The increasing fuckery of Twitter…

Twitter has never exactly been a walled garden, but over the last couple of years I’ve been able to curate the kind of experience I wanted to have using the platform. For the most part, the posts I was seeing were of interest – ranging between current day Army policy, to politics, to general history and more specifically the age of fighting sail. 

The last few weeks, I’ve increasingly seen posts (and ads) that are of no particular use or interest to me. This morning, for some reason, the theme mixed in with my normal fair was posts and ads from whack job conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine organizations. 

I just can’t muster the time or interest to deal with that. I want to like Twitter. I find it an incredibly useful tool for breaking news and information. I even appreciate the often serendipitous posts that land in my feed. 

What I don’t appreciate is having those normal bits of my feed shouted down in favor of whoever happens to be the loudest, most obnoxious people using the app. I more or less abandoned Instagram when its “new and improved” features ceased providing the experience that added value to my life. I feel Twitter slowly and surely following the same route. Increasingly, it feels like the direction the whole universe of social media is taking. 

I’m going to give it one more try to adjust the settings and lay in some new “words to never show me,” but it’s quickly descending into “more trouble than it’s worth” territory. It almost feels inevitable that eventually I’ll just withdraw from the socials altogether into a world of books and animals where everything else can bugger directly off. I’m fast approaching the hard limit of the amount of fuckery I intend to allow into my life.

Grinning like the village idiot…

OK, so here I am back after a delightful, if short, four-day weekend. I mostly tuned out any form of news, avoided Twitter, and landed on Facebook only sporadically – air dropping in to post occasional memes, but not doing much scrolling. In short, it was really kind of delightful. I’m quite sure there’s a lesson there, if I’m willing to take heed of it. Steering mostly clear of news and social media is good for your mental health. Who knew, right?

I’ve often wondered why people who are obviously stupid wander through life so often grinning like the village idiot. I can only speculate based on my limited evidence, that perhaps ignorance really is bliss and that’s not just something people say. Going about without a thought in your head or a worry in your heart is undeniably freeing. It’s not so much that I didn’t care what was happening in the world as it was that I just didn’t know. I’m feeling surprisingly ok with that.

The first thing I did when I trundled to my desk this morning was tee up Drudge. Finding it plastered with reports of China’s rising protests, Donald Trump in general, the Republican Party continuing to form a circular firing squad, Elon continuing to be Elon, and Russia, as always, doing Russian shit. If that’s what I missed out on across the four days of Thanksgiving, I have to ask if I really missed anything at all. 

I still don’t expect I’ll ever be able to tune everything out indefinitely. It’s an unhappy side effect of being, at least in some ways, curious about the world. I hope that I can at least be a bit more selective in the future – heading down rabbit holes that are of interest rather than just because they’re there. If the world is determined to burn itself to the ground, I can’t see any good reason I shouldn’t just increasingly allocate my attention to books and animals and smile while everything else does its thing.  

Shouting into the void…

I’m throttling down on social media. Over the last few days, I’ve slashed and burned through Twitter to drop a lot of follows and focus in the content I want to see. Instagram was already kind of a dead letter for me after their last update. If I have to go through multiple convolutions to see people I chose to follow, versus those you want me to see, your app has very limited utility for me.

Finally, I turned my attention to Facebook and deactivated an old page I had set up when I was doing a lot more writing than reading. If anyone was following my lack of updates over there, sorry about that. I should have killed off that page a long time ago, but it’s done now. My personal Facebook page could probably use a good “friends” trimming too, but I’ll leave that effort for my next fit of streamlining and trying to make my social media footprint more useful. At least in its present form, Facebook has the advantage of being filled with people I know – or those I’ve known in years gone by. I’m less inclined to do any wholesale cleaving there… for the moment.

I’ve been looking at Mastodon for the last week or two. I like the concept, but don’t particularly want to make the jump to add yet another platform unless Elon’s fuckery on Twitter just gets to be too much to bear… or he collapses the entire company, which given his performance over the last couple of days doesn’t feel entirely out of the realm of the possible.

Look, I remain a big fan of social media. It’s given me insights and let me talk to people there’s no chance I’d have ever encountered organically. I’m never going to be one of these people who abandons the internet, tosses their cell phone in the sea, and proclaims themselves “free.” I find there is plenty of useful bits left even with vocal minority of users trying to suck up all available oxygen in the room. Still, I seem to be at a crossroads in terms of how I consume my media – and I’ll be much more purposeful going forward with where and on whom I allocate time and attention.

Not to worry, though, I’m sure I’ll still populate Facebook with my stream of consciousness rantings. There’s nothing I enjoy more, after all, than a good shout into the void.

I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed…

Inconsistency makes me just a little bit crazy. This week, I’ve seen two heavily commented on social media posts that were, for lack of a better term, triggering. 

