[nostalgia] ‘Who remembers proper binmen?’ The nostalgia memes that help explain Britain today … A look at nostalgia memes popular within UK social media. ‘Worzel Gummidge. Sweets by the ounce. Icicles hanging from the window frame (“Before central heating!”). Miss World (“All natural. Not a bit of botox in sight”). The power cuts of 1972-4 (“we coped, we were strong”). Scrubbing and polishing your front steps (“That’s when people had pride in where they lived”). Outdoor toilets. Cigarette machines. Flares. Playing in bombsites. Jumping in puddles. Roland Rat. There are no births, marriages or deaths here, no wars, no world-historic events, no great men and women of history. There is no post asking “who remembers the Cuban missile crisis?” or “who remembers the sinking of the Belgrano?” Those questions are too remote from ordinary life. Over here, we have abacuses and Listen With Mother to talk about. The banality is the point. This is a world where a picture of three butter knives can attract 1,300 comments of fond recollections and reflections.’
[fb] The end of the metaverse hopefully … Some analysis on the future of Facebook/Meta. ‘Basically, Facebook and Instagram is Squid Game, the algorithm is the big piggy bank, and the last three traumatized contestants in tuxedos armed with knives are an out-of-work magician, an antivax chiropractor, and a QAnon mom from Tuscon who runs a drop-shipping pyramid scheme. Which, of course, is not a platform that users will want to use. But it’s all Facebook has to fall back on now that its attempts to “build the metaverse” have been exposed as an absolutely ridiculous bluster.’
[twiiter] The Most Deranged Twitter Posts of 2021 … ‘The great thing about the former Number 10 adviser Dominic Cummings is he’s not really a person, as such – he’s a late-period Aaron Sorkin character, a Steve Bannon manqué, a Hogarth of words. He is what a very, very dumb person thinks a very, very smart person is like. He is the one person who understands that – whatever happens – posting will always return to its origins. He is, in other words, a man with a blog. This post reads like someone beat Dominic Cummings over the head with a rock, and then asked him to both describe the contents of The Prince and the political events of 2021. It is unintelligible, and it is exactly what this country deserves.’
[funny] Imaginary Friends Reunited 💭👤 … An imaginary friends social network! ‘Chicken in my Pocket – Imagined by Diamondflamer at 2-5 years old: It was a chicken that lived in my pocket, I think it was yellow. When it went in my pocket it was small, when I got it out it could be any size I wanted, sometimes as tall as me!’
[web] “Link In Bio” is a slow knife … Anil Dash on Instagram’s war on web links. ‘The ultimate triumph of being anti-web is to make links scarce. The smallest possible number of links a platform could allow is zero, so Instagram gets as close to that theoretical limit as possible, and gives you… one. You can have one link. Aren’t you grateful? One!’
[time] The 2010s Have Broken Our Sense Of Time … How mobiles phones and social media changed our perception of time. ‘Using a phone is tied up with the relentless, perpendicular feeling of living through the Trump presidency: the algorithms that are never quite with you in the moment, the imperishable supply of new Instagram stories, the scrolling through what you said six hours ago, the four new texts, the absence of texts, that text from three days ago that has warmed up your entire life, the four versions of the same news alert. You can find yourself wondering why you’re seeing this now — or knowing too well why it is so.’
[trolls] That Uplifting Tweet You Just Shared? A Russian Troll Sent It … How Russian disinformation/trolling campaigns look in 2019. ‘We have experienced a range of emotions studying what the IRA has produced, from disgust at their overt racism to amusement at their sometimes self-reflective humor. Mostly, however, we’ve been impressed. Professional trolls are good at their job. They have studied us. They understand how to harness our biases (and hashtags) for their own purposes. They know what pressure points to push and how best to drive us to distrust our neighbors. The professionals know you catch more flies with honey. They don’t go to social media looking for a fight; they go looking for new best friends. And they have found them.’
