What if social media were used to educate people properly?

I was just telling my wife that I talked with a woman who voted for Trump and is now regretting it. 

But she did not like Kamala Harris.

She didn’t know her name or what her position had been or what position she was going to be in. She just had reservations about Biden because of “that woman who’s with him.”

My wife responded: “People should have to have a certain amount of education to vote.”

And that’s what gave this idea:

What if social media were used to educate people properly?

It could be an incredibly powerful tool for education. It already is.

You can see it happening. People are learning about the electoral college, with all the nuances and formalities. 

I knew that sometime between Election Day and Inauguration Day Congress did something — something they were bound to do, such that it’s barely even mentioned — but I didn’t know that the Vice-President presides while Congress certifies votes and that objections are possible but very rare. 

Now every knows these things. 

I know that the Supreme Court doesn’t have to have 9 justices, and in the past, it has not had 9.

I know lots of stuff about executive orders and confirmations and filibusters and budget reconciliation…

So, you can see — just like everybody else — I’m learning some civics.

Of course I do also know that I know very little and am full of shit, but I digress.

In early November, 2000, I gave a big screen presentation to a 5th grade class, using a computer to show different possible electoral outcomes. The purpose was to use this new equipment the school just got, and I picked out that topic because it included an interactive map. Back then, displaying a computer image on a large screen was a complete novelty and fairly high tech.

The class was a dud. Right when I was getting fired up and ready to go, showing how Bush could win the popular vote and Gore could win the election, and vice versa, the classroom teacher stopped me.

“Mr. Post,” she said. “Is there anything else you could show the kids. They aren’t interested in this.”

A week later, everybody would be very interested, for the first time in decades, in the electoral college. 

And the rest is history.

Now we find ourselves immersed in a great new super media, wherein people are learning new things every day.

But, alas, the guys in charge are computer guys, involved in an intense battle for clicks. They are not social workers or historians. They are not concerned with civics. They are in the click business. Period. Clicks and dollars. Dollars and clicks. It’s a brutal competition, and the folks at Facebook and Twitter and TikTok are the best in the world at it.

The algorithms are not producing more misinformation than anything in the realm of valid education.

But what if…

Imagine if they were like some musicians and wanted to change the world. Or if the industries (including TV) were regulated enough to weed out the bad information. That would diminish its size, since weeds are now a large part of the garden. But imagine if you could trust news sources.

They could still have opinions. They would simply preface the opinion by saying it was an opinion. 

But imagine being able to trust the media. What would that be like?

It’s quite possible. These are powerful tools and could make the world a well-informed place.

But the kids who built these tools are no longer kids, and they were doing something that’s never been done, with consequences the were not predictable.

Now we’ve all learned — and some of the negative consequences have become clear. 

Let’s hope the Biden administration, along with Congress, works with these companies to pass regulations that provide educational value to all of us and save democracy for the world.

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