Friday, April 29, 2016

Social Media, no pickles, extra onion, with an egg, cut in half, Peruivan chocolate mayo....

Ramblings Post #313 
I just want to go someplace quiet, have a few drinks with some friends, tell some stale jokes and tell some lies about how good things used to be....without somebody pulling out their phone to check something. They're hanging out with us checking twitter to see if something better is happening. It has become tiresome. I once went to club and only ten of us were there. They had to kick us out at closing we were having such a good time. Sometimes you have to forget what's next, and do what's now. (in all fairness that was before cell phones, or else I would have been out!)
I have long enjoyed the basic format of the vast majority of social media that I do employ. I don't snap, spotifizzle, swipe or wheezle or whatever the new hot verb invention of the moment might be. My last Facebook post might have been last year. But, I do like them updates. Six asinine inspirational quotes? Yes please. Three pictures of your cousin I don't know? Of course. An article that you didn't read either? Gimme. One of the grand benefits of the basic look of Facebook -  of the reverse-chronological feed that has been the staple of how we get most of our social media - is that keeps me updated. I get the new stuff first, and then if I want to dig deeper I can. It's convenient. And now it seems to be headed the way of the pay phone and selling you a complete computer game. And I for one don't like it. 

You see, for me one of the underlying problems with social media in general is that you only see what you've specifically selected. For record I'm the kind of guy who while watching TV flips through the onscreen guide and occasionally ends up on a channel I didn't even know existed. And while social media is an opt-in sort of situation, the self selected isolation that this technology allows however, puts you in a kind of awareness bubble, with data you MIGHT find stimulating or mind expanding being filtered out because you didn't select it when you signed up. Because you didn't know it existed yet. It's why I flip channels and actually still surf the web and not just hit the round about of my favorite familiar sites. Avoiding this personal sequestration is also one of the reasons I've always tried to keep at least one conservative friend in my Facebook feed, if only to remind me that everyone doesn't think like me. Because while I do see the value in safe spaces, the problem comes when we start to want to live in this comfort zone as though the rest of the world doesn't exist. Or get upset when we find out the rest of the world isn't just like our own little slice of heaven. 

Which brings us "curated social media," the new eyeball sticking technique where all that behind the scenes monitoring of what you're looking at on whatever app you use means you'll get more of exactly that content. Facebook already does it, first by limiting my feed from all of my friends to just the few I've clicked to like their stuff. I like to think that more than 20 of my friends regularly have something to share. And the damn thing also makes me switch from Highlights (i.e., ads) to Most Recent every time I log in, which is annoying. You would think that with all the tracking they're doing, they should know I prefer Most Recent by now, ya think? And now Twitter has just changed over to it as well, and my feed time line jumps from 3m to 16hrs and back again as though I'm stuck in a revolving time machine. Even after I changed the settings. I am less inclined to use both because of these "sticky" features. 

My fear is that as my interests are tracked and analyzed, those things I will be fed by my personal media aggregators will become more and more limited, more and focused on bent on turning me into one those media zombies who look at their phone every two minutes. I will assume the algorithm will be setup to keep the final number of feed items from going all the way down to one, and that it will occasionally interject the new source just to keep it lively, but this whole process sounds sad. And dangerous. Because if you think we already live in little echo chambers now, and this will only make it worse.
We already aren't listening to one another, and constantly trying to turn each others positions into unreasonable evil. In a world where we've made the "compromise" a bad word, allowing us all to ensconce ourselves even deeper in our own social ghettos, fed only those stories things that reinforce our naturally myopic viewpoints and personal biases, one can't help but think maybe this isn't in our best interest.   

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