Digital Object Impermanence Ruined Streaming For Me

I don’t watch a lot of movies. Or TV shows, for that matter. I live alone and don’t really have a lot of people who show up in my day-to-day life and share my interests in a way that would motivate us to watch the same shows across a distance (one exclusion being my younger sister, whom I’ve convinced to watch Steven Universe with me), so most of my leisure time is spent on video games, books, and the occasional TV show. It’s not that I don’t enjoy TV shows or movies, I just don’t think of them. Most new media exists only as a digital icon I can interface with through a streaming service, so I honestly just forget most of it exists. I have the same problem with e-books and audio books. I just forget they exist. I think the only reason I don’t have that problem with podcasts is because I keep my podcast app open on my phone all the time and listen to more podcasts than music these days.

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Twitter Isn’t All Bad, It’s Just Mostly Bad

I still (mostly) enjoy Twitter. There are definitely times when I actively hate it, others when I feel like being on Twitter is watching the trainwreck of civilization in real time, and still more times when it just reinforces whatever negative spiral I’m in. To be entirely fair to Twitter, though, there are more times I actively hate existence itself (or maybe Humanity as a whole), even more times where I feel like merely paying attention to the world around me is like watching a more confusing version of the civilization trainwreck, and I am perfectly capable of reinforcing my own negative spirals, thank-you-very-much. Twitter is a slightly better version than all of the non-Twitter versions because it has cute pet pictures, neat art, and Conan The Salaryman. The world physically around me has none of those things.

Sure, I can go almost anywhere on the internet for pictures of animals being cute (that’s maybe forty percent of the internet, let’s be real), but they’re hand-delivered to me by accounts I trust to ethically source and share their cute animal pictures. No content mills for me. It’s all shelters, animal rescues, and people who are single-handedly skewing the average pet-per-household numbers with a dozen cats, five dogs, an ever-changing number of rats, one to six snakes, and maybe an awkward bird wearing a sweater because it has anxiety that makes it pluck at its feathers. Also Jorts the Cat, who is an endless source of cute cat pictures, worker solidarity, and commentary geared toward furthering equality. This way, you not only get to enjoy pictures of animals, but you can do so with confidence knowing that no animals are being exploited for clicks, that no one’s content is being stolen, and that you have ready access to causes worth supporting.

Another twenty or thirty percent of the internet is various art-hosting sites, many of which are better suited to viewing art along specific themes. I like twitter, though, because I don’t care about themes or what specific fandom is being represented. I am not terribly interesting in browsing galleries of fanart from a specific TV show or of being guided through a series of artists who all draw sci-fi landscapes. I enjoy those things, but I like having a greater variety in my browsing, which means I prefer the slow aggregation that happens on my Twitter feed or the single-artist deep dive that occurs when I enter the media section of one of my favorite artists. Most of the artists I follow do a mix of fanart, original art, journal comics, and more. I like a good variety, you know? I don’t even have specific style preferences. I just want to see different stuff and I’m too lazy to be constantly searching the internet for it. I want to click a button and have it occasionally delivered to me via the “latest tweets” version of the Twitter app.

As a side note, did you know that if you browse via the app using only the latest tweets timeline, you don’t see the random shit that accounts you follow like (as of writing this, anyway. They recently added promoted tweets between the original poster’s tweets and the replies, so who know what other new bullshit is next)? It is the only way I’ve found to actually limit my Twitter feed to the stuff I’ve chosen to fill it. Sure, I get a bunch of retweets from streamers, artists, and authors I follow, but I tend to only follow people whose taste I trust enough to know that retweeting the actual tweet of some asshole only gives the asshole more of what they want (attention). I am incredibly selective of which accounts I follow and will not hesitate to unfollow someone who is bringing my timeline down.

Which brings me to Conan The Salaryman. Now, novelty accounts are nothing new. There’s all kinds of niche interest accounts that tweet about whatever random interest you’ve selected. Everything from the same gif every thursday to stories told in a single tweet to descriptions of feasts from Redwall books is available on Twitter if you take a little time to look for it. Technically, most of these are still content mills, generating tweets for likes and attention, but they go from being kind of dystopian to just entertaining when they don’t try to sell you anything. Like Conan The Salaryman. In all my time following the account, it has never asked me for money while keeping me entertained with one or two tweets a day written in the style of the Conan The Barbarian books but about Conan being an office worker in a giant corporation. It has tweeted in support of some good causes, but the account isn’t trying to generate money or sell advertisements. I’ve seen such changes happen in the past, for a variety of reasons (some of which I’ve supported and some of which I’ve disagreed with), but the power of Twitter is that you can just unfollow an account if it changes in a direction you don’t like. Worst comes to worst, you can just close the app. Or delete your account and start over. It’s free.

