Stagger onward rejoicing

Tag: social media (page 1 of 3)

works for me

I find this interesting: John Gruber reports that more of his listeners on The Talk Show use Overcast than Apple Podcasts. I used to love Overcast, but about three years ago it simply stopped playing podcasts in the queue. No matter what was in the queue or how I had added it, Overcast played the current podcast and then stopped. So I had to abandon it for Apple Podcasts. 

By the way, I’m mentioning this here rather than on micro.blog because of a Law of Social Media Life: Every time a person reports that an app or a device isn’t working for them, people reply to say “Works for me.” Which is strange, if you think about it. I mean, if someone writes “I broke my leg yesterday,” people don’t reply “My leg is just fine.” 

ignorance, vincible and invincible

‘Childhood has been rewired’:

[Jonathan Haidt:] ‘TikTok and Twitter are incredibly dangerous for our democracy. I’d say they’re incompatible with the kind of liberal democracy that we’ve developed over the last few hundred years.’ He’s quite emphatic about all of this, almost evangelical. Which makes me think of his 2012 book, The Righteous Mind, in which he argued about the danger of getting too caught up in your own bubble, believing your own spin. Might he be guilty of that here? Might it just be the case, I ask, that there’s less of a stigma around mental health now, so teenagers are far more likely to admit that they have problems?

‘But why is it, then, that right around 2013 all these girls suddenly start checking into psychiatric inpatient units? Or suicide – they’re making many more suicide attempts. The level of self-harm goes up by 200 or 300 per cent, especially for the younger girls aged ten to 14. So no, the idea that it’s just a change in self-report doesn’t hold any water because we see very much the same curves, at the same time, for behaviour. Suicide, certainly, is not a self-report variable. This is real. This is the biggest mental health crisis in all of known history for kids.’ 

People are absolutely desperate to believe that this isn’t true, but as Jean M. Twenge shows, the alternative explanations are getting less defensible by the day. 

One oddity of this: People used to worry desperately about boys being immersed in gaming, but it turns out that gaming is not as bad for young minds as social media, and therefore boys are not being as thoroughly traumatized as girls. The smartphone era is bad for boys, but it’s nightmarish for girls. 

My guess is that parents who continue to provide smartphones for their kids are, epistemically speaking, indistinguishable from those who declare that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen from Donald Trump. They cannot now back down; they have made themselves invincibly ignorant. Their sunk costs are just too great for them to consider evidence. They’ll keep doing what they’re doing, no matter the suffering their children undergo. 

Now, these people are not invincibly ignorant in the proper sense of that term: The truly invincibly ignorant are not culpable because they cannot remedy their ignorance. I am using, and perhaps abusing, the term by employing it to describe parents for whom the admission of tragic error is psychologically impossible

It’s noteworthy, I think, that in his current and forthcoming work Haidt links the smartphone plague with helicopter parenting: the very same parents who fret ceaselessly about their children’s safety, and prevent them from achieving independence, also put those kids in the way of certain dangers by tethering them to social media. Worse and worse!

But: Lenore Skenazy, of Free Range Kids fame/notoreity/infamy, writes on Haidt’s Substack about a new study demonstrating … well, you can put it two different ways. You can say that while parents accept that their kids need to be more independent, their actions don’t reflect that acceptance: they just keep on helicoptering and snowplowing. But today I choose to put the point more hopefully: Though most of them cannot yet break themselves of what they know to be very bad habits — they can’t summon the courage to take away their kids’ smartphones or let them walk to the local library by themselves — at least they know these habits are bad. Which is the necessary first step, after all. Maybe if I meditate on that I’ll become less despairing. 

P.S. On the other hand, I’m reading stories about how A.I. + social media = guys using their phones to make deepfake porn videos featuring their female classmates, so maybe parents who don’t take their kids’ smartphones and smash them to pieces should be sent to prison for, like, fifty years. 

ignore strenuously

Robin Sloan:

I want to under score it here: where the internet is concerned, we are in a crisis of discovery. Anyone with inter esting new work to share — their own or someone else’s — rummages in the tool shed, looking for a seed spreader or a slingshot, and emerges with an egg beater and a single unmatched glove. Is this all we’ve got?? 

Every now and then I realize that there’s something going on, somewhere on a random corner of the internet, that I have unaccountable and lamentably missed. Doesn’t happen often, but often enough to keep the flame of hope flickering. And curiously enough, the only site associated with the Big Tech firms where this happens is YouTube. (Make of that what you will; I’m not sure what to make of it.)  

Robin continues: “The strategy is the same as it always was: cultivate small, sturdy networks of affinity and interest. Connect them to each other. Keep them lit.” When I find something, I make a point of sharing it, usually on my newsletter — but I bet I could do a better job of that. 

And at the end of Robin’s post, this vital word, which I’ve been preaching for a long long time: 

I would add: there is power and leverage in not being inter­ested in the stuff everybody else is inter­ested in — the stuff other people insist is urgent.

Map the regions of your own affinity and interest, across all relevant dimensions: intellectual, aesthetic, moral. The rest, you can ignore freely. Ignore strenuously! 

I want to add that to my small hoard of encouraging declarations: Practice Hypomone! Read at whim! Festina Lente! (That’s one of Robin’s faves also.) Ignore strenuously! 


A common experience for me: 

  1. Someone tweets (or “X-es”?) about something I’ve written, maybe with a quotation, maybe with a summary;  
  2. Someone else reads that tweet and on the basis of it alone decides what I must have argued … 
  3. … and then writes me an angry email refuting the argument they’re sure I have made. 

The situation reminds me of all those ancient writers we only know through the descriptions of their works by others. Those writers’ work is probably unrecoverable; but not so in this case. My emailers could have secure knowledge with a click but they prefer ignorance. 


David Pierce:

As far as how humans connect to one another, what’s next appears to be group chats and private messaging and forums, returning back to a time when we mostly just talked to the people we know. Maybe that’s a better, less problematic way to live life. Maybe feed and algorithms and the “global town square” were a bad idea. But I find myself desperately looking for new places that feel like everyone’s there. The place where I can simultaneously hear about NBA rumors and cool new AI apps, where I can chat with my friends and coworkers and Nicki Minaj. For a while, there were a few platforms that felt like they had everybody together, hanging out in a single space. Now there are none. 

To each his own, of course, but after seven or eight years on Twitter — I started in early 2007 — I decided that “everybody together, hanging out in a single space” was a nightmare from which I hoped to awake. It took me a while to awaken completely, but I finally got there, and don’t ever want to go back. 

