First Fleet? How about funding what you have?

You know, these big ships break more when you can’t fix them right the first time.

Navy. We’ve been cool for a number of years now. We’ve endured lots of changes, everything from new uniforms to physical readiness exams to more uniforms. I’m sure yet more uniform changes are on the horizon. But we’ve gotta talk about this thing called expanding the bureaucracy.

‘Cause I gotta tell you, its not good.

We got issues, Navy. The shipyards can’t seem to ever fix a ship in time. Yeah, like 75% of the maintenance projects are overbudget and late! If Navy shipyards were a grocery store, it would be like ordering grocery delivery for Thanksgiving, but the delivery guy rolls up in a scooter to dump off bologna sandwiches at the end of your driveway instead of a turkey and stuffing on your porch.

Its not just shipyards. We’ve got a lot of bureaucracy. At the top, we’ve got more admirals than ships. Sure, we have to put someone in charge of important things like motorcycle safety, but come on man. More admirals than ships? Even when we count submarines? That seems a bit much.

So given those two really basic problems, why on earth would we want to build yet another numbered fleet? Are we lacking in 3-star admirals (hint: we’re not!)? Does a new fleet give us more capability?

No and no. Right now, we can’t man, train and equip the Navy we have. Ships are only manned to 92%. That sounds good, right? Its not. On a 4,000 Sailor crew of a carrier, that means we’re short 320 people. That’s almost a destroyer’s worth of people, which means we’re leaving lots of positions open. And shore commands? You’re doing well if you reach 85%.

Our response to get ships to sea seems to be to constantly take some “slackers” from shore duty, because heaven forbid we give people a break. Ships are constantly using ashore manpower “volunteers” to fill gaps. That works in the short term, but long term we simply aren’t bringing in enough people.

Even when we do, we give them no incentives to stay. I’ve had three crappy bosses in my short career, two of which were fired. I had people dress me down in public because it “suited them,” even when it was over minor offenses. If you’re not in the military, that sort of behavior makes HR scream. In the Navy, its just Tuesday, and you’re expected to simply take it. So guess what happens when we ask Sailors to reenlist, most of whom have nice job prospects in the civilian world that don’t involve getting screamed at over minor things or signing Page 13s that limit your right to eat in a restaurant? They don’t sign, and we resort to canceling failing PRT scores to try and keep enough people in.

So, while I applaud SECNAV’s efforts to find new niches for the Navy, I’d rather we get what we have to being well again. Get our manning to nearly 100%. Make the shipyards not suck again. Fill the billets we have now before we consider adding more. But please, don’t start up a new fleet until that part is done.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. Obviously.

Body cams for voting officials

Granted, your average voting official doesn’t look as good as this dude, but he’s also wearing a camera that is NDAA-approved, without parts made in China

Technology was supposed to make our lives easier and safer, yet as we speak, we’re watching massive voter fraud on a scale not seen since the Soviet Union. It’s impossible to “trust the process” when voting machines magically gltich change votes from one candidate to another and vote counting happens at night without oversight. When the dust settles from this election, there is going to be a lack of trust on all sides for the process.

We need a way to start re-establishing that trust, and I think a smart move would be body cameras for voting officials. When body cameras first started appearing for police officers, there were mixed reviews and a lot of apprehension, but ultimately it was a good thing. My Cub Scout Pack visited the nearby police station, where one of the officers showed us her body camera system. I asked for her opinion, and she said she preferred them, because when people treated her poorly, spit at her and clawed at her face, it was captured on camera for a judge. Without body cameras, we wouldn’t be able to expose when police behave poorly, which helps weed out or correct poor performing officers and improves police performance overall.

So, why not for voting officials? Body cameras are significantly harder to change data. Police systems have encryption and protections to tag data if someone attempts to alter it. Time stamps would make it obvious if votes were counted after hours. Analytics on the camera system can identify and flag behaviors that would be suspicious.

Do we really want this again?

Instead of having officials board up windows, count in the night and treat voting like they’re some sort of mafia organization, let’s bring some transparency to the process with proven technology. If its good enough for the police, it should be good enough for voting officials.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Did “Never Trumpers” have an effect on the election?