The last tool I use to ensure I have a good time on Twitter is blocking accounts. I get such an immense degree of satisfaction from watching Twitter struggle to put ads in front of me now that I’ve blocked most major advertisement accounts. Some of them are starting to get around my past blocks by making side accounts for specific purposes and advertising those tweets, but I genuinely enjoy those moments. I get to think “Not today, brand!” as I click “block” on this account and move on with my day. And that’s not even mentioning how nice it feels to block an asshole. I’ve had a few people get on my case during my time on twitter, and it’s just so fun to block them and never think about them again. I’d love to provide a specific example, but the whole “forgetting about them” thing means I only remember they happened at all, not who or why. It’s so simple. Can’t get outraged by whatever made-up bullshit is happening if you can’t see it.

Except, you know, for a few times. Like the recent celebrity trial. Given that it involved domestic abuse and a bunch of celebrities whose lives have no impact on mine, I decided I was going to do my best to ignore in pursuit of my own day-to-day peace of mind (it’s not like my feelings or opinions matter in regards to said trial), and put up my best defenses, but Twitter itself sidestepped those to keep throwing it in my face. And every so often people forget to not retweet assholes and I have to spend some time considering if this disruption to my generally enjoyable Twitter feed is counteracted by the enjoyment that account brings to my timeline. Usually the answer doesn’t result in an unfollow, but sometimes it does. I’d love to follow ever creator, writer, and artist whose products I enjoy, but I need to protect my mental health first and foremost. There’s room for reminders of how terrible the world is in something that’s supposed to be enjoyable, but if they take over and become the only thing left, it will quickly taint any chance you had of enjoying your experience. Which is why I left Facebook. And because the most fun I ever had with Facebook was that day in 2021 when it was down for a few hours, and I didn’t even have to break my streak of days not logging into Facebook to enjoy it. It was a true win-win for me (though I do understand that Facebook being down was troubling for a great number of poeple who rely on it for communication and access to anything not immediately near them in the physical world).

Social media objectively sucks. There’s no denying it. Many of the ills of modern society can be linked to how rampart use of online spaces has only strengthened that which divides us, but there are examples of how those spaces can still do good in the world and in the life of an individual. Like my Twitter feed, for one thing. And the Nerdfighter communities, that are still probably the only positive online community I’ve been a apart of that has surived popularity and expansion beyond a few hundred people. It just takes a LOT of work to make those spaces positive, healthy, and safe. It’s work worth doing, in my opinion, but it is definitely work.

Generous Reading On The Internet

There is this idea in literary criticism (also writing education and peer-to-peer creative writing) frequently called “generous reading.” The basic idea is that you assumed the best as you read something. You don’t ignore flaws or pass over opportunities to provide the writer with suggestions on how to improve, you just lead with the assumption that the writer is being satirical rather than an idiot. That someone writing about a topic that is typically deeply personal has knowledge of that topic in their own lives. The basic idea has started to creep into some of the more positive social media spheres I’m in, and I think there’s a lot to be said by reading the things people post and say on social media in a generous way.

I won’t deny that generous reading can be abused. It absolutely can and a lot of the worst elements of the internet rely on at least a fragment of it as a tool to bludgeon people who called them out for their clearly shitty opinions. As a result, practicing generous reading on social media can be dangerous if you’re not caught up on all the latest dogwhistles and trolling techniques. Even at my most hopeful, I always suggest taking the time to review a social media user’s history to make sure they don’t have a track record of awful behavior before extending the such generosity if you’re unsure whether or not they’re being an asshole while trying to pretend they’re not an asshole.

Most of the time I think it should be more liberally applied is in the lengthier writings of people on the internet. Blog posts, super long twitter threads, articles, and the various other places media is shared should all get a bit more generosity than most social media, since posting those places requires a good deal more effort. Which isn’t to say people don’t abuse those platforms to hide their dogwhistles and assholery, just that it’s usually easier to tell when they’re actually being awful and someone is less likely to build a whole website around the idea of being able to dogwhistle while flying under the radar.

There’s no hard and fast rule on whether or not you should read something generously, unfortunately. It is difficult to detect satire when it is done well and the longer the internet survives, the more it seems like the people being satirized are just taking the satire as a challenge. I’ve seen articles from The Onion that have passed from “clear satire” into “barely scraping the surface of the awful things we’ve seen in reality” in just the last decade. I spend a lot of time trying to decide if I’m willing to be generous in a reading on social media and I frequently find myself deciding against it. After all, it has been abundantly clear for years now how any attention is good attention on social media, so sharing things in order to dunk on them only helps the thing or person you’re trying to dunk on.