Pierce is wrong about one thing: maybe group chats and private messaging are focused on talking to “the people we know,” but that’s not true of forums, which tend to be built around common interests rather than personal acquaintance. I’m hoping that with all of Reddit’s self-inflicted wounds we’ll get some alternatives, but you know, we could do worse than go back to Usenet

Actually, I think that would be really cool. I’d love to see a Usenet renaissance, in which case maybe Panic would resume development of their fabulous old Usenet client Unison

(But yes, I know that there are problems with this idea. But a guy can dream. And there are infinitely fewer barriers to the fixing of open protocols than to the stable, lasting repair of closed ones.)  

the three paths of micro.blog

I’ve written here from time to time about the excellent service known as micro.blog — and I still want to commend it to those of you who have had enough of the big social-media platforms. You have to pay for it, but you get a lot for your money, including freedom from advertising. 

Micro.blog is a highly flexible service with many intriguing features, and it may be hard for new users to decide just which ones are most useful for them. Perhaps it would help if you think of micro.blog as offering three different (though overlapping) paths, and spend some time considering which path best meets your needs. 

Path One: Community. For many users, micro.blog is a smallish community of like-minded people — a place to connect with interesting folks, in a much more low-key and undramatic way than what places like Facebook and Twitter (and even Mastodon) offer. If you go to the Discover page you’ll find something that looks like this: 

Screenshot 2023 05 15 at 10 26 41 AM

That’s a great way to find people who share your interests. 

Path Two: Blog. Micro.blog is also a great blogging platform. It was, as its name suggests, originally designed for small posts, but it scales up to posts of any size. When your post gets longer than 300 characters, you get the option to add a title to the post; then people looking at your timeline will see that title as a link, which they can click on to see the full post. Micro.blog also offers categories that you can use to organize different kinds of posts. Basically, it can replace any of the cruftier and less agile blog platforms, like WordPress — but it has a much more streamlined and elegant UI for posting. Best of both worlds, I think. (For longer posts, like this one, I still use the WordPress-powered blog you’re reading, because I have 15 years of tags here, but for everything else I use micro.blog because it provides such a comfortable environment for writing.) 

Path Three: Journal. This has become my primary way to use micro.blog. I mainly post (a) photos, (b) links to what I’ve been reading — micro.blog is definitively the best blogging platform for readers — and listening to, and (c) the occasional brief audio post (AKA microcast). It’s a great way for me to share what I’m up to for folks who may be interested — but also, and for me primarily, to keep a kind of life journal. 

Here’s the key takeaway for you: Micro.blog is equally useful for each of these paths. So if you start out using it just for blogging but then decide you want more of an interactive community, you can shift in that direction. It will accommodate your needs. Now, as I have said before, it will — by design — never be a place for you to monetize your brand, troll, shitpost, or become an influencer. But hey, there are plenty of other platforms better suited for that kind of thing. Micro.blog is better suited for the more human and humane paths I have identified here. 

the Oppenheimer Principle revisited

Eight years ago, I wrote about a dominant and pernicious ideology that features two components: 

Component one: that we are living in a administrative regime built on technocratic rationality whose Prime Directive is, unlike the one in the Star Trek universe, one of empowerment rather than restraint. I call it the Oppenheimer Principle, because when the physicist Robert Oppenheimer was having his security clearance re-examined during the McCarthy era, he commented, in response to a question about his motives, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

The topic of that essay was the prosthetic reconstruction of bodies and certain incoherent justifications thereof, so I went on: “We change bodies and restructure child-rearing practices not because all such phenomena are socially constructed but because we can — because it’s ‘technically sweet.’” Then:

My use of the word “we” in that last sentence leads to component two of the ideology under scrutiny here: Those who look forward to a future of increasing technological manipulation of human beings, and of other biological organisms, always imagine themselves as the Controllers, not the controlled; they always identify with the position of power. And so they forget evolutionary history, they forget biology, they forget the disasters that can come from following the Oppenheimer Principle — they forget everything that might serve to remind them of constraints on the power they have … or fondly imagine they have.

In light of current debates about the development of AI – debates that have become more heated in the wake of an open letter pleading with AI researchers to pause their experiments and take some time to think about the implications – the power of the Oppenheimer Principle has become more evident than ever. And it’s important, I think, to understand what in this context is making it so powerful.

Before I go any further, let me note that the term Artificial Intelligence may cover a very broad range of endeavors. Here I am discussing a recently emergent wing of the overall AI enterprise, the wing devoted to imitating or counterfeiting actions that most human beings think of as distinctively human: conversation, image-making (through drawing, painting, or photography), and music-making.

I think what’s happening in the development of these counterfeits – and in the resistance to asking hard questions about them – is the Silicon Valley version of what the great economist Thorstein Veblen called “trained incapacity.” As Robert K. Merton explains in a famous essay on “Bureaucratic Structure and Personality,” Veblen’s phrase describes a phenomenon identified also by John Dewey – though Dewey called it “occupational psychosis” – and by Daniel Warnotte – though Warnotte called it “Déformation professionnelle.” It is curious that this same phenomenon gets described repeatedly by our major social scientists; that suggests that it is a powerful and widespread phenomenon indeed. 

Peggy Noonan recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal of the leaders of the major Silicon Valley companies,

I am sure that as individuals they have their own private ethical commitments, their own faiths perhaps. Surely as human beings they have consciences, but consciences have to be formed by something, shaped and made mature. It’s never been clear to me from their actions what shaped theirs. I have come to see them the past 40 years as, speaking generally, morally and ethically shallow—uniquely self-seeking and not at all preoccupied with potential harms done to others through their decisions. Also some are sociopaths.

I want to make a stronger argument: that the distinctive “occupational psychosis” of Silicon Valley is sociopathy – the kind of sociopathy embedded in the Oppenheimer Principle. The people in charge at Google and Meta and (outside Silicon Valley) Microsoft, and at the less well-known companies that are being used by the mega-companies, have been deformed by their profession in ways that prevent them from perceiving, acknowledging, and acting responsibly in relation to the consequences of their research. They have a trained incapacity to think morally. They are by virtue of their narrowly technical education and the strong incentives of their profession moral idiots.

The ignorance of the technocratic moral idiot is exemplified by Sam Altman of OpenAI – an increasingly typical Silicon Valley type, with a thin veneer of moral self-congratulation imperfectly obscuring a thick layer of obedience to perverse incentives. “If you’re making AI, it is potentially very good, potentially very terrible,” but “The way to get it right is to have people engage with it, explore these systems, study them, to learn how to make them safe.” He can’t even imagine that “the way to get it right” might be not to do it at all. (See Scott Alexander on the Safe Uncertainty Fallacy: We have absolutely no idea what will result from this technological development, therefore everything will be fine.) The Oppenheimer Principle trumps all.

