Deliver Me From Anger

I keep thinking about going back to social media.

I don't miss it but I'm trying to start a writing career and self-promotion is part of that. I have 45 subscribers to my newsletter and no one makes a career on that small of a platform. Social media is the obvious way to get the word out and push things to another level. All week I've felt almost compelled to rejoin Twitter and Facebook and to sign up for Instagram.

Then this crap happens.

In the news, there was a picture of a kid in one of those hateful red hats smirking at a Native American man beating a drum. There's video of high school kids seeming to surround the kid and the man with fury. Both picture and video disquiet me but something else really makes me uncomfortable.

The day the story broke I read an article about it and got angry at that kid. It was that smirk and how he stood in the man's space. I teach high school and see that kind of deniable aggression often. I felt myself go toward anger and dive in deep. Then I dove into the web to find out more.

The school from which the kids had come was identified and so was the smirking kid. I wanted to flame everyone involved. I wanted revenge. I wanted to get angrier. I searched for more, more, and more to feed my anger. That kid's name was all over the web and I was part of a growing mob calling for his head. From what I've read about such things we were all reacting predictably to the stimuli. That's just what social media algorithms feast on.

Eventually, I backed away from the computer. I still went to bed angry at that kid but stopped reading for the night. Good thing too. The next day I saw that the kid had come forward to say who he was. Turns out it wasn't the kid identified the night before, the one my mob was after.

The headline for the new piece began "A More Complicated Story Emerges..." Complications get lost in anger. I scanned the story but couldn't stand reading it or looking again at the picture of what I still see as the kid's condescending and provocative smirk. I closed the browser tab.

I don't want choose anger.

There may come a time I go back to social media to promote my writing. If so I hope I'm not led into temptation but find a way to be delivered from evil. I might need to look higher than a social media platform for that kind of guidance.

I've chosen not to link to the articles or post the picture. Nothing good can be gained from 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.

FOMO's Nothing Terrible IRL

Maybe I'm just hearing from people who agree with me, but folks seem to be leaving Twitter in droves and some are even quitting Facebook. Most everyone leaves Twitter for the same reason I left: it's making me so damn mean. And everyone gives the usual excuse for not leaving Facebook: all my friends are there.

I get that, but here's the thing: Twitter and Facebook are cancer. Staying with them promotes that cancer.

I'm being obnoxious. I have friends who remain on Facebook for many reasons. They're good people and aren't too lazy to do the right thing. Leaving bad relationships is difficult and having opted out of Facebook I miss out on things. I didn't know about an acquaintance's cancer, my favorite record store's Christmas social, or a bunch of other things until someone told me. I was behind the times and there are things I miss. Heavens to Murgatroyd!

My FOMO (that's the Fear Of Missing Out, Mom) lasted about three weeks and was then gone. Your mileage may vary.

Another thing about opting out is that I keep working on ways to stay in touch without social media companies. I admit, it's damn inconvenient but friendship should require some effort. Otherwise it's as meaningless as a social media feed.

Let me know when you quit Twitter and Facebook. I won't say I told you so and we'll find ways to stay in touch. We could even go out for coffee IRL. (That's In Real Life, Mom. Speaking of which, let's go out for coffee. I'll drive if you buy. Call me.)