[socialmedia] The machine always wins: what drives our addiction to social media … A Long Read on social media addiction. ‘Part of what keeps us hooked is the so-called variability of rewards: what the US computer scientist Jaron Lanier calls “carrot and shtick”. The Twittering Machine gives us both positive and negative reinforcements, and the unpredictable variation of its feedback is what makes it so compulsive. Like a mercurial lover, the machine keeps us needy and guessing; we can never be sure how to stay in its good graces. Indeed, the app manufacturers increasingly build in artificial-intelligence machine-learning systems so that they can learn from us how to randomise rewards and punishments more effectively. This sounds like an abusive relationship. Indeed, much as we describe relationships as having gone toxic, it is common to hear of “Twitter toxicity”. Toxicity is a useful starting point for understanding a machine that hooks us with unpleasure, because it indexes both the pleasure of intoxication and the danger of having too much.’
[tech] Future Historians Probably Won’t Understand Our Internet … A look at the difficulty of archiving Social Media. ‘If you want to understand how WordPerfect, an old word processor, functioned, then you just need that software and some way of running it. But if you want to document the experience of using Facebook five years ago or even two weeks ago … how do you do it? The truth is, right now, you can’t. No one (outside Facebook, at least) has preserved the functioning of the application. And worse, there is no thing that can be squirreled away for future historians to figure out.’
[twitter] Cold War Steve: satire is my antidote to a scary world… Profile of the Twitter artist and satirist. ‘Over the years, depression and alcoholism took a hold, and in 2016 he had a “complete breakdown” and attempted suicide. After a period in hospital, he began to make collages on his phone and sharing them on Twitter. “It was a coping mechanism. If I was creating things, I could focus my mind on that rather than crashing anxiety attacks.” Cold War Steve – a series of images of Phil Mitchell/Steve McFadden superimposed into cold war scenes – “definitely helped my recovery”. He has not touched alcohol for more than three years.’
[crime] The bizarre world of the true crime YouTube influencers … ‘It’s hard to explain the current trend towards lifestyle/true crime crossovers without acknowledging a disconcerting fact; that what seems at surface level to be a wild mismatch, has a perfectly sound internal logic lurking under the surface. Both rely on the marketing of a product in a wildly oversaturated marketplace. The required skills are readily interchangeable: a ‘relatable’ manner, the ability to spin a compelling yarn and an on-the-nose sincerity. And, most importantly, the savviness to seize an opportunity. And while the traditional avenues of online lifestyle revenue begin to shift and change, crime remains conventionally big traffic business. ‘
[moderation] The secret lives of Facebook moderators in America … this long article about the working lives of Facebook moderators is very dark and worth your time. ‘When I ask about the risks of contractors developing PTSD, a counselor I’ll call Logan tells me about a different psychological phenomenon: “post-traumatic growth,” an effect whereby some trauma victims emerge from the experience feeling stronger than before. The example he gives me is that of Malala Yousafzai, the women’s education activist, who was shot in the head as a teenager by the Taliban. “That’s an extremely traumatic event that she experienced in her life,” Logan says. “It seems like she came back extremely resilient and strong. She won a Nobel Peace Prize… So there are many examples of people that experience difficult times and come back stronger than before.”’
[socialmedia] The Lonely Life of a Yacht Influencer … Profiling the life of a Instagram influencer.
‘Jimenez leveled with me — once upon a time, he had been excited by the idea of partying on a yacht. After all, who wouldn’t be? But now he was basically just a working stiff. He too had a home and a family, with kids he didn’t see as much as he could because his “feet were never on dry land.” He had considerable yacht expertise and knew all the major players in the yacht world, buyers and sellers and their glorious boats. He had been on the 100-foot yachts and the 500-foot yachts, and seen yacht-related activities he assured me exceeded any fantasies, dark or light, that I could ever imagine. Yet all that meant he was now just another yacht worker, someone who punched the clock — or the pearl-faced wristwatch, in his case — the same as the kitchen staff, the bartenders and the yacht’s crew.’
