The last few months, I’ve felt sick. Physically ill. Something was genuinely wrong within me. I felt angry all the time. Genuinely, purely angry.
This wasn’t faux frustration I’m talking about. I spent a lot of my youth and young adult life angry due to a large number of genuinely unfair circumstances. I had some horrible things happen that forced me to learn how to deal with that anger. I learned how to meditate, how to channel energy into positive things, and how to cope with the small sparks within me before they could grow into infernos. And the past few months, I’ve found myself completely forgetting all of that teaching, instead being ready to pop at a moment’s notice.
So a short while back, I took a few weeks to really analyze what was going on in me. This is the sum total what I’ve learned.
• • •
Social Media, Mental Health and That
Asshole Guy Donald Trump
I’ve backed off Social Media a number of times in my life. And one thing that remains true every single time is that, after backing off for a while, you start to not miss it. Yes, at first it’s hard. A day in, it’s difficult not to type “F-A-C-E” into the address bar and have it autocomplete to Facebook. It’s habit, as much as pressing in the clutch before you shift becomes habit while driving. But it wanes after a short while, and after a few days, I don’t really have to think too hard about how NOT to type F-A-C-E” the second I open my web browser.
So a week or more goes by, and I have the habit kicked. I’m TOTALLY over it. All is well, and I’m cleansed. So I feel safe checking in to see what’s going on. And that’s all it is at first, checking in.
Until THAT article shows up.
You know exactly which article I’m talking about, even though it’s different for every one of us. It’s the one that you shake your head at and scoff and think “What the fuck!” And you just HAVE to respond. And the second you do, you feel that shock of poison through your veins that gets your heart going and your mind racing. It’s adrenaline mixed with dopamine. You’re back on the juice, and you know that you’re a few clever observations from Like City and yet another moment of validation.
So I tried sanitizing my Facebook world. I tried unfriending the gross and unfollowing the borderline, and focusing only on my friends and their jolly good times. And I’d pop on and I’d think to myself “Oh, wow, my nephew is at the Kennedy Space Center! He looks so happy! That is so awesome… And look, my friend Rachel just got engaged! How wonderful! And my friend Nikki’s adorable precious angel baby child is trying to eat the lid to a jar of raspberry preserves, and that’s just SO adorable and OH MY GOD WHAT THE FUCK DID TRUMP SAY?!? I MUST RESPOND!”
It’s like wanting a refreshing beverage and drinking 30% Kool-aid mixed with 70% cyanide, and being thankful for having your thirst quenched.
The older (and presumably wiser) I’ve gotten, the more absolute moral certainty disturbs me. I am an unapologetic liberal, morally. Politically, I would have to say that I’m far more centrist, especially when it comes to rights and fiscal responsibility. For quite a while, I was able to walk that line in conversations and debate. But the last few years, I’ve found myself going all-in on policy, simply because there’s really no other option online. You can’t be in the middle anymore. It’s red team vs. blue team, for all the chips in the pot, at all times, every single day.
It wasn’t immediately apparent that I was slipping into “I’m right, you’re wrong” territory. It took a while (like, years) for me to slip into the role, and once I did, I felt 100% justified going full-bore apeshit on people who, I felt, represented this morally reprehensible division in our country that could somehow fathom voting for a loathesome, disgusting, mysognistic racist, classist, xenophobic, whiny rich-kid-brat 70 year old that is Donald Trump.
The mere fact they could support him put anyone who bothered to advocate or defend any of his policies on the other side of the social fence we’ve all erected.
But here’s the thing: It’s not Facebook’s fault. It’s mine. I can’t help it. I am addicted to the call-and-response of people I think are stupid having the audacity to be on MY internet, saying shit I don’t agree with. HOW DARE THEY?!? I was here first (more on that in a bit)!
It’s naive to think you can sanitize your way to a trigger-less existence by removing everyone from it. It’s evil to think you can make them not react in their own way, on their on terms, to the things that upset them inside their own circles. The correct answer to this is to adopt a stance that strikes a balance between not being okay with something, but being okay with the fact that other people get to have an opinion.
I had to learn to just shut the hell up and let it be.
