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Thoughts on social media and politics

2017-01-31 17:43:23.491303+00 by Dan Lyke 7 comments

This was transcribed from me talking while driving, so has a different flow and style than my usual writing. Deal with it.

I've been "blogging" since before there was a term for it. The first entries in my blog's archives don't have timestamps on them are dated from sometime in February of 1998, so long about 19 years. I have, for years, read the essays by social scientists describing how social media provides us with little bursts of oxytocin, provides us with a thin veneer of interacting with people, and as someone with along history of participation in social media I kind of accepted that that was true, but online communication has, since the early to mid 1980s, has been a very strong part of my social scene.

So I thought "yeah, that's fine, but we carry on".

This last weekend I did a workshop that, among other things, had lots of hugs, lots of close eye gazing, lots of respectful physical contact, and everyone of those, too, sparks a little burst of oxytocin, a little burst of wonderful brain feeling.

And the workshop is designed to have a narrative arc which brings us through some experiences which can be scary, or exciting, into a place where we hopefully come out feeling amazing, and having learned some things. My own narrative arc was amplified by some long-standing social anxieties. Despite being a square dance caller, or perhaps that's why I'm a square dance caller, I don't enjoy free form dance much, I don't get much out of it. And so on Saturday night when the "how late do you want to stay up" activity was free form dancing, I was kind of feeling dejected, and and a little bit out of the space, and felt apart, as I often do in social experiences.

Sunday morning, an absolutely wonderful person, whether by design or accident, amplified my narrative arc. Came and gave me a huge burst of validation and absolutely wonderful connection. And so I'm also coming off the weekend with a tremendous limerence that feels amazing (The nice thing about being 48 rather than 18 is that I have some of the communication skills to work through this with the other parties involved, and some of the introspection skills to work through it within myself).

When I got home, the tools and skills that I learned in this workshop helped me to better re-connect with Charlene, too. So I had this absolutely amazing weekend, got to sleep very late, and on Monday morning, as is my habit, after Charlene left the house, I went down to my computers to start the day, opened up a tab on Facebook and Twitter, and was faced with pages and pages of wallowing in the horrors of current politics.

All of a sudden I was tremendously conscious of how I had been turning to Twitter and Facebook increasingly for these little bursts of validation, of interaction with other people, and how as social media has evolved to be passing around the same overly amplified horrible news stories, we've lost a lot of the personal connection that led to the friendships and amazing relationships that I have with people I've met online, from the BBS days, to Usenet, to early bloggers back in the late ྖs. Friendships and relationships that continue today. My favorite social media these days is email and private slack channels and other side channels that involve those same people.

I've never had a defined mission statement for my blog. The best I ever came up with was "sex, drugs & technology". It has always been "things that interested me", and was never really published for other people, at least not at first: The first time I looked at my logs and saw that I had 45 or so regular readers I was absolutely ecstatic. Later that ran up to probably about 1500, and it's probably down to 10 or so now. But it has served as an additional brain and memory for me, as well as a social connection. So I certainly post my share of political news, of things that I know that I will want to go back to: I often end up having conversations later where I wish I could cite exactly where that thought, feeling, factor number came from, and my blog lets me do that.

But as I gazed through Twitter and Facebook on Monday morning, what I saw was the same story repeated hundreds of time, the same people linking to different version of the stories, each of which was designed to create more and more anxiety in the reader, more and more clicks, more and more "oh my god, I have to read more".

So I'm searching in new directions. I want to find more personal connections. More places where the interactions aren't with repeated material, but are with the minutiae of people's everyday lives: The things that allow us to connect, and be human. And I suspect that much of this is actually going to be more in real life than online. Although there may be ways to build tools to get back to doing this online.

(Aside: There was talk about "real world", and going back to it, and why is "what we're used to" the "real world", and not the space we were in in the weekend?)

I have long complained that "news" is rarely something I can do something about. It's not like the latest events in Washington are things that my life can directly influence. That's why I elect legislators. That's why I participate in a society that has a tripartite system of government. So I would appreciated it if, as people post news of horrors and horrific statements by appointed officials that they think about what particular actions can be taken in the context of that news. Instead of the handwringing and the misery porn, concentrate on the positive direct actions we can do.

We know that the attitudes and opinions of those "in power" value certain power dynamics or economics over human decency. We know that modern government is heavily based in fear, and reactionary politics, and hate. We don't need a constant stream of reminders of these things, what we need is examples of ways to do things better, and reminders of how to effect that change within our world. And then we need the personal connections, the things which inspire us to be better in the world, which guide us to a better world. A world with more human connection, with more smiles, with more soulful longing, and the tools to gratify that longing and explore those spaces of social and psychological need.