As the election counting, and soon to be recounting, rages on, there are plenty of people that tell me they just “couldn’t vote for Trump,” even though in theory they are conservatives. Personally, I vote based on what a candidate says they support, or has demonstrated they support, for policies that I care about, ranging from foreign policy and gun control to right to life and taxes, and then on a scale of how much I care about each. For example, I care more about foreign policy and abortion than taxes because I’m directly affected by foreign policy and I’ve seen first hand how pervasive abortion theory is in hospitals, but I’m not making enough money to care if the tax rate jumps significantly.

I also know that while I’m a policy voter, many people have an emotional connection to voting, and they have to “like” the candidate they are voting for. We can discuss whether that makes sense in another article, but we should recognize that candidate likeability does matter to many people. It’s likely what got Bill Clinton elected. But is likeability enough that it mattered to Trump’s election?

Although the data isn’t complete yet, I pulled Reuters election data and used Wikipedia for 2016 election data to try and answer the question: Did people not vote for Trump that would have voted for another Republican Presidential candidate that was more likeable? I sampled data by looking at states that had Senate races. My theory was that if someone was a “Never Trumper,” they would likely still vote for the Senate Republican in their state. I also looked at Libertarian votes to see if they made a difference. The states I ended up picking were Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, New Mexico, Alabama, Georgia, Minnesota and Colorado, in what I think is a pretty decent spread.

First, was their a surge in Libertarian votes? Not at all.

Just looking at raw numbers, Libertarian votes went down, in many cases drastically. 2016 was a banner year for Libertarian and Green Party vote, but this year they just did not have the turnout, despite running Jo Jorgenson, a very likeable candidate.

Second, was there a noticeable Never Trump vote? I calculated the difference between Presidential votes and Senate votes between parties and then compared them. The numbers aren’t 100% aligned. I calculated a scaling factor to multiply the Senate votes by to balance numbers. Then I took the difference from Senate Republicans vs Trump votes to see if there were “Never Trumper” votes. If there were, I then calculated if the difference mattered.

The results are interesting. In Arizona and Alabama, the number was negative, meaning Trump had more votes than the Senate Republican. In the 6 states where there was Never Trump votes, only one, Georgia, would have mattered.

While not 100% scientific, we can reach a few conclusions:

  1. The Never Trump vote is real, but not everywhere.
  2. Where there is a Never Trump vote, it mostly doesn’t always matter, even in swing states.
  3. Libertarian vote didn’t appreciably go up this year.

For Republicans, this is good and bad news. It means that the Never Trump faction isn’t nearly as big as the media might make it out to be. Better still, when people had a choice between a more likeable candidate (Jo Jorgensen), they actively chose not to vote for her, far more than the 2016 election would have indicated.

The bad news is that Biden wins in key states can’t be attributed to candidate hatred. Democrats ran a relatively weak, bland candidate, and he is either coming out on top or close to it. That means that overall people are looking favorably on Democrat candidates. Whether its the biased news media, demographics, vote rigging or policies, Republicans are not in a good spot, because short of major changes, they don’t have a chance at capturing the Presidency in the future.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

More of the past?

A few years ago I was a Cubmaster for my son’s Cub Scout Pack. As the Cubmaster, I controlled our schedule of events, including what big events we held once a month at our Pack Meetings. One month my Den Leaders (adult leaders for Scout groups at different ages) agreed to the theme of “Emergency Preparation.” We divided the Scouts into stations. At one station, the Scouts learned basic first aid from one of the parents that was a nurse. At another, an energetic Den Leader taught the Scouts how to build a stretcher, and the Scouts raced with their Den Leaders in their makeshift stretcher. But the best station, by far, was the fire fighting. We had a legitimate fire fighter chief as a Den Leader, and he brought out a fire fighting propane tank and fire extinguishers, and taught our Scouts how to properly put out fires.

It was awesome, and let me tell you, the Scouts putting out real propane-fueled fires was the talk of the small town for almost two weeks, beating out even the common subjects of Minecraft and Pokemon-Go. I still have the coolest night-time photos of 7 year old boys putting out propane fires with a fire extinguisher.

Not everyone was impressed. That same night the church we were borrowing had choir practice, and the older church ladies had to park twenty feet farther than their normal parking spot because of our setup. The next day, I got word that the church was not happy and was sending a nasty email to our council. Thinking quickly, I posted the most awesome pictures of those events on Facebook and tagged the church in the post. It went viral, with almost 3000 views in a town that only had 5000 people, many of them members of the same church. I reaped my success, with no email to council and a mild rebuke to me from the church, which I settled with an apology and promise to do better in the future.