I forget that people who support Donald Trump are human beings with lives and feelings and opinions that are borne of their own personal hardships. Loss of jobs, higher taxes, what few dollars they bring in with their incomes going nowhere near as far as they did 20 or 30 years ago. The sociopolitical divides of their Judeo-Christian upbringing being in conflict with social openness and awareness and acceptance. Everything they’ve ever known to be right, true and correct is being challenged and accepted by people who seem to control aspects of the world they feel completely detached from, and yet completely controlled by.
And that’s just when it comes to who should be president.
So they probably feel every bit as passionate about their viewpoints as I do about mine. And they’re willing to overlook the negative traits of the human being running for office that they’ve decided to vote for, because he represents a sea change back to things they can understand. Just like I’m willing to overlook scandals, lies and 30 years worth of political maneuvering in my candidate, just for the shot to be President.
Because for me, Hillary has become an avatar AGAINST what I don’t understand. Just like Trump is an avatar AGAINST what they don’t understand. I truly believe that the vast majority of people couldn’t care less what their own candidate believes, they just don’t want the other one in office because of what they do represent.
And none of this dialog or understanding or insight takes place on Facebook or Twitter. It tries, in pockets and in parts. But by and large, it’s “us versus them” all day, every day.
So I fire shots across bows, because I have clever quips and insights. And I get hundreds of likes every single time I do, because the only people even listening anymore are the ones who already agree with my viewpoints. If I haven’t already blocked or unfollowed “friends” who represent strong opinions on the other side of the aisle for saying things that I deem racist, stupid, poorly thought out, tone-deaf or some other manifestation of their lack of understanding, they’ve most certainly blocked or unfollowed me.
All of this to say, It’s not so much that I want to talk about presidential candidates and how I feel about them, as it is that this most recent dividing line is one of the most stark we’ve faced as a society since the invention of the internet. So it’s the perfect illustration about how society has been driven to division, in part due to validation and the “I’m right, you’re wrong” syndrome, and partly because of the companies that perpetuate and foster it because they actively profit from that division.
And this isn’t how it’s supposed to be.
• • •
Before Social Media, It Was Just The Internet (or, “Back in my day…)
It was 1990 when I first connected to the Internet. I was on Qlink for the Commodore 64. I still remember the sqeal of the modem and the thrill of seeing that most amazing word appear on the screen, “Connected!”
The whole world, it seemed, was at my fingertips… Because it was. And while there were definitely trolls and griefers on the message boards in spots, by and large, it was an open and inviting place. There was so much to learn, and at 12 years old, I was ravenous for knowledge (and also very very bored at home). The content available back then (as well as the number of users) is dwarfed by several orders of magnitude by what’s out there today, but at the time, it was more than enough to enthrall me.
Time moved forward. Hypertext became a thing. Browsers were developed to view pages written in HTML. The individual networks were deregulated and eventually merged. I was in college around the time The World Wide Web was formed. It was interesting to see that the internet graudated from a hobbyist’s medium, to a place where college kids and professors spent their Fall, Winter and Spring semesters, to the “Eternal September” when the number of users didn’t dip at all after school ended, to the massive, always-on, heavily populated, “something to read on the toilet on my smartphone” sphere of existence it’s become today.
The ride from then to now has had its bumps, and things slowly got weirder and stranger as we went along. When I first connected to the internet, there was a base-level of knowledge, education, understanding and ability you had to have simply to get there. You had to know how to operate a computer. That computer had to have a modem and a phone line attached. You had to know how to set the parameters on the modem to receive signals from the destination modem (and they were all different). Finally, you had to know what numbers to dial, how to connect, how to create an account… There were so many barriers to entry. You had to WANT to be online, and pretty badly.
The main appeal for me, of course, was the lack of barriers and gatekeepers. You want to make something? No one can tell you ‘no.’ Make your art. Write your stories. Publish your ideas and your opinions. The world was open to you. Hundreds of thousands of people could see this thing you made, and if they loved it, they could tell you. And if they hated it, they COULDN’T tell you it had to go. They just moved on.
Then came AOL and CompuServe and Netcom and the like. It got easier. You just plopped a disk into the drive and ran the connection software.
Then came ISDN, DSL, Cable. Modems no longer required any sort of configuration. Internet was always-on, and in everyone’s home.
Friendster. Myspace. Facebook.
The Well. Fark. Digg. 4Chan. Reddit.
Alta Vista. Yahoo. Google.
Palm VII. Handspring. Treo. iPhone and Android.
Walk into any electronics store in 2016 and in an hour, you can walk out with a device that can connect to the sum of human knowledge, anywhere, at any time.
