Good v. Evil

Went for a bike ride. Posted a few words on Instagram about it:

Went for a bike ride with @spoke_n_words today. I can’t tell you everything we talked about – Instagram limits us to 2200 characters. I just used up 115. We talked about how that is part of the struggle today. That there’s so much to be said, and little place to say it anymore. And people have little time or patience to listen. We talked about my constant struggle to be on this platform and in this space when it seems to be hypocritical. If one is trying to spread positive mojo but resorts to using an inherently flawed or nefarious tool, ethically, is that a win? If you shouldn’t shop on Amazon because of their corporate practices – should you be reading and posting on Instagram in light of theirs – and by ‘theirs’ we all know I mean ‘Facebook’s’? Is it ok to use a bad platform for good? Is that even ethically possible? If you’re using the platform, are you not tacitly endorsing the business model? In light of what’s going down these days, does it make any sense to use tools ultimately designed to addict us with no concern for the outcome, by entities that only care about ad revenue? Can you institute change from within? Can you use the tools of your oppressors to facilitate revolution? I don’t know. I know I struggle with using this no matter how much warm fuzzy bike content I can pump out. There is a MUCH larger conversation that we need to have today, and it can’t – and shouldn’t – be had here. If you do one thing today, think about that – don’t blindly use these tools. Think. We also rode bikes, got dirty, drank coffee, ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, fought off pheasant and in general had the best time we possibly could conceive of having within those moments. And I took this one picture that really won’t convey that at all, but if you’re like me, one of the reasons I AM still on this platform is because very often, I’ll crack open this app and see something someone else has posted that will instantly remind me that I need to put the phone down and be somewhere else. That’s the revolution.

They Got Instagram Now, Too

Back when I started dumping my social media accounts – for various reasons – the one I held on to the longest, almost a year longer than the others, was Instagram. I liked that it was primarily photo based and that seemed to invite people to post a different kind of content. There was little to almost no negativity – in my feed anyway – and it seemed to be a much more civil place than the likes of Facebook and Twitter.

I mostly followed outdoor gear and bike companies as well as athletes and my actual IRL friends, so it’s not surprising I didn’t see much else. Apparently it was there though, and continues to grow. I finally nuked my Instagram account a few months ago, primarily for personal reasons, but it seems that it has gone the path of Facebook now as well, so in retrospect, I’m glad I got out when I did.

An article in the Atlantic, Instagram is the Internet’s New Home for Hate, doesn’t paint a very rosy picture.

“Instagram is teeming with these conspiracy theories, viral misinformation, and extremist memes, all daisy-chained together via a network of accounts with incredible algorithmic reach and millions of collective followers—many of whom, like Alex, are very young.

“Following just a handful of these accounts can quickly send users spiraling down a path toward even more extremist views and conspiracies, guided by Instagram’s own recommendation algorithm.”

“Given the velocity of the recommendation algorithm, the power of hashtagging, and the nature of the posts, it’s easy to see how Instagram can serve as an entry point into the internet’s darkest corners. Instagram “memes pages and humor is a really effective way to introduce people to extremist content,” says Becca Lewis, a doctoral student at Stanford and a research affiliate at the Data and Society Research Institute. “It’s easy, on Instagram, to attach certain hashtags to certain memes and get high visibility.”

“In December, Wired reported that Instagram had become the “go-to” social network for the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll farm notorious for meddling in U.S. elections. A report commissioned by the Senate Intelligence Committee declared that “Instagram was perhaps the most effective platform for the Internet Research Agency” to spread misinformation. “Instagram has the power of Twitter to broadcast out, but the infrastructure of Facebook supporting it,” says Jonathan Albright, a researcher at Columbia University who directs a center on digital forensics. “It has the best of all platforms.”

I’m glad that I left Instagram before I came across any of this stuff. I’d seen traces of it on Facebook, which is what prompted me to get off that finally. I think that quite possibly I could have continued to use both these platforms without encountering too much of this kind of content – I was pretty particular about who and what I followed – but at it’s core, I think my decision to leave was based around the fact that by using those platforms, I was tacitly endorsing both their business models and their standards of conduct – neither of which I felt comfortable doing anymore.

