Why tweet when you can sleep?

December 30, 2020

I miss the old internet. Back when people would write about their lives on livejournal, post their band’s music on myspace, and talk to each other via AIM. Sure, I’m old, but currently the situation is pretty grim.

Twitter is a swarm of white noise, both the dumbest and the smartest people on earth restricted to so many characters to ensure only the shallowest of discourse. Facebook realized it makes money off of anti-vax conspiracy theorist nazis, so it’s helping to breed them (I mean, help them spread their ideas, not get laid). Instagram ensures a generation of people will have the least healthy forms of self image, and admire ulta-rich pricks in yachts.

I say the early internet, even though in the mid nineties, I was late to the game. There was an implication that giving everyone a voice would lead to a new form of egalitarianism of ideas, but corporations and telecoms were great at turning our voices against us. Selling us as the product to our advertisers and hyper analyzing our every behavior to the nano-second.

I make a living building and maintaining websites. Currently I work on Domino’s website. I’ve actively avoided working at the most wicked tech companies like Amazon and Facebook (Facebook probably wouldn’t have me anyway, but I digress). Working to help people buy pizza, and maybe consider a dessert doesn’t feel evil to me, even when we’re upselling. We don’t know or care if you just broke up with your ex, and we’re not going to railroad you into buying really expensive sweatshop made clothes so that they or your next potential mate find you more attractive.

The blog as a form of publication feels so much more legit, so much more meaningful and personal than a stream of consciousness about how there’s not enough cashiers at the grocery store, or a video of someone dancing funny in the street. Reading a blog post used to be about learning from another person and their perspective, not getting a tiny dopamine hit from a tweet you agree with sandwiched between ads for crap.

My personal conspiracy theory is that Google killed Google Reader so that we’d have to google every piece of news or info we wanted to read about and it would dissolve the authority of our reading lists. Because of this people aren’t reading all the newspaper headlines and some of the articles. They’re reading a hundred thousand shouts and following a link to a pile of shit “news” site made on a poorly constructed wordpress website with terrible fonts.

I’m checking out of Twitter for a bit, and Instagram too. I killed my facebook a long time ago, even though I do write a lot of React components (open source tech maintained by FB). I’d rather read a book or a magazine article than see a picture of what you made for dinner (it does look delicious though). Social media seemed so amazing 20 years ago, and it only took a generation for some billionaires to kill it and fuck its corpse for profit. It took 20 years to get us and our kids addicted to it so heavy we couldn’t take a shit without seeing what other people are doing.

Whenever Myspace is brought up online it is quick to be turned into the butt of jokes. But Myspace was a great way to hear new music, let people know about concerts in their area and find other fans. I read a newspaper article years before I’d dreamt about building websites about how a Dearborn teenager was making 6 figures styling people’s myspace pages for $100 a pop. Styling, having your own space to show who you were was part of the charm. Unfortunately, being able to embed whatever JavaScript you wanted into your Myspace page meant terrible people were going to exploit it by adding viruses that would infect every page that viewed a page with their code… back to my point, Myspace “failed”, but maybe that’s because failure is always measured by how much money the thing is making and whether or not it can continue to grow forever.

The measurement should be whether or not the people in the online community are better off for having been on the site, and if they feel like they’ve gained something from it, even if they only use it for 5 minutes a week. Does spending 6 hours a day on social media help anyone? Probably not.

I’m hopeful that things like Mastadon to gain enough steam to compete with or overpower twitter/facebook/instagram. Communities that have hubs around shared interests, where the users own their data, and can export it and move it to another community if they choose, just feels right. And AFAIK there aren’t any Mastadon services that have ads.

I would love to run an instance and run some experiments (though, I probably lack the technical know how and the attention span), where you could create a Twitter Home like experience (Twitter Home uses an algorithm to put some tweets at the top of your feed, rather than in chronological order) - and keep the algorithm open source, and allow people to see why they’re getting some information promoted above others… but maybe just leaving it chronological is best.

I’ve made a few friends on Twitter, but more enemies.

Written by Steve Barman Front end developer, horror enthusiast, cat dad.