone believes the same ideas you do is very comforting. Your brain becomes soaked in dopamine from confirmation bias as you see story after story that reinforces your viewpoints. There are a couple of problems with this. First, it makes you susceptible to fake news. Without any counterarguments, you can easily fall prey to knee-jerk hot takes and flat-out hoaxes. This damages your credibility and persuasiveness. Second, it makes you weak from a persuasion standpoint. If you never have to push back against your viewpoints, you don’t develop persuasive arguments and learn how to overcome objections.
You can’t be the best if you don’t play against the best.
Solutions to the Big Tech Problem
It’s not a level playing field. The game is rigged against conservatives, but that doesn’t mean the game is unwinnable. It means conservatives need a better playbook and better execution.
Solution #1: Build Assets
As I write this article, millions of conservatives are fleeing Facebook and Twitter for MeWe and Parler. Many are calling this a “backup plan.” My question is, “What’s your backup to your backup?” In other words, if those networks don’t pan out for whatever reason, what’s next? What if they don’t survive financially? What if they start censoring? The fact of the matter is that you don’t ever own your social media profile. And while they’re important for building and accessing an audience, they’re inherently ephemeral.
A better strategy is to build and invest in assets you own, like a website and email list. These are not as easily throttled or disabled.
Solution #2: Learn Persuasiveness
As I mentioned in Myth #3, posting Fox News articles and PragerU videos does not change hearts and minds. To do that, you need to develop your persuasion skills. That’s way outside of the scope of this post, but you can start with this reading list (in order of importance):
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion (Robert Cialdini)
- Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter (Scott Adams)
- How to Have Impossible Conversations (Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay)
- Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade (Robert Cialdini)
- How to Win Friends & Influence People (Dale Carnegie)
Solution #3: Become a Resistance Fighter
The rules for fighting behind enemy lines are very different than fighting on your home turf. It requires stealth, adaptability, cunning, and intelligence (both the information kind and the ability kind). Many conservatives want to carpet bomb their timelines from 30,000 feet, but that never worked all that well in the first place (see Myth #3), and now that’s being shut down. It’s time to learn how to be a resistance fighter behind enemy lines.
This involves understanding the Facebook rules and knowing how to walk up to the line without crossing it. It involves using conversation methods like the Socratic method and asking disconfirming questions. And it involves leveraging effective content like visuals and storytelling.
Solution #4: Build Credibility
None of these solutions will work if you are not viewed as credible. Hard-line ideologues are rarely viewed by their opponents as credible. You need to at least appear to be reasonable. The book How to Have Impossible Conversations provides nine “beginner level” techniques that help in this regard:
- Modeling – Model the behavior you want to see in others
- Words – Define terms up front
- Ask Questions – Focus on a specific question
- Acknowledge Extremists – Point out bad things people on your side do
- Navigating Social Media – Don’t vent on social media
- Don’t Blame – Sift from blame to contribution
- Focus on Epistemology – Figure out how people know what they claim to know
- Learn – Learn what makes someone close-minded
- Reverse Applications – The book provides two pages of conversational behaviors to avoid
When people view you as skeptical and reasonable, they may not believe everything you say, but they will take it far more seriously.
Conclusion: You Can’t Go – All the Plants Are Gonna Die!
A social media exodus only cedes the battlefield to the other side and severely handicaps conservatives’ ability to fight back against the progressive tide.