[blogging] “The Linux of social media” — How LiveJournal pioneered (then lost) blogging … A brief history of LiveJournal. ‘When friends started complaining about the unsheared “walls of text” that some of their peers would post, Fitzpatrick added a “post” button so they could space out their paragraphs. There was no way to respond to other people’s output initially, no matter how insipid—until, of course, Fitzpatrick decided that he wanted to make fun of one of his friend’s posts. He next added in the comment functionality just to post “a snarky-ass comment.” “Everything was like that,” Fitzpatrick says. “Current mood, current music, profile pics—it was all screwing around and trying to add whatever new things we could do or what the Web supported at the time.” At a certain point in his college career, around the year 2000, Fitzpatrick realized that LiveJournal had turned from a fun way to mess around with CGI scripts into something approaching an actual business…’
[internet] The secret rules of the internet … Fascinating look at the moderation of content on social networks. ‘Joi Podgorny is former vice president at ModSquad, which provides content moderation to a range of marquee clients, from the State Department to the NFL. Now a digital media consultant, she says founders and developers not only resist seeing the toxic content, they resist even understanding the practice of moderation. Typically cast off as “customer-service,” moderation and related work remains a relatively low-wage, low-status sector, often managed and staffed by women, which stands apart from the higher-status, higher-paid, more powerful sectors of engineering and finance, which are overwhelmingly male. “I need you to look at what my people are looking at on a regular basis,” she said. “I want you to go through my training and see this stuff [and] you’re not going to think it’s free speech. You’re going to think it’s damaging to culture, not only for our brand, but in general.” Brian Pontarelli, CEO of the moderation software company Inversoft, echoes the observation. Many companies, he told us, will not engage in robust moderation until it will cost them not to.’
[social] Meet the people who still use Myspace: ‘It’s given me so much joy’ … Reads slightly like an Onion article but I can relate… I am available for interviews on people who still blog. :) ‘The homepage automatically pulls in articles from other websites, giving the ghost town a veneer of vitality. However, a prominent invitation to “connect with” Avicii, the Swedish DJ who died in April, acts as a jarring reminder of the site’s zombie status. “It’s almost like I’ve taken over a dead site,” he said, noting that at least women did not block him or remove his comments any more. “I think it’s funny. I’ll leave comments and messages for girls who haven’t been on there for years.” Scalir achieved minor celebrity status in the 1990s and 2000s through several appearances on TV dating shows including Blind Date, Love Connection and Singled Out. Myspace offered an alternative way to meet women. “I always hoped I’d get a girlfriend out of it, but it never really happened,” he added.’
A few days before the election Silverman and fellow BuzzFeed contributor Lawrence Alexander traced 100 pro–Donald Trump sites to a town of 45,000 in Macedonia. Some teens there realized they could make money off the election, and just like that, became a node in the information network that helped Trump beat Clinton.
Whatever weird thing you imagine might happen, something weirder probably did happen. Reporters tried to keep up, but it was too strange. As Max Read put it in New York Magazine, Facebook is “like a four-dimensional object, we catch slices of it when it passes through the three-dimensional world we recognize.” No one can quite wrap their heads around what this thing has become, or all the things this thing has become.
“Not even President-Pope-Viceroy Zuckerberg himself seemed prepared for the role Facebook has played in global politics this past year,” Read wrote.
[social] Climbing Out Of Facebook's Reality Hole … Buzzfeed on Facebook’s virtual reality projects … ‘The Facebook CEO took the stage at the company’s annual F8 developers conference a little more than an hour after news broke that the so-called Facebook Killer had killed himself. But if you were expecting a somber mood, it wasn’t happening. Instead, he kicked off his keynote with a series of jokes. It was a stark disconnect with the reality outside, where the story of the hour concerned a man who had used Facebook to publicize a murder, and threaten many more. People used to talk about Steve Jobs and Apple’s reality distortion field. But Facebook, it sometimes feels, exists in a reality hole. The company doesn’t distort reality — but it often seems to lack the ability to recognize it. The problem with connecting everyone on the planet is that a lot of people are assholes.’