In longer-form media, though, I find it a lot easier. So often, readers know almost nothing about the writer of a work they’re enjoying. Only in recent decades has information about an author become readily available, and that looks like it might not last much longer as more and more writers turn toward anonymity and pen names in order to protect their identities from trolls and the various mobs of the internet. I feel like it is worth giving people the benefit of the doubt by default and only changing my mind when I find a reason they don’t deserve it rather than making them earn it in the first place. After all, we’ve seen countless examples on the internet of people being hunted down and castigated for something a group of people decided was inappropriate only to eventually learn that this person had every right to say what they said. Or that maybe they were right the entire time and people shouldn’t have been so quick to cast judgment.

I just think that trying to feel superior to other people is not a great way to use the internet, even though it seems to be the way most poeple use the internet. I prefer a bit of empathy and extending everyone the grace and generosity I hope they’d extend to me in turn. I just think that maybe most people trying to share something they thought important enough to make a specific statement about should maybe be given the benefit of the doubt about what they’ve said. I know I mess up and stick my foot in my mouth sometimes so I generally like to assume that other people do it as well.

I Have Too Much Fun Stuff To Do

My relationship with media consumption has shifted over the last year and a half. It’s a mixture of living alone, trying to maintain healthy day-to-day habits, and the way that the pandemic has shifted a lot of content I used to consume into the streaming sphere. I had very little I used to follow as it came out, instead consuming it in bursts when I had time or wasn’t feeling well, or just needed a couch day. The pandemic changed how I rationed out my energy, my need for rest, and how I react to socializing, and that in turn changed how I consume media.

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I’m Just Gonna Unload All This Anxiety Over Here, By The Other Anxiety

I had an enjoyable day, today. Facebook was down for most of it and, as much as I’d like to say I got a lot done as a result, I definitely did not. Partly because I have already taken steps to disconnect myself from Facebook and partly because it was hard to focus while enjoying the feeling of being free from one of my larger, more nebulous anxieties.

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Talking to Strangers on the Internet

When I was growing up and first got to use the internet, one of the biggest rules I was given was that I could not talk to strangers on the internet. Around that time, tales of child abductions, predators, and catfishing had started to gain prominence, so my parents’ concern makes sense. It made sense back then, too, because I wasn’t supposed to talk to real-life strangers, so why should I be able to talk to internet strangers?

The funny thing is, now there are entire platforms for talking to strangers. Randomly-paired video and/or text chat, Twitter, Imgur, Reddit, Facebook… Pretty much everywhere you can go to on the internet, it will have an endless stream of strangers you can talk to. Sometimes, you even wind up making friends. One of my closest friends in my freshman year of college was someone who was a friend of a friend of a friend, that I’d maybe seen in person once. In the entire time we talked and were close friends, we met in person once, when I was back from college for winter break and we wanted to be able to stop making jokes about either one of us being a fat old man in a fake mustache.

Hell, even most video games pair you with strangers these days and all the team-based ones require some degree of communication, even if you only ever use emotes/macros to ask for healing or to show off your character’s mighty muscles. Up until a couple of weeks ago, when I started getting more involved on Twitter, most of my interaction with strangers came from playing Overwatch. I’d queue up for a match by myself or with a friend and we’d get stuck on a team with random strangers. For the most part, communication with them stay in the realm of healing requests and indications that we need to group up.

Sometimes, though, people start using text chat. Sometimes, people even use the team-wide voice chat. While myself and the friend I usually queue up with don’t generally join the team voice chat unless the team asks us to, there have been a few times when we have and it went well. One time, we did so well with two other groups of two that we all teamed up to make a group of six and went on to win another four matches. Another time, one guy spent the whole match whining into the team chat about how no one was playing well or helping him and it created such a thoroughly toxic atmosphere that no one would work together.

Most of the time, it’s just normal chatter. People talk about what they’re going to do, call out enemy positions and maneuvers, we coordinate our movements, and trying to work together for a common goal before moving on and never talking to each other again. I’ve had mostly neutral experiences with team voice chat, but the negative ones stand out so much that I generally try to avoid it if I can.

Text chat has been the opposite. There have been a few negative experiences, including one lately that made the match so negative that people on my team started throwing the match, resulting in an embarrassing overtime loss to a team we should have beaten easily. For the most part, though, people are friendly and at least neutral if not positive. If you play as a part of a group, there’s a high chance of playing with other groups and sticking with them for a while, across several matches. As that happens, people start friendly conversations, congratulate each other on good places, and all report/shout-down the one asshole trying to ruin everyone’s good time. Then you inevitably wind up fighting against a long-time ally and tears are shed on both sides as you ruthlessly exploit your experiences with each other to try to beat each other.

Good times.

