A new beginning

“We’ve come a long long way together,
Through the hard times and the good.
I have to celebrate you baby,
And now I’ll treat you like I should.”
–What Google should have said right after #nymwars.

Three significant things have developed in the three years since nymwars: the NSA revelations, the decline of Twitter’s quality, and Google’s complete retraction of the “real” names policy. The NSA revelations came as a shell shock, and made me think a lot about data privacy. I can’t quite pinpoint when the quality of Twitter feeds started to fade, but I imagine it was around the time that the outrage economy began to seriously capitalize on it. And, like the healthy skeptic, I didn’t really believe the Google names policy retraction to be real until I saw it enforced.

The NSA revelations made me realize that very little communication on the internet is sacred anymore. While I’m mostly happy with Google’s atonement for their names policy drama, I do also recognize two things: first, I should not post anything on Google that I don’t mind seeing on the front page of the New York Times; second, because Google is granting us access to control our information within, at any moment another policy change might happen to revoke that access. As such, I’ve decided to turn my aestetix.com WordPress account into a proxy of sorts: I can post here, and it will be reposted to Google Plus, as well as to Facebook (I set up an account just for this), as well as to Twitter. This strategy minimizes the work I need to do– write up an article/essay and click publish– and capitalizes distribution so that someone who uses Twitter but not Google can still learn about the post. It also creates redundancy in that the work is replicated in all places (well, Twitter is just a link to the WordPress), so that if one service decides to block access, it’s still available in others. And worst case scenario, the original source is hosted at WordPress, which I am paying for, thus dismissing the “it’s a free service!” argument.

After the nymwars, when I felt I could no longer trust Google not to randomly suspend my account, and leaving Facebook for privacy related concerns, I focused mostly on Twitter. The challenge there is obvious: we learn to work with the tools we have, and thinking in terms of 140 characters both destroys grammatical constructs and ruins nuance. Rather than having enlightened discussions, we have stories reduced to half-assed “headlines” with links, and I imagine the percentage of people who follow through and read the entire link is far less than those who bother to click the link in the first place. Twitter focuses on the immediate, which can be useful for some things, like letting people know you’re still alive after a hurricane. But it magnifies presumption and bias to a degree that any kind of discourse is almost immediately ruined by angry replies, many from people who may have just seen a retweet and have no notion of the entire context. Topping this off, its nature is highly reactionary, and a misunderstanding can quickly turn into an angry twitter-war, which can result in rambling blog posts, escalating to a story on Valleywag (or an equivalent e-tabloid), all of which drive ad impressions up and create a false awareness of concern that is present until focus is robbed by the next outburst. In short, I see Twitter as fuel for what I call id journalism.

 

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