[fb] Why Facebook Won, and Other Hard Truths … some interesting thoughts on Facebook’s success against the Open Web … ‘People read the web now at the level they read email — they look at a lot of stuff. And what they want (and what many people continue to shame them for) is a standard interface that allows them to do that without feeling stressed. You want to win against Facebook? Let go of the idea of people reading your stuff on your site, and develop or support interfaces that put your readers in control of how they view the web instead of giving the control to the people with the servers. Support people looking into federated recommendation systems. Make friends with the idea of full copies of your stuff flowing across the web instead of links.’
[fb] An Inside Look at a Facebook Data Center …. ‘Maybe this is why some of the moments where conversation switched from the technical operations to Facebook-speak felt so awkward, but unintentionally so, like when Facebook’s algorithm decides to fill your Year in Review with pictures of an ex-boyfriend. It’s a brand that becomes harder and harder to empathize with the more it insists on trying to be empathetic, maybe because it’s not clear if there’s a distinction between an empathy engine and a branding engine or maybe because I am generationally disinclined to trust anything that’s too big to fail.’
On Twitter, people say things that they think of as ephemeral and chatty. Their utterances are then treated as unequivocal political statements by people outside the conversation. Because there’s a kind of sensationalistic value in interpreting someone’s chattiness in partisan terms, tweets “are taken up as magnum opi to be leapt upon and eviscerated, not only by ideological opponents or threatened employers but by in-network peers.”
Anthropologists who study digital spaces have diagnosed that a common problem of online communication is “context collapse.” This plays with the oral-literate distinction: When you speak face-to-face, you’re always judging what you’re saying by the reaction of the person you’re speaking to. But when you write (or make a video or a podcast) online, what you’re saying can go anywhere, get read by anyone, and suddenly your words are finding audiences you never imagined you were speaking to.
I think Stewart is identifying a new facet of this. It’s not quite context collapse, because what’s collapsing aren’t audiences so much as expectations. Rather, it’s a collapse of speech-based expectations and print-based interpretations. It’s a consequence of the oral-literate hybrid that flourishes online. It’s conversation smoosh.
[web] God Tier: Facebook moms run the meme game … a look at the rise and fall of the Image Macro … ‘Post-memes seem targeted at parents, Christians, and conservatives. Again, this is just the core audience. But many expressions are unexplored in post-memes. A Minion — or Garfield or Tweety or Snoopy — never means “I’m cooler than you.” It never supports the young against the old. It never seeks to upset the status quo. It is never sexual. And it is never truly weird. Until it is.’
[social media] Many, many Facebook users still don’t know that their news feeds are filtered by an algorithm … a look at how Facebook automatically filters your news feed … ‘Without understanding Facebook’s algorithm, these participants resorted to developing other theories for why their social lives changed on the site. Some blamed themselves for being bad at Facebook. “These participants felt that they missed friends’ stories because they were scrolling too quickly or visiting Facebook too infrequently,” the researchers write. Others figured that their friends had stopped sharing with them. “I have never seen her post anything!” one study participant said of a friend. “And I always assumed that I wasn’t really that close to that person, so that’s fine. What the hell?!”’
[twitter] What Good Is Twitter? … Is Twitter such a good way for websites to share content? ‘Last Monday, I published an article about the history of American innovation as seen through a study of patent text literature. This study found that chemistry concepts dominated science in the early 20th century, but from the 1980s on, the most-cited terms in patent texts were almost entirely in the fields of medicine and computers. Yesterday, chemistry; today, computers. This seemed like a catchy parallel, which might strike some as illuminating and others as over-simplifying. In other words, the perfect tweet. I wrote this message, with a link, and a picture. By Friday morning, it had about 155,260 impressions. According to the new Tweet activity dashboard, 2.9 percent of those users clicked the image, and 1.1 percent retweeted or favored it… but just 1 percent clicked on the link to actually read my story. One percent.’