Our Scouting program that year did all sorts of awesome stuff, and the Scouts couldn’t keep quiet with their friends. Yet the nasty comments from the church ladies still bothered me. Later I realized that some people just never wanted change. It didn’t matter that Scouts were learning skills, or that the church got a positive nod because of their support. Nope, the fact that someone had to park a mere twenty feet away meant the whole thing was rubbish.

We’re seeing that with government. When we decide to move EUCOM headquarters out of Germany and into Poland, instead of discussion about keeping Russia at bay, we hear about the economic impact to regions in Germany. When we continue to have shipyard issues and can’t build or fix the majority of Navy ships on time or within budget, we don’t ask “Who should be fired,” but instead just suck up the cost and move on. Government is happy to repeat the past, no matter how out of date it is, because its the easy button approach.

But as time and technology march on, government wants to do more of the same. We want to use the same crappy setup for acquiring weapons that continues to not work. While Amazon has been drone delivering for years, we’re just now figuring out that’s a good idea. And if you’ve ever logged into a Navy personnel website, it looks like a 5 year old built it.

If you haven’t already, you’re going to vote on Tuesday. You’ll pick from a variety of candidates, and not just in the Presidential election. I implore you to look at their actual voting records and accomplishments. Plenty of people from all parties are all talk and no action. They are content to ride the government wave of mediocrity, never being held to account for so much money and time spent with so little to show for it. If you want more of the same, more ineffective government that you pay so much for, then voting for these people is easy.

If you instead want effective use of your tax dollars, vote differently. Government isn’t inherently evil, but it can be inclined into a passive nature that turns a blind eye to scandal, fraud and abuse. Voting in people that challenge this nature and demand government be better is what brings real change. These people are often the quiet leaders, spending the hours reading the fine print and rewriting it to make more sense. They aren’t always eloquent, but they are effective.

If you want effective government, you vote for these people. They aren’t the ones whining about walking the extra twenty feet.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Are you surprised that Borat lies too?

It was during the 2008 election that I realized I couldn’t bring myself to vote for John McCain for President. Earlier that year VADM Mike Rogers visited my command and my wife and I had a chance to meet him at a social event. The man was very well spoken and shared quite a few good sea stories while demonstrating a sharp intellect. Friends of mine that had worked for him had previously vouched for him as a hard working, honest person. So when he was nominated to become the NSA director, I had to watch his nomination.

To my horror, Senator John McCain interviewed VADM Rogers and treated him like dirt. Not only did he constantly interrupt him, but he belittled his experience and used the interview to score political points against others. The previous members, mostly Democrats, had asked hard but fair questions and acted decently. That incident caused me to look further into Senator McCain’s record, which wasn’t impressive.

Since I couldn’t bring myself to vote for him, I decided to check out the Libertarian candidate, Bob Barr. He held a rally at Christopher Newport University, so I went to see him. After his speech, he mingled in the crowd to shake hands. I mentioned to him I was in the Navy, and he recalled his time in Panama when he worked for the CIA. Since I had his ear, I had to ask him about his appearance in the “Borat” film.

Rolling his eyes, he told me his entertaining story. “Borat” showed up with sufficiently forged papers that made him look relatively official. The audio you hear in the movie is dubbed, because during the actual interview, “Borat” spoke in a low voice so that Barr couldn’t hear all the words. Once Barr realized it was a setup, he promptly stopped the interview.

Barr’s appearance in “Borat” wasn’t big news, so I didn’t have much reason to doubt his claim. At the time, it was an entertaining story, and I took away the lesson that Hollywood will gladly lie to you to make a movie. Flash forward, and here we are again, this time with a new “Borat” movie that claims to have Rudy Giuliani undressing with an underage girl. Sure, its possible, but given how “Borat” movies are filmed, I’ve got my doubts.

So count me out for the new “Borat” film. I can’t see it in theaters anyway, and I’m sure I can find something else useful to do.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

500 ship Navy is a bit of a pipe dream

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 1, 2020) An F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to the “Wildcats” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131 launches from the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Ike is operating in the Atlantic Ocean in support of naval operations to maintain maritime stability and security in order to ensure access, deter aggression and defend U.S., allied and partner interests. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cameron Pinske)

News that Defense Secretary Esper is calling for a 500 ship Navy is good news. We’ve had a Navy too small trying to do too much for some time now, and its been ignored while we stayed focused on fighting terrorism. This resulted in a lot of extended deployments, poorly executed maintenance periods and burned out ships and Sailors.

