So, it’s done. I am at my low point of X usage. I’ve muted all but a handful of accounts (re-inventing lists in the process), and realized that I can do once-per-week wellness checks at most and not miss out on anything of importance. Now I only need to stop checking the Washington Post home page, and my media fast may begin.
I am editing the 176th (!?) episode of Priključenija, a weekly podcast in Serbian that will be finishing up its 4th year in a few months, and I heard myself say in Serbian what I thought I had at some point written in English, but I’m searching the archive now and nope, never did.
What I meant to write, at some point, was this: for the most part, people — myself included — don’t use social networks to be informed; we go there to be entertained. We might tell ourselves that it is also a good way to get information about the world, the same way 30 years ago teens and adolescents would tell clueless surveyors that MTV was the main way they got their news. But let’s not kid ourselves: the reason we keep coming back is not for the authenticity, veracity, or timeliness of the news we get, but because of the entertainment value. The link is to Derek Kedziora’s blog, which I found through RSS club, which is mostly about things completely outside of my area of interest, but a few of the feeds there have really hit the spot and I now remember that I should update the blogroll.And we do like our entertainment!
The best way to “be informed” has for centuries now been, and continues to be, reading a book. There are, of course, many books with negative information value, but the medium at least allows for books that inform rather than entertain to be made. The second-best way to get information As opposed to “the news”, which is also mostly entertainment is YouTube, which is, if you squint, an extension of what we did before Gutenberg — oral tradition, learning by watching, etc. It is also another double-edged sword — there is so much more computer and human-generated dreck on YouTube than there are valuable videos — but a sword at least has two edges. Social networks aren’t swords, they are spikes, Intuition tells me that this is because of the minimal “package size” allowed in each medium, how interconnected they are, and how 99.5% ice cream mixed with 0.5% feces is still inedible… but I digress.with a single point of concentrated “infotainment” headed straight to your limbic system.
So I must have thought this obvious if I haven’t written about it explicitly, but apparently not. Back in the 2000s and early 2010s there may have been some question of the social network’s value in providing information. More than a decade later, we have our answer: it is zero at best, negative at worst, for any social network of sufficient size, and if you think that you are using one to “be informed” you are either fooling yourself or you are an idiot (and I know idiots don’t read this, so I feel comfortable writing it).
To be clear, there are other worthy goals of being on a social network. Socializing, for one! This is not a call to abandon anything, but a quick reality check and something to which I can point my non-idiot friends when the need arises.
It gives me no pleasure to delete a feed that I have been following off and on for more than a decade now, but the logorrhea combined with intentional scandal-seeking behavior has become too much. Screen after awful screen of gotchas and callouts in a single post. Whatever for?
I’ve been on bluesky’s wait list long enough for it to become irrelevant, so of course I received an invite code last night. If you want to see an empty profile that probably won’t see much use check out @miljko.bsky.social.
Two blog posts of the old-school kind, as in people writing in depth about things they love:
- DAK and the Golden Age of Gadget Catalogs from Cabel Sasser
- Index Card Cases, Wallets, Covers, Pouches, etc. from Chris Aldrich
And both out on the same day (I’m behind on my feeds!)
Speaking of Rao, I missed this recent nugget of his about the affairs of the world:
At best you could say: With negligible power comes negligible responsibility. So why are we all acting like we’re Marvel superheroes and supervillains with the weight of the world’s fate on our shoulders?
I’ve wondered the same thing myself! People are disavowing and reaffirming left and right, and for what?
Venkatesh Rao wrote about the future of “the blogosphere” and all of it is interesting, but this is broadly applicable:
Immortal, complex, graceful: pick 2 of 3. And that’s at best. At worst, you’ll have a complex system that’s dying gracelessly.
He is not optimistic about blogs, at least not as we know them.
Here is an obvious analogy for you: the physical world — meatspace, if you will — as “meat” of an actual body, both skeletal (muscles, ligaments, tendons and such), and visceral (entrails, the liver, vital organs); the internet as nerve impulses connecting the various parts both sensorially (how are the navels of the world doing these days?) and in effect (from Facebook groups to GoFundMe pages bringing actual change).
You know how X and other social networks made everything feel connected to everything else? Well, there is an organic counterpart to this phenomenon, and it’s called a generalized tonic-clonic — or grand mal — seizure, manifesting, in the clonic phase, in widespread convulsions of the body.
The reason why our bodies are usually not convulsing is that the nerve impulse pathways are tightly controlled in space: there are separate nerves, differentiated brain areas for different roles, and let’s not forget the biggest separation of them all: two semi-independent brain hemispheres connected only by the corpus callosum which, imagine this, is sometimes cut completely for treatment of refractory seizures. There is also chemical separation: many of the pathways are inhibitory, and the most abundant neurotransmitter in the body is not dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine or others you’ve heard of because they go haywire, but glycin, a modest amino acid which people don’t hear about because it is so good at its job of tamping down bad impulses.
The world’s ongoing convulsions started — after an initial tonic phase — right after we have all become interconnected: Hezbollah, Hamas, and your neighborhood association all hooked up to the same firehose. There is a feeling at the edge of my consciousness that the answer to solving them is in ourselves, and not in a new age self-fulfilment way but in pragmatic steps we can take to extrapolate from this most obvious analogy.
Dave Winer (@dave) is right, except for one thing: X should have enabled inline links to go alongside the walls of text. I never did care for Twitter cards, but how can you have an interNET without links? Mastodon and Threads, inexplicably, have the same problem.