These people aren’t going to fix themselves. As Jonathan Haidt (among others) has often pointed out – e.g. here – the big social media companies know just how much damage their platforms are doing, especially to teenage girls, but they do not care. As Justin E. H. Smith has noted, social media platforms are “inhuman by design,” and some of the big companies are tearing off the fig leaf by dissolving their ethics teams. Deepfakes featuring Donald Trump or the Pope are totally cool, but Chairman Xi gets a free pass, because … well, just follow the money.

Decisions about these matters have to be taken out of the hands of avaricious professionally-deformed sociopaths. And that’s why lawsuits like this one matter. 

Melody Moezzi:

This brings me to the most embarrassing reason I stayed on social media for so long: ego. I genuinely believed that my posts, tweets, likes, and retweets and the blue check mark on my account actually meant something, that all the followers I’d amassed proved that I was worthy and important. I also embraced the delusion that social media was vital to my personal and professional success as a writer and activist. Without it, I was sure I’d miss out on parties, protests, and publishing contracts. Yet an honest accounting forced me to admit that my ability to party, protest, and publish has been far more enfeebled than enabled by social media. In short, I haven’t built my career on posts, tweets, and feeds. I’ve built it on books, essays, and speeches. And I haven’t built my strongest communities on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’ve built them on porches, around firepits, and under the stars.

Yair Rosenberg:

In 2013, Google shut down its celebrated RSS client, Google Reader, citing a decline in RSS usage. Today, millions of people still use RSS readers, but many times more use social-media sites and don’t even know that RSS exists. This imbalance means that media outlets and other content providers have greater incentive to invest in social-media infrastructure rather than RSS support, leading some to drop the latter entirely. But though the internet’s creative output deserves our attention, social-media companies do not. When the primary way we read online is filtered through the algorithms of capricious corporations that can change what we see on a whim, both writers and readers suffer. RSS is a reminder that it doesn’t have to be this way.

Long-time readers know that I’ve been preaching this message for years and years (see the “RSS” tag at the bottom of this post). If you don’t believe me maybe you’ll believe Yair.

beyond creepiness

One thought about that incredibly creepy Snapchat TV ad — so creepy that I’m not even going to link to it — the interesting thing to me about it is not, in fact, the creepiness, it’s the fact that the big selling point is using augmented reality to deprive the people around you of their own faces and substitute faces (human, animal, vegetable, whatever) you prefer. It’s not accidental, I think, that the ad is set in a subway car, because public transportation confronts you with the plain old humanity of those you live among. Snapchat, the ad says, can relieve you of the burden of living among other human beings. It’s an ad made by sociopaths for sociopaths. 

Cal Newport:

Imagine if the Supreme Court threw caution to the wind and radically rolled back Section 230 protections; to the point where it became legally unviable to operate any sort of major platform that harvests attention using algorithmic-curation of user-generated content. In this thought experiment, Facebook disappears, along with Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, and even YouTube.

This certainly would devastate the tech sector for a while. It would also hurt the portfolios of those invested in these companies. But what would the impact be on the average internet user? It might not actually be so bad.

I would quaver a bit at the loss of YouTube, but … okay. You’ve got a deal. Sign me up. 

Paul Ford: “The real reason Twitter lies in ruins is because it was an abomination before God. It was a Tower of Babel.” This would be a lot more convincing if Ford didn’t then go on to praise Mastodon, which is an earnest attempt to rebuild Babel, just by using stones from several different quarries. 

be your own algorithm

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Damon Krukowski: “I know it can be difficult, with so much choice, to figure out what to focus on. But on top of everything, you can preview most anything before committing. What’s not to like? Build a library, and you can be your own algorithm.” 

the end of the timeline era

Glenn Fleishman:

With Mastodon, you’re not dealing with a giant, faceless company — or a constantly in-your-face CEO — making arbitrary decisions that are often impossible to understand or appeal. Instead, you join a Mastodon server — called an


— run by an individual, company, or organization.

An individual, company, or organization equally free to make arbitrary decisions that are often impossible to understand or appeal. In a related article Fleishman writes,

Each Fediverse instance is its own Little Prince world that can choose to engage with other servers through federation, the interchange of information stored locally with other servers remotely. There’s no one in charge and no single place to go for definitive truth about the network.

“There’s no one in charge” on Mastodon-as-such, because Mastodon-as-such is just some open-source software, but there is very definitely someone in charge on any instance you join, and whoever that is can ban you any time for any reason or none. You can only escape that by creating your own instance of Mastodon, which possibly 0.01% of its users have the chops and resources to do.

Mastodon has certain virtues, at least for some, but let’s not attribute to it powers it does not have. In almost every respect Mastodon functions precisely as Twitter did, with, as I have said before, every single one of Twitter’s perverse incentives. And if you’re not running your own instance you’re not one whit less vulnerable than you were in Elon World.

People who are tempted by Mastodon should at least consider this from Luke: “I’m on Mastodon, but I’m bored of what I call ‘the timeline era.’ Scanning an unending stream of disconnected posts for topics of interest is no longer fun, I prefer deciding what to read based on titles, or topic-based discussion.” There are more things on the internet, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your timeline. And off the internet: far, far more.


The ‘Enshittification’ of TikTok | Cory Doctorow

Here is how platforms die: First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.

I call this enshittification, and it is a seemingly inevitable consequence arising from the combination of the ease of changing how a platform allocates value, combined with the nature of a “two-sided market,” where a platform sits between buyers and sellers, hold each hostage to the other, raking off an ever-larger share of the value that passes between them. 

A scathing and utterly compelling treatise, dedicated chiefly to pointing out the comprehensively obvious fact — which hundreds of millions of people seem determined not to face — that TikTok obeys the same enshittifying logic as every other social media platform: “TikTok … is just another paperclip-maximizing artificial colony organism that treats human beings as inconvenient gut flora. TikTok is only going to funnel free attention to the people it wants to entrap until they are entrapped, then it will withdraw that attention and begin to monetize it.” Ergo: “It’s too late to save TikTok. Now that it has been infected by enshittifcation, the only thing left is to kill it with fire.” Q.E.D. 

