What’s happening in the world is very disturbing.
It’s horrific to think we’ve gone from a pandemic to the most devastating European ground war since WWII.
Ukraine has shown tremendous resolve in the early days of the invasion, and world powers have stepped up. This is now a global war that will be determined not only by militaries, but by economics, the Internet, and the power grid.
It feels like a shot to the heart. Like the characters in A Fiddler On The Roof, my ancestors are from Ukraine. They left during the Russian pogroms. We can’t help but view this conflict through a historical lens.
It’s not a new fight, but it’s being fought in new ways. Social media has been both revealing and misleading, while traditional news coverage struggles to find balance between responsible journalism and hysterics. Talking heads pontificate and build hype, but hard facts are harder to come by.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful for social media and outlets like the New York Times putting their people on the front lines. It’s wonderful to see people around the world unifying for humanity, despite the glaring difference in response to similar tragedies in the Middle East.
But the interconnectivity of social media, global economics, and cyber warfare is giving me major pause. I’m thinking deeply about America’s role in the world; our exports and imports; our opinions and biases; the fragility of it all. The information age, in all its glory, has also done damage to our country and our collective spirit.
Take TikTok, the number one app in the world. It dominates the music business and drives youth culture in the U.S. and abroad. But the Chinese government took a stake in TikTok’s parent company, Bytedance, last summer. That should make us all uneasy.
TikTok is the posterchild of unscrupulous tech – it has facial recognition software, the ability to read your phone’s notes, access to screen grabs and stored photos, and an algorithm that seems supercharged for sensationalism. That’s upsetting regardless of who’s in control. Now, factor in a dictatorship having three seats on TikTok’s board of directors. I’m not sure what the algorithm is feeding America versus other markets, but I do know how powerful that algorithm is.
I’d be less concerned if American social media exports like Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and Twitter were allowed in China. Then, at least we’d have a side of fairness to go along with our surveillance state feast. This is an issue we need to push harder on.
I’m proud of America’s response to Russia thus far. We’re taking a tough stance without resorting to unnecessary physical aggression. I’d like to see similar resolve online – and strict regulatory considerations with respect to TikTok – where imbalances in culture and access are having a long-term effect on everyone’s well-being.
Also published on Medium.