Speaking of Twitter…

After reading this article today, I decided to follow its suggestions and fortify my online presence a bit…because y’know I’m so famous and all I’m gonna get hacked.

Yeah, right.

Well, actually I did it because so much of my online life—like the article’s author—is tied to my Twitter login. I’d hate to have to go through what that poor guy did if it was ever compromised.

So I enabled two-factor authentication and downloaded my archive. I opened the archive and started looking my tweets from when I joined the service in 2009. Much like reading my Journals from twenty-five years ago, all I can say is:

For the first few months I constantly referred to myself in the third person (because apparently that’s what all the cool kids were doing), as in, “Mark Alexander…had a tasty piece of cherry pie.” “Mark Alexander…is wondering if this day is ever going to end.” “Mark Alexander…thinks having basic computer skills should be a requirement for employment in healthcare.”

Well yeah that last one is still spot on, but seriously…

One other thing that stands out (besides my supreme social media naiveté at the time) is how innocent the service used to be. Like I posted yesterday, “It has mutated from a simple way to express pithy thoughts with your friends into a vehicle for psychic violence and unending hostility.”

What’s equally disheartening is realizing how many folks whom I once had vibrant online relationships with have simply disappeared from the system. And don’t even get me started on the number of broken links in all those tweets.

That is something that’s bothered me long before seeing it played out on Twitter. As I’ve mentioned previously, on this here blog thingie, broken YouTube links have been an ongoing thorn in my side. What good is recording your life and sharing cool stuff with the world if half of it is inaccessible after a year or two, and what does it say about us as a society that we’re putting all our trust into recording our history now in zeroes and ones, only to risk having it all disappear in the blink of an eye?

At least the ancient Egyptians had the good sense to carve everything into stone.

Wisdom

A Break From Twitter Showed Me How Broken It Is

By Daniel Cooper, Engadget

In J.G. Ballard’s novel High Rise, the residents of an opulent apartment block abandon the outside world. The building offers every possible amenity, from a supermarket to a bank; work aside, there’s little reason to leave. A series of incidents turns the block’s occupants into savages who spend their days raping and murdering each other. And yet, although the front door is right there, nobody wants to walk through it and escape to civilization.

Four decades later, and the world that Ballard predicted is here — it just doesn’t take place in a tower block. Instead, 328 million people across the world spend their days plugged into Twitter, which becomes more of a nightmare every day. It has mutated from a simple way to express pithy thoughts with your friends into a vehicle for psychic violence and unending hostility. Which may explain why more than a million Americans have quit the service in the last three months.

I am (probably) Engadget’s most prolific Twitterer, spending hours on the site each day and tweeting incessantly. I justify my overuse because it is the “people’s news network,” and we need to remain informed right now because there is a lot going on. After all, the US, UK, Russia, North Korea and China are ruled by despots who are actively leading us toward global war. Companies are destroying the fabric of our society, our civil rights and our planet in service of a fatter quarterly profit. Not to mention the annual game of avoiding Game of Thrones spoilers and shit-talking live sporting events with everyone else.

Cold, Blue Turkey

I decided to take a weeklong break from the platform to see if, like all those other quitters, life is happier on the other side. The day before had been a fruitful one, with a handful of my digital bon mots earning a flurry of likes and retweets. I don’t doubt that every time I see Twitter validate my work, a minuscule hit of dopamine floods my brain. The delivery method may differ, but social media can be as addictive as hell.

It’s a lesson that I’d learn just 10 minutes after making my resolution as, without thinking, my mouse hand-clicked the desktop shortcut for Twitter. I am such an obsessive user of the site that even the process for accessing it had been consigned to muscle memory. It took real self-control, and some degree of itchiness, to get past the initial stages of withdrawal the first day. It was only because I had the crutch that is Facebook, my least-favorite social network, that I could get on at all.

I normally have Twitter’s web client open during work, both for newsgathering and as a necessary reward during the day. Then, I’ll check the site during bathroom breaks and while I’m trying to put my baby girl to sleep in the late evening. Losing it suddenly meant I had to concentrate on the human interactions around me, as well as get things done around the house. The first thing I found was that I had a lot more free time in my day.

