When danah boyd writes about social media, I pay attention:
If a central node in a network disappeared and went somewhere else (like from MySpace to Facebook), that person could pull some portion of their connections with them to a new site. However, if the accounts on the site that drew emotional intensity stopped doing so, people stopped engaging as much.
I find the bit about emotional intensity is important. danah isn’t saying that the content you intake makes you feel happy. She’s saying that you’re getting a rise out of the content that makes you come back for more. Drama.
I have to give Musk and gang some credit for knowing that drama brings traffic. The drama that unfolds in the World Cup is wholesome compared to the drama of watching public acts of humiliation, cruelty, and hate. We’re in a modern day Coliseum watching a theater of suffering performed for the king under the rubric of “justice.” And just like the ancient Romans, we can’t look away.
I’ve noticed myself more recently getting drawn into watching this so-called coliseum on Reddit when perusing r/Popular or r/News. After this realization, I’ve instead begun to favor my self-curated Home feed which is chock-full of flashlights, laughter, and ridiculously cute creatures.
Previously, I’ve made a similar filter for myself with the Facebook News Feed, but like an addict, I get drawn again to watch what the masses are seeing out of curiosity and under the self-deceiving guise of “staying informed.”
This back and forth of information curation is like a regular practice, much like maintenance on our teeth. We require the input of food through our mouths but we help keep our teeth in working order by brushing and flossing daily. We can’t expect to have perfectly clean teeth (water that’s too clean has no fish!), but it would be wise to still do daily cleanings. It’s a never-ending practice.
So, much like keeping our food-holes clean, it would be wise to keep our mind-holes clean as well.