‘Luddite’ Teens Don’t Want Your Likes – The New York Times:

For the first time, she experienced life in the city as a teenager without an iPhone. She borrowed novels from the library and read them alone in the park. She started admiring graffiti when she rode the subway, then fell in with some teens who taught her how to spray-paint in a freight train yard in Queens. And she began waking up without an alarm clock at 7 a.m., no longer falling asleep to the glow of her phone at midnight. Once, as she later wrote in a text titled the “Luddite Manifesto,” she fantasized about tossing her iPhone into the Gowanus Canal. 



why liberals should read smart conservatives

Liberals should read smart conservatives not because they need to be convinced by conservative arguments — though let’s face it, sometimes they do — but rather because conservatives frame issues differently than liberals do. They describe the conditions of history, and the circumstances of our debates, in a language that’s strange to liberals. And dealing with these alternative framings can be very clarifying indeed. 

An example: in The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties Christopher Caldwell argues that the grief over the assassination of President Kennedy led to more sweeping legislation than JFK himself would have dared to pursue: “A welfare state expanded by Medicare and Medicaid, the vast mobilization of young men to fight the Vietnam War, but, above all, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts — these were all memorials to a slain ruler, resolved in haste over a few months in 1964 and 1965 by a people undergoing a delirium of national grief.” And he then claims that this set in motion a dramatic transformation of the American legal and political order — a transformation that we have inherited: 

The changes of the 1960s, with civil rights at their core, were not just a major new element in the Constitution. They were a rival constitution, with which the original one was frequently incompatible — and the incompatibility would worsen as the civil rights regime was built out. Much of what we have called “polarization” or “incivility” in recent years is something more grave — it is the disagreement over which of the two constitutions shall prevail: the de jure constitution of 1788, with all the traditional forms of jurisprudential legitimacy and centuries of American culture behind it; or the de facto constitution of 1964, which lacks this traditional kind of legitimacy but commands the near-unanimous endorsement of judicial elites and civic educators and the passionate allegiance of those who received it as a liberation. The increasing necessity that citizens choose between these two orders, and the poisonous conflict into which it ultimately drove the country, is what this book describes.

Now, it is probably true that only someone who questions the wisdom of “the de facto constitution of 1964” would frame our recent history in this way; but it is certainly true that this framing is powerfully illuminating: it yields insight into both the nature and the intensity of our current political differences. You may not interpret or judge those differences as Caldwell does, but even so, he has presented their causes in ways that ought to earn your assent. 

Another example: Mary Harrington is not just a conservative, she is a self-described reactionary. But some of her recent work is, like that of Caldwell, extremely useful, especially her argument — in, for instance, this essay, which has many links to her earlier work — that what I have called Left Purity Culture (see the LPC tag at the bottom of this post) operates as a kind of de-personalized and even de-humanized swarm. And in certain recent controversies, especially the ones involving Twitter, that swarm is confronted by a version of what she calls Caesarism: 

The Biden administration is fond of talking about “democracy” versus “autocracy”, but it might be more accurate to talk about swarmism and Caesarism. Swarmism is a kind of post-democratic democracy: a mutant form of liberal proceduralism, characterised by collective decision-making in which no one is ever individually accountable. Instead, consequential decisions are as far as possible pushed out to supposedly neutral procedures or even machines. When NGO officials whom you can’t vote out of your political ecosystem talk about “our democracy”, they’re talking about swarmism.

Caesarism, on the other hand, looks substantially the same at lower levels. The main difference is that you get named humans in key decision-making roles — complete with human partiality, eccentricity, and occasional fallibility. Twitter was, until recently, a key vector of elite swarmism. And to swarmists, such rule by a named individual, rather than a collective and some committee-generated “guidelines”, is by definition morally wrong. This core assumption oozes, for example, from this report on the takeover, with its empathetic depiction of the anonymous, collegiate collective of sacked Trust and Safety workers sharply contrasted with the autocratic, erratic individual Elon Musk. 

This, like Caldwell’s framing of American history since the 1960s, is not just interesting but useful. It helps me to think about the structure, as it were, of the debates over Twitter. Now, I might prefer a swarm to a Caesar — and Harrington herself doesn’t see anyone to support here: “I’m not cheerleading for Musk as Caesar. Just because I dislike faceless proceduralism doesn’t mean I have much appetite to see political authority gathered into the mercurial hands of a transhumanist billionaire who wants to implant microchips in human brains.” But whether you take the swarm’s side or Caesar’s side or no side at all, this is a very helpful way of describing the conflict, and is a description that neither a a swarmist nor a Caesarist would have been likely to discern. 

Ezra Klein: “A town square controlled by one man isn’t a town square. It’s a storefront, an art project or possibly a game preserve.” Yep. 

oh, okay, one more post

On these matters. This from Roald Dahl’s story “The Great Automatic Grammatizator” (1952): 

“That’s exactly it, Mr Bohlen! That’s where the machine comes in. Listen a minute, sir, while I tell you some more. I’ve got it all worked out. The big magazines are carrying approximately three fiction stories in each issue. Now, take the fifteen most important magazines—the ones paying the most money. A few of them are monthlies, but most of them come out every week. All right. That makes, let us say, around forty big stories being bought each week. That’s forty thousand dollars. So with our machine—when we get it working properly—we can collar nearly the whole of this market!” 

“My dear boy, you’re mad!”

“No, sir, honestly, it’s true what I say. Don’t you see that with volume alone we’ll completely overwhelm them! This machine can produce a five-thousand-word story, all typed and ready for dispatch, in thirty seconds. How can the writers compete with that? I ask you, Mr Bohlen, how?”

At that point, Adolph Knipe noticed a slight change in the man’s expression, an extra brightness in the eyes, the nostrils distending, the whole face becoming still, almost rigid. Quickly, he continued. “Nowadays, Mr Bohlen, the hand-made article hasn’t a hope. It can’t possibly compete with mass-production, especially in this country — you know that. Carpets … chairs … shoes … bricks … crockery … anything you like to mention — they’re all made by machinery now. The quality may be inferior, but that doesn’t matter. It’s the cost of production that counts. And stories — well — they’re just another product, like carpets and chairs, and no one cares how you produce them so long as you deliver the goods. We’ll sell them wholesale, Mr Bohlen! We’ll undercut every writer in the country! We’ll corner the market!”

In Douglas Rushkoff’s new book, he acknowledges that he was wrong to say, as he was perhaps the first to do, that to the social media platforms you are not the customer but the product. Rather, he now argues, the company’s stock is the product; you are the unpaid labor that increases the value of that product.

Megan McArdle, arguing that trying to use social media’s moderators to crack down on misinformation isn’t a good idea:

For one thing, moderators aren’t good at determining what constitutes actual misinformation. A lot of the dangerous nonsense about covid that circulated on social media came from the same public health experts social media companies were using as arbiters.

