mfioretti: social networks* + digital life*

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  1. I do believe that this time is different, the beginning of a massive shift, and I believe it’s the fault of these social networks.

    One of the problems is that these platforms act, in many ways, like drugs. Facebook, and every other social-media outlet, knows that all too well. Your phone vibrates a dozen times an hour with alerts about likes and comments and retweets and faves. The combined effect is one of just trying to suck you back in, so their numbers look better for their next quarterly earnings report. Sean Parker, one of Facebook’s earliest investors and the company’s first president, came right out and said what we all know: the whole intention of Facebook is to act like a drug, by “ giving » you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever.” That, Parker said, was by design. These companies are “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” Former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya has echoed this, too. “Do I feel guilty?” he asked rhetorically on CNN about the role Facebook is playing in society. “Absolutely I feel guilt.”

    And then, there’s the biggest reason why people are abandoning the platforms: the promise of connection has turned out to be a reality of division. We’ve all watched the way Donald J. Trump used social media to drive a wedge between us all, the way he tweets his sad and pathetic insecurities out to the world, without a care for how calling an equally insecure rogue leader a childish name might put us all on the brink of nuclear war. There’s a point that watching it all happen in real time makes you question what you’re doing with your life. As for conversing with our fellow Americans, we’ve all tried, unsuccessfully, to have a conversation on these platforms, which has so quickly devolved into a shouting match, or pile-on from perfect strangers because your belief isn’t the same as theirs. Years ago, a Facebook executive told me that the biggest reason people unfriend each other is because they disagree on an issue. The executive jokingly said, “Who knows, if this keeps up, maybe we’ll end up with people only having a few friends on Facebook.” Perhaps, worse of all, we’ve all watched as Russia has taken these platforms and used them against us in ways no one could have comprehended a decade ago.
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  2. Now what can be done? Certainly the explanation for Trump’s rise cannot be reduced to a technology- or media-centered argument. The phenomenon is rooted in more than that; media or technology cannot create; they can merely twist, divert, or disrupt. Without the growing inequality, shrinking middle class, jobs threatened by globalization, etc. there would be no Trump or Berlusconi or Brexit. But we need to stop thinking that any evolution of technology is natural and inevitable and therefore good. For one thing, we need more text than videos in order to remain rational animals. Typography, as Postman describes, is in essence much more capable of communicating complex messages that provoke thinking. This means we should write and read more, link more often, and watch less television and fewer videos—and spend less time on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
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  3. At some point, there will be more dead Facebook users than living ones – and for those left behind, it is transforming how we experience the death of those around us.

    There she is, the person you love – you’re talking to her, squeezing her hand, thanking her for being there for you, watching the green zigzag move slower and slower – and then she’s not there anymore.

    Another machine, meanwhile, was keeping her alive: some distant computer server that holds her thoughts, memories and relationships.

    While it’s obvious that people don’t outlive their bodies on digital technology, they do endure in one sense. People’s experience of you as a seemingly living person can and does continue online.

    How is our continuing presence in digital space changing the way we die? And what does it mean for those who would mourn us after we are gone?

    As I’ve told my mother, my grandchildren may be able to learn about her by studying her Facebook profile. Assuming the social network doesn’t fold, they won’t just learn about the kinds of major life events that would make it into my mom’s authorised biography. They’ll learn, rather, the tiny, insignificant details of her day to day life: memes that made her laugh, viral photos she shared, which restaurants she and my father liked to eat at, the lame church jokes she was too fond of. And of course, they’ll have plenty of pictures to go with it. By studying this information, my grandchildren will come to know about their great grandmother.
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  4. Messages posted on Facebook, Twitter and other online spaces may feel like they carry less weight than things said in the physical world -- but that's not the case, argues Brazilian civil-rights group Criola. This year, Criola launched a campaign labeled, "Virtual racism, real consequences," which pulls racially bigoted comments from the internet and places them on billboards in the neighborhoods where the commenters live. Criola finds racist messages online and then uses geotag data to locate the author's neighborhood; the group then rents billboard space nearby and prints the comments for the world -- and the original writer -- to see. The names and images of the commenters are blurred out, but the message rings clear: Things said online affect people in real life, in real ways.
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  5. What makes code switching work isn’t the ability to pick who you put at the other end of the interaction. After all, that would assume we all have single identities and can be categorized easily. Lists, even when they’re shaped like Circles (a valiant effort, it’s worth saying), barely solve the real problem. On the contrary, code switching is about your ability to modify your behavior to best suit any interaction.