So this is my call to you to think twice before forwarding that latest report of the horrors of some Washington DC official or political pundit. If you have specific issues you'd like me to contact my legislators on, I am all ears. If you have uplifting stories and examples of people who are striving to counter the horrors of more than half of our current government, I'm all ears. If you have photos of your kids and your kittens and your lunch, the things that are meaningful to you, especially if they're of your own kids, your own kittens, your own captions on on your pictures, I eagerly await your posts.

I want your updates of your joys and sadnesses, of your laughter and crying, and yes, of your concerns, but of the concerns that concern you, not the concerns that are generated externally.

But if social media continues to be full of these hits of hopelessness and despair, these clips of movies that cannot possibly have happy endings, I need to change the channel. I need to turn the television off and go outside.

So if I disappear from Facebook or Twitter, that's where I've gone. You can always catch me on my own blogs, although that may get a rework. On email, or the various other ways that I stay in touch with people. Ask for an invite to one of the various online communities that I also participate in, or come square dancing with me, or find hugs in one of the other physical communities in which I engage. But I need my communities to be uplifting and empowering. To be inspiring. I want people around me to be people I connect with, people I can be joyful with, people I can say "hey, you know, I'm crushing really hard on you right now", and we can talk that out and find safe boundaries in which to explore that relationship for all of us.

Places to make *human* connections. Because that's the way that can be inspired to save our world. To lift up our communities. To become more together than we can individually.

If you desire my political opinions and notes of the day, they're over at this blog entry: https://www.flutterby.com/archives/comments/23901.html

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comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: Thoughts on social media and politics made: 2017-01-31 18:03:31.961403+00 by: Dan Lyke

Twitter entry if you feel compelled to respond there: https://twitter.com/danlyke/status/826490573376802816

Likewise the Facebook entry: https://www.facebook.com/danlyke/posts/10155015418659540

#Comment Re: Thoughts on social media and politics made: 2017-01-31 19:14:55.808686+00 by: Dan Lyke


The surest way to discourage conversations is to enable likes/favorites and retweets/reblogs. These inarticulate gestures barely qualify as social. They are literally the least amount of social interaction you can have with someone. Press a button, done. Much social, wow. They are the form letters of social networks. No personal response is required. To whom it may concern: click. I would've traded one hundred likes for one person taking the small amount of time and effort to personally reply with "I like your tweet." When my tweets got likes but no replies, it was still a very empty experience for me. It still felt like I was tweeting into the void.

#Comment Re: Thoughts on social media and politics made: 2017-01-31 19:55:49.99742+00 by: Dan Lyke

Another take: CGP Grey: This Video Will Make You Angry (YouTube)

...though the participants think they're involved in a firey battle to the death, from the anger germ's perspective, one side is a field of flowers, the other flock of butterflies. Of course planting more flowers will get you more butterflies, and getting more butterflies will pollinate more flowers.

#Comment Re: Thoughts on social media and politics made: 2017-02-01 10:38:41.250375+00 by: DaveP

Fwiw, I dumped my FB account for similar reasons. I'm more active on twitter, but since my web host died, I haven't had the energy to start blogging again. I'll probably pull it all down one of these days, as paying $40 a month to continue hosting it is more than I'd like to spend, and moving it to somewhere cheaper would require a lot of effort and powering up a computer at home again.

But lately, rather than sitting at a computer, or clicking around on my iPad, I go out to the garage / shop and turn money into sawdust and shavings. It's a lot more satisfying and less frustrating.

Anyway, I'm glad we met online all those years ago, and I'm glad to see you keeping Flutterby alive.

Keep your stick on the ice.

#Comment Re: Thoughts on social media and politics made: 2017-02-01 15:29:39.197125+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, I'm paying $3.50 or so a month (stock Ubuntu box running on ARM), and I'm starting to wonder... It's nice to have pictures online, although I could do that by just organizing them better in my phone. It's nice to have off-site backup of some things...

I'm pretty sure we'll see another early adopter social media-ish thing soon, but I don't think it's going to be on the web, and I suspect it'll be focused around sharing and keeping memories...

#Comment Re: Thoughts on social media and politics made: 2017-02-02 01:13:48.800138+00 by: mkelley

I think about firing up a blog again but it's gets too personal when I wanna write something long form. I'm about to return to college and I need those brain cells and the attention span for it instead of thinking about a topic. I still have my old blog up but kinda hidden, it's neat to read stuff from 2000 or 2003 in my 20's.

I miss being that open online without a shit ton of family around. I guess it was validation and when i was going through my loner phase. In hindsight, I should have put that energy toward getting out of TN.

#Comment Re: Thoughts on social media and politics made: 2017-02-02 02:02:19.197669+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, I was just commenting today that I need to implement the "different users get different subsets of the document" thing for Flutterby.net...

I've also been thinking about a blogging platform on top of IPFS, that'd be useful for things like distributing backups for family pictures, but I think encryption and who can see what is increasingly important.

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