It finally happened. Everyone, Everywhere, had internet all the time, and there was a TON of internet to be had.
In theory, 12-year-old me would be delighted. The potential for everyone to learn anything they wanted, make anything they wanted, publish anything they wanted, whenever, however… It was a utopian concept that thrilled me to my core. It’s what drove me to write in the first place. It’s what gave me my writing career, software development career, design career… It made it all possible, because no one could tell me ‘no.’
In reality, 39-year-old me is horrified. It seems that when everyone can do anything whenever they want, they tend to ruin it — and the companies are there to profit from the chaos of it all.
• • •
What Do You Do With A Drunken Internet (Social Media And Mental Health)?
Charlie Brooker recently gave an amazing interview to Vulture.com where he talks about the dissonance that’s created by all of this need to appeal to everyone at once. It’s all brilliant, but in particular, this bit:
There are different groups of people in your life that you behave slightly differently with. You behave one way with your family. You behave in a different way with your work colleagues. You behave differently with your friends from the movie club, your fitness instructor — all subtly different personas. I remember once throwing a birthday party, and people from different pockets of my life were walking around in one room, and I kind of had a psychological breakdown. I didn’t know how to speak. I’d walk over to some of them and it was like, Hang on. How do I speak if my work colleagues are with my old college friends? Who am I?
…Online, you’re trying to appeal to everyone and people who you don’t know at the same time. So I think as a side effect it amplifies the desire for groupthink. And also because of the way there are algorithms going, Oh, so you like hearing this fact about Hillary Clinton, let’s show you something else that’s like that — it reinforces your echo chamber. We’re all helplessly spiraling into corners and bellowing at each other. I miss everything being boring. Just a few years ago everyone was dismissing everything as dull and now nothing is. It’s all brilliant or shit [emphasis mine].
It’s so hard to see what the internet has become en masse. It hurts to see this thing I’ve loved and spent so much time with, on, and around, turn into what it has become. It hurts even more to know that I am part of that problem. I remember a time when it wasn’t this way, and having to live in the middle of it while remembering how it just doesn’t have to be like this is painful. And I have no real way around it. Except to just not be in it.
It’s ridiculous to think that anyone — or even everyone — could mount a counter-offensive against the rampant stupidity (and commercialization of said stupidity) that’s become what the internet is today. It’s not only not possible, it’s not even feasible. For every one of us who dreams of an internet “the way it used to be” there’s literally a hundred thousand others who don’t know what it used to be, don’t care what it used to be, and want us to shut the fuck up about how it used to be.
Because it’s now, now. It’s not then. PROGRESS™ has taken place. So that’s stupid. It’s also toxic. It’s poisonous to be that person in the middle of a massive organism saying “No no, let’s go back to far less people, far less information being shared, and far less progress! Let’s silence the masses who have just discovered what it’s like to be heard!”
It’s pretty much like saying “Let’s Make America Great Again.” It’s code for exclusion. And as much as I miss what the internet used to be, I only miss it because I dreamed of what it could become based on what I was seeing at the time. And by and large, EVERY SINGLE THING I saw it becoming, has happened.
We DO have instant access to the sum of human knowledge, thanks to Wikipedia. Being lost getting from point A to point B is a thing of the past, thanks to Google and Apple Maps. I can have food, groceries, and any number of Lego kits delivered to my home the day I ordered them, thanks to Amazon. There’s no question I can conceptualize that can’t be answered by a simple search thanks to Google and Wolfram Alpha.
And there’s also no shortage of grief. Whether you go looking for it or not, it’ll find you.
When you give everyone a voice, they’re going to use it. And once they find out how great it feels to be heard, they won’t stop using it. When the vast majority of the people speaking live in a country where you have the luxury of being bored, you’re not scrambling simply to survive, and even the poorest of us have hot water, electricity and a car, your baseline for what passes as “having a voice” defaults to either opinion or annoyance.
It’s a hard truth to face, but even at the absolute lowest point in my entire life, I had a car to sleep in. I never spent a night on the street, despite being homeless. I had friends (a lot of whom I met and befriended on the internet) who gave me couches to sleep on, hot water for showers and shelter from the elements when I was in need.
