The last few days have been weird, haven't they? As the election count draws inexorably to a close, England starts its second national lockdown today. And then we come out in time for Christmas, supposedly, and immediately after that Brexit is finalised and we plunge into uncharted waters…
It's an interesting time to be alive; a set of challenges coming thick and fast, with no useful predictions as to how things will play out. We're hitting turbulence en masse, which is unusual.
I've been pondering the role of social media in all this - I know I'm hardly alone in that - and my first instinct has been to come off of all of it permanently. I've seen the Netflix documentary, I've read Jaron Lanier and Cal Newport et al. I know that if the product is free, that means we are the product. I know about the data mining and the undue influence, and I can find no cogent argument for portraying the people that run these services as anything other than venal.
And yet… I’d miss it if I went. I mean, I’m hardly there at the moment, but I do scroll the feeds and I do laugh at the jokes and click the interesting links and I do have my eyes opened to things that might otherwise pass me by. And how to replace that? I could spend an age tweaking my news feeds in the hope of replicating the experience, of finding another route back to the well. But is that time well spent? Or could my time be better spent re-engaging with social media in a way that makes sense to me and does no harm to anyone else? Participation itself would seem to be an act of collusion at the moment, and yet if all the good people bail, what is left? An amplified cesspool with no counter-balance…
I am not proposing to fight the good fight here. I’m not charging in to take on the trolls and the idiots and the white supremacists. But it would be nice to be an ally of the people who post the interesting, the funny, the thought-provoking and the just plain weird.
I don’t have anything to plug, I don’t have anything to persuade you of. But I do enjoy the conversation.
And so I’m going to head back into the fray. I’m not sure yet where the emphasis will be; I have two accounts, @julianactual and @infodumptweets, the former has more followers but the latter is a little more on-brand for the material I want to read and share. So I guess I’ll try to strike a balance, and then see which one gains momentum.
There’s very little we can do to influence world events, and carving out a little bit of civilisation online isn’t even a drop in the ocean. But maybe it’s a better option than running away.