Archive: November, 2022

Social media: what is it good for?

Now on Hive! But still also on Twitter. For now.

As I rambled about the other day—and I realize this is going to be a little repetitive—the Musk takeover of Twitter has led lots of folks to abandon the platform. When I look at my feed there now, it's considerably different—mostly due to the absence of some things that were there before rather than the new deluge of right-wing BS that others are finding. Probably because my Twitter reach/connection is minuscule compared to some others'.

Now, I completely get why people have left/are abandoning it. Who wants to support an asshat like Elon Musk? Thing is, though, we aren't paying him anything. Twitter is, for now, a free thing, and there are good arguments against bailing out and leaving it to be populated only by wingnut crazies. Others using the thing doesn't actually make it better for Elon, except so far as it makes it a more attractive platform for advertisers, and advertisers are already dropping like flies because Elon is, well, Elon. It remains to be seen if the size of the user base will be enough to get advertisers back, though it does figure to be a thing long-term.

I've already stopped using Facebook for the most part.  I still use it to promote things; too damn many people use it as their only portal to the whole Internet, so you gotta work with it to get any hits at all. But Zuckerberg's brand of asshattery and misinformation peddling ruined it as a useful entity—and his algorithm and setup as it currently is doesn't let me connect with people like it used to anyway—so dropping it was no great loss, especially because Twitter was serving whatever social media "needs" I thought I had.

Now Elon Musk is proving himself to be worse than Zuckerberg. So: to leave Twitter or to stick around and see how things shake out?

Alternative platforms are starting to crop up, with tech nerds looking to take advantage of the opportunity to draw an instant user base from disaffected Twitterers and/or just looking to provide a healthier version of social media. I've checked into a couple of them, just out of curiosity. None of them are terrific. Mastadon is a pain in the ass and its selling point of having no central authority has a significant downside to it; in time, that setup would appear to be more conducive to a free-for-all of misinformation and fuckery. Post could be interesting, but as you can't look at it until hanging out on a waitlist for an indeterminate period there's no way to know right off. Then I saw Hive Social, which is a literal two-person operation but appears to have a lot of promise.

I signed up at Hive. I'm checking it out here and there, it's like Twitter without the character limit in most ways. It's buggy, so to speak, but that's to be expected with a new service rolling out in progress in order to stake a claim to the pool of prospective users (the Android app is still designated a "beta release," though their iOS version has more history; as yet there is no browser version). If it starts to get use by the sort of people and accounts I've found useful on Twitter, it'll serve me fine.

But what are anyone's "needs" on social media? I find Twitter good for finding news and having interactions with people who would otherwise be beyond my reach. I can send Seth MacFarlane a message about how much I liked an episode of The Orville, or compliment Marco Gonzales on a pitching performance, or pass on notes to the writers of Star Trek Discovery and they'll see them (or there's a decent chance they will). I had some fun back and forths with Chez Pazienza before he left this mortal coil. There's all kinds of humor to be found there. But it's also a time suck. If I don't find out about news items quite so quickly or don't get to share a joke with Joe Posnanski it's really not a big deal.

We live in a strange era, this alleged information age. I'll see how this Hive thing plays out, and maybe I'll keep using Twitter or maybe not. But I might be better off ditching it all.

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What's that stench?! It's Elon Musk


I like Twitter. I mean, sure, it's problematic; lots of people use it to be nasty and there has never been a proper solution to how to moderate it as a whole. But it's been a useful tool for promotion and for connecting with people who share interests and for, you know, screaming into the void when you just have to vent about Rand Paul or whatever.

That was Twitter in the Before Elon era. Here in the Elon Reign era of Twitter, well, it's not so great. Mostly because it's now far, far more permissive of misinformation than it was, and it wasn't great about that before. Plus, it's chaos now. Elon Musk is like mini-Trump here, it's much like the John Mulaney bit about a horse in a hospital. It's just a social media platform, not the entire country and effects on the world, but the metaphor still works. Elon took it over with no idea how it functions and wants to monetize things with no idea what the purpose of the thing is; he went and fired people who, you know, make the thing run; he's alienated pretty much everyone who works there; and his great accomplishment to this point has been to do away with the function that lets people know that a public figure on the platform is actually who they say they are and not someone impersonating them to make trouble. Because reasons.

So people are fleeing Twitter, and I get it. Elon is a dirtbag of, if not the highest order, then a lofty order. I'm sticking around, at least for now, though I'm not checking it nearly as often. It's still useful to me. Sort of. I think. Less so now that it isn't baseball season—it's good for ranting about bad managerial decisions in the moment and arguing the merits or lack thereof of a lineup choice or sharing quips about Commissioner Manfred's bad idea du jour.

Anyway, mostly I'm just curious now. I'm a rubbernecker at a car accident. Will it implode? Will Elon find himself with no staff and the thing turns into a runaway train of some kind? Will the only advertisers left be grifters trying to sell cryptocurrency or NFTs? What level of insanity will the buyer's remorse from this rash impulse purchase drive Elon to? And will that be entertaining?

It's not like Facebook. Facebook is frustrating for other reasons, such as the way so many people use it as their access point to the Internet at large and ignore other means of surfing the web despite the fact that it has turned into a fairly useless platform, what with its constantly changing algorithms turning my feed into a random hodgepodge of unrelated gunk that was posted days or weeks back with no rhyme or reason to it. It's a rarity when something I'm actually interested in shows up near the top of the feed. I haven't used that platform for anything but promoting posts on my website(s) and the very occasional comment on that rare interesting post it shows me. We'd be better off if Facebook disappeared tomorrow.