Not the people’s news network

For a site that professes to keep you connected to what’s going on, Twitter does a terrible job of keeping you informed. It’s easy to trick yourself into believing that you’re getting the best version of the news, with experts in their field sharing things you’d never see in a newspaper. And there are plenty of smart, erudite folks whose opinions I trust because I know they are legitimately clever people.

But, equally, I’m not above nodding along with a 100-tweet thread written by someone who describes themselves as a national-security expert. It’s all too easy to assume that whoever retweeted him or her into my feed has made the effort to ensure that what they’re sharing is legitimate. Because I’m certainly not looking too hard at the author of these tweets, even though we should all be actively guarding our media consumption.

And here’s the thing: My media consumption has gone up by an order of magnitude when I’ve been away from Twitter. It’s just that I’m getting the facts from The Guardian, The New York (and London) Times, The Telegraph, FiveThirtyEight and Vox. The measured and even tone of those publications is a breath of fresh air if you’ve been listening to the neurotic commentary that rolls past in Twitter’s bottomless feed.

Twitter is the enemy of calm

As much as we like to deny it, humans are herd animals with a herd mentality that can be sent into hysteria far easier than we think. The day I returned to the site, it was full of folks panicking that we were about to die in a nuclear holocaust. It could happen, for sure, but pissing and moaning about it on the internet won’t do much about it beyond making everyone unnecessarily stressed. Rather than indulge, I closed the site and went about my day.

We know that social media has an uncomfortable relationship with our mental health, with addictive loops keeping us glued to our screens. But addiction is not the only issue we face, as Instagram has also been lambasted for being harmful to people’s mental health. Services like this amplify anxieties about body image, lifestyle, wealth and the many other facets of our lives that we choose to broadcast.

Then there’s the paralytic effect of this constant barrage of stress that means you feel as if you are incapable of doing anything. Twitter and Facebook have, perhaps unwittingly, become agents of the status quo — you spend your days flapping online instead of changing things. If I were an evil billionaire looking to suppress dissent against my adopted political cause, I’d write the social-media companies a big check.

Spending any time away from that Ballardian madness, however, and you start to notice changes in your own psyche. I was more effective, more decisive and I had more time in my day — because Twitter is designed to suck away the minutes in your hand. My head was clearer, my sleep seemed to be sweeter and frankly, I could swear that I was happier without its nagging presence in my psyche.

Coming back

My seven-day absence from Twitter has ended, yet I’m not back to using it anywhere near as frequently as I used to. When you’ve been away from something long enough you’re suddenly able to see the flaws in a way you couldn’t up close. I don’t feel as constantly panicked as I did before, and I feel more effective in the time that I have each day.

If there’s an easy way to explain this, it’s like the ex-smoker visiting his office’s smoking room to catch up with the daily gossip. The fug, to which you were immune before, now chokes your throat and blinds your eyes, and you resolve not to visit too frequently. You can go back every now and again, much like you can do many things in moderation, but not as your one source of connection with your coworkers. Because whatever benefit you get, the amount of poison you need to inhale to justify it is simply too damn much.

(Source)

I tried a week-long absence from Twitter myself, and I have to agree with everything this particular author wrote. I’ve returned, but I only scroll down about a dozen tweets or so, close the application, and go back to whatever else I was doing.

I quit Facebook cold turkey many years ago, and it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. The addiction to social media is real. I had to fight the urge on a daily basis to reactivate my account until it had been permanently deleted, and even then, for years afterward, I had to ignore the siren call to to return to the network. And I now realize that I had been using Twitter as my methadone to Facebook’s heroin, and stepping away from that was much easier.

Taking a Break from Twitter

I’m taking a break from Twitter, maybe permanently.

Since the November election it’s become an absolutely toxic cesspool of disinformation and stupidity, and frankly if the world is going to start collapsing around us, I don’t need constant 140 character reminders of it.

I’m not going to delete my account outright, but I have removed Tweetbot from my phone and the corresponding Mac app from the dock.

I quit Facebook cold turkey in 2012 when it crossed my tolerance for stupidity and I’ve reached the same point with Twitter.  It took years for me to get over the need for a Facebook fix, but the detox was necessary to maintain my sanity. I expect it to be much the same with this other social network.

