Isn't It Romantic?

Alan Jacobs is a good thinker. In this post he's describing the decline of baseball's enjoyment as the game becomes much more efficient and business like. This is Moneyball, pure and simple. Jacobs isn't demanding that Major League Baseball go backward, and he doesn't use this word, but I bet he'd be okay with a lot less business and a return to romance.

I was reminded of this New York Times piece by Tim Wu, "The Tyranny Of Convenience" in which he questions the notion that convenience is even a good thing. I like that he uses the word tyranny in that title. Again, we sacrifice romance for convenience, profit, and efficiency. In the process, more often than we might like to admit, we lose.

Romance? Really? That's what we're after?

I know, I know. It sounds hokey, but consider for a moment the best things in our lives and they will all have to do with romance and romantic notions. All our higher order ideals are romantic, characterized by, or suggestive of an idealized view of reality. Jacobs is admitting that players, owners, and the league itself are all within their rights to want more money, but there's nothing romantic about that idea. Wu understands the desire and need for convenience, but the romantic idea it would free us from drudgery and lead to utopia is belied by the convenience of email, texting, and Slack. No romance there and certainly no utopia.

Yesterday I wrote about my desire to be a writer. Not a teacher who writes or an anything else that also rights, but a writer. There might not be money in it and the process will be inconvenient as hell for my family. But I'll tell you one thing: it's romantic as all get out and I'm in love with that.

Temporal Bandwidth And Social Media

I like how Jaron Lanier isn't demanding everyone leave social media. Instead he wants a group of people to not be on social media in order to have perspective on the effects of Facebook, Twitter, and the like. Lanier convinced me to ditch social media in August of 2018 but I'm unwilling to leave Google, the ecosystem in which I put far too much of my work and trust. Lanier isn't hoping to convert everyone. His thinking is out there for us to take or leave. I like too how Ezra Klein takes some and leaves some. Thoughtful people having discussions too big for social media.

Can anyone tell me the last time something really big and important happened on social media? Don't tell me about the Arab Spring. That was chronicled and perhaps facilitated by social media, but it happened in the real world and has since fizzled. I want big ideas but can't find them on social media. They don't fit the model and I wonder if that isn't part of their design. Think of it this way: if you wanted to keep people penned like sheep, wouldn't you give them a communication tool that keeps their ideas small? I would.

Alan Jacobs, discussing temporal bandwidth shared these two quotes (which could have been written as tweets thus shredding my previous paragraph's idea):

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
— L.P. Hartley
What force shall represent the future in the present?
— Hans Jonas

Social media does not account well for the past. Sure, Facebook occasionally surfaces what you posted years ago, but that's not the same as revisiting the past in order to better understand the world. Those resurfaced posts are most likely ways to remind us how great it is using Facebook and get us to share the post again. Jacobs' temporal bandwidth is a feel for the past that is much more than mere remembering. It is about understanding there have been other ways of doing things, other ways of being. It's like when I tell students about life before cell phones and answering machines. I don't do it in an "in my day I walked ten miles to school, uphill both ways" kind of nonsense. I want them to understand that the past was a foreign country and urge them to get a passport and visit to see how things were done there.

Social media does not account well for the future. Tweets and Facebook posts are gone as soon as they're posted. A viral post has the lifetime of a mayfly. Then we are onto the next trending topic. Only the continuously outrageous maintain presence and keep attracting present attention.

Social media is confined to the moment with no care for past or future. That's why the buffoon in the White House is so attracted to it. He has no care for the future, no understanding of the past, and lives only in the moment of his own ego. Social media is perfect for that. It is absolutely in the moment, though I imagine even Zen Buddhists giving me the finger for saying so.

All that said, yesterday I was introduced to the Twitter feed of Capt. Andrew Luck and reminded how creativity shines in any medium. Capt. Andrew Luck is both an NFL quarterback and a Ken Burns Civil War soldier tweeting of coming battles, the misfiring of his sidearm, and, of course, squirrel oil. A friend, his wife, and I were out to dinner last night broken down laughing as she read from his feed. Glorious!

Like Jaron Lanier I've no real interest in converting people beyond my interest in seeing Facebook and Twitter reduced in influence and revealed for their deeper effects on our world. Who would have thought social media would help elect such a terrible president? Well, maybe those people with proper temporal bandwidth could see it. I was too busy scrolling through feeds for news of the moment which all turned out to be couldn't as I scrolled through my feeds wondering what was happening in the moment which turned out to be tales told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signaling something I didn't have the bandwidth to fully understand.