My life is not one of supreme hardship, even at its hardest. And the same is true for the vast majority of Americans (and the developed world in general). Our great war is in ourselves, pushing hard to be heard because we’ve been raised on television and rock and roll and we think that that’s what it means to be special — to be listened to. And what we have to say, by and large, is just some sort of spin on something else we’ve already heard. In the rare instances of a unique voice appearing, it’s a matter of hours before everything they say is drowned out with poison and anger and disagreement. And if it survives that process, it’s a day before it’s co-opted, borrowed, stolen, turned into a meme, circulated, regurgitated, re-memed and washed out within a week.
Our great disquiet is not being fully satisfied 24 hours a day. And we’re on the verge of revolution because of it.
Everyone is so angry with the fact that they’re not being listened to. In some instances, it’s fully justified. There is absolutely no way one could logically disagree that there are entire demographics of people whom have benefited greatly from finally being able to be heard. Homosexual couples can get married. Black lives are mattering. Gender identity is beginning to lose all of the marketing-derived preconcept it suffers from and opening up so that people can simply be how they feel, despite the ridiculous rules that have been made up by movies and TV around how they SHOULD be because they have certain genitalia. Women are finally voicing their aggravation with decades of toxic masculinity in a manner that can’t be ignored, and men are finally able to see what toxic masculinity has done to their own mental health.
All of this, much to the dismay of those who benefit from all of it being unraveled and exposed. I should know. I was one.
• • •
Social Media and My Writing
At first, I’d write articles on my blog and post them to Social Media. I’d enjoy the shares and the likes, but the traffic went to my site and read my stuff. That stuff still persists today. You can find it in Google. You can refer to it anytime you want, because it’s always there.
Over the last few years, I’ve found myself writing more and more on Facebook instead of writing on my blog or for a publication or on my books. As a result my writing got more and more reactive, and the impetus shifted mainly to writing because I was upset about something I saw or read, and I knew I could get support for it and/or stir the pot.
Writing because you’re offended is rarely a creative endeavor. Sometimes, yes. But rarely.
I’ve found myself giving the vast majority of my time and effort to short form, temporary, of-the-moment content platforms that monetize my energy (and anger) while controlling the stuff I make there. And what’s more, they profit with every single second we spend fighting, yelling, and arguing with one another. Something about that is profoundly sick. They literally have no incentive whatsoever to quell the hostility and bring us together. In fact, they have vastly more incentive to provoke hostility and promote echo chambers. Something I can tell you from my years at ad agencies, ads sell better to groups of people with highly visible markers for interest, and no marker is more highly visible than what you hate (especially when it’s a polar choice of one thing or the other. It’s way easier to sell someone a pro-Trump bumper sticker when you know they share, for instance, anti-Hillary stories).
People spend money when they’re hungry, horny, or trying to look cool. The first two things sell themselves, but the third… Well, nothing looks cooler to your peer group than something that proves you’re a part of them, and nothing proves that more than showing them how much you hate that thing they also hate, and if you can look clever doing it, even better.
But I don’t run ads. So none of it benefits me in any way whatsoever, aside from ego validation. And a purse full of validation and three dollars will get you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
Here’s a few of the issues I’ve identified when it comes to my writing and Social Media:
The goddamn futlility of it all. Writing on Facebook is spitting into the stream; writing on Twitter feels like spitting into the wind. There are entire swaths of content I don’t even remember writing. It was produced, people “liked” it, it got a massive swell, shared all over and… nothing mattered. I got validated for a thought I had, yay. What the hell changed? I got more followers, and I got shared more, but to what end? What good did it do, besides puffing up my ego?
But I can argue it did a massive amount of harm, if to no one else but myself. I slowly stopped posting articles and concentrated on just writing long Facebook posts. It wasn’t a conscious decision (which is the scariest part, looking back on it). It just kinda happened. Rather than fire up an editor and write an article, I’d start jotting a post and it would just go and go and go and before I knew it, I had 1,000 to 3,000 words penned that inevitably got tons of likes and shares. And I will gladly pay anyone $100 USD if they can, off the top of their head, quote a goddamn sentence from any of them.
How the hell do I handle outright untruths? Arguing with the people who spread them and trying to prove they’re wrong does nothing. There are literally thousands of insane false-information propigation sites being shared daily by Facebook users as if they’re the equivalent of respected, research-based news sources, simply because both are online. And the algorithms of social media ensure that, when you like or respond to or click on or engage with anything, they show you more of it — so you end up in an echo chamber.