That leaves me with Instagram. At least that one mostly just pretty pictures with only occasional forays into the morass that is contemporary political discourse.

One More Reason…

…why you never find me on Facebook again.

From ARS Technica:

“Facebook is considering collecting yet more data from users in the form of tracked mouse movements, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal Wednesday. Your scrolls, your hovers, your highlights, your right clicks: Facebook wants them all.

It’s not uncommon for websites to minutely track the items that users click on to see how they interact with different pages. A heat map of a page can show where most people end up clicking, giving sites an idea of how users’ eyes travel and parse the information there.

But Facebook’s tracking would be another level of tracking entirely. According to the WSJ, Facebook will be paying attention to the areas a cursor lingers over, even without a click or other interaction. This seems like a bit of a strange motion to track, as if users are out there lovingly tracing the facial profiles of their family members or ex-crushes like they might do on a photograph. But if there’s meaning to be had, Facebook will have it.

In addition to tracking mouse movements, Facebook will also be gathering mobile data. It can’t track finger-lingers over a touchscreen, thankfully, but the company will be noting when, for instance, ‘a user’s newsfeed is visible at a given moment on the screen of his or her mobile phone.'”

What’s next? A little blue FacebookKnowsAll© camera in every room in your home?

I’m Getting Tired of Following the Apple Anon Community on Twitter

At first it was interesting, like you were getting a peek behind the curtain into the super-secret inner sanctum of Apple retail. Being in a pseudo “customer service” role myself, I could easily relate to a lot of the frustrations that were being voiced. But more and more it’s simply turned into a bitch fest of seemingly continually drunk or high self-important Gen-Yers who are just now very reluctantly discovering—and refusing to accept—that in fact the world does not revolve around them.

You’re in retail, honey. You may work for one of the most profitable and forward-thinking companies in the world, but your job is still to deal with the public. If you don’t like it, do something else.

Because of this never ending parade of anon customer-bashing—not to mention the fact that the chances of me ever being called in for an actual interview are next to nil—only out of sheer desperation last week I submitted my own application to Apple. There was a time not all that long ago that I would’ve jumped at the opportunity to work for the company, but no longer. And it’s not because of the anons’ tales of  customer stupidity and assumed privilege—hell, I’ve been dealing with the same sort of thing in the corporate world for the last fifteen years—but rather it’s the toxic attitude of some of the assholes wearing those blue shirts that has turned me off.

That being said, I’ll probably get a call from them on Monday to come in…

We all gripe about work. I get that. Lord knows I’ve done it myself often enough on this blog, but I worry that diving into Apple retail would be very much like an extremely short-lived contract job I took at a certain hospital downtown shortly after Ben and I moved to Denver. It took me less than an hour to realize the attitudes of the other technicians on the job were beyond toxic and made working there impossible. I left after lunch that first day and never returned.

Starting the New Year Fresh

I did it.

I not only deactivated my Facebook account, but I also requested permanent deletion since apparently you can’t actually delete your own account. Fuck you, Facebook.

Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you.

I’ve been moving in this direction for some time, deactivating my account periodically for over a year for longer and longer periods. Most recently, it was several weeks. I logged back in a few days ago out of curiosity and discovered it was just as full of stupid as it was when I left.

After one of my friends (who feels the need to comment on everything) left yet another innane comment about something I’d posted on my wall, I said that was enough. It was to kill the account completely.

 

Done With It. Again.

The amount of stupid on Facebook has reached epic proportions. I understand it’s entertaining and fills a need in a lot of people’s lives, but I’m done with it. I graduated high school nearly 40 years ago, and yet on Facebook, it’s like I never left.

So I’ve disabled my account. (Because deleting your account seems to be impossible.) And have vowed to never log in again. We’ll see how long it lasts.

An Oldie But a Goodie

SOCIAL MEDIA EXPLAINED

Twitter – I’m eating a #donut.
Facebook – I like donuts.
Foursquare – This is where I eat donuts.
Instagram – Here’s a vintage photo of my donut.
YouTube – Here I am eating a donut.
LinkedIn – My skills include donut eating.
Pinterest – Here’s a donut recipe.
LastFM – Now listening to “Donuts.”
G+ – I’m a Google employee who eats donuts.