Some Reflections on Twitter & WordPress: 2022

You may have noticed that I have been posting to cafebedouin less lately. It is partially because I have been more involved in using Twitter. Why?

One thing I like about Twitter is that it is a larger, socially constructed version of the kind of thoughts that we have moment to moment. Reading the timeline is like dipping into this stream. Tweeting is adding to it, and opening yourself up for a feedback loop, where your thoughts bring up thoughts in others. There’s an interesting interplay that happens, which I think is what makes the platform appealing.

But, it is also hard not to notice that it also features a lot of outlier perspectives. Perhaps it is a function of who I follow on Twitter, but there seems to be a lot of trans folks on Twitter. On one level, this must be great as a trans person. You can interact with people that are struggling with similar issues. You can feel seen, or at least not alone when you may be the only trans person in your real life social circles.

And what is true of the trans community is also true of others. Twitter is one of the places I engage with other people that use cryptocurrencies. I don’t know anyone that thinks about cryptocurrencies in my day-to-day life. It’s either not there, or invisible to the degree that it might as well not be there.

WordPress, and blogging generally, is a fundamentally different medium. It is a way to think more formally, or at least note, ideas. Maybe flesh them out into something fuller. It is a kind of workshop or garage, where you experiment and see what is right for you. How do you view the world? What do you care about? WordPress is the essay you write, whereas Twitter is more of a conversation.

Conversation and writing can both transform our lives. But, they are really different activities and modes. Conversation is thinking, in the moment, with others. Writing is more, thinking in the moment, with ourselves. But, when you extend the time frame, conversations feed into writing. Writing can feed conversations, and in some versions, writing can also be a formal conversation, where colleagues discuss a problem in their field and raise different, relevant points with the hope of achieving some larger understanding. But, the difficulty and the amount of work that goes into that kind of conversation, to explore ideas that, hopefully, have lasting value is not how many of us spend much of our time.

But, I think the real value of these kinds of conversations is that it widens our experience and helps us to retain what is good and valuable. Much of what we think is neither good nor valuable.

I’d argue that much of the conversation that is happening on Twitter, even after acknowledging it has value in expanding our experiences and perception, is wounding. Maybe this makes us stronger. Assuming that we can recover and not too much damage has been done. But, I’m not so sure that’s the case. I think people talking about their struggles with mental health, chronic illness, unpleasant interactions, and the usual suspects of various X-isms maybe causing a kind of death by a thousand cuts, where we expand our concerns so wide that they don’t have any depth. Is it any wonder that if you try to wrestle with the demons of the whole world, that you run the risk of being overwhelmed?

I haven’t come to any conclusions yet. I’ve grown to like Twitter. I particularly like that it offers a window into different experiences, such as the problems women, people of color, or other groups face that I might not have any experience with.

But, there’s also limits. You can kind of listen in on the experience of a mother, a computer security specialist or whomever. However, it is an experience, removed. You might argue that it is no experience at all, no better than what you knew before Twitter. I don’t think that is right, but I do think it is not an unqualified good. In fact, the overall effect might be a net negative. It may not even be possible to bring it to a net positive, and if it is, it probable requires approaching Twitter with discipline, knowing what you want to get out of it, which is kind of antithetical to the medium.

All of this is a long way to say that I took a bit of a dive, and I think I’m good for now. I’m going to spend a little less time on Twitter. It has a place, but it should probably be a small one. I might take a deeper look at Mastodon sometime soon, just to see how it is qualitatively different, as some articles suggest.

Messengers

It seems to me that some messaging app that has the functionality of WeChat is where a lot of this web3 and cryptocurrency is going. The functionality of WeChat is described by Wikipedia as: messaging, public accounts (for famous people or people with an audience), channels for friend groups, digital payments, video, etc.

Right now, messaging is dominated by Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram and Discord. I suppose Apple’s Messages is another, but I don’t know the Apple ecosystem.

The main piece will be the incorporation of digital payments. The above aren’t really positioned to deliver on digital payments, and they also have privacy problems.

  1. Signal: good option, people object that it requires ID verification through phone number registration. But, it already has digital payments incorporated through a build-it MobileCoin wallet in the app.
  2. Keybase: It has an Stellar cryptocurrency wallet. It’s more like groupware designed to verify users social media accounts, but it is in this space.
  3. Element: open source with paid tier option, no ID required. Less commonly used than Signal. No digital payments
  4. Threema: one-time payment for a license to use. Bills itself as maximum security. New to me. I don’t think payments are available.

PoE: Proof of Effort

I really liked this idea of Proof of Effort, a riff off Proof of Work and Proof of Stake consensus mechanism in cryptocurrencies. Strikes me as a variation of RTFM. People are more inclined to help once you have shown you have tried to solve your own problems.

TweetDelete

“TweetDelete is a service that can mass delete your Twitter posts based on their age or specific text they contain. It can also run automatically on a schedule if you wish.”

https://tweetdelete.net/

I haven’t tried it, but I read that this can do a rolling delete at a particular time, say 6 months. It seems like it might be useful to some people.

