Social Chronophage

“The social industry doesn’t just eat our time with endless stimulus and algorithmic scrolling; it eats our time by creating and promoting people who exist only to be explained to, people to whom the world has been created anew every morning, people for whom every settled sociological, scientific, and political argument of modernity must be rehashed, rewritten, and re-accounted, this time with their participation.

These people, with their just-asking questions and vapid open letters, are dullards and bores, pettifoggers and casuists, cowards and dissemblers, time-wasters of the worst sort…Time is not infinite. None of us can afford to spend what is left of it dallying with the stupid and bland.”

—Max Read, “Going Postal.” Book Forum. Sept/Oct/Nov 2020.

Review of Richard Seymour’s The Twittering Machine, which is worth reading in its own right.

h/t Velcro City Tourist Board.

Three Years Without Facebook, Most Social Media

Occasionally, I’ll see an article where someone talks about giving up social media or a specific service – such as Facebook – for a week, a month, 99 days, a year, or even that it isn’t possible for most people. The last may be true. If someone relies on weak ties to get through difficult times in their lives, they probably need to maintain those ties in an efficient way, such as by using Facebook.

For example, if you need to call Uncle Joe to come and pick you up when your car breaks down, Uncle Joe uses Facebook and you don’t see him much, then you probably need to be on Facebook. That’s your reality.

Another reality is that giving up Facebook is that you’ll lose friends. I tend to have a very small social circle. I have a couple of friends, and I invest a lot in those relationships. However, one of my friends lives far away, and we had moved to communicating primarily through Facebook. When I deleted most of my social media accounts back in 2017, the friendship slowly faded after.

So, there’s a price to be paid. You aren’t as connected, and it means some of your relationships will atrophy as a result.

I still maintain a few social media accounts. But, I’ve moved to a model where I do not post anything to social media and I don’t use it. I don’t browse. I don’t post. I don’t comment. On a very rare occasion, I might react or like something. But, I mostly use it so that if there’s a link to, say, Twitter in an email newsletter, I use a Twitter account using a free software app to view it on my phone. There’s no point being a zealot about it.

But, on the other end, I’ll never go back to being a regular user of a service like Facebook, which I don’t use in any form. It’s poisonous and manipulative. I miss my friend, but the cost of maintaining that relationship, and others, through Facebook was simply too high.

Looking at it after three years, I’d recommend leaving it, if you can. At the very least, try a sabbatical, so you can get a feel for what using the service is costing you in terms of your emotional well-being. Uncle Joe will still be there, if you decide log back on after a month off.

Disabling Facebook and Other Social Media Tracking in WordPress

I realized yesterday that the default sharing options in WordPress enabled tracking by Facebook and Twitter. I don’t want advertising or tracking on my site. I found that you can turn these “features” off in the Dashboard.

Simply click on Enabled Services and drag and drop into Available Services, and vice versa, for services you want enabled, such as Email or Print.

A Second ‘Second Life’: Facebook Horizon

“Welcome to Facebook Horizon, an ever-expanding VR world where you can explore, play, and create in extraordinary ways. At Horizon, you’re not just discovering a new world, you are part of what makes it great.”

Facebook Horizon

At first glance, Horizon seems like a modernized Second Life, a first-person Sims, a fulfillment of the intentions of AltspaceVR and a competitor to PlayStation’s PSVR Dreams and cross-platfrom kids’ favorite Roblox. Back in 2016, Facebook was giving every new Oculus employee a copy of the Ready Player One novel. It seems they’ve been busy building that world since then.

Facebook Horizon will start centralized around a town square. Before people step in, they can choose how they look and what they wear from an expansive and inclusive set of avatar tools. From inside VR, users will be able to use the Horizon World Builder to create gaming arenas, vacation chillspots and activities to fill them without the need to know how to code.

-Josh Constine, “Facebook announces Horizon, a VR massive-multiplayer world.” Techcrunch.com. September 25, 2019.

Imagine. An entire world mediated by Facebook, where they monetize your creativity for their profit.

The Pendulum Will Swing

“If you believe in something, you have to be willing to stand for something or you don’t really believe in it at all. There’s always going to be consequences for opposing people in power and there’s no doubt that I have faced retaliation, as has every public interest whistleblower coming out of the intelligence community in the last several decades, going back to Daniel Ellsberg. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. These are risks worth taking…So many people look at the world today, they look at how broken and ruined things are, and they are just disempowered and lost. But what I want people to focus on is the fact that things changed, right. And if they can change for the worse, they can change for the better. And the only reason the world is changing for the worse is because bad people are working to make it happen that way. And if more good people are organizing, if we’re talking about this stuff, if we’re willing to draw lines that we will not allow people to cross without moving us out of the way, the pendulum will swing, and I’ll be home sooner than you think.”

—Edward Snowden. “Edward Snowden on Privacy in the Age of Facebook and Trump.” The Intercept. May 25, 2018.

Facebook’s Surveillance Machine

“Should we all just leave Facebook? That may sound attractive but it is not a viable solution. In many countries, Facebook and its products simply are the internet. Some employers and landlords demand to see Facebook profiles, and there are increasingly vast swaths of public and civic life — from volunteer groups to political campaigns to marches and protests — that are accessible or organized only via Facebook.”

—Zeynep Tufekci, “Facebook’s Surveillance Machine.” The New York Times. March 19, 2018.

It’s a Catch-22. You have to be willing to tell Facebook, as well as the employers and landlords that demand access to your social media accounts should you choose to have them, to fuck off in order to get “vast swaths of public and civic life” off of the Facebook platform. Regulation isn’t going to solve the problem of Facebook and the feudal Internet. Thinking that regulation can solve every problem is one of the central contradictions of U.S. liberal political thought. But then, U.S. conservatives have similar notions of deregulation. You can’t have small government and a global war on Communism, terrorism and drugs.

Sometimes there is no reform that will square the circle, and you have to make a choice. It’s perfectly reasonable to choose not to use Facebook. It takes two to four weeks to shake off the desire to check it, and then, most likely, you’ll spend more time with those closest to you rather than cultivating all the weak ties out beyond your Dunbar number of acquaintances that Facebook facilitates. Not everyone can do it, but many people could (and should).

Gobo

“Sign up for Gobo, link it to your other social media profiles, and you can take control of your feed. Want to read news you aren’t otherwise seeing? Use our “Echo Chamber” filter to see what we call “wider” news. Want a better balance of men and women in your feed? Use our “gender” filter to rebalance it. Want to take a lunch break and just see popular funny videos you friends are sharing? Use our “virality” filter to pick only the most shared content. With Gogo you’re in charge of the algorithmic filters that control what you see on social media. We’ve built a bunch of filters like these already, are building more, and have made it possible for other developers to add filters too. Sign up, try it out, and see if it changes how you think about how social media should work.”

Gobo