This morning The Guardian published a short profile of Ben Grosser, an artist and social media critic. This part resonated with me:
Grosser asks his students a question in their first seminar. “Who here has deleted a social media post within 10 minutes of putting it up, because it didn’t have the metric reaction they hoped for?” Every hand goes up. Then he says: “Now imagine if any of the artists you admire from the past had paid attention to the first 10 minutes of reaction to their work and used that as a guide about whether to throw something away.” If you’re going to have original, strange ideas, he suggests, the world might need time to adjust to them.
Grosser has been testing a platform that might help with that, too. Minus breaks all the rules of metric-obsessed media. It allows users only a finite number of posts: exactly 100 across a lifetime and there are no likes or follows. The only way you can interact with another poster is by replying. His beta testers have reported some anxieties, which sound a lot like the kind of anxieties that artists have always felt: “They almost feel like there’s so much weight on a post,” he says. “It’s like, ‘I’m only going to get 100, what if I blow one on some bullshit?’” He hopes that an idea of quality might be able to compete with the quantitative alternative: if we stop to think, he says, “we are invited to believe our Twitter feed will last for ever. And so we’re constantly thinking in our head in terms of how we might appear on Twitter or about how the thing we’re doing right now would look if I talked about it on Twitter…”
I created this blog in a similar spirit. I enjoy writing, and trying to capture things that are meaningful to me right now. It’s a lab notebook for the ongoing experiment that is my life. My hope is that some of what I record will still have meaning to me years from now, and mean something to my kids years from then. That naturally excludes reactions to current events, politics, and the mundane details of my personal life.
I consider myself fortunate to have learned about technology and online communities before social media became so pervasive. I started with bulletin board systems in 1993, and got on the Internet in 1995. Like many people, I’ve said and done my share of stupid, rash, and awkward things online. I was lucky that most of those things were only witnessed by a few people, then disappeared into the bit bucket. By the time Facebook, Twitter, et al. came along I’d learned about the perils of oversharing. Aside from GitHub and LinkedIn, which I use for work, I don’t have any social media accounts, and don’t intend to. I’m sure I miss out on some things because of that, but I reckon that most of those things are the same sort of ephemera I miss by preferring long-form articles and books to closely following the news cycle.