Social media

Damn social media. Like an addictive junk food snack, full of empty calories, which I continue to munch on compulsively, even though I am well aware that the experience is predominantly negative. Occasionally punctuated by the endorphin rush of a like or an upvote or an affirming comment, but overwhelmingly empty.

Twitter is the worst of the lot. A platform whose limited unit of exchange, the tweet, is engineered for propagation but not for expression of nuance. Embedded in a conflict-ridden world where every almost every topic has become an ideological battlefield, Twitter serves to amplify divisions, not bridge them. A basically permanent public record of every stupid utterance you’ve ever made archived and waiting to destroy your future self.

In theory, it should be good for some things: exchanging information on topics of interest, communicating with companies, elected officials, academics etc. But in practice, those positive usages drown in roiling waves of sewage.

For a while, I tried to minimize the negative feelings that came every time I opened Twitter by unfollowing accounts that brought me down. Many of these I moved into theme-based lists instead, where I could dip in to them according to my emotional reserves (and appetite). But in 2020, almost every list has slowly turned into a political battleground. What originally had been a "tech" list got divided into two lists: one which continued to be mostly about tech, and another containing people who used to tweet about tech but now mostly tweeted about a plethora of ideological struggles. The pandemic arrived and the distinction between the two lists eroded away to almost nothing.

Now I reflect on my Twitter usage and I find that it mostly just floods me with bad news which doesn’t serve to prepare me for any specific eventuality, but rather just depresses me about how broken the world has become. Sometimes, I try to reinforce sensible viewpoints, and offer counterarguments to claims I disagree with, but I do so knowing that it doesn’t make any difference (one tweet, viewed perhaps a few thousand times at best, in the face of literally trillions of conflicting communicative acts). And there’s the anxiety of knowing that the mob is only ever an unfortunately phrased word away from selecting me for destruction. It seems foolhardy to participate.