Nanoscape

My buddy and fellow cyclist Geoff Williams (gewilli to his peeps) has a side gig going on posting artwork from Electron Microscopes. Fascinating stuff. He recently had a print exhibition at the Chazan Gallery in Rhode Island. Check him out on instagram and twitter. I hear he plays a mean fiddle as well.

From the Gallery Exhibition Website:

For over 20 years Geoff Williams has been honing his craft as an electron microscopist. Each image that he collects is an expression of his sensibilities. The dynamic interplay of shape and grayscale values speaks to him. From that first image Williams collected on a scanning electron microscope (SEM) until now, he has been consistently striving to master a technique that engages this scientific tool towards a goal of sharing this world through his personal lense.
Williams’ images provide a tactile and striking view of samples we may or may not encounter in our day-to-day lives.  These samples can come from very diverse sources, from food to tiny fragments of the custom bicycle making process, to broken or discarded bits. Williams strives to present them as inspiring visuals, hoping to draw in and engage the audience in a way that is not possible in any other expressive form. The unique three dimensionality of these SEM works has the potential to decouple any a priori connection a viewer might have, while at the same time fostering a powerful de novo relationship to the subjects.

Watching

I didn’t look or listen for anything in particular, I just let the details of this particular moment in the neighborhood come to me: the quality of the air—heavy and warm, the incoming summer storm kind; birds; two couples having a conversation down the sidewalk; the clinking of dishes coming from inside the house to my right; distant hammering from a construction site somewhere in the blocks behind my house.

David Cain, The Alternative to Thinking All the Time

I happened on this quite by chance recently.

My oldest daughter has a job at the local fried chicken joint now. I often have to go pick her up. Her shift ends at time ‘X’, but really she has stuff to do after so I’m never sure when she gets out exactly so I sit in the car in the parking lot and wait.

Usually it’s around 9pm on a moderately busy street corner of a semi-residential section of town with a riverside park across the street. These summer nights at dusk by the river, there’s all manner of stuff going on.

Initially, I’d surf instagram on my phone, read a book, sometimes try to meditate, but eventually I just got round to watching and listening. Doing exactly what he describes here. Immersing myself in that moment and the goings on at that exact time, tuning out all the other irrelevant noise – stuff that is either unimportant or I can’t do anything about at that time anyway – and often yes – I’m sort of startled out of it by her opening the truck door.

I always feel really refreshed, awake and present after.

Au Revoir, Facebook.

I’ve deactivated it for time periods before, but going full monty this time. Over the past few months I’ve pretty much jumped off all the social medias, including the Plus here, but have decided to gradually come back to some, in a more curated fashion. Found overall that spending less time in front of screens was a really beneficial exercise.

I’m still going to have some reservations about not having a Facebook account, things that kept me from deleting it before. A couple of Groups I was managing, and a few other things, but for the most part I won’t miss it. I’ve made arrangements to share photos with family via Flickr and I have been keeping in touch via more ‘conventional means’ like email, text, and old-fashioned voice phone.

I had hung on to Facebook for a long time primarily for Messenger, but I’ve learned you don’t have to have a Facebook account to use it. People from Facebook can still connect with you on it provided they have your phone number. It also works with Instagram – just learned this today – which I plan on keeping because I enjoy it quite a bit. Something about it being image-based, and there’s less politics and drama. I hate that they’ve started fucking with the timeline chronology, but, oh well.

Deleted my twitter account as well. Hadn’t used it as more than a link-reposting device in months and frankly, looking at it these days just bores me.

I think I will be dipping my toes back into Google+ some, though it will never be like the early days. Just poking around I very much dislike a lot of what’s been done with it, even in the short time I haven’t really been paying attention. It seems that it’s even harder now to find that genuine engagement that made it so exhilarating in the beginning. I find there’s too much being ‘pushed’ at me now, with suggestions, ‘things I might like’ or other upsells.

Collections, though good in theory, only works if everyone uses them, allowing you to opt out of portions of people’s content. Unfortunately I find most people don’t use them, or at least the ones I wish did, don’t.

So my Facebook goes dark 14 (or less) days from now supposedly. Perhaps I’ll do some sort of countdown here, because, reasons. Whatever.