Thoughts on Shitpost Diplomacy

“The internet operates on its own logic. In the world of Twitter, Twitch and Tiktok, fame is the aim and exposure the goal. The influence of an influencer is measured in retweets, reblogs, and runaway memes. The internet-addled man glories in the hashtag that takes on its own life; he revels in the image that entire subcultures make their own. His battleground is “the discourse.” In this ethereal realm of images and threads, prestige comes from being clever, being funny, and being first. One’s internet enemies are to be cancelled where possible, and lampooned when not. The social media addict knows victory when the right words are used by the right sorts.

But not all enemies can be cancelled. Not all fights can be won through clever retweets. The world of flesh and blood does not always work like the world of memes and tweets. Those given responsibility in the world of physical things court disaster when they confuse internet politics with the real thing…

How many divisions does Twitter have?

-Tanner Greer, “Thoughts on Shitpost Diplomacy.” The Scholar’s Stage. February 22, 2022

I was reading somewhere else this week that the modern divide is between the analog and the digital. If your focus is on doing things in the physical world, then the Internet’s logic is incomprehensible. Internet logic is a battle over hearts and minds. But, if you are detached from that battle, as most of the world is detached from the physical reality of what is happening in the Ukraine, then it looks absurd. Fighting an invasion with dank memes is an exercise in futility. But, on the other hand, you use the weapons you have and know how to use. What does it say about someone whose weapon of choice is shitposting?

The Social Obscene

“In certain young people today…I notice what I find increasingly troubling: a cold-blooded grasping, a hunger to take and take and take, but never give; a massive sense of entitlement; an inability to show gratitude; an ease with dishonesty and pretension and selfishness that is couched in the language of self-care; an expectation always to be helped and rewarded no matter whether deserving or not; language that is slick and sleek but with little emotional intelligence; an astonishing level of self-absorption; an unrealistic expectation of puritanism from others; an over-inflated sense of ability, or of talent where there is any at all; an inability to apologize, truly and fully, without justifications; a passionate performance of virtue that is well executed in the public space of Twitter but not in the intimate space of friendship.

I find it obscene.”

-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “IT IS OBSCENE: A TRUE REFLECTION IN THREE PARTS.” chimamanda.com. June 15, 2021.

I found this discussion of the “controversy” around this essay pretty interesting. Why did she choose to write this? It seems like setting yourself up for a lot of bother. But, I think the central idea that the incentives of social media tends to do something to people’s perspective – removing nuance of thinking, increasing self-centeredness, etc. is valid. How do you mitigate this problem, for yourself and in relationship with others using these platforms?

No. 1 Rule: Keep Your Shit to Yourself

“A day before I sent Malcolm the email saying I wanted to break up, I came across a term online: solo polyamory. It described a person who is romantically involved with many people but is not seeking a committed relationship with anyone. What makes this different from casual dating is that they’re not looking for a partner, and the relationship isn’t expected to escalate to long-term commitments, like marriage or children. More important, the relationship isn’t seen as wasted time or lacking significance because it doesn’t lead to those things.”

-Haili Blassingame, “My Choice Isn’t Marriage or Loneliness.” The New York Times. April 2, 2021.

It starts with an email that reads like a PR piece for an event. It has talking points. She’s trying to sell it.

This piece seems to be generating a lot of discussion on Twitter, to the point I’m hearing about it, and I don’t use Twitter. And, sure, it’s sophomoric and stupid. You don’t break up with people you are in relationships with over email. She’s adopted the passive voice of the corporation to try to spare herself, and perhaps this man, some pain.

The effort is inept, but I think the heart of it is kind. They graduated from college, and they lived on opposite coasts. This man was her first boyfriend. They’ve been together for five years. While there are a few exceptions to how this plays out, the normal course is a breakup, typically within a year. This is obvious to anyone with any life experience.

Another thing that becomes obvious to everyone over time is that relationships are defined by limits. She says:

“My entire girlhood had been consumed by fantasies that were force-fed to me. Love and relationships were presented as binary, and in this binary, the woman must get married or be lonely (or, in classic novels, die). The path to freedom and happiness was narrower still for Black women. Even in our extremely loving relationship, I had felt confined.

ibid.

To be in a relationship is to be confined. But, it is through constraints that we open up other kinds of freedom. Infinite options are just another kind of confinement. At some point, you choose or time chooses for you. Even in polyamorous relationships, there are limits. In fact, I’d wager that there are more limits in polyamorous relationships simply by virtue of the fact that there are more people involved, even if those limits may not apply all the time. But, there are limits because relationships imply limits.

It’s easy to crack on the naiveté of the author of this article. But, there’s an important lesson to be learned. When you learn something new about yourself – your needs, your wants, your desires, your thoughts about who you are – keep it to yourself and the people that care about you, at least for a few years. Integrating insights is hard work, and it takes time, particularly when they are part of the process of identity formation and how we define ourselves.

In general, it’s a good idea to work with the garage door up, to share your thoughts and processes in how you think about the world and how you do whatever it is that you do. But, your feelings, your sense of identity and your issues, and we all have issues, are not where you do it.

When you close the door to go to the bathroom, everyone knows what you are doing in there. There’s no need to throw open the door and put yourself on display. It isn’t doing anyone any favors, least of all yourself.

So, close the door. Keep that shit to yourself. Work it out. Flush when you’re done, and as a courtesy, light a candle or a match on the way out, so the person behind you can focus on their business and not yours.