So slowly but surely, all that fake shit people click on and share becomes all they ever see, and they build their own reality. Every time they look through that window in their hand or on their desk to the world at large via the internet, all they see is shit that confirms every single bias they ever had. And in the rare cases of rogue articles from ANY source besides the ones they’ve learned to trust sneaking in, they scream “LIES!” at the top of their lungs, without even reading it, because the headline is all they need to know about. It’s all any of us need to know about anymore.
Headline + accompanying picture + opinion = likes and shares ahoy. That’s the churn. And I have no real evidence that I’m not doing the same thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure I am. And I hate it and I want to stop.
Who’s even reading anyway? The entire Social Media economy runs on likes and shares. People often like and share based on a headline alone. Most people who read the things I was writing there genuinely liked what I wrote and wanted to share with others, and for that I thank them. Those others shared with their others, and I could always tell that I was on the cusp of a “SEE, this is what I was talking about!” Echo-chamber share-a-thon when my likes jumped into the 3oo’s. I don’t have any posts that stay at 300 likes. 100, 200, 250, sure. Once they hit 300, they inevitably hit 3000 – 10,000 shares and likes because at that point, no one is reading it. They’re agreeing with whomever shared it, and that’s about it. And that is EVERY article, every time, no matter what.
After a certain point, it’s just “See, this is what I was talking about” without elaboration or discussion. It’s just another badge sewn on the tribal vest. And those numbers above 300 don’t translate into anything. They don’t result in people researching me, or reading my other posts, or reading my website, or buying books. They’re just numbers. It sure feels good to see, but it doesn’t matter at all in the long run (now, if I was running ads or getting paid to post, that’d be a different story…)
The Traffic Game. You want instant traffic? Write an article about an emerging social awakening. You want instant infamy? Write one AGAINST one. Clicks and likes ahoy. Any writer who writes for a major publication who tells you this isn’t at least in the back of their brain while they produce work is lying to you. Any writer can control that urge to pander for a short while in the name of good journalism… But sooner or later, it DOES affect you.
As someone who actively rebelled against a facet of very important and very powerful cultural awakening (the 2012 piece I wrote for CNN about Feminism in the Geek community) only to discover it was ME who was the problem and not “Fake Geek Girls,” I have found the process of awakening painful, difficult, and rewarding in a way I never thought it could be. Writing my personal opinions out on CNN about how “Geek Culture” was being “Co-opted” by “fakers” was probably the worst best thing I’ve ever done. It exposed me to a critique I wasn’t ready for. It made me stand and attend the cultural hearing that needed to take place.
I had a choice in the moments shortly after publishing that article. I could have doubled-down on my viewpoint and Rush Limbaughed my way to a certain kind of disgusting fame amongst misogynists. Trust me — the offer was on the table. CNN LOVED the traffic spike that piece gave them, and they were more than happy to continue running “Bad Boy Joe Peacock vs. The Entire Geek World” pieces.
But something in me wouldn’t let me do that. I was horrified at the reaction to my piece (although I really shouldn’t have been, in hindsight, but that’s what hindsight is good for— punishing yourself for being stupid). I honestly thought I was taking up and defending the flag of something I found sacred, through a childhood and adolescence of fighting just to like “geeky” things. But I wasn’t. I was perpetuating a gross exclusion of a type of content, based soley on the fact that when I found it as a teenager, it was made specifically for people like me — white straight hormonally driven escapist males, drawn and written by the same. So, wow, no brainer that it appealed to me, and seemed as if everyone who WASN’T me hated me for liking it.
Times changed. I didn’t get the memo (or, more likely–and this hurts to admit–I did and I threw it away without reading it). And I had to take some time to digest that fact. Not just a few days or weeks, but years of talking to experts, reading every book I could on the subject, and really digging in on what the hell had just happened.
Doing the work was the only answer. And I’m STILL doing that work. Defending what was, merely because it was easier for me to understand, was wrong.
Just like “Make America Great Again” is wrong. Just like wishing the internet was miraculously transformed back to a hard-to-get-on, harder-to-navigate thing merely because it would somehow raise the baseline of education needed to be on it (which, by the way, it absolutely wouldn’t — as I said earlier, there were trolls and griefers back when it started. There always will be, no matter what, a certain demographic of people who get their thrills by annoying, picking on, threatening or otherwise harassing people, because they are bored and their lives lack meaning, and this validates their ego’s need to matter. Again, I should know, because I was one).