The first, from the NRA, was a post singing the praises of an Iowa school district that had decided to allow some portion of its teachers to carry a firearm inside the school. I don’t have any deep philosophical problems with that if people are willing and able, but I was amazed at the number of far-right commenters arguing that all teachers should be armed or that it should be required in all school districts. I suspect that a fair number of them were the same people who over the course of the Great Plague were busy calling out teachers as groomers, screaming bloody murder about “unsuitable” books in the classroom, and raging that teacher’s sole purpose was to indoctrinate impressionable young minds into a vast leftist conspiracy. Suddenly, teachers are the last, best guardians of their children. If that’s not inconsistent, I have no idea what is.

The second post, once again related to guns, was a bland piece stating emphatically that only the police should have “high powered” weapons. The comments are exactly what you’d expect – agreement right down the line from precisely the same people who during the Great Plague shouted themselves hoarse that the police couldn’t be trusted and should be defunded and disbanded.  Either the police are a trusted agent to apply state sanctioned force or they’re not. The alternative illustrated by this particular meme seems to be that the police are wildly untrustworthy, but absolutely should be armed well beyond the ability of any citizen or group of citizens to resist their power. I can’t be the only one that sees the logical conflict here, right?

Given the level of engagement with both of the subject posts, I can only assume that applying even some cursory analysis to ideas isn’t something most people do regardless of where on the political divide they fall. That probably shouldn’t be surprising at this point… and I’m really not surprised in any traditional sense of the word. I’ve long since given up on the vast mass of people being anything other than dumber than dog shit. 

None of this sad tale of woe is a surprise, but it can’t help but be a disappointment.

Damned glitchy algorithm. 

As a rule, I find the Twitter algorithm much more entertaining than the one Facebook uses. Twitter tends to feed me a steady diet of people who talk about dogs, UK politics, the age of fighting sail, archeology, military affairs, book collecting, egirls, and the occasional American politician. It’s more or less balanced based on my interests.

Every couple of months, though, I somehow land in environmentalist crackpot twitter. My most recent territory was getting twisted up with Twitter’s urban planners who were demanding that everyone must live in densely built walkable communities.

I’d like to encourage that group to piss directly off. Not everyone wants or needs to live in dense, urban housing – walkable or otherwise. I’ve spent my life specifically avoiding living under those conditions. I have no idea why it’s so hard for urbanites to understand that not everyone is interested in living asshole to elbow with their neighbor, stacked 47 floors deep, just for the pleasure of having a bakery or bodega a block over. I worked my ass off to make sure there was plenty of space between me and the next guy. In fact, I suspect my current space allocation isn’t nearly enough and the next time around I’ll focus on less house and more land.

I’d be hard pressed to think of a single argument the urban planning true believers on Twitter could make that would lead me in a different direction. That won’t stop that oddball little corner of twitter from being filled by people who think they have the One True Way and the rest of us should just live in accordance with their pronouncements of the higher good.

I obviously need to find a way to get Twitter to stop feeding me this nonsense, as I’d much rather focus on the nonsense that actually interests me instead of rabbit holing me into things just guaranteed to elevate my blood pressure. Damned glitchy algorithm. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The new and improved Instagram. I hated it when it launched. After a few weeks of living with it, I still hate it. Insta went from my most visited social to the least. It was a nice little app to see fun and interesting pictures from friends and people I followed. Now it’s turned into a bad imitation of TikTok that endlessly shows me clips from people/organizations I don’t know or care about and makes what I did find intresting harder to reach. I’m sure there was a very good business case for doing whatever they did, but it makes Instagram just about useless to me.

2. Heat in the summer. The professional media in Baltimore has been falling all over themselves to report on “weather alert days” this week because it’s hot. It also happens to be the back half of July. Here in the Mid-Atlantic that means it’s the height of summer. Put another way, it’s precisely the time of year when one might expect it to be hot and humid in this part of the world. I’m fully onboard with the climate changing – but seeing temperatures in the mid-90s and normal temperatures this time of year are regularly in the low-90s doesn’t feel like a case of breaking news. Now if I wake up tomorrow and it’s 140 degrees in the shade, you’ve got my interest. Otherwise, I’m going to go ahead and treat this as summer doing summer stuff.

3. Accessories. One of the things I hadn’t prepared myself for was the need to outfit this new bathroom of mine with accessories – you know, the various mats, hooks, towels, and so on that might give the whole thing a more finished look. So far all I’ve managed to do is order up a hamper to replace the standard white Rubbermaid version I’ve been toting around since 1998. As for the rest, I have this terrible feeling that at some point it might require me to go out and shop in actual stores to get my eyes and hands on actual fit and finish rather than relying on how things look on the screen. It already feels like a waste of whatever perfectly good Saturday afternoon gets eaten up with it.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Estimates. Over the course of the last two days, I’ve tried to come to terms with how bad we are at estimating in complex situations. Starting Tuesday night, the “estimated” time to have power back on 9PM, then 11PM, then unknown, then 3 PM Wednesday, then unknown again, then 11:30 PM, and then finally 11:30 PM Thursday. Grid power came back around midnight on Thursday, so I have no idea where that final estimate came from. This all transpired over the course of 30 hours. I mean wouldn’t it be better to just say we don’t have any fucking idea when things will happen than engage in wildly over optimistic dart throwing? 

