Somewhere in New Mexico, 2013

They look less and less like recognizable humans, these billionaires buying everything we care about: books and newspapers, transportation and the moon. And now Twitter. 

I have no moral objections here. Perhaps I should, but I’m not sure if Twitter was any more righteous when it was governed by shadow corporations that bankrolled nuclear weapons and cluster munitions. Maybe it’s better if social media is delisted from Wall Street and no longer pressured to maximize revenue through attention hijacking and outrage mechanics. But now that this space I once loved belongs to an unstable billionaire, it might be the kick in the seat I need to rethink how I spend my dwindling time on this planet and who it serves.

We tend to talk about social media in binary terms—follow/unfollow, like/block, share/mute—which warps our thinking and, not coincidentally, mirrors the language of addiction. We talk about quitting, even detoxing from social media. I’ve never heard someone say, “I’ll just check it on Wednesday afternoons.” And like an addict, I’ve been languishing in the uneasy state of knowing Twitter is terrible for me, yet using it anyway, hoping to rekindle the golden days of making new friends, exchanging minutiae, and getting turned on to new movies, music, and ideas. But the scene turned sour years ago. Now it feels like retching in the street.

And so, after fifteen years of broadcasting on somebody else’s airwaves, I’ve decided to let my channel rot. It’ll be a dead station, auto-posting hyperlinks to my own patch of the Information Superhighway until the lights go out. I’m not going to look at Twitter anymore.

Oh, but habits are so hard to break. My lizard brain is a ferocious beast. Whenever I get stuck in my work, my fingers twitch, eager to launch a new tab and type “tw…” for a dose of distraction or attention. I physically twitch. What on earth have I been doing to myself all these years? So I’ve had to block Twitter at the root level.

I’ll continue to tend my little garden here, maybe even compile some of the writing I’ve accumulated into small books. Something concrete. And I think I’ve managed to switch on the comments in case anyone wants to say hello or recommend a movie or a song.

Adam Arthur’s new live set for Interdimensional Transmissions is perfect concentration music for me: a long stretch of ambient drift that slowly gives way to sparkling synthetics that remind me I was once optimistic about a techno-future.

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Alan Ralph
5 months ago

I joined Twitter for a time from 2009-2011, then again from 2013-2014. Both times I ended up quitting because of the sheer information overload and the amount of my time it gobbled up. I’ve thought recently about whether I’d go back, but honestly I can’t think of any good reason for subjecting myself to that place.

These days I blog and hang out in a few places (Micro.blog, Discord, Second Life) as well as following blogs (including yours) in NetNewsWire on my Mac and iPhone. It’s a less frenetic pace, and for the most part a more meaningful experience. But even now I get the occasional twinge to refresh and see if anything new has come in.

(Funnily enough, I’ve (re)discovered a lot of music through the stuff you’ve embedded in your blog posts, so thanks for that.)

Ash Collins
5 months ago

I’ve been subjecting myself constantly to twitter since 2008. I can’t say that you’re wrong. And that new tab twitter twitch, holy hell that’s a real thing

Michael
5 months ago

There’s a good discussion to be had (and we’re having it!) over why we even need social media.

I often think back to my lonely teenage days in Louisiana, sending out mail art and letters to addresses found in Factsheet Five or the back of Maximum Rock N Roll. I was addicted to my P.O. box then — the highlight of each day was pulling the ‘zines and envelopes out of the tiny slot. That was my way of finding the others.

But, rather than looking at that as a primer for social media, I look at it as indisputable evidence that alternatives exist and have always existed. And there are so many ways to ‘find the others.’ As an example, I didn’t find you through social media — I encountered Atlas Minor via blog recommendations and my RSS reader.

That social media is intrinsic is one of those great tricks the devil’s pulling on us, The others are out there regardless, itching to be found.

Michael
5 months ago

A wise observation from Ryan Broderick in the Garbage Day newsletter re: this experiment:

Modern social platforms have learned that compressing our internet experience at the expense of our sanity means we use their products longer, thus making them more money… For a lot of people, regardless of political affiliation, websites that run on centralized feeds of content, whether it’s algorithmic like Facebook or Instagram or chronological like Twitter and Tumblr, are inherently alienating… For the last decade, researchers, journalists, and politicians have devoted a countless amount of energy to figuring out how the internet is radicalizing us, but what if it’s not the algorithms or the extremist groups, what if it’s just the feed? What if we just aren’t meant to consume an endless stream of content all jammed together into one place?

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