Categories
current events social media

Good Things in Bad Times

I’m used to working from home. I’ve done it for years. What I’m not used to is the hit my attention span has taken while trying to grapple with what’s going on in the world – both in my home and outside of it. My routine is totally shot, and all attempts to bring it back in line have failed so far.

But, I have discovered (or rediscovered) some good things that have been helpful in keeping up with the news and keeping slightly distracted during all of this.

  • The Your Daily Drive generated playlist on Spotify. It’s a mix of news from NPR and the BBC and podcasts that I’m not familiar with. It’s like drive time radio on a station built just for me.
  • The Washington Post’s live updates page. Short, well-reported, frequently updated stories. I now check it several times a day. It’s a one-stop-shop for everything I need to know about the national news related to the virus.
  • Journalism. This is dumb, but I think I’d gotten complacent with how important good journalism is. With the constant stream of lies, rumors, nonsense and hysteria, having a few good sources of news and analysis has been super important. I already mentioned the Post, but Talking Points Memo, The Daily from the New York Times and others have all been great.
  • Jackbox games. We’ve been playing them at work when everyone needs a break, and I played with my kids and sister over the weekend, and they stream pretty well over Zoom. You can play a game in as little as ten minutes, blow off some steam, have a laugh, see other people’s laughing faces. It’s great.
  • Constraint-inspired creativity. Seeing all the couch concerts, virtual happy hours, 3D printed masks, and the way educators have figured out how to reinvent the entire education system in a weekend, has been inspiring. When people are given constraints, they’ll find creative ways to play with them.
  • My blog. It doesn’t even know what to do right now. Five posts in a week? That hasn’t happened in years. But, I’ve enjoyed coming back and writing here, and using it as a little journal of the current crisis.
  • Twitter. I had drifted away from it over the last year. During normal times, Twitter is a sewer of hate and sarcasm. Now, at least among the people I follow and interact with, it feels like we’re all back in 2007-2010 when it was the world’s largest dinner party.

Those are the good things. I’ll spare you my list of annoyances. You probably have the same ones.

Categories
politics social media

Toxic Data

The calamity of the information age is that the toxicity of data increases much faster than its benefits.

Nassim Taleb, found on Farnam Street

This is the most concise explanation I’ve seen of the problem of social media, how easily it’s manipulated by bad actors, and how hard it is for normal people to cope with it.

Our ability to manipulate people far outpaces our ability to resist that manipulation.

Categories
politics social media

Social Media is a Cancer

Back in January, I came up with my new social media rules and they worked for a while, but the more I actually looked at how I felt before and after a session on Facebook or Twitter, I decided they weren’t working – and worse, that at least those two platforms aren’t worth it.

Facebook is a cancer that’s taken our relationships and turned them against us in order to sell advertising. I’ve always called Facebook “what community would look like if designed by a sociopath” and it just gets truer. Facebook, as a company, has no ethics, no moral compass, and lies constantly about the effects it has on our society, and more importantly, our relationships. It’s powered by outrage and amping up emotions.

I started taking stock of my emotional state before I opened Facebook and then after I close it, and I never feel better after having scrolled through the outrage-of-the-day posts, dumb memes and gripes about this and that. Never. Not once.

Twitter’s even worse. I used to say that Twitter was the internet’s dinner party where you’re always two seats away from the best conversation. Now, it’s the internet’s brick fight. It’s constant outrage, clapbacks, sarcasm, and vain attempts at temporary viral glory. It’s gone from fun to toxic.

So, what to do about it? Eject. I now treat Facebook and Twitter like email addresses I don’t care about. I check it once or twice a day just to see if I have any new notifications and that’s it. I might post when I write something new here, or if there’s an event I’m organizing (like codebar), but that’s it. No more endless scrolling. No more posting in hopes of more likes. I still post photos to Instagram, because photos are great and it’s been somehow immune to the worst impulses of its parent company.

It’s taken a while to break the habit. Deleting the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone has helped. But, I also installed several new games on my phone to try to keep myself from going back to old habits (I’ll just start toxic new ones, yay!). Instead of compulsively opening Facebook when I pick up my phone, I’ll see what’s going on with the Angry Birds or if I can level up a hero in Fieldrunners Attack.

I’m sad about the state of social media. I had such hopes for them bringing people together and building empathy. Unfortunately, it’s brought together nazis, pedophiles and assholes – and the rest of us now have pointless arguments to make algorithms happy. It’s all so… stupid.

I don’t know where those platforms will end up, but at this point, I don’t care and they can go there without me being trapped there.

Categories
current events social media

My New Social Media Rules

Social Media, Social Media, Social Media! It’s awful! It’s ruining everything! Why are we all still using it then! I’ll leave it to experts to explain that part, but in an effort to extract myself from the worst of Facebook and Twitter, here are my new rules for myself. I’ve been following some form of them for over a year, and they’ve definitely made me feel better, almost as good as when I stopped watching cable news.

My Facebook Rules:

  1. Remorselessly snooze and unfollow toxic people, even if they’re close friends or family. I’m trying a two snooze then unfollowing if I still can’t deal with their posts showing up in my feed.
  2. Don’t dive into comments on a post where you don’t know everyone. There are too many trolls, and it’s not worth it.
  3. Don’t join new groups unless you have to.
  4. Never ever ever click ads. They’re almost always a scam anyway.
  5. No quizzes ever, not even the funny ones.
  6. Don’t share content from pages you don’t run.
  7. Set a timer. That’s your “mindlessly wandering Facebook” time. When the timer goes off, close the app.
  8. Use Facebook in a browser you don’t use for anything else (or use the Firefox Facebook Container extension).
  9. Before you post, think “should this be a blog post?” and post it here instead of on Facebook. It’ll last longer, and you’ll be able to find it again.

My Twitter Rules:

  • Don’t leave twitter open all the time. Check it like you would email.
  • Don’t speak in the internet’s, and especially twitter’s, default “sarcastic jackass” tone. Be conversational. Be helpful. Be fun. Because there’s too little of all of that.
  • Don’t feed the trolls (this is evergreen, but twitter is now majority troll and it’s just not worth it).

I don’t always follow them. I’m human. I screw up, and I can’t think of a case where I didn’t regret it almost immediately. I hope they’re helpful to you.