Scrubbing the Likes

Do you delete your old social media posts?

These things were meant to be ephemeral, right? Blips of consciousness that would be gone in an instant.

But the value of Facebook, Twitter et al – their market value – is of course based on retaining all that instantaneous, inconsequential information. Accreting an ever more detailed data picture of you: your life, loves, needs and desires. Your political leanings

Which is why FB and Twitter make it ball-achingly hard to delete those old posts. The “post” button is large and easily accessible, the delete option hidden in sub-menus and shrouded in a mass of confirmation pop-ups.

And deleted posts have a habit of lingering, depending on how you search for them. My Twitter profile currently shows two pages of tweets, but the counter tells me I still have 1,200 of the bastards, lingering out there like the half-baked nonsense that they were. Are.

My old posts are embarrassing, mildly, but offensive to me alone. They ARE inconsequential. But I still believe that if they’re ephemeral, they should eventually disappear, like a fart in a gentle breeze. Deleting them though, takes ten times as long as making them in the first place.

It feels vaguely psychotic, going through and unliking friends’ updates, deleting tags on old party pictures. It’s obsessive, a collosal waste of time, and feels like the world’s most passive aggressive gesture – if, of course, your friends were even to notice. I *hope* none of my connections regularly audits the likes on old posts to see who has retracted their previous tiny endorsements and affirmations.

And it’s one thing to delete a like of a funny status update. Birthday wishes, well, will they really be missed? Congratulations on a birth, that’s a little harder. And messages of support after bereavement? That one I have trouble with.

The fast track of course is to delete your account. But while I’m happy to delete an entire blog (and they do all get deleted, sooner or later), abandoning an FB or Twitter account would mean losing all those connections – connections which would be a huge pain to remake when setting up a new account.

I don’t know what the answer is here. Am trying to wean myself off that g–d– Like button. (Woo.) Otherwise I’m stuck in a timesuck loop of manually deleting old posts, which I hate, but not quite as much as leaving all that data up there for FB in particular to monetise.

Seriously, can’t we just start paying for this shit? $0.99c a month? Hell, I’d pay the full dollar if it came with a bulk delete button.

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Serenity When? Serenity Now?

serenitynow

I started writing this post ten days before the US election. The premise was that it’s massively unproductive to worry about things we have no control over: football results, Brexit, that US election I mentioned.

… worry is a dividend paid to disaster before it is due…

– Ian Fleming, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”

The aim was to quit the “read the entire internet” impulse that fretting encourages. Stop skim reading every article. Stop following inflammatory tweets back to the shithive of alt-right white supremacist scumbaggery they dribbled out of.

Reading every viewpoint and counter-viewpoint on a subject doesn’t leave you better prepared to absorb the consequences of an outcome you don’t have any control over. That view/counterview thing? Horribly overdone. Depressing to see news outlets follow up with the counter-opinions, because often it seems so forced. (“OK, who wants to write an opinion piece saying Bowie was shit? Come on, someone has to write this thing…”)

In praise of disengagement? Sort of. This is tacking pretty close to the serenity prayer.

Anyways, history overtook my sluggish blogging (that’s how fast I blog, at a sub-historical pace), and the US somehow elected a candidate who makes more false statements than true ones. As I lazily pondered how Facebook and Twitter had played a disastrous role in the dissemination of bullshit during Brexit and the US election, the media duly decided to get riled about fake news.

What of serene disengagement in 2016, then? Disengagement from the internet, I hasten to add, not from “real life”. The last thing we need now is disengagement from reality. Ever think: if we’d all stayed off Twitter and Facebook in 2016, and instead had talked to our less politically-aligned relatives, we might not be now suffering the spittle-flecked, oddly angry, victory shitposting of the Brexiteers and Trumpkopfs? Even without social media we would still have been appalled by the atrocities in Syria, still mourned Bowie and Prince.

I stand by the point that over-reading is unproductive. It’s a one-way street, a dead-end download that will likely go unanalysed and unsynthesised, which will never be shared except in an angry diatribe to a colleague with better things to do.

This isn’t a solution for the awfulnesses we’ve subjected ourselves this year. It’s a modest contribution to your own mental health not to pore over things, obsessively, until you lose your grip on what they actually mean. Don’t read the comments. Don’t feed the trolls. Twitter sparingly. Facebook for event invites and birthdays only.

As for King Troll, all I can do is trust in the survival instinct of the US people, and have popcorn on hand in case of impeachment. Regarding the disengagement policy, I’m convinced that the most constructive thing people could do is unfollow Trump on Twitter. Can you imagine how much more effectively he could be scrutinised if we weren’t wasting time evaluating his tweets by the normal standards of political/civil discourse, instead of dismissing them out of hand as the deliberate misinformation they are? Imagine how that fragile ego would take a plummeting follower count…

 

PS The one topic I did manage to disengage from in the latter half of the year was football. I’ve avoided the brief, addiction-forming highs of the wins and the days-long toxic fug of defeats. It’s easier, living outside the UK, but I’ve seen a few results by accident, or knee jerk click-impulse. On the whole I honestly feel that if anything it’s helped my mood. (I reserve the right to revise this opinion if Arsenal win the League.)