It was public health experts who initially told us masks don’t work, an assertion they knew to be false. It was public health experts who insisted, without good evidence, that covid wasn’t airborne. And many public health experts helped support prolonged school closures that have been proven to undermine learning.

That is not to say that public health experts are the moral or intellectual equivalent of quacks peddling balderdash about vaccine side effects. The public health community eventually recognized its most egregious errors, while the quacks doubled down. But free and open debate on social media assisted that process of course correction, and cracking down on what the experts then deemed false information would actually have slowed the pace of adjustment.

It’s very hard not to laugh at this: Twitter-addicted journalists decamping for Mastodon only to resume, immediately, their familiar habits of bullying, shaming, proclaiming their victimhood, and Trying to Get Management To Take Their Side. As I have said: “Which way I fly is Hellsite; myself am Hellsite….” 

Another book to read:

Gal Beckerman, too, is interested in political talk. His new book, The Quiet Before, is essentially a history of conversation, beginning in seventeenth-century France and ending in modern-day Cairo, Charlottesville, Miami, and Minneapolis. Beckerman concentrates not on the revolutionary moment, though — the capture of the Bastille, say, or Fidel Castro’s triumphant arrival in Havana — but on the antecedents of transformative political change. “The incubation of radical new ideas,” he writes, “is a very distinct process with certain conditions: a tight space, lots of heat, passionate whispering, and a degree of freedom to work toward a common, focused aim.”

The conversations that he documents occur not just in person — indeed, rarely in person — but through letters, petitions, newspapers, manifestos, samizdat journals, and feminist zines. And they take place, these days, on social media. Whether this constitutes a continuation of the radical tradition or its negation is a — perhaps the — crucial question that Beckerman explores. We know of the Twitter ranters, Facebook trolls, and Instagram influencers, but where are the passionate whisperers of today?

Mastodonic thoughts

After a brief period on Mastodon: It’s exactly like Twitter. People have taken all their Twitter habits — lecturing, hectoring, making demands, sneering, mocking, belittling, preening, self-congratulating — and transferred them unchanged to a new platform. No one, it appears, learned anything from what even they called the “hellsite.”

Me miserable! which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is Hellsite; myself am Hellsite;
And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep
Still threatening to devour me opens wide,
To which the Hellsite I suffer seems a Heaven.
O, then, at last relent! Is there no place
Left for wisdom, none for kindness left?
None left but by deletion….

Account deleted.

UPDATE 2022-11-22: It occurs to me that when Mastodon decided to implement its version of the retweet (they call it the “boost”) its fate as Undead Twitter was sealed. If you could blame only one thing for the ruination of Twitter, it should be the RT. The RT is a frictionless way to spread whatever arouses users emotionally, and what arouses users emotionally is almost always something deceitful and/or malicious. The RT is the death of charity, the death of peace, the death of truth. And therefore for me the death of Mastodon.

Ian Bogost:

If Twitter does fail, either because its revenue collapses or because the massive debt that Musk’s deal imposes crushes it, the result could help accelerate social media’s decline more generally. It would also be tragic [me: tragic?] for those who have come to rely on these platforms, for news or community or conversation or mere compulsion. Such is the hypocrisy of this moment. The rush of likes and shares felt so good because the age of zero comments felt so lonely — and upscaling killed the alternatives a long time ago, besides.

If change is possible, carrying it out will be difficult, because we have adapted our lives to conform to social media’s pleasures and torments. It’s seemingly as hard to give up on social media as it was to give up smoking en masse, like Americans did in the 20th century. Quitting that habit took decades of regulatory intervention, public-relations campaigning, social shaming, and aesthetic shifts. At a cultural level, we didn’t stop smoking just because the habit was unpleasant or uncool or even because it might kill us. We did so slowly and over time, by forcing social life to suffocate the practice. That process must now begin in earnest for social media.

Home invasion:

For those of us who have been using Mastodon for a while (I started my own Mastodon server 4 years ago), this week has been overwhelming. I’ve been thinking of metaphors to try to understand why I’ve found it so upsetting. This is supposed to be what we wanted, right? Yet it feels like something else. Like when you’re sitting in a quiet carriage softly chatting with a couple of friends and then an entire platform of football fans get on at Jolimont Station after their team lost. They don’t usually catch trains and don’t know the protocol. They assume everyone on the train was at the game or at least follows football. They crowd the doors and complain about the seat configuration.

It’s not entirely the Twitter people’s fault. They’ve been taught to behave in certain ways. To chase likes and retweets/boosts. To promote themselves. To perform. All of that sort of thing is anathema to most of the people who were on Mastodon a week ago. It was part of the reason many moved to Mastodon in the first place. This means there’s been a jarring culture clash all week as a huge murmuration of tweeters descended onto Mastodon in ever increasing waves each day. To the Twitter people it feels like a confusing new world, whilst they mourn their old life on Twitter. They call themselves “refugees,” but to the Mastodon locals it feels like a busload of Kontiki tourists just arrived, blundering around yelling at each other and complaining that they don’t know how to order room service. We also mourn the world we’re losing. 

I’m a bit concerned about micro.blog — I don’t use Mastodon — for just this reason. That’s why I wrote a few months ago, “On micro.blog, you have absolutely no incentive to flex, shitpost, self-promote, or troll. You’re there to post interesting things and/or chat with people. Nothing else makes sense.” 


The Struggle With The Audience:

By 2020, [Sam] Carter was a battle-hardened veteran of the music scene. He’d been making records with this group for twelve years, and Architects had had enough success not to worry too much about negative reactions to new material. It was also quickly apparent that Creatures was going to be a big hit. Despite all this, he found the reaction to hard to deal with: “It was doing huge numbers on the streaming services, but all I could see were these horrible comments.” On YouTube and Instagram, the negative reactions become increasingly extreme as people competed to make the most negative comment. “It’s hard, when you’ve put your heart and soul into something, and someone says, ‘I’m never listening to your band again, you’ve ruined it’.”

Carter then makes a striking assertion. If social media had come along earlier, he says, “Sergeant Pepper wouldn’t exist. The most important records of our time wouldn’t exist.” 

This whole essay by Ian Leslie is great, and a useful counterpart to my post the other day about the challenges of chasing eyeballs. 

However, there’s another side to the story of artists and their audiences. My buddy Austin Kleon wrote last week

One reason I feel so lucky to be an independent writer with a great audience: I don’t answer to any shareholders but readers. I don’t have to grow my business if I don’t want to. I can do my thing the way I want to do it for the people who want it. And I can do it the way I want to do it. 

