I've recently seen a couple good articles over at The Atlantic.
The first is about social media: "The Age of Social Media is Ending." In the article, Ian Bogost argues that the most recent turmoils at Twitter and Facebook's money-losing tendencies are signs of the end of "social media." Bogost distinguishes "social network" from "social media," comparing a "social network" to a Rolodex and "social media" to a broadcaster. In this argument, the media-creation aspect of "social media" is showing signs of wear.
In the article, Bogost writes, "As I’ve written before on this subject, people just aren’t meant to talk to one another this much. They shouldn’t have that much to say, they shouldn’t expect to receive such a large audience for that expression, and they shouldn’t suppose a right to comment or rejoinder for every thought or notion either." I like this because I know I often feel as if I have very little to say, and I feel bad about it. I feel bad that I abandon this blog so often; I feel bad that songwriting is such a chore. But I feel good that I've generally abandoned the content-creation model of social media, except perhaps with sporadic Instagram posts. I don't expect many, if any, "likes" on my posts anymore, and certainly don't expect comments.
The article reminds me of how, when I taught high school English in Agassiz, British Columbia, in order to garner attention and connection with my students, I'd try to make references to social media. However, the students generally didn't care about my references. Those kids had already moved on from the social media model, I felt. Social media, it seemed, was for old people.
I've never understood TikTok, and I likely never will. But I'm glad to not feel beholden to creating media in the search for attention. At this point I think I make all my media just for me.
The second article is titled, "Electric Vehicles are Bringing out the Worst in Us," by David Zipper. In this article, Zipper argues that American auto companies' obsession with SUVs and trucks may cause problems with safety and the environment in the growing electric vehicle market.
Zipper writes, "Even modest- size electric cars are not a climate panacea. A 2020 study by University of Toronto scholars found that electrification of automobiles cannot prevent a global temperature rise of 2degrees Celsius by 2100 without a concurrent shift toward cleaner travel modes such as public transportation and bicycles." This backs up a few of my suspicions: 1. that electric vehicles need very specific non-renewable resources that may not be available to all of us, 2. that the problems in our cities and roads are caused by cars, not by what powers them, and that 3. electric vehicles are a flashy way to maintain the status quo.
I drive an old gasoline-powered vehicle. I don't like the car, but it's my car. It's not powerful or sexy. I'd love to change that, to have a cooler, more fuel efficient vehicle. But I'm not jumping on the EV bandwagon because I think the technology is still in its infancy. I want to see where it goes, and I want it to be cheaper. I feel like all the insecurities I feel about my garbage-excuse-for-a-car would not be replaced by a new, electric vehicle, but would be better replaced by living somewhere walkable, where I have better access to transit, where I don't need a car at all. That would create a far better quality of life, I believe, than jumping on the EV bandwagon before I've driven this car, and a few more, into the ground.
I also don't feel confident that worldwide mining operations will be able to keep up with the requisite EV demand for lithium and cobalt. These materials... there's only so much of them. I'm not sure that the world can produce them enough to make EVs sustainable.
Those are the two articles that drew my attention over the last couple of days.
Online and real world.
In the past, I've written about a lack of motivation to complete my musical and photographic projects. I don't feel like tracking down those posts, or trying to find posts I may have deleted. But my lack of motivation to get projects done continues, and I feel like I need to declutter my mind in order to do it.
Plenty of people suggest a big thing: delete your social media. I don't want to do that—I talk to my kids through Facebook Messenger and still enjoy posting my photos to Instagram. But I have noticed that I barely use Twitter and Tumblr, and the greatest suck on my time has been scrolling through Instagram, jealously looking at other photographers' work.
So I've started deleting people I follow on Instagram and Twitter, and may do the same with Tumblr one day. If I don't know the person, I might just not follow them. The FOMO, the envy of their curated lives, is just too strong. That envy of all the people I scan past... I feel that may be a severe hindrance to my motivation.
Of course, the real solution is to delete all the social media, or at least to make it inaccessible somehow. I don't want to lose my numerous "jeffnords" handles, but I don't want to spend time glancing at the social media stuff anymore. It's a tough choice.
Yesterday, I stopped following over 1000 accounts on Instagram, largely so I'd decrease the envy that drives me to go there. It's funny how much it seems I post for "likes;" I'm nervous that all my unfollowing will lead to a lack of "likes" for my photos, which does seem to produce a dopamine hit. I really like it when I get some "likes" on my photos.
