Return to Innocence

It's been obvious to a lot of people, for a long time, that there is way too much toxicity in social media. The platforms that were supposed to offer a free exchange of ideas have unfortunately tilted towards hatred and extremism, drowning out sane and moderate voices, and attempts to counter malicious misinformation and harassment get attacked as 'denying free speech'. I won't get too far into a discussion about how free speech does not equate to freedom from consequences, that responsibilities come with freedom (you cannot shout 'Fire' in a crowded theatre where there is no fire, you can be sued for libel and slander, and there should be consequences to those who willfully harm innocent people through their words), but it's fair to say that I feel that too.

I'm also concerned about how addictive social media is. I do too much doomscrolling on Twitter and Facebook. I feel that their attempts to handle harassment and hate speech have been ineffective at best, and often counterproductive. Seeing how some of my friends have been treated on Twitter and Facebook while some truly hateful voices have been given free rein has made me more than once think about leaving these platforms.

Unfortunately, that may not be possible for me. For one thing, my work requires my presence in social media. For another, for all its faults, social media remains the mainstay of my contact with far-flung friends and family. Until we find some other platform where we could all migrate, and do so, that isn't happening (though, my kids are finding their own spaces and now consider Twitter and Facebook to be an old folks' home. Tellingly, I've had no interest to head in their direction).

If I can't quit social media, maybe I can try to use it less, and maybe a way to do that is to try and get even older in my engagement with the World Wide Web. This blog is a legacy of the rise and fall of blogging as the major social media platform. I remember the great increase in the number and variety of blogs, the rise of audiences and comment forums, and the communities we built. I remember how the Canadian political scene both embraced and eschewed the partisan political nature of the American blogosphere. We had Blogging Tories, Libloggers, Blogging NDPers, Progressive Bloggers, and the Blogging Alliance of Non-Partisan Canadians (which I founded). Sure, there were teams, but we played together. Sure, there were fights and flame wars, but for many of us, we were all Canadians first. I count a number of former Conservative Party supporters as my friends (note, though, the term "former"), and guess where they came from. I could do with a return to that level of innocence.

Having our own blogs amounted to some gatekeeping. We needed some skills to put set up our blogs and make them interesting. Some of us found some decent rewards in setting up our own domain names and blogging software. While there was still plenty of noise blaring around the signal, once you found the signal, you could lock into it, and it would keep playing. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook drained that. Yes, it made it easier for anyone to post, and that is a benefit, but I've lost track of friends on Facebook thanks to this. They're still posting, but the algorithm and the sheer number of other posts to trawl through have kept them away. In more than one case, I've come upon friends I haven't spoken to online in a couple of years only to discover they have been turned into anti-vaxxer conspiracy theory-spouting parodies of themselves, blaming Trudeau for everything and cheering on the actions of the anti-democratic "truckers" convoy harassing the people of Ottawa. I can't engage with them now, they're too far gone. Maybe if I'd been in better touch with them in the intervening years, I could have talked them out of some of their delusions. Maybe.

But I digress (which, in blogging, you can do). I wonder what would happen if, instead of saying any old thing on Facebook and Twitter, I just posted here instead, like I used to. I wonder if my RSS Feed still works. I wonder if there are still RSS Feed Readers out there to capture and display the latest blog posts of my favourite blogs (answer: yes. A good free reader for Mac users is NetNewsWire). I wonder if my favourite old blogs are still posting new posts (answer: yes, some of them. Hello Blogography. Mind if I come in?).

It remains to be seen whether I can start posting anything as close to as often as I used to on this blog, or if the quick hit of Twitter and Facebook will prove to be too big of a habit to break, but I want to try. I did good things here before and, possibly, if I work at it, I can do some good things again. That may be innocent, or naive, but I feel that's a good intention, and good intentions are important, especially if they can produce good actions.

Hey, anybody out there in old Canadian Blogosphere land? Still posting? Care to send me your RSS feed address?

blog comments powered by Disqus