Twitter considered harmful
by eidolon, 2017-07-31
If you got here from my now-defunct Twitter profile, congratulations on your future exit from the attention economy. There is a burgeoning subgenre of woke normie takes1 designed to hook on to the emergent sense of unease that any intelligent human being will feel when they've had a bit too much of their 'feed'. In one of my favourites, a former Google 'design ethicist' explains the tricks of the trade, in an easy-to-digest Medium article2 slickly designed to drive traffic to his iPhone app3 , which promises to help you "put down your phone".
Why can't you put down your phone? The other day I had dinner with a friend of mine, a very talented functional programmer. He told me how that morning he'd got hooked into his Twitter feed while getting dressed, and when he looked up, half an hour had passed. This story is immediately familiar to anyone who has used one of the current generation of social media products (or are functional programmers4 peculiarly susceptible?). A few years ago I would hear startup founders openly praising the Hook Model5 as a way of designing products for children. The answer is in plain sight.
Your phone isn't designed to tell you when to put it down. A notification from your phone has the same salience as someone calling your name while you work in a busy cafe: you were focusing on something, now you're not. A silent phone face-down on your desk still drains cognitive capacity in inhibiting your pre-conscious desire to check it, whether or not you think you're thinking about it.6
Your Twitter feed is your personal cognitive Soylent. It is the liquefaction of all wants, the prototype for a generalised stimulus and response. As memes are a protocol for humour, so will Twitter's legacy to humanity be a protocol for communication. The worst are full of passionate intensity, while the best are already bots.
Your feed is a rest for your mind; you seek it out as self-soothing. Perhaps what you really want — is to meditate?
Twitter is a collective bad trip — but instead of losing your shit on Ayahuasca in the Peruvian jungle you are farming out miniscule time-slices of your brain to be a distributed processing engine for Trump's latest Fox News commentary.
We are trapped in the belly of the horrible machine, and the machine is creating value for its shareholders.
Go read a fucking book.
Or, as Wittgenstein says in Prop 7 of the Tractatus, "delete your account".
Last updated 2017-09-22 (remove hyperstition)