I recently tried Twitter again. FOMO. After three days I remembered why I didn’t do social media. Apparently the internet is not all pornography. But when you subtract the writhing naked humans out, all you have left seems to be the aggrandizement of self, bellicose jingoism, name-calling, carnival barking and hustlers. Social media feels a lot like walking down a movie set street of plywood facades. At least the pornographers are creating actual content.
My disquiet extends to other facets of the web. Like the news. The internet used to feel largely neutral to me. Now everything is militantly polarized in one direction or another, us versus them. Perhaps it was just subtler before. I’m not sure. I tend to doubt my heavily edited memories of past events, you know, when things were better…
I, of course, have been party to all of this. I don’t pretend to judge myself any less harshly for my complicity. Despite my all my reservations I have in the past been mean and combative for no reason. I have gotten into robust conversations with people who domicile under bridges, perhaps even venturing under an overpass myself now and then. I have ascribed ‘likes’ to things that would likely make me suck air through my teeth if reviewed now. I have even uploaded photographs for the pure reason of fanning the flames and promoting oneupmanship. I wish I could take it all back. But I can’t.
The internet doesn’t change you, rather it likely reveals who you really are. Which is quite frightening sometimes. Despite the veneer we like to portray to the world, just underneath is a rotting substrate barely holding everything together. Turns out Google knows you better than you know yourself.
Twitter is especially traumatic for me. You tend to follow people you like and admire. Only to realize in very short period of time that these paragons that you have elevated to sainthood are largely figments of your imagination. Reality is a barely contained ego and a myriad of inane, banal thoughts that people feel they need to inflict upon the world. Its like a room where everyone has a microphone and massive sense of self importance, spewing their own brand of identity politics in 280 character bursts.
I find it all very dystopian.
Having once been collusive I now wish that I could extricate myself completely, like taking a knife to a gangrenous limb. It should be quite easy just to delete myself. After all I don’t have ten thousand followers who hang on my every words and fill up my comments section with vitriol. I can imagine those are difficult to give up. Especially when your livelihood depends on you marketing yourself, they need to buy what you’re selling.
I’ve have however realised that this medium seems to be the ONLY way to communicate with content creators whose work you like. You can send them an email, but chances, they will never get back to you. Some do write back and kudos to them*. But for the most part your admiration just gets lumped together in a folder with spam and hate mail and eventually deleted.
*Derek Sivers, Caroline Paul, Ryan Holiday and Ricardo Semler all wrote me back.
This however leads to another problematic area for me; the compliment retweet. Someone says something nice about you and you immediately flaunt it to the world as some sort of achievement. #dopamine. Basically you’re high giving yourself. Authors are especially prone to needing this sort of affirmation it seems, especially newly minted authors. Established old hands don’t give a fuck. Or maybe they would just be retweeting all day. Whatever happened to graciously accepting a tribute?
I think the biggest issue I have though is the time it takes to manage all this hubris and shift through pages and pages of asinine drivel in search of something to make the economy of effort seem worthwhile. I’m not sure how people justify this? Momento Mori people! On your deathbed you will undoubtedly be grateful for all the time you spent languishing on social media. Seems unlikely. But maybe they just follow better people…