2. Connectivity. It’s not the fact that the power is out that’s the problem. In a pinch, I can always make my own. The larger issue is that when the power does happen to go out, I lose nearly all connectivity. Despite Verizon showing that I have two solid bars of LTE coverage, the best I can manage are text messages and some highly garbled phone calls. It’s a $1000 smart phone reduced to less capability than I had from my old Nokia 3310. It’s almost like those “service bars” are a marketing gimmick and have no actual relationship to your actual signal strength. 

3. Social media. You don’t realize how much time you waste on social media until you can’t waste time on social media. Unfortunately, that largely seems to happen when you have nothing but time in front of you. Fortunately, I have a finely honed ability to entertain myself indefinitely, but in a warped and twisted way I did miss being able to have news and world events beamed directly into my eye holes 24/7 via Twitter. 

Staring at the tree…

The U.S. Supreme Court generally clears the deck of all pending opinions before going away for the July 4thholiday. Typically, the higher profile the case, the latter the opinion is handed down. That means in the next ten days, we can expect to see new rulings on abortion, religious liberty, the environment, and the Second Amendment.  It’s enough to make a court watcher absolutely salivate with anticipation.

On the other hand, it’s enough to make me seriously consider proclaiming the month of July a social media-free zone. Regardless of how these pending rulings come down, public outcry will be equal parts intense, uninformed, and obnoxious. Responsible analysis will be tough to come by and will immediately be downvoted by partisans. I honestly don’t know if I’ve got it in me to sit around listening to so many people suddenly being engaged and interested. 

Being engaged is good and all… but not just on the big days. That’s just a recipe for people losing their minds as some kind of performative display of giving a shit. It means a whole lot less than paying attention when the sausage is being made. The Supreme Court rightly gets a lot of press, but 99% of law, policy, and regulation never touch their front door. If you’re focused only on those nine judges you’re staring at the tree and missing a whole universe worth of forest to your left and right and in front of and behind you. 

Sigh. Maybe if I just mute all notifications and just spend a month watching cat videos on TikTok the summer won’t be as bad as I’m anticipating. It really does feel like the ideal time to drawing up the digital drawbridge until people settle the fuck down.

Information worth knowing…

For the last few years, I’ve been using Goodreads to manage my personal library. It’s a solid app, filled with reasonable functionality, and absolute scads “social” elements for readers and tie ins with most of the popular social media platforms. For basic cataloging, it filled the bill without much trouble. Still, at its heart, Goodreads is a social media platform and I found it increasingly limited when trying to tweak my ever-increasing pile of books.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been slowly transitioning over to LibraryThing and working through how to catalog and manage the books over the long term. I’ve finally gotten most of the basics covered – or at least got things broken down into the primal chunks. What I’ve read (763), what I have on the to be read pile (657), and what I still want to get my hands on in the future (207). The latter bit is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it will help me be a bit more selective and targeted as I hunt books in the future.

The next step is taking those big chunks and starting to build a little more granularity. Being able to drill down into more detail than just “History, Britain,” will be when I get an itch for something from a specific time period or topic. Getting the details sorted, though, looks like a project that could easily take months or years as I pick at it in free moments. Getting the level of detail I’d like to have will mean moving past the bulk edits of the last few weeks and dealing with smaller subsets and even individual touch points. It’s going to take time, but it feels like I’ve finally stumbled on a proper cataloging tool to really start getting a grip the collection from top to bottom.

Yes, it’s probably overkill, but I have every expectation that this bunch of books will continue to grow over the next 20-30 years. Coming to terms with how to keep it all straight (and avoid buying duplicates) feels like a worthwhile endeavor. Plus, if I hadn’t made the transition, I wouldn’t know that my stack of books is now just slightly shorter than the Taj Mahal. That’s information worth knowing. 

A bit too high…

I’ll be the first to admit that my Instagram feed is not generally what most people would consider “wholesome.” It’s thick with porn stars, egirls, and instathots. Thankfully I don’t subscribe to that particularly American brand of puritanism that shrieks and clutches its pearls at even the mention of the human body. 

Occasionally, though, some other things break through the Insta-clutter. A couple of nights ago I was scrolling through my feed and I landed on a photo of row after row of books. It was a real thing of beauty – formal, but comfortable; well loved, but equally well maintained. 

“I want something like that when I build a house,” I mumbled to myself before filing it away for reference should the occasion ever present itself to build my own book room from the foundation up. 

Upon closer inspection, of course I want something like that. The picture that so fascinated me was of the royal library in the Palace of Versailles. 

It’s good to be ambitious. Goals beyond food, shelter, and procreation are what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. I fear, however, in this case I may have set my sights just a bit too high.