I think Austin has this attitude because he has never tried to get famous, to go viral, all that crap; he has tried (a) to do good, honest, useful, helpful work that (b) supports his family. Turns out there’s an audience for that! And Austin can call his audience “great” because he has set a tone — a tone of generosity, kindness, thoughtfulness — and they’ve picked up on that. So maybe the lessons here are: 

  1. Do your best work. 
  2. Be kind and generous to your audience. 
  3. When they want to dictate to you, listen … but then do what you have to do to maintain your integrity and your sanity. 
  4. Accept the consequences as stoically as you can, and be grateful when those consequences are more positive than negative. 

See also: this blog’s mission statement


Since so many journalists spend most of their time on Twitter, it’s unsurprising to hear the more addicted among them now saying that other people should stay on Twitter too, Musk or no Musk. One of the most common arguments that I’ve seen goes like this: Twitter, for all its flaws, has made otherwise unheard voices of the marginalized audible, and the rest of us should hang around if only to listen to them. To which I respond:

First: Twitter made the voice of Donald Trump, and still nastier figures, even more audible. If the sound level of Black women goes up by 10db but that of Orange Man goes up 50db, I don’t call that a big win for diversity.

Second: Those marginal voices can be heard in many places other than Twitter, for anyone interested, and in some of their venues (articles in newspapers, essays in magazines, books) they articulate their experiences and their understanding of the world in considerably greater depth than they can on Twitter. If you want to become better informed while avoiding doomscrolling, RSS is ready when you are.

Third: About the attention that those marginalized voices get on Twitter — how good is that for them? On Twitter, too often attention = abuse.

Which leads me to what I think is an important question: Is more visibility always good? Is having more eyeballs on your work invariably better for you than having fewer? People reluctant to leave Twitter seem to believe that whatever you have to say or show needs to be seen by as many people as possible; but I don’t agree. One reason I left Twitter is that I was tired of getting responses from people who were (a) incapable of reading, (b) angrily malicious, or (c) both.

Now, one might reply that I could make any number of adjustments to my Twitter preferences to prevent that sort of thing — but in that case, why be on Twitter at all? It’s specifically designed for the amplification of the cruder emotions, so what’s the point of being there if you prefer to avoid the cruder emotions? Wouldn’t it make more sense go find a place to write that isn’t interested in the cruder emotions?

Because here’s the tradeoff: you can have more eyeballs, but they’ll be Sauron-like eyeballs.

“And into this Tweet he poured his cruelty, his malice, and his will to dominate all life.” 

If you leave Twitter for less obvious places, fewer eyeballs will see your work; but if people have to make a bit of an effort to find what you write, they’re far more likely to be intelligent and receptive readers than the average Twitter user.

We all need to stop thinking arithmetically. For good and for ill, the people who make the most significant impact on the world are those who pursue what Milton called “fit audience though few.” Very few people have read Wang Huning’s academic writings, but he directs the ideological program of the Chinese Communist Party. A far more positive example, from Eno: “The first Velvet Underground record sold only 30,000 copies in its first five years. Yet … everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”

Eno brings home the import of his comment in the sentence that follows that extremely famous one I just quoted: “Some things generate their rewards in second-hand ways.” (Some of the most important things always do.) If you realize the truth of this, then maybe you won’t be quite so desperate for eyeballs.

Blogs don’t have the important place on the internet today that they once had; I know that perfectly well, and I don’t care. Those who are genuinely interested in what I have to say can find me here on the open web. Those who aren’t willing to leave Twitter to find good writing … well, God bless them. But I won’t be trying to flag them down.

so let’s chill

Noah Smith:

So, Elon Musk bought Twitter. Personally, I’m pretty sanguine about this development. It’s no secret that I think that Twitter is a uniquely dystopian feature of the modern media sphere — a bad equilibrium that traps the nation’s journalists, politicians, and intellectuals in close quarters with all the nastiest and most strident anonymous bottom-feeders. There’s a nonzero chance Musk will be able to improve this situation; if not, it’s hard to see how he could make it particularly worse. If he destroys the platform, we’ll find something else — probably a number of different somethings, which I think would be good for the media ecosystem. Our entire society was not meant to be locked in a single small room together; we need more room to spread out and be ourselves. 

This is the right take, I think. For those who haven’t seen it, here is a collection of my posts on micro.blog in particular and and open web more generally. And here is a useful brief guide to getting started with blogging. 

it’s all content

Josh Owens, former employee of Alex Jones:

I don’t think there’s a silver bullet when it comes to stopping Jones. As for the trial, I think it depends on your perspective. From Jones’s perspective, he’s got very deep pockets, so does this affect him? I don’t know, but I have my doubts. He’s said he’s going to try to tie this ruling up in the appeals process. So I guess it’s up to the other judgments to incur some financial penalty that hits him where it hurts. Because you’re not going to reach his conscience. Everything bad that happens to Jones is immediately spun into his version of events. It’s all content for him. 

That’s the world we live in, friends, when we’re online. There, it’s all content. Caveat lector


I love this from Tom McWright: A script that redirects anyone who comes to his site from Hacker News to Google. He’s had enough experience with jerks who read Hacker News to make a point of sending them elsewhere. I might adapt that JavaScript to redirect people who come here from Twitter. I told a friend recently that my goal is to write posts that no one on Twitter will ever link to.

lost causes and places of hope

Better late than never, Ezra — props to you for finally coming around. But not many of your generation will. Indeed, for policy if not for personal purposes, we should probably treat everyone over thirty as a lost cause. They’ve been sucked into the black hole of social media and we won’t see them in the real world again. (“Never trust anyone over thirty,” we were told all those decades ago, and now I’m saying “Never hope for anyone over thirty.” In each case there are exceptions, though maybe not enough to bother with.) The key thing, then, is to save the coming generations from the conflagration, and Yuval Levin has a proposal for achieving that

another friendly reminder

Spy Vs Spy

Here’s the good news: Most Americans are not hateful conspiracy-theorists who want to destroy their wrongthinking neighbors.

Here’s the bad news: The hateful conspiracy-theorists who want to destroy their wrongthinking neighbors dominate social media – they’re on it all the time. They toil not, neither do they spin, but they never stop posting and tweeting and reposting and retweeting and shitposting and shittweeting.

And here’s more bad news: the professional media make bank by showcasing the hateful conspiracy-theorists who want to destroy their wrongthinking neighbors – and they too never stop their destructive work. There is a malice there that does not sleep.

