Social Networks & Corrosion

This has been an interesting “quiet” week. Wednesday morning I created a mastodon account and have scarcely been on Twitter, since, which is a huge change to my information diet and online interaction.

We’ll see what happens, although even if this megalomaniac’s plan to buy Twitter for the trolls falls through, I don’t think I ought to go back to old habits like nothing happened. I have experienced two ridiculous account lockdowns in the past couple of years, both of which also emphasized how much of an addiction that hell site is. Twitter absolutely has added value to my life, also, but all of that rests on a very unstable foundation when one oligarch can just declare that he will take over and there’s really no recourse.

I feel like it’s disappointing but revealing how many users will not merely carry on, but imagine that their acceptance of an even more toxic Twitter is somehow an act of defiance. This week I saw multiple people, whose attitude toward a Musk makeover of Twitter is as negative as my own, post something to the effect that “but whatever, won’t drive me away, I obviously have a high tolerance for toxicity so ha ha.”

I’m reminded of Notes from the Underground: “My liver is bad, well—let it get worse!”

Of course, thoughtless inertia is a vastly more prevalent “response,” as usual. But if it isn’t my imagination, I think that the “yeah, whatever, let it get worse” response is larger than just a few of my cynical follows on Twitter. I mean, what exactly else is there?

As I remarked to a friend today, at this point I tend to think of America as effectively in a state of anarcho-oligarchy already. We hardly have a functioning government; we certainly don’t have representative government. Yet I think it is going to be years before many of the people who count get that memo.

Really this is just the kind of thing I have been bemoaning for years, yet I think it genuinely does take quite a while to process this, even for someone imaginative who is actively studying the news, day after day after day. In this regard, I think that my years of mainlining news and argument on Twitter have had an important cumulative value. But perhaps that value has largely ripened, and an appropriate time has come for me to harvest it and deploy some of my attention elsewhere.

Meanwhile I must conclude that for most people, including most of those who are supposed to be “organizing” to reverse the corrosion, recognition of what has already happened is still a long way off. As far as most people are (and presumably will remain) concerned, the eclipse of American democracy by toxic oligarchy will always be at least one election in the future. It’s always nearly over but not quite. Personally I cannot go on taking that seriously. You can “call, knock, write, vote [and believe sincerely that by doing so you will] win” if you want. But that’s a mantra not a strategy, and magic is not going to reverse a breach of liberalism’s defenses which has already happened.

Most of what I can do, I think, is read the present and try to adapt myself to it. That is going to be hard. I expect a lot of things to continue getting worse, in general, for the foreseeable future. Trying to chart a course away from both “let it get worse” and “okay here we go let’s give the same old rituals one more try” is going to be difficult and, I’m certain, more than a little lonely.


2 Thoughts on “Social Networks & Corrosion

  1. I haven’t left Twitter yet because A) the deal isn’t final and might ultimately fall through and B) it’s one of the few venues I see open to still communicate with friends. I’m ready to leave the platform, but since I use it primarily for communicating with friends (as opposed to, say, plugging my work) I want to be able to see where they’re headed if/when they leave. Is that Discord, Mastodon, something else? I don’t have a firm sense of that yet. But after I stopped using Facebook, there have been a number of people who I’m acutely aware that I haven’t spoken with since then, and those absences have not been insignificant. Leaving Twitter without a solid backup means of conversing with friends would, for me right now, be more than a little lonely indeed!

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