Getting to News Feed Zero … What happens if you hide everything on Facebook? … ‘Then, after 500 hidden posts or so, something strange happened. Facebook needed to take a breather. There are no more posts to show right now, it said. I felt like Columbus setting out to find the edge of the Earth, and succeeding. As someone who used to explore the boundaries of video game maps—hoping to find a glitch in the system that would unlock some heretofore unexplored wonders in lieu of actually playing the game itself—this felt momentous. And then it felt lonely…’
I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me … ‘My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time. After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages. Likewise, content mills rose to the top. Nearly my entire feed was given over to Upworthy and the Huffington Post. As I went to bed that first night and scrolled through my News Feed, the updates I saw were (in order): Huffington Post, Upworthy, Huffington Post, Upworthy, a Levi’s ad, Space.com, Huffington Post, Upworthy, The Verge, Huffington Post, Space.com, Upworthy, Space.com.’
[life] Tweet … Channelling Allen Ginsberg in 2014 … ‘I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by brevity, over-connectedness, emotionally starving for attention, dragging themselves through virtual communities at 3 am, surrounded by stale pizza and neglected dreams, looking for angry meaning, any meaning…’
[tech] Spring Cleaning Who Has Access to Your Social Media Data … useful tips for managing Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn … ‘Just like the spring cleaning rule that says, “If you haven’t worn it in six months, throw it out,” you should use the same edict with your online data: “If you haven’t logged in to an app or site in six months, revoke its access.”’
[politics] The Top Five Political Twitter Gaffes … ‘We can’t decide if this is a gaffe or an unintentional stroke of genius. Who knew Ed Balls would become a social media superstar by accidentally tweeting his own name?’
7 Ways To Be Insufferable On Facebook … the humblebrag, image-crafting, attention craving – a pretty comprehensive list of annoying approaches to Facebook … ‘A Facebook status is annoying if it primarily serves the author and does nothing positive for anyone reading it.’
[work] Hyperemployment, or the Exhausting Work of the Technology User … Whatever happened to Keynes idea of a Leisure Society? ‘The economic impact of hyperemployment is obviously different from that of underemployment, but some of the same emotional toll imbues both: a sense of inundation, of being trounced by demands whose completion yields only their continuance, and a feeling of resignation that any other scenario is likely or even possible. The only difference between the despair of hyperemployment and that of un- or under-employment is that the latter at least acknowledges itself as an substandard condition, while the former celebrates the hyperemployed’s purported freedom to “share” and “connect,” to do business more easily and effectively by doing jobs once left for others competence and compensation, from the convenience of your car or toilet.’
[web] Stop Externalising Your Life … yet another look at why Social Media is bad for you … ‘The key thing to remember is that you are not enriching your experiences by sharing them online; you’re detracting from them because all your efforts are focussed on making them look attractive to other people. Your experience of something, even if similar to the experience of many others, is unique and cannot be reproduced within the constraints of social media.’
[web] Don’t Be a Stranger … a longer read on internet friendships and the differences between the Web in 2006 and now … ‘Internet friendship yields a connection that is selfconsciously pointless and pointed at the same time: Out of all of the millions of bullshitters on the World Wide Web, we somehow found each other, liked each other enough to bullshit together, and built our own Fortress of Bullshit. The majority of my interactions with online friends is perpetuating some injoke so arcane that nobody remembers how it started or what it actually means. Perhaps that proves the op-ed writers’ point, but this has been the pattern of my friendships since long before I first logged onto AOL…’
[comics] The Social Networks of Superheroes … Are fictional social networks similar to real ones?… ‘The Marvel Universe does exhibit the statistical features of a real social network in some simple ways. Furthermore, similar to our own world, they found distinct differences between the social structures of good guys and bad guys. However, in some very important aspects, it’s actually the opposite of a real social network. Specifically, while in real social networks the popular people interact with the other popular people, this is not so in the Marvel universe. For example, Spider-Man and Captain America rarely come into contact.’
[twitter] The Real Weird Twitter Is Espionage Twitter … Is Twitter being used as a numbers station? … ‘GooGuns posts nothing but strings of letters and numbers, like b39e65fa00000000 in intervals of about five minutes on average. The string of characters always ends with zeroes, occasionally with the location service turned on, so you can see that 554705fa00000000 was allegedly tweeted from the “Region of Khabarovsk.” This has been going on all day and all night, for years, with more than 318,000 tweets posted since 2009. But why?’ [via @qwghlm]