But while a 500 ship Navy would help, we have a long way to go to get there. When policy makers discuss ships, it’s as if the numbers of ship is what matters. But there is a lot more to it:

  • Personnel. The last time we had 500 ships was in 1991. Since then, we’ve drawn down Navy personnel to about 330,000 to cover about 270 ships. Essentially, to get to 500, we’d have to double the number of Sailors. That would make the Navy larger than any of the other services, and a massive jump in personnel costs.
  • Shipyards. We can’t fix the ships we have now fast enough. Nearly doubling ships would mean we need more shipyards to build and maintain them. Given that American shipbuilding is almost exclusively government, we don’t have a great civilian infrastructure to turn to. So we’re either building new yards (expensive) or building in foreign countries (sending money overseas).
  • Support. Ships have to communicate, and rely extensively on satellite systems, which we don’t have enough of now. Combined with a variety of other support, and the price adds up quickly.

We can get away from personnel costs with more unmanned systems, but unmanned systems still require humans, and considerably smarter people to run them, which the military struggles to keep in, because other companies like Amazon will throw a lot of money at unmanned operators. This only gets worse as AI and unmanned systems spread in the commercial sector.

We’re getting to a tipping point with the Navy. We expect ships to be everywhere all the time, but we don’t have the ships, infrastructure or people to do that in peacetime, let alone war. We’re smart to recognize that, but its going to take a lot more than wishful thinking to get to a sustainable fleet level.

As a side note, the above picture was labeled “Rosy Outlook” on defense.gov. Most appropriate I think.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Diplomacy done right for Taiwan and India

Image from: https://www.imrmedia.in/india-rattles-china-appoints-new-envoy-to-taiwan/

Perhaps the only country not having a horrible 2020 might be Taiwan. Taiwan was one of the few countries to fight the spread of COVID-19 well, despite its proximity to Communist China. Later in the year, multiple US Navy vessels transited the Taiwan Straits, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated that the US is “a good partner for security” for Taiwan.

Now, on the day that is celebrated as Taiwan’s Independence Day (10 October, or “Double 10” day), #TaiwanNationalDay is trending throughout India. Communist China tried to snuff it out in advance with a strongly worded “reminder” that there is only one China. Not long ago China and India were fighting each other along their mountainous border, so its no surprise that this “reminder” found its way to the press. The reaction by Indians is telling. Even better, the timing is great, with Secretary Pompeo meeting with top Indian officials at the end of the month to discuss how to deepen ties between India and the United States.

After taking Hong Kong, China showed the world it will weather any storm of protests to achieve its own goals. Anything short of hard military and economic power doesn’t work. People continue to protest the horrible maltreatment of Uighurs and development of South China Sea artificial islands, and yet nothing has changed. The only reason China hasn’t grabbed Taiwan is the risk it faces of US military action. To get over this, China has built a navy now larger than the US (at least in terms of number of ships) and modernized its ground and rocket forces.

Traditional thinking would condemn the US to build an even bigger military, and recently Defense Secretary Esper called for just that: a 500 ship Navy. That’s currently a pipe dream, because we can’t even man the Navy we have now. The Navy currently has roughly 350,000 Sailors; an increase to 500 ships would require gaining at least 200,000 more, not to mention ships and Sailors take time to build and train.

But India? India is already worried about China. India is already in conflict. If Taiwan brings India into any future conflict with Communist China, its a winning move. China doesn’t want to fight on two fronts. It might be able to hold off the US long enough to cement gains in Taiwan, but its not going to do well if India pushes into its western territories. Worse still, if a place like Tibet or Xinjiang decides to not rejoin China, that could drag any conflict out for years, dragging down the economy and the Chinese middle class in the process. That’s a double whammy, because Communist China has to provide a good economy in exchange for not being a democracy. If the economy goes south for too long, it risks revolt.

Deepening ties with India is a smart move for Taiwan and the US. Let’s hope we get more of this diplomacy to stave off future conflicts.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

Baked-In Birth Control

The Holy Grail of Car Seats!!

