I read It's Not The Internet It's You this morning (in a chain of RSS reader → here → there). It touches on a lot of points I’ve been thinking about around Twitter and other social media, but it felt particularly relevant today, the 19th anniversary of 9/11. I’ve often thought about what that day would have been like it Twitter/Facebook had been around then.
I have one point of comparison, I learned about the Boston Marathon Bombing on Twitter. My wife was working in Boston at the time (although outside the city that day), so it obviously had immediate relevance. I checked Twitter nearly constantly in the days that followed, as though there was secret information there that the local news didn’t have. It certainly pretended it did, there was the whole Reddit junior detective squad shitshow, and a bunch of Internet sleuths playing CSI-Boston with the video/photos that they could get their hands on. There was at least one day between the bombing and the shootout with the Tsarnaevs where my wife went into the office, and the official line from places in Boston was “we are investigating it, and we are keeping an eye out”, while Twitter/Reddit was convinced it was a trap to lure more people back into the city for a second attack. Very healthy for the brain.
The pattern repeats itself over the years. Something happens (2016 election, this Coronavirus thing you may have heard of) and you go looking for an explanation for “why”.
Manipulation by platform developers only goes so far towards hacking your brain. What I quickly realised was that I had a choice to do these things or not, it was internally that I was so susceptible to the triggers used.
But there is no answer. The Internet is the checkout line at the grocery store, at best there's a poorly written recipe book, at worst it's the National Enquirer and its ilk. There isn‘t a call to action here, but there is an acceptance that 2020 might get worse before it gets better, and no, no one on the Internet has any idea what to do about that.