So what’s to be done about my toxic relationship with Social Media, if I’m not going to advocate changing Social Media?
The only answer is to change myself.
• • •
So what now?
Twitter killing Vine was a wake-up call. At any time, any company that owns the platform you create on can change it or kill it and you’re left without your stuff (or, have your stuff changed out from underneath you). This isn’t the first such wakeup call I’ve had
To that end, I’ve left Twitter (I’ve deleted every tweet and won’t be going back — but I’m not deleting my account, because I don’t want someone with a vendetta snagging the name). Twitter is pretty much a cesspool. It was genuinely useful during the Arab Spring, but since that time, it’s simply become a platform for hate and threats and verbal hostility that goes largely unchecked and unpunished by its owners… Because IT PROFITS FROM THIS. So fuck that.
I’ve dramatically reduced my Facebook activity in the past few weeks, and will continue to do so. When I do hop on, it will be to post pictures of food, cigars, cool costumes, neat records, funny things, or share a piece of writing I’ve created.
I’ve found that my writing has dried up and become mostly nothing the past few years — coincidentally, it started around the time that I started posting paragraphs-long diatribes to social media. That need in me to express myself was being satisfied by daily (sometimes hourly) contributions to a stream of consciousness platform whose idea of content persistence is never useful until the FBI, a potential employer, or a jerk with a vendetta against something you said decide to dig deep to find stuff to use against you.
I’m returning to blogging daily. I am not using Medium or any other platform, because I’ve personally had a few articles ruined as they change how the platform behaved (an easy example: making margin notes now “private notes to self” with no way to change it… I’ve had a few pieces ruined because strong points were made in the margins, and now they just look incomplete). So, I’m back to running my own software on my own server, because hey, if something changes, it’s cause I wanted it to.
From now on, all of my socio-political views are going to be expressed in some sort of longer-form content, either in articles on my blog, or (if they’ll have me back) the journalistic platforms I used to write for, or my books. No more instant validation via Likes and Retweets for little quips that contribute to the sound and the fury, while signifying nothing.
Ultimately, I’m finding a new source of validation, and more and more, it’s coming from within. I’m afraid that I can never, ever detach myself from needing validation, any more than anyone else can or ever will be able to. That state of existence is the mythical concept of Nirvana, and it just plain does not exist — because to achieve it, you would have to destroy your ego, which means you’d have to physically scramble your brain such that it no longer worked fully.
There is no escaping the ego. There is only acceptance that it exists, and that it’s job is to constantly and continually keep you from emotional pain. The pain of looking stupid or weak. The pain of not agreeing with the persona you’ve built yourself to be. The pain of fear. The pain of loss. The pain of existence.
It can’t be destroyed. It can’t be reasoned with. It can’t be beaten. It can only be accepted and managed. And to that end, I’ve accepted that I am the way I am, and that I don’t have to quit being “me” to be happy. I just need to better express myself and my views, in better mediums for that expression.
I don’t need to contribute to the toxic nature of what has become discourse on the internet. I don’t need to be right all the time. I don’t need to prove how wrong someone who disagrees with me is.
I don’t need what I’ve been doing the past few years. I don’t need to be well-adjusted to a sick society.
What I do need to do is write. And I need that writing to be a healthy exercise. Even if it’s dark… Hell, especially when it’s dark. I need it. I can’t not write. I can’t not let what’s within me sit there without some sort of outlet. It’s just how I’m built.
But I CAN choose to put it in places that matter far more than stirring pots, starting (or contributing to) fights, arguing with my friends and readers on platforms that actively profit from our hating each other, and otherwise venting my colon on Social Media. I can write the books I’ve had stored inside me since I was a teenager. I can write articles that help people cope with pain and disaster, or teach them how not to get bad tattoos or smoke bad cigars or get beat up in a fist fight for no reason. I can do positive things with this energy.
So, I will. And it all starts now, the same way it began in 2001 when I first started writing on the internet: with a website of my own, on my own server, with my own comments section and my own forums and my own newsletter. I know that I will see a DRASTIC decrease in engagement, likes, shares and whatnot… But I don’t care. Because that’s no longer a valid form of currency for me.
All that matters now is producing work I am proud of and sharing it with those who’d like to read it. And I’m very honored that you’ve decided to read it.
