Vonnegut’s Nightmare and Mine

What do free speech and Twitter have in common? JK Baik ’23 takes a look.


JK Baik, Editor

I was born in 2004. Facebook was founded in 2004. Youtube was founded in 2005. Twitter was founded in 2006. I belong to the Z generation that is allegedly “addicted” to digital technology and social media. But for us Gen Zs, using social media is not an addiction but something as natural and familiar as breathing. When I run into questions about Calculus, I find Youtube videos more helpful than a conventional textbook. I use TikTok to see what is going on in the Ukraine war. 

On January 3, 2022, Facebook suspended the account of Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican Congresswoman from Georgia, for its violation of Covid-19 misinformation policies for 24 hours, and accused her of “posting falsely about ‘extremely high amounts of Covid vaccine deaths.’ She published the message on Saturday as part of a long post on American life ‘Before Covid’ and ‘After Covid,’ calling public health measures meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus into question, including testing, mask-wearing, and vaccine mandates.” I don’t agree with her post, but I also vehemently disagree with Twitter’s decision to block Greene’s views. Social media is a public square where one should be allowed to freely exchange any and all opinions. The responsibility to determine the veracity of information lies with the individual, not Facebook. Facebook’s censorship denies the right to assess diverse sources of information. New York Times opinion writer Kara Swisher says, “Disgrace, or no, a private company like Twitter is well within its rights to allow or disallow anyone on its platform.” Indeed, the ownership of social media companies like Twitter and Facebook are private, but their product is public and social. On March 26, 2022, Elon Musk tweeted, “Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy.” There are no exemptions for social media in the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Their policies on information restriction, at the very least, should incorporate general consensus of users, not just the C.E.O and a few other insiders.  

Even amidst this dustup over freedom of speech, social media utopians are now angling for a “metaverse,” a digital world that seeks to replicate the physical world. If we fail to fix the problem of censorship in the current social media environment, what hope is there for us when  the “metaverse” is achieved? That “metaverse” will resemble the dystopias as foreseen by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Kurt Vonnegut. Social media is my library, teacher, and friend. I don’t want to live under Big Brother, the World State, and Diana Moon Glampers. 

I don’t want to die like Harrison Bergeron.