Kids can be expensive. The first shock might be the hospital bill when you leave. I have friends that went into medical debt for their kid’s birth. If you escape medical bills, the next shock comes when you purchase a child seat. Really, its a throne, a really large, hard to use, plastic throne that your child will soil quickly. Because I have a large family, I noticed that these thrones couldn’t fit three across a seat. Even a booster seat seemed to magically bow outwards so that I couldn’t fit three kids in a backseat. I commented to my wife that it was a real disincentive for big families to not be able to fit three seats in the back seat.

Apparently, that was worthy of a study. A recent paper looked at just that, and noted that the new standards only saved 57 more people, but caused 145,000 fewer births since 1980. That’s a pretty significant difference.

That cost gets worse because it is near impossible to get a used car seat. When I worked at Goodwill, we wouldn’t take them because of liability concerns. To buy a new car seat for every kid gets expensive. Worse, the car seat standards change nearly every year. When it happened one year and I was told to throw out my old seats, I looked up the new standard (as in, I read the really boring, multi-page engineering standard) and noticed it barely changed anything. Going through the history of changes, most of the changes are minor. These changes serve to automatically deprecate car seats, to the point they’ve become like cell phones in that you can’t use old models, even though they may have plenty of life left in them.

This is just one thing in long list of items that makes it hard to have a large family. Unless you want to get the massive “Catholic Van,” you’re stuck with less kids. Now the government wants kids to sit in a car seat until they are 12 or 13. That’s kind of insane. Yet the same government is OK with a school bus full of kids that has no boosters, no seat belts and crappy bench seats. At least a passenger vehicle is designed with seat belts, air bags and crumple zones to keep people alive in a wreck.

Car seats is just one example of the quiet way we make it hard for responsible parents to follow the rules while also having a big family. As birth rates fall worldwide, governments are trying to find ways to promote larger families, with plenty of discussion on government child care and mandatory maternity leave. That might help, but if we’re not addressing the common day to day issues that face large families, people will continue to opt out of large families. Ironically, the most effective practices for governments might be to listen to today’s large families to understand their struggles, rather than viewing them as a burden.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.

The grain of salt for military opinions

Same goes for military intervention…

Every election there seems to be a string of retired military flag and general officers that come out of the woodwork to support one candidate or another. The media acts like these opinions really matter, and we’ll hear endless debate about what “the generals” think. But do these people’s opinions really matter?

Like any good question, the correct answer is “it depends.” First, retired military members can share whatever opinion they want. Active duty members are restricted on what opinions they can share, since they work for the executive branch of the government. That’s why you see the disclaimer at the bottom of my articles, and why I don’t get too edgy on any sitting President from either party. Retired military members don’t have these restrictions, despite what people may think or want.

OK, so they can talk, but do they say anything useful? Most retired flag or general officers were in the service for between 25 and 40 years. That translates to somewhere between 8 to 16 different duty stations. Many of these were in different states and different countries, so in terms of understanding how different parts of the world work, these officers were certainly exposed to that. Moving between different continents exposes them to the good and the bad of how countries operate and the issues each country faces. This is particularly important when thinking about foreign policy, where the U.S. news service is terrible at covering issues like the water crisis in the Sudan, competition between Russia and China in central Asia, and the continuing problems in the Balkans.

There is a caveat to this that is really important. Military members go to places that have trouble. We don’t send people to Africa or the Middle East because its fun. Every overseas tour or travel is in the lens of failed diplomacy or democracy, so the member is there to fix it. Civil war in Yemen? Shoot some missiles in and kill some bad guys! Military members are primed for action. That’s not a bad thing. The military mindset of solving problems is positive, but it has two drawbacks. First, we hesitate to say “not my problem,” and second, we value U.S. intervention over others.

Let’s look at Syria for the first issue. Syria is a mess. We have Russia attempting to maintain influence in the country, especially since it owns a major naval base at Latakia. Turkey, a NATO ally, and Syria share a long, not the best defined border that has a host of illegal crossings. Then we have Iran shipping weapons and people across a poorly controlled Iraqi border to Syria. Combine that with a government focused on maintaining power rather than protecting its own people, and you have a California-sized tinder box just waiting for a gender reveal party.

So, could we go in and sort it out. Yes! Whats the cost? I’d start at ~5,000 U.S. deaths and we’d need to sit there for at least 15-30 years. Sounds crazy? Well, we won World War 2 over 70 years ago and we’re still in Germany and Japan. Maybe that’s not fair, let’s go with when the Berlin Wall collapsed…that’s still 44 years! Thirty years might be an understatement. That sounds a lot like colonization, and is guaranteed to get us a lot bad press.

