These are thoughts on digital saturation, Twitter and my conscious attempt to step away.
The transfer of our life’s processes to the digital world seems near complete now. There is barely a task in our daily life that we do completely un-mediated by digital technology. Or, without using an ‘online’ tool. So much so that the only way to describe occurrence of an event now is easier when we use negation – online or offline. This new binary of daily life has bothered me for a while now. I will try not adding a layer of pandemic thought on this observation. Not just the obvious hollowing out of human life, nature and everything else besides the digital world, but the way in which it has come to modify the meaning of life and its purpose.
The professional, personal and knowledge bubbles that we create around ourselves only get more defined and hard to break out from, as time passes. It takes a while to realize that new information and thinking has long been crowded out because of these bubbles. They provide more of the same, day after day. Moreover, the algorithms driving our digital lives can make it worse.
These were concerns which made me look at Twitter’s impact on my personal life. While I benefited from its informational value immensely, it came at a cost. A slow bubble began forming itself. It included information, views, opinions and raw relays of thoughts from people and sources I began following on Twitter. Then the algorithms worked on my timeline. They brought more of the same content to my timeline.
In biology, we learn that cells organize themselves into tissues according to a biological program coded in the genes. When cells begin growing in an unorganized way they form lumps of growth or tumors, that progress in an uncontrolled form, often lacking function. The cells have lost their program and are now only turning tumors when they grow. That’s exactly how tweets grew on my timeline beyond a point. More information is good, I thought. Being on the ball with the latest occurrence in necessary, I thought. But, the cumulative effect of it was an unstructured informational mess with no function to serve. It only felt heavy and often pointless.
Twitter became an information and thought bubble that let no fresh air in over the years of use. It was a bubble of the online world. The size of my offline world shrank. Without wielding an app how could one relate to the world? It shrank so much that I could barely count on things in my daily life that I did offline. It calls on so little of human senses and capabilities to live in the online world. This is not to disregard or lack an appreciation for innovation and resultant advances from AI, ML and advanced computing. But, maybe, we have lost the sense of how to apply these and in what areas must they be deployed.
This train of thought was triggered by an article on Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and his company in the latest issue of Wired Magazine. In Wired’s coarse style of opinion it speaks of who’s taking a call on profiles, conduct and canceling handles when ‘Jack mans the monastery’. It is Vijaya Gedde, head of legal, policy, and trust and safety issues the piece suggests.
The platform is perhaps a big mess of confusion for Jack himself. It’s purpose and power continues to evolve. Streaks of that feeling are seen in his public appearances and threads. Maybe, that’s a good thing.
It has been a month since I checked out of the online world’s current Kailash peak – Twitter. There is diversity and a full spectrum of possible worlds and ideas emerging since then. Of course, it was my own fault to let it become what it did. I could have fired it up less often.
Social media is not social. That is the lesson.
I hope to dwell more in the uncurated and serendipitous world of offline existence to write back the app-less possibilities.