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Saturday 19 November 2016
On It Probably Being Time Once Again to Disable Social Media Accounts

Filed under Endorsements

I.
I, along with dozens of online thinkpiece writers, feel that Facebook and Twitter helped sway the election for the worse. Trump trolled the U.S into voting for him, realizing early on that the presidency could be had for a lot cheaper than folks in the past had spent on TV ads. All he needed was to be loud and passionate. When the experience you focus on hourly unfolds before you as mute text in the same font, noise becomes very attractive, even as it’s repellant.

The 2016 election was the most emotionally charged, intellectually bankrupt election I lived through. Emotional charge + intellectual bankruptcy is what gets you mad likes/retweets.

II.
Twitter isn’t any one thing. Everyone builds the Twitter they deserve by following whom they choose to follow. The problem for me is that I don’t know what kind of Twitter to build where reading it will expand my understanding of, or wonder at, the world. These days all Twitter does is make the world feel flatter and less colorful.

It’s a shame. I’ve always preferred it over Facebook because of how I felt the 140-character constraint challenged us to be interesting in fewer words. Also, following is a much less loaded activity than “friending”—kudos to s/he who has the strength on FB to unfriend their actual friends. For people on FB, it must feel weird to be friends in real life and not on FB. But then again the people I’m friends with in real life are different on Facebook. On Facebook, I don’t want to be friends with anyone.

So now I’m torn between using social media as a broadcast medium for these blog posts and other news, and leaving it all in full. I did this once, in 2012. I left Facebook after being an early adopter (back when one had to have an .edu address to join). People were confused and some people were mad. For years after most people assumed I’d unfriended them and blocked or hid in some way. People assumed I did this silent, cruel, passive-aggressive thing. That I had just disabled my account wholly seemed unfathomable.[&]

III.
What’s great is that right as Twitter has become almost intolerable—today everyone feels impelled to share the same opinion about the VP-elect’s reception at a Broadway musical—it’s also tripled the number of promoted ads I now have to see, all of them autoplay videos. What’s the draw? How would I sell Twitter to a non-user?

It’s an app/website where people share hasty opinions in one or two sentences, without nuance, between flashy vid clips for Hollywood retreads and junk food items. Also a lot of reactions to the nonsense tweets of celebrities and slow-witted politicians.

“Having an opinion is so boring,” one of my closest (real life) friends once told me. He’s in many ways a role model for me, and today he’s in the hospital, and I’m worried about his health. It’s one of the wisest things I’ve ever been told. To me, imagination trumps opinion every time. And nothing kills my imagination like logging on.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Though I killed my personal profile, I forgot that I’d made a profile for Carl Akeley, the father of modern taxidermy, to promote The Authentic Animal. This is how I’ve since been a lurker and then, with a new book to promote this summer, a revived intermittent user.

2016-11-19  ::  dave

Talkback x 2

  1. Seth Madej
    21 November 2016 @ 8:35am

    I’d been meaning to tell you that I’ve been driven off of Facebook too — not to the point of deleting my account, but getting there. I’ve been avoiding Twitter to, for very similar reasons to the one you described.

    I’v been half-joking that I want to lead a Taiwan-style expatriation to Ello and make it a place where friends who want to use it the way Facebook used to be used: to stay in touch with friends whom you might otherwise lose touch with, and to talk to them about the things you talk to friends about in the way that you talk to friends.

  2. dave
    21 November 2016 @ 8:54am

    Seth:

    I will follow you to Ello.

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