    The alternative to broadcasting your unfiltered multifaceted self is presenting a more dilute version, one that’s tempered or, dare I say, code switched, to appease all of your Facebook friends. This version doesn’t stand for anything, likes everything, shares conservatively, and presents a diabetes-inducing timeline of studio-quality photos. While this can be a more successful strategy on Facebook, it can leave both the broadcaster and the receivers feeling let down because everyone, especially those who know the broadcaster well in real life, can see the big, fat elephant—reality—in the corner.

    This leaves us feeling stuck in a seemingly endless struggle between being our true or dilute selves. And as time goes by, this struggle seems to not only be eroding our relationships with our friends, but also with the medium. It’s a sign that a change is overdue.
    Let’s face it

    The early premise for Facebook was a great idea—a great design, speaking of design in the broadest sense. But great design can often be the silent killer, as Bill Buxton writes: “Great design takes hold, gets traction, and takes on its own inertia—which makes it hard to replace. And replace it we must: Everything reaches its past-due date.”
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  6. Phone conversations make me anxious,” says Jennifer Lin, a freshman at Parsons the New School for Design. “I don’t like calling people and having them not answer. I don’t want people around me hearing what I’m saying. I don’t want to have to think about how to end the conversation—OK, bye, later, see you. I don’t want to talk to people. And it kills my batteries.”
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  7. In the U.K., people are being arrested for posting hate online — “malicious telecommunications,” it’s called, as if the “tele” makes it worse. In France, a government minister is demanding that Twitter help censor, outlaw, and arrest the creators of hate online. I side with Glenn Greenwald on this: Nothing could be more dangerous. “Criminalizing ideas doesn’t make them go away any more than sticking your head in the sand makes unpleasant things disappear,” says Greenwald.

    Yes, this is not a trend that can be delegated to government and wished away with legislation or prosecution. Or to put it another way: This is not government’s problem.

    This is our problem. Your problem. My problem. Every time we link to, laugh at, and retweet — and retweet and retweet and retweet — personal attacks on people, we only invite more of the same. And every time we do *not* call out someone and scold them for their uncivil behavior, we condone that behavior and invite more of it. Thus we build the net — and the society — we deserve.

    Again, I’ll not claim purity myself. I’ve ridiculed people rather than ideas and I’m ashamed for my part in that.

    And mind you, I won’t suggest for a moment that we should not attack ideas and argue about them and fight over them with passion and concern. We must argue strenuously about difficult topics like guns and taxes and war. That is deliberative democracy. That process and freedom we must protect.
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  8. A deathswitch is information insurance. Don't die with secrets that need to be free
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  9. Though it’s the Facebooks that get the most attention, mMany observers of digital life suggest that the get-offline start-ups are the Internet’s real future, after we get over the obsession with our new toys.

    "get offline" start-ups are a reaction to our saturation with the ‘come online’ start-ups. They are starting to realize that the real value is in enriching human experience, and most of that (happily!) takes place in the physical space.

    Facebook, it's like having a really demanding girlfriend or wife: you may get addicted to it. But then you may realize, "Oh, wait a second, the variety of my life is gone."

    Members of the “get offline” camp speak of their companies’ role in a customer’s life very differently — as episodic, fading in and out, there only in the key moments. As a result, their business models often come from taking a cut of the transactions they facilitate rather than from advertisements.
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  10. Thanks to camera phones, not only will the revolution be televised, so might any random stupid thing you do in public.
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