Is there suffering in Syria? Yes, and at horrible levels. I’m not denying that. There is a lot of suffering all over the place. Should we care about Syria? Yes. But that’s not the important question. The important question is:

Do we care about Syria enough, and more than anyone else in the area, to commit to a very long term stay that will cost American lives?

It’s like a mortgage that you can’t sell back. You buy a house with a 30 year mortgage. You can just walk away, but it’ll rot and rust, and someone else might move in. That’s our problem with making everything our problem. We simply don’t have the resources to fix every problem in the world. We should pick and choose wisely. I wasn’t surprised when President Trump pulled the U.S. out of Syria. I was surprised by the backlash from military members. That’s the first big issue with retired flag and general officers: they all too often don’t ask whether we should get involved at all.

The second issue is valuing U.S. intervention over others. We talk the talk about loving our allies, but lets be honest, only about a handful are capable in any sort of extended, high intensity fight. That’s OK, because they’re allied with us, but it also makes them wary of jumping feet first into what looks like reckless U.S. intervention. Everyone loved being part of the first coalition to free Kuwait, but once we freed Kuwait, there was no desire by other countries to turn north to Iraq. We invaded Iraq years later to topple a really bad dictator, and we had allies come with, but they weren’t exactly thrilled. Our allies were happy to jump into Afghanistan, but after it dragged past four years, that enthusiasm waned.

When our allies work without us, it takes them longer, and our retired military members make plenty of comments like “we should support them,” without asking whether it makes any sense. When Mali fought Islamic insurgents and France wanted U.S. support, President Obama asked them to pay for it. He’s not wrong, because the correct question to ask is, are we willing to stay there for a long time? Most Americans can’t find Mali on a map, let alone pick out any U.S. interest in that country.

We also need to ask a really hard question about what retired admirals and generals do when they get out of the service. A few of them retire and “go fishing,” but plenty get another job, and most of these jobs are with major defense contractors. If I’m working at Raytheon and the government is shooting a lot of Raytheon missiles, I’m keeping a nice job for many years to come. Its the hammer tool problem: if all you have is a hammer, the world is full of nails. If you go from working 30+ years on solving military problems, then shift to a job making military equipment, you are likely inclined to think the military is the only (or at least, the best way) to solve problems. In many cases you are right, but there are plenty where you are not.

That’s the grain of salt you need for retired military opinions. Are they valuable? Yes! Retired military have different experiences than the populace, and their understanding of the world has value in many cases. But it comes with its own biases and special interests that aren’t obvious at the outset. We need to keep that in mind when we determine how much value to place on someone’s opinion.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, Raytheon Corporation, or any other government agency.

Who is my neighbor on social media?

“Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

Leviticus 19:18
Too easy to share, and so bland!

The COVID-19 posturing, protests and constant craziness on social media is grinding away at plenty of nerves. Reason’s recent article about leaving people alone summarizes the current grandstanding, on all sides, in its last paragraph:

These with-us-or-against-us performances are a symptom of a larger climate in which every element of our lives has become an opportunity for tribal signaling and cultural warfare, and in which our ruling political tribes are growing increasingly illiberal in their approaches to free speech, free trade, free thought, private property, and so much more.

Reason

Right now, most people are caught in the 24 hour news cycle, which rewards getting angry over something every day. But what happens when people get fed up and start quitting? As far back as 2017 people began noting that Millenials weren’t sharing nearly as much original content on social media. As social media becomes increasingly hostile to contradictory views, its far easier to share bland, feel good articles or memes. Many people get no joy or energy from arguing with people online. People that do love the sport of online argument are likely to find an increasingly smaller number of engagement opportunities. In Top Gun terms, it won’t be so “target rich” anymore.

As people pull back, you’ll see much more use of social media to connect directly with people, but a lot less sharing of opinions. This makes tracking social media sharing as a flawed data set for gauging popular opinion. For any future election, how Twitter, Facebook and other things trend isn’t going to be a reliable indicator for polling, yet people are going to swear by it. This very different sharing is also making the social media advertising model more difficult to execute.

People will always self-select friends. We are called to love our neighbors, and if social media makes that hard, people will naturally pull back. Social media put us in a weird place of often knowing many people online, but not knowing our next door neighbor. Ironically, it might now turn us to cut out the online “friends” in order to talk more with our neighbor.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency.