On Friday’s “Real Time,” Bill Maher devoted the “New Rules” segment not to any of the bigger stories like the horrors in Israel — the bulk of the episode focused on that — but to the topic of social media.
Specifically, Maher returned to a theme he’s ranted about before, the way technology isolates people and, he argued, may be contributing to a lonelier world. Not just the virtual experiences of the internet, but social media in particular, which Maher joked has “done more to kill being social than the pocket protector.”
You can watch the full clip at the top of the page.
Maher got into the topic via a new biography of Sam Bankman-Fried, the crypto fraudster currently on trial and facing serious time in federal prison. According to his biographer, Michael Lewis, Bankman-Fried would rather go to a prison that had internet access than live under house arrest without it.
From here Maher talked about “a perfect storm of events in recent years that has led the surgeon general of the United States to issue an advisory that America is suffering from a public health crisis of loneliness, isolation and lack of connection. What Matt Gaetz calls another day at work.”
Maher noted how this is a problem noted in other developed nations like the UK and Japan, and also talked about the health problems that can arise from it.
“It’s just become too easy to isolate now. We’ve got our phones and our gadgets to distract from having an actual conversation. Amazon to deliver instead of going to a store. GrubHub instead of going to a restaurant. Movies streaming on TV instead of going to a theater and even when we do go out, the earbuds stay in. We can’t even do casual chitchat anymore. Remember when you’d roll through the checkout line with a six pack and a box of condoms?” Maher said before imagining a hypothetical conversation in the checkout line.
“We’ve traded going out with people we like for going on Facebook to get likes,” Maher continued. “Has anything ever been more misnamed than social media? It’s done more to kill being social than the pocket protector. It should be called anti-social media.”
Maher then noted how increasingly sophisticated chatbot technology — popularly and erroneously referred to as “artificial intelligence” — is making things in his view worse.
“But here’s the irony in real life. What’s killing you may well be you staying inside,” Maher said. Dismissing safety measures to the COVID-19 pandemic — more than 1 million Americans were killed by this disease — as “the overreaction,” Maher suggested that those measures may have sped up the isolation. “And now some people never want to go back to work or school or Venezuela,” he said.
Maher listed off a list of social ills that most conservative opponents of public safety measures argue resulted from COVID-19 protocols, tying these things to the larger isolation he discussed.
“Outside is full of flashers, and rusty nails and germs and sharks and stranger danger. But your mother was right. It’s actually worse to stay cooped up. Magazine surveys like to ask the question how would you like to? My answer is anything except going unnoticed until the neighbors complained about the smell,” Maher said.
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