But – finally – here’s more good news:

  1. You can stop reading Twitter and Facebook, you can stop watching TV “news,” you can stop listening to loudmouthed podcasters.
  2. You can change your news consumption to a weekly cycle rather than a daily – or hourly – one.
  3. You can spend more time with monthly or quarterly periodicals; you can read books — even old books. 
  4. You can also listen to music, ideally music not served up to you algorithmically. Buy one CD or vinyl record per month and listen to it all the way through, multiple times. Retrain your attention.
  5. Go outside as often as you can, ideally without devices. Work in the yard, or just walk around. Pause occasionally to take a few deep breaths. When you come back in, do not head straight for your device; instead, make a cup of tea, straighten your shelves, or pray.

We can do this! 

decline and fall

TikTok and the Fall of the Social-Media Giants: A very interesting post by Cal Newport. His thesis is, essentially, as follows: TikTok’s popularity has alarmed Facebook — a company that has a history of forgetting what it does well in order to chase immediate relevance — and as a result Facebook is neglecting to consolidate its advantage in the “social graph.” The result will inevitably be a further and more precipitous decline in Facebook’s influence — but it is also unlikely that TikTok itself will remain as dominant as it is. 

As Newport says in an accompanying blog post, “If platforms like Facebook and Instagram abandon their social graphs to pursue this cybernetic TikTok model, they’ll lose their competitive advantage. Subject, all at once, to the fierce competitive pressures of the mobile attention economy, it’s unclear whether they can survive without this protection.” Thus: “If TikTok acts as the poison pill that finally cripples the digital dictators that for so long subjugated the web 2.0 revolution, we just might be left with more breathing room for smaller, more authentic, more human online engagements.” 

Well, let’s hope so. I’d love to see a future in which the algorithmic social-media domination of our online lives ended, and we return to online life at a more human scale. But how likely is that? We know that the venture capitalists and angel investors don’t want moderate successes — they want The Next Enormous Thing. Will they get it? I think it all hinges on how strongly people respond to VR environments. 

Yes, Social Media Really Is Undermining Democracy – The Atlantic:

Social media may not be the primary cause of polarization, but it is an important cause, and one we can do something about. I believe it is also the primary cause of the epidemic of structural stupidity, as I called it, that has recently afflicted many of America’s key institutions.

A good response by Jon Haidt to critics of his work, one that calls upon many new studies. I mean, if you’re not yet convinced. 

Andy Crouch:

What I say to students is, you are not unhealthy people in a normal world, despite these statistics that show how anxious, lonely, and depressed young adults are. What you are is normal people in an unhealthy world. It’s not healthy to be anxious, lonely, and depressed, but it is a natural response to a world that is not asking you to become anything, and is not giving you confidence that you can overcome difficulty — one that’s dissociating the different parts of you, compelling you to spend a good part of your time with your body disengaged and your mind occupied. It’s totally understandable that our young people are experiencing such distress, because the world we’re asking them to live in — this world of easy everywhere — this world of superpowers, is not good for them. It would be very odd if, in this world, people were doing just fine. It’s not at all surprising that they’re struggling and feeling disconnected. 

You can be almost certain that people who sneer with ready contempt at today’s college students don’t spend much time around them. Our young people have been given a raw deal, and most of them play it better than we have any right to expect. And the ones who don’t? They’re twenty years old. How put-together were you at age twenty? 


This long post by Jesse Singal makes one key point perfectly clear: People on Twitter may know that 10,000 alarmist posts about their political enemies have been thoroughly debunked and discredited, but when that ten-thousand-and-first comes along they’ll instantly retweet it and add, “CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS CRAP???” And of course the lies will get a hundred times the exposure of the corrections. We all do well to remember Mark Twain’s “Advice to Youth”:

Think what tedious years of study, thought, practice, experience, went to the equipment of that peerless old master who was able to impose upon the whole world the lofty and sounding maxim that “Truth is mighty and will prevail” — the most majestic compound fracture of fact which any of woman born has yet achieved. For the history of our race, and each individual’s experience, are sown thick with evidences that a truth is not hard to kill, and that a lie well told is immortal. There in Boston is a monument to the man who discovered anesthesia; many people are aware, in these latter days, that that man didn’t discover it at all, but stole the discovery from another man. Is this truth mighty, and will it prevail? Ah, no, my hearers, the monument is made of hardy material, but the lie it tells will outlast it a million years. An awkward, feeble, leaky lie is a thing which you ought to make it your unceasing study to avoid; such a lie as that has no more real permanence than an average truth. Why, you might as well tell the truth at once and be done with it. A feeble, stupid, preposterous lie will not live two years — except it be a slander upon somebody. It is indestructible, then, of course, but that is no merit of yours.


The Woes of Being Addicted to Streaming Services | Pitchfork:

I feel unsettled when I stream music on Spotify. Maybe you feel that way, too. Even though it has all the music I’ve ever wanted, none of it feels necessarily rewarding, emotional, or personal. I pay a nominal fee for this privilege, knowing that essentially none of it will reach the artists I am listening to. I have unfettered access to an abundance of songs I genuinely love, along with an abundance of great songs I’ve never heard before, but I can’t shake the eerie feeling that the options before me are almost too perfect. I have personalized my experience enough to feel like this is my music, but I know that’s not really true — it’s simply a fabricated reality meant to replace the random contours of life outside the app. 

Jeremy Larson here covers some familiar territory in his descriptions of the distressing things that the streaming services do to musicians’ careers, but I’m more interested in the parts (like the above quote) that describe how streaming services mess with the experience of listeners

For what it’s worth, as I have, over the past year, spent less and less time on my digital devices, I have almost completely stopped streaming music. I listen to LPs and CDs, and reconnecting with those older technologies has had a wonderfully enlivening effect on my experience of music. I regularly do something now I haven’t done for years: listen to al album all the way through for several days in a row. I love it. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever go back to streaming. 

reification and metaphysical capitalism

I’ve written occasionally here about what I call “metaphysical capitalism” — see the relevant tag at the bottom of this post — but one thing I have neglected to note is that one of the most powerful elements of the Marxist critique of capitalism has been the argument that it is the nature of modern capitalism to extend its understanding of the world into the personal, the emotional, the spiritual — in general the metaphysical realm. 

A key text here is George Lukács’s famous essay on “Reification and the Consciousness of the Proletariat,” where he writes of “the split between the worker’s labour-power and his personality, its metamorphosis into a thing, an object that he sells on the market.” This happens in varying ways in the varying professions of the capitalism world; for instance, in any bureaucracy: 

The specific type of bureaucratic ‘conscientiousness’ and impartiality, the individual bureaucrat’s inevitable total subjection to a system of relations between the things to which he is exposed, the idea that it is precisely his ‘honour’ and his ‘sense of responsibility’ that exact this total submission all this points to the fact that the division of labour which in the case of Taylorism invaded the psyche, here invades the realm of ethics. 

And when Taylorism conquers both the psyche and ethics, we get self-Taylorizing — the complete internalization of metaphysical capitalism and the consequent redescription of a condition of enslavement as a condition of self-making. People come to believe that they’re expressing themselves on social media when in fact they’re doing Mark Zuckerberg’s bidding for free. They’re like Eloi thinking that they’re the masters of the Morlocks when in fact they’re merely food. 

What I found especially interesting in my re-read of Lukács (for the first time in many years) is his demonstration that this commodification of the human person goes back a long way, much longer than we might typically think. For instance, he notes that in the Metaphysics of Morals (1797) Kant defines sex and marriage in the most commodified way imaginable: “Sexual community is the reciprocal use made by one person of the sexual organs and faculties of another,” while marriage “is the union of two people of different sexes with a view to the mutual possession of each other’s sexual attributes for the duration of their lives.” Lukács comments, “This rationalisation of the world appears to be complete, it seems to penetrate the very depths of man’s physical and psychic nature.” It’s capitalism all the way down. 

I am anything but a Marxist, but it’s important for me to realize (however belatedly) that some of my own recent arguments were anticipated by Marxist thinkers a hundred years ago. I should probably be making better use of that critique — if not of their suggestions for what should replace capitalism. 

the glazing of eyes

The older I get, the more common this experience becomes: finding that I am simply unable to read essays and articles on certain topics. I may, out of a sense of duty, begin to read something on these topics, but almost immediately my eyes begin to wander, or to glaze over. I strive to refocus; I re-read the same few sentences; but before long my mind has wandered elsewhere. Eventually I give up.

I used to be able to read about some of these things, but the way The Discourse asymptotically approaches the point of absolute stupidity — a stupidity than which no stupider can be conceived — has now rendered my brain dysfunctional w/r/t the following:

  • Critical race theory
  • Trans issues
  • Productivity
  • Burnout
  • The New Right
  • Denominational break-ups and church splits
  • Elon Musk
  • And, now of course, abortion (The Discourse around which has always been brain-dead, but was usually avoidable)

That is of course only a partial list, but it seems to cover about 90% of what I’m seeing in news periodicals these days.

One nice feature of Feedbin is the ability to create actions based on filters. So, for instance, I have just created an action to set any new article that contains the word “abortion” as read; that way it won’t show up in my “unread” feed, which is the only feed I look at. A couple of weeks ago I created a similar action for the term “Elon Musk”; I had already targeted posts that have “Burnout” or “Productivity” in their titles — if the Bad Words are not in the actual title then maybe their use in the text is innocuous. We’ll see how it goes; I’ll adjust as necessary. Keeping my sanity requires constant vigilance — unless I want to go offline altogether, which, believe me, I often consider.

On the other side, things I find that I want to read more about these days:

  • China, present and past, especially religion in China
  • Daoism
  • Anarchism
  • Infrastructure
  • Materials science
  • Scientific innovation, especially regarding climate-change mitigation
  • Water, and places where it is (a) scarce or (b) overabundant
  • Late antiquity in the West
  • … and one more topic I’ll talk about in a future post.

Mainly, though, I want to read more novels.

[I thought I had this post scheduled to go out tomorrow, but obviously I messed up. Consider this, then, a proleptic disclosure of the eschaton.]

a bit of advice

Elon Musk’s imminent purchase of Twitter has a good many people scurrying for the exits, and some of them are coming to micro.blog — which is awesome! I’ve written often here about micro.blog, and here’s a selection:

But let me add a bit of advice for those who are coming to micro.blog from Twitter: You need to leave Twitter behind altogether. Micro.blog isn’t Twitter and doesn’t want to be.

Let’s start with this: on Twitter it’s hard not to be aware of your follower count; on micro.blog you cannot know how many people are following you. Moreover, there is no re-post button. If people want to link to your micro-post they have to do so manually, by copying the link and inserting it into their own post. Similarly: there is no like button. If you like someone’s post you have to reply to them to say so. And: there is no algorithmic feed — it’s just chronological, there’s no other option.

What all this adds up to: On micro.blog, you have absolutely no incentive to flex, shitpost, self-promote, or troll. You’re there to post interesting things and/or chat with people. Nothing else makes sense.

And that’s why it’s great.

So if you’re coming over from Twitter, please try to leave your Twitter habits and reflexes behind. They won’t help you at micro.blog.

UPDATE: Here are some brief thoughts about Mastodon, which, by contrast, is exactly like Twitter, in all the bad ways.

Elon Musk could become the world’s greatest hero by buying Twitter and then immediately shutting it down.

Seriously, it would be a revelatory moment. Ninety percent of the people who shitpost on Twitter would just start shitposting on Facebook and after a few days wouldn’t remember that Twitter had ever existed. But ten percent would have a fighting chance of finding something better to do with their time.

UPDATE: Now that the deal is done — probably? — I think one of the biggest immediate consequences is a dramatic upturn in the use of text-replacement apps by journalists. Can you imagine writing this piece if you had to type all the scare quotes around “free speech” with your own fingers? Hello RSI therapy.


Ive got a 2c60d24a7e

I got a lot of problems with you people, and you know what the top one is? Many of you are possessed by demons. Or at least oppressed by them. And it needs to stop.

But as always, the first step is acknowledging that you’re afflicted by powerful forces beyond your control. So I try to lay out my demonology in this essay.

You’re welcome.

rules, consent, virtues

Leah Libresco Sargeant:

The search for the perfect rule or set of safety settings does remind me of Christine Emba’s Rethinking Sex. As she told me during our conversation, the modern culture around sex is marked by a broken promise. Many of her interviewees had a sense that, if you find the right rules, sex can only be good, and you and a stranger will never have to know each other or reveal yourselves to each other in order to feel good about what you do with each other. The rules (“two enthusiastically consenting adults”) will keep you safe.

But there’s no end run around character formation, and no checklist of consent items that lets us get around the fact that we are interacting with another human being, not a preference menu. 

Christine’s book sounds absolutely brilliant, and I very much look forward to reading it. Leah’s conversation with Christine — I know both of them, thus the first names — is fascinating also. Such vital voices! 

I decided not to read the article about the takes about the memes about the exhaustion about the memes about the takes about the Thing That Happened.