But it's not real, is it? I've posted over 1500 photos to Instagram, but it's never really lead to anything but more likes. I haven't met many new people exclusively through the app. I know that's because I'm not being a professional photographer or anything, and I don't need to hustle the professionals and models that might lead to more connections. But when a photo doesn't get many likes, I genuinely feel bad, and then I see all the professional stuff and I feel worse.
So maybe it would be a good thing to delete it all and start over, and break out of this addictive cycle that leads me to spend too much time paying attention to Instagram likes. I don't expect likes from any other social media site; Instagram is the only one that seems to really affect me. So do I let it go?
It's tempting. I'm tired of not getting the motivation to finish my work, to make prints, to finish writing and recording songs, because it's too easy to scroll through a feed.
It's sort-of like how typing stuff online isn't political work, how people feel like they've done something political by posting online, but they haven't done anything to change a single policy. For me, with Instagram, I post things and like people's posts, but it doesn't actually help me do anything genuinely creative. It's a stumbling block.
I may have just talked myself into deleting my Instagram presence.
I've been seriously considering abandoning all of my social media accounts. The consensus from articles and podcasts tends to say that social media is bad for you, that it makes you unhappy and fills your life with anxiety. I really shouldn't be attached to them, so why keep them?
Then again, what do I do with them? I barely interact with people on them at all. On Twitter, plenty of days go by without a "like" or a "follow;" on Facebook, I refuse to post on my wall unless it's distinctly valuable to my Facebook community, meaning that I haven't posted for months; on Tumblr, I don't interact with anybody at all. The most interaction I have with anybody is on Instagram, but even that is pretty minimal. And the others are all tertiary.
So why keep them? Why maintain all these sites when I'm barely social on them? I haven't posted any new music for a few years, so why maintain those sites? And the other, the ones I've joined if only to monopolize my jeffnords URLs, do they really mean anything to me?
There are a couple practical reasons to keep them: for one, each of the sites function as a link repository. When I find something online I want to make reference to, I can post them with a comment and that helps me remember where they are. There's embedding: each of these sites let me embed things into this blog, for example; and then there's communication, since Messenger is one of the only ways I'm talking with my kids these days. So I can't really just throw them away.. or at least I can't get rid of Google and Facebook, since they're the sites that I use to sign in to numerous other sites.
So it's got me thinking: all these places say people should get off social media if they want to be happy, but I think the evidence is in that social media isn't the problem.
But there's the phone. I never wanted a cell phone. I remember when I let my partner talk me into getting one. I really didn't want it. I didn't want to be contactable all the time. I was happy with my landline. I also reluctantly signed up for Facebook. These were things that simply weren't natural to me.
But for the reasons I already mentioned, I can't quite get rid of them now. Even if I remove the apps from my phone, I can easily access each of those platforms through the phone's browser.
Could I scrap the smartphone? Probably not. A friend of mine tried to simplify his life and start using a simple non-smart mobile phone, but he found the quality so discouraging that he re-upgraded to a smartphone. I imagine I'd do the same thing if I tried.
And Pokemon GO is still a guilty pleasure. And might be ruining my thinking more than anything else.
Smartphones and parenting.
I have a certain obsession with my relationship with smartphones. I love it but hate it; I avoid it but it fills up my time way too much.
We gave our eldest child a smartphone back in 2014 or so. They use it a lot. It's the main way that I'm able to communicate with my kids right now.
But I also feel like it's taken over their life. And this article points out the deeper problem... that I've let the smartphone do parenting for me. That's where my sense of guilt comes from.
I deleted most of my "Likes" from Facebook.. Much like I deleted all of my past history on Facebook a couple years ago, I've been trying to make the platform decidedly personal for me. I want to make it so it represents my identity as little as possible. I want to feel no loyalty to the platform.
So then I ran myself through the "Magic Sauce" from Cambridge University (not Cambridge Analytica):
Apparently I'm an extrovert now, and I'm 25.
Their Twitter assessment, however, is probably still pretty accurate:
Amazon | DailyMotion
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LinkedIn | MeetUp | MySpace | Pinterest |
Playstation | Reddit | Snapchat
Spotify | The Internet Archive
Tinder | Tumblr | Twitter | Vimeo | VK | WattPad