This will be an angsty post with adult language. You’ve been warned.
So, I’ve got some shit to get off my chest.
Last weekend, I finished bit of work for achieving a master’s degree. Sans some wild issue with proctoring or unexpected grading, I’ll be receiving a piece of paper in the mail acknowledging my rad skillz in the whole Computer Science domain. The original plan was to roll straight into a PhD program, and eventually ditch the day job and teach at a local university full time. 5 years ago, that all seemed reasonable, but the world looks different now. The degree took a lot longer and required a lot more effort than expected. School work is a lot easier when you’re younger and not dealing with a series of health and professional challenges. Now that it’s over, it feels like waking up to an empty disheveled house after teen party in a 90s era sitcom.
Living on a good chunk of land means a fair amount of constant upkeep. There’s a lot that Fin and I talked about doing around here, and very little of it we started. Mostly due to time, but some due to either a lack of interest or just generally being overwhelmed on the whole thing. School really killed most hobby projects, and depression killed the rest.
Seemingly unrelated, I’ve been watching the Twitterverse go sideways for the past few weeks. Something about diving into school with a bunch of young kids seeking “FAANG” career placements combined with watching the collective pearl clutching of Elon Musk’s Twitter has reinforced my growing notion of the Tech industry as a toxic cesspool fermented in the worst vices of human culture. After taking a break from Facebook, I’ve found my life to be generally better. But, truth be told, social media is a wildly addictive drug. Stop Facebook, then there’s Twitter. Stop Twitter, there’s Reddit. Nuke reddit, back to Facebook.
Maybe I’m “old man yelling at cloud”- but I’m shocked by the level of which we are willing to let tech sink – and indeed, encourage it to do so. Our cell phones track our every movement and report all our movements to advertisers. Algorithms choose what we see in order to heighten our emotions, enrage us further, and force us into engagement. Tech companies openly monopolize physical and virtual good sales to extract a tax on every sale. It’s high time we woke up and stopped glorifying sociopath grifters like Elizabeth Holmes, Sam Bankman-Fried, Mark Zuckerberg, or Elon Musk. As tech workers, there’s a responsibility – at some point – to acknowledge the moral and ethical responsibility we have for products we create. Some may work at Twitter or Meta because they have no choice. But, at this point, anyone looking to take a role at such a company, isn’t someone I’d be friends with. And really, at this point, I find myself questioning the ethics of even engaging in these platforms.
Twitter is perhaps the worst offender. Algorithms fed both political parties to further extremes. Twitter amplified the worst of left wing political discourse and provided an ample platform to candidate Trump. Twitter profiteered from amplifying the worst of the Alt-Right and extremist factions the Left burning cities while advertising themselves as “Antifa”. The New York media “blue check” crowd happily sat by and circle-jerked themselves into a frenzy while pissing all-over working-class people. The end result? The destruction of Women’s Right to Choose, failed response to an epidemic killing millions, an economy rapidly approaching early 80s if not Great Depression levels of shit, and mounting calls for a new World War. If you’re using Twitter today – keep in mind where this platform brought us already, and that the new owner gives no shits on making it worse.
If you’re keeping tabs though, the real harms of Twitter all happened pre-Musk. Twitter might be a management shitshow now, but ain’t much changed (just yet). Except maybe, to highlight an underlying reality – “free” centralized services like Twitter and Facebook don’t exist to help users. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with my free time, but whatever it is, I’m gonna write about it here instead of “Big Social”.