That was brilliant. You encapsulated all my feels re social media in one amazing post.
I’m using this to push myself to wean off my addiction and start writing properly again.
This is gold Joe. I’m glad I found it (thanks Shane T) and took the time to fully read it. I’m a former professional social-media manager, and I had to stop filling that role as I simply couldn’t handle the constant barrage of toxicity. Yet, I still find myself seeking out comments to argue with, or divisive topics to froth about. You just made me think rather hardly about that… and I thank you for it.
You put in writhing what i only dreamed about – leaving Social Media. Though i’ve reduced my presence on both Facebook and Twitter (even managed to not post a single thing during this summer), i’ve still got a long way to go. Hope i’ll get there. Hope you will also.
Very insightful message. Thanks.
Balancing the benefits of safer spaces with the dangers of vaster and vaster echo chambers is difficult, but even recognizing there IS danger inherent to echo chambers is a lot of the labor required for better balance.
Right now I’m heavily invested in a lot of intersections of oppression that have, due to necessity, very closed social spaces. But it turns out if you spend all your time with transgender POC, your worldview starts to dramatically take on new form. And to feel it happen so rapidly is disconcerting and frightening, and even upon noticing it, without changing environments, avoiding that dramatic change feels like trying to run up a steep muddy hill. Especially when the voices in your echo chamber are voices that have been historically silenced, it feels righteous to now hear only them, especially since The Powers That Be™haven’t found the critical mass of commercial influence over my community (partially cuz we’re so historically broke, hurray!)
It’s not a true echo chamber, since all of us live in a stew of the ‘mainstream’ narrative, but I have placed a clear value hierarchy to what comes from MY tribe. And listening to any other narrative, is so much less satisfying…
So glad to see you move your writing to a platform that allows you to be less reactive and engage with your writing and audience in a healing way. I think this is SUCH a wonderful move for you. I loved reading this. Thank you for sharing here, and inviting me to get away from the sound and the fury with this piece.
You’ve communicated what I’ve felt about social media these past few months. I quit a few Facebook groups, and that helped a little. Then my girlfriend told me the other day that my comments on Facebook didn’t seem like me. They were abrasive and agitating, like I was daring people to disagree with me. She’s right, of course. My online persona had become the Hyde to my Jekyll. A split personality. After reading this thoughtful post (twice), I think I’m going to take a page out of your playbook. I want my daughter to be able to look back on the things I’ve written with a sense of pride, not shame, about who her father was. Cheers, Joe.
You. You’re awesome. Never forget that.
Take care of Joe Peacock first. Everything else can wait. We’ll still be here for you. You know why?
I’ve been following you for a good number of years now. Not quite since the beginning of your internet career, but shortly after. I’ve been there for your midlife crises, the hard emotional battles, and the recoveries. Your story fascinates me, partly because every person has an interesting story, but mostly because you are good at telling it. Your books are amazing, and I’ve loved reading your blog posts, articles, and other thoughts.
But I had stopped checking in on you. Thus, why this comment is posted so late. There was nothing substantial anymore, nothing to provoke me to actual thought. I’m so very glad to see that will be changing. Please know that the people who liked you before your fans started using you as confirmation bias material are still around and eager to hear more thought and see your creative genius.
Your post prompted lots of thoughts, and there’s a lot I want to respond to, but for this moment, I want to respond to the Charlie Brooker excerpt. If someone is THAT different around all those different people, to the point of having to ask “Who am I?” when they see two disparate groups together, that speaks to a lack of integrity of that person. Who I am is who I am, no matter who I’m around. Now I’ll express myself differently depending on circumstances and intimacy levels, but WHO I AM is the same – at work, with my friends, lovers, my family, my kids. I remember feeling that split, that separation of self into separate parts, and when I began meditating, I had a goal of that split no longer occurring. I achieved that in short order, and achieved comfort with that not long after. If someone is so many different people, they need to take a good long look at who they are, and what kind of life they’re living.
Being clear about who I am, my own values and priorities, and being comfortable with that, means I don’t need to try to appeal to “everyone”; in the immortal words of Popeye, I yam who I yam. People who vibe will vibe; I am not dependent on everyone liking me, because I have people who know me deeply and love me anyway — including myself.
Don’t blame facebook if the actual issue is one’s inability to make peace with who they are.