Twitter is somehow simpler, less overwhelming of the Internet, much more controllable.

At least, it was. We'll see how it evolves from here.

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Travel, the midterms, COVID, and the Black Hole

Still managing to escape infection

About a week ago, I got back from a trip to see my dad and Marty in Palm Springs. I was down there for just shy of two weeks and it was largely a nice time; there was plenty to do, which kept it from being too boring, but despite the tasks to perform it was still a rather sedentary time. Assembling furniture and repairing plumbing takes some effort, but there's not a lot of exercise happening. Plus, after I'd been there a while I started feeling less than 100%, like a cold might be coming on. It didn't progress, so I didn't worry about it too much.

The day after my return, that's when it felt like it was progressing. I'm up to date on my vaccinations, but still took a home COVID test just in case. It was negative. So again, didn't worry about it. Just a mild cold, really. But it wouldn't go away. My friends K & E canceled having me over for a tech support/dinner visit before their trip to the UK as they understandably didn't want my germs even if they weren't COVID germs before an overseas flight, and I was good with that because I was just tired. And, frankly, a little gloomy. 

I did very little in the week since I've been back. Ran a couple errands, read some, watched some TV, gave the cats some intensive reunion playtime. Mostly slept, though.

Yesterday I still wasn't feeling great, but the gloomy was threatening to get worse. I've written about The Black Hole, as I call it, before; most effectively, I think, in a series of Cloud Five comic strips. (The C5 site has been neglected for years now; someday I may return to it, but for now forgive the sloppiness of the broken layout components. The strips in question are #75-89, the link goes to #75.) Having learned over the decades something of how my Black Hole episodes manifest, I summoned up enough energy to get outside and walk around the neighborhood for an hour or so. Did the same this afternoon. The lack of exercise while in California (and if I'm honest with myself, a paltry amount for some weeks before that) did me no favors and I feel better having put some miles on my lethargic limbs. But I'm still not feeling 100% with the cold.

My friend Erik caught COVID recently. He had to extend a stay out of town because of it. My friend Dave likewise had it while traveling and had to stay in a hotel isolating for an extra week. Both wondered if they had it before their trips and it just hadn't manifested yet, and I was wondering if I'd gotten it while traveling too and, thanks to having had my shots, it just didn't feel like anything much and my test was a false neg. People are generally behaving like this is all over with, but it just isn't. So, since my throat is still balky even now, I took another test today. Still negative, thankfully. So I return to the presumption that this is just a typical, mildly annoying cold bug (that isn't really that intrusive) and that my blah week was more depression than infection.

One outside element that probably fueled my depressive slide was the midterms. The pre-midterms, I mean. The day K canceled our evening plans was the day before election day, and she signed off the phone call with "fell better!" and I replied, "well, we'll see what kind of hellscape we'll be living in after tomorrow."

The amount of stress and anxiety that was churning below my surface awareness about what the voters of America might do was, it turns out, huge. American journalism basically sucks, so all the stories I had read about polling and surveys, and the TV coverage reiterating the historical norm for the first midterm in a presidential term being a major shift in congressional power, and the sheer awfulness of some of the candidates running nationwide made for jumpy nerves. And, largely because, again, American journalism basically sucks, an astonishing number of voters in this country had proven themselves to be either nihilist or stupid enough to back autocrats out of ginned-up fear and racist manipulation (or just out of plain meanness).

Thankfully, things turned out pretty well. Not great, mind you, but pretty well under the circumstances.

The Democrats retained the Senate and will very likely get a real majority when Senator Warnock wins his runoff in a few weeks. That's a big deal, they won't have to deal with going halvesies in committees anymore with obstructionists. Most of the insurrectionists running lost, including the batshit-crazy governor candidates in Arizona, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. A huge, ginormous relief.

Not great, but oh so much better than it could have been

On the other hand, it looks like the Republicans will take the majority in the House. Only by a few seats, which is so, so much better than some predicted—and will provide some entertainment value when Kevin McCarthy or whomever else gets saddled with being the Speaker is unable to manage his caucus of crazies—but still means we're in for some real problems. The 1/6 committee will be stopped. Concocted-out-of-nothing investigations will be the order of the day, spurred on by a sense of hollow grievance and a desire for revenge. Economic hostage-taking will be very much on the table.

Florida slipped further into full-on nightmare territory with its idiot governor easily winning reelection, its idiot senator winning reelection, and a freshly (and illegally) gerrymandered map providing half a dozen or so Republican congresspeople. New York's redistricting cost a few Democratic seats, but that redraw wasn't on a partisan basis. Georgia was a bit of a shitshow; though I have confidence in Warnock winning his runoff, his race shouldn't have been so close, plus Stacey Abrams lost to that crook Kemp. Wisconsin reelected one of the worst senators in office. Texas kept being Texas. Iowans doubled down on guns being a right. Louisianans voted to continue allowing slavery and indentured servitude as possible punishments for criminals. Ohio thought it was worthwhile to spend a bunch of money to pass a measure reduntantly banning non-citizens from voting.

There are always pockets of insanity in US elections—I mean, I'll never understand why anyone votes for Ronny Jackson or Darrell Issa or Marjorie Taylor Greene—but this time sanity prevailed enough of the time for me to relax. Mostly.

Hopefully this means a bit less trouble for me to get back into a stable orbit around the Black Hole and life will feel OK again.

Especially if Lauren Boebert loses.

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