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#17 Feeling Lonely Now That I'm Alone
On missing my Social Media friendships, even the ones that weren't real.
It’s been about two years since I wrapped up my exit from mainstream social media. At first I felt smug and self-righteous, then I moved to pity my friends who I’d left behind in the trenches of psychic warfare, and then I became slowly more curious about what was going on in their sordid little lives. A new feeling has come over me, one of longing. If social media is a drug of dopamine microdoses, then perhaps I’m experiencing something like withdrawal.
This isn’t to say that I’m contemplating a full return to Facebook, or that I think I made the wrong choice. I still believe my life is better off without the distracting noise of Facebook threads, or the colorful assault of Instagram sponcon. I really do think these mobile apps have broken a lot of people’s brains, probably yours included, and I still think I’m better than everyone else because I got out. I’m grateful to my past self for whatever scraps of my present self I have left.
When I left social media, I did so noisily. I unfriended every one of my 1,750 Facebook friends, unfollowed and unliked every page, left every group, and even removed my RSVP from every event I’d ever attended. I deleted every post from my profile and deleted every piece of information I could from my digital breadcrumb trail. The goal was that even my “shadow account” would be rendered less useful to advertisers, and perhaps slightly more difficult for the NSA to backtrack on where I’d been, with whom, and when from 2006 to 2021. Wishful thinking perhaps, but who are we without our dreams?
I’m writing down all these thoughts about loneliness, partially because I think it’s good to talk about our feelings, but also to say - if you’re feeling the same way about the internet and generally experiencing loneliness from the lack of “fun” online, you aren’t alone. The internet is objectively a lot less fun these days, and the opportunities to make it weird and cool are pretty thin due to general enshittification and trolling. Also, I’m getting older and it’s entirely possible that young people are still having tons of fun online and I just don’t know it. Gen Z readers, get at me. Is the internet still cool for you?
Ok, now on to some important stories that you might have missed.
Pew reports that Americans are increasingly aware of surveillance capitalism as a force in their lives, and concerned about the issue. If you’re reading this, you get it. This link belongs in “The Good” section because awareness of the problem is the first step toward resolving things.
The mainstream press in the US is slowly waking up to this problem as this NYT piece demonstrates. Good, I say. We need people to be aware first, then angry, and then active on these issues if we are going to retain and protect anything like privacy for normal people.
The internet is actually just Google, and everything online is now done in service to the PageRank algorithm. CNET is now taking down old articles to better improve their rankings, which means the internet is losing content. This is an issue now that digital media is the only type of information archiving we do. I suspect that this trend will continue and we will see a shrinking of certain types of content across the web.
This piece by Molly White on Worldcoin is of interest to me because of the privacy implications of scanning the world’s eyeballs. I don’t normally talk about crypto on this blog becauseand CoffeeZilla are already doing a better job of that, but it’s becoming more clear to me that for all the talk of “decentralization” and “distributed gains” - the crypto game is really just a new flavor of Capitalism, complete with all the surveillance, lock-in, and abuse.
TransUnion now sells data on license plate sightings. Want to track someone and got money? No problem, now you can just surveil the whole world to track where they move. I’m sure this will go just fine.
Facebook and Instagram may be banned in Norway over privacy concerns. I was torn about whether to put this in “The Good”, but honestly I think this is just gearing us up for a major fight between nation-states and corporations over citizen privacy. I welcome the fight, but things will get *very* weird and ugly in the process.
Thanks for reading this far. I know it’s been forever since my last post - and I’m still not promising future issues on any sort of reasonable schedule. Let me know if this stuff is interesting to you at all, or what kinds of stories you’d like me to focus on. I have some think-pieces in draft that I’d like to get out, as I form more solid opinions on things. Cheers, and stay safe!