maintaining lines of connection

Warren Ellis:

I feel like I want to see some more thought around getting the fuck off social networks but being able to maintain lines of connection between friends, comrades and fellow-travellers in addition to the Republic Of Newsletters and the Isles Of Blogging. Status pages as the signals from the Invisible Monastery, or, possibly, Hobo Code marks on the walls of the web. Planning for the oncoming dark age?

Radio beacons.

I dunno. I feel like it’s either a fragment of an idea for maintaining connections while routing around toxic internet, or it’s MySpace pages.

I’ve been getting a good many ideas from Ellis lately: he mentions here status pages, for the second time in a week, and I decided to make one — there a link to it at the bottom of my home page. And status pages are indeed nice — I wish more of my friends had them — but they do sort of belong to the monastic world, the world of people who need to hole up for long periods of time to get work done but don’t want to be hermits.

But if you’re somewhere between being a monk and being an incessant chatterbox, it’s hard to know what to do, online anyway.

Here’s what I’m doing now: I still see Twitter and Instagram occasionally, but it’s very occasionally. I have Freedom set up to block those apps, on all my devices, for all but two hours each day (an hour in the morning and another in the evening). And that’s sufficient — more than sufficient: there are days when I forget to check either of them. I post to my blog and my micro.blog, and those posts get auto-cross-posted to Twitter.

As much as I still love, and will always love, RSS, I have purged it of almost all news and current-events sites. I have unsubscribed from all newspapers — though I get free access to the WSJ through Baylor — and try to get my news through weekly and monthly magazines. That’s much saner. I subscribe to a dozen or so newsletters, but for me, newsletters are just not All That.

Overall I am reading more codex and less internet.

But I never have stopped missing the friendships I used to experience through Twitter. For a while I tried chatting with people on micro.blog, but that didn’t work — which may be because I just don’t have the knack of social-media chatting any more, but also may be because people have learned certain discursive habits from Twitter and Facebook that they then bring to every other platform, and I don’t like those discursive habits. In any case, for now I’m just posting to micro.blog and not trying to converse. Maybe that will change. Or maybe I’ll move everything back to the blog. Time will tell.

My guess is that social media are dead to conversation and conversation on them cannot be revived. But if that’s true, how to “maintain lines of connection between friends, comrades and fellow-travellers” while “routing around the toxic internet”? That is indeed the question, and I don’t have a clue how it might be answered. I suspect that there is no answer: that it’s the toxic internet or hermetic life or, for those who are blessed, what Auden called “local understanding.” And if so, though I don’t want to be a hermit, I’d definitely prefer that to trying, yet again, to talk to strangers on social media.

Anyway: like Ellis, I am waiting and hoping for ideas. Maybe a revival of listservs? That’d be way better than Slack.