I always kind of marvel at the casual nature of human connection via video games. You can meet someone new, bond over your shared enjoyment of a game, and then part ways without ever expecting to meet or talk again. If you do, that’s great! If not, then you’ve lost nothing. Or have you? It is so easy to connect over the internet, but we’re still so guarded with most of our personal information. Games all use usernames, most social media allows the restriction of personal information so only friends can see it, and most people who know anything about internet/identity safety recommend keeping most personal information completely private.

This attitude (which is still entirely sensible because the people who want to exploit personal information are ruthless and entirely too common) keeps us from connecting with friendly strangers. We don’t even share our names. We keep ourselves hidden behind the masks of our characters and our usernames. We connect with people, make friends, and them go our separate ways. It always makes me kind of sad when it happens, even if I’m not really willing to be the one to try to break the pattern. For the most part, anyway. I use my real name here, and on my Twitter. Those aren’t terribly brave, though, since most people also do that.


Saturday Morning Musing

I’ve been using Facebook since 2007 and I did a lot of growing up during the past 11-ish years. I never really did much social media posting with specifics to my life, but I sure did plenty of whining. And posting song lyrics. There are also the broken links to blogs I’ve run in the past that I ended years ago. Worst of all, at least to my mind, is that I did tons of “vague-booking.” For those of you who are not familiar with the term, it is what you call a post on Facebook that complains about something without actually indicating what is wrong or why you are upset. I’m sure urban dictionary has a better definition, but that is basically it and it annoys me these days.

It can be weird to look back on posts from the past and see myself upset about something that was clearly a big deal at the time but that I can no longer remember. Most of the big, lasting problems from my life during my later high school and college years are things I never posted about but still remember quite clearly. The break-ups, the betrayals and loss of friends, the fights between friends that shattered friend-groups, my attempts to act as a moderator to some dumb shit in college that only convinced both sides to turn against me since I wouldn’t pick a side, and more. There’s nothing on Facebook that is painful to remember mostly because I can’t remember anything I was complaining about.

These days, I maintain a bit of a “digital persona,” I guess you could call it. Maybe “Digital Identity” would be better. Either way, it isn’t an act or a fake personality. I just strictly maintain a certain self-identity across platforms. I try to use similar usernames if not my real name and be consistent in profile pictures, the things I support, and how I voice my thoughts. My blog is currently where I voice most of my thinking while Twitter tends to get more of my moment-to-moment impressions when I feel like they’re actually worth recording. Which isn’t to say I tweet everything that comes up. I try not to complain too much and don’t generally post anything that isn’t a part of my mission. I do similar things outside of the internet as well, so my online identity reflects my offline one. I just feel a little more aware of the performative aspects of being a person and constantly working toward a goal when I’m doing it online. Offline, I just want to make the world a better place however I can, so I generally try to look on the bright side, share things that are good, and generally be a positive influence. In the end, they pretty much work out to the same thing.

That being said, I’m not exactly a ray of sunshine online. I deal with my depression and anxiety a lot on twitter, posting about the weird sort of negative/positive mix of my thoughts that results from my depression and anxiety pulling me down and my attempts to avoid being ruled by them pulling me up. It is also a good exercise in making me focus on things I enjoy, setting my mindset for the day, and looking for the good that comes from everything going on in my life. My twitter isn’t happy, but it is positive and affirming. It represents what it is like to be someone who is active and creative, who refuses to stop doing anything less than literally everything he can, while struggling with depression and anxiety. At least it represents what that means to me, specifically.

My life’s goal is to leave the world a better place than I found it. To be a positive influence on the world, even if it means just making one person’s life better for me having been here. Angst-y Facebook posts from years ago don’t really support that. Plus, they’re kind of embarrassing. I thought I was so clever just sharing song lyrics instead of posting about how I felt, but the themes of the music and the specific lines I chose paint a pretty clear picture of my emotional state at the time of posting. I have to admit that the desire to get rid of these transparent references to transient, ultimately meaningless problems is a part of it.

If I’d actually posted about the real problems I was facing, if I’d shared anything like I do now, about facing life with depression and the constant struggle of managing my anxiety, I would keep it. People benefit from knowing other people out there have shared similar struggles. Something is easier to deal with when you know you’re not alone. The desire to let people know what it is like to be depressed or anxious, to have to struggle to get through every day even when you know you’ll manage just fine and aren’t a suicide risk, that is why I’ve chosen such a public forum. The few random comments I get on this blog from time-to-time make it all worth it.

I don’t really feel like it is self-censorship to remove old posts that no longe represent who I am. My social media should reflect who I am. While some of my past problems are a part of who I am today, none of the whiny little vague posts are. It feels a lot more like cleaning and maintenance to me.