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On Permanence on the Internet
When it comes to permanence on the Internet, I think I may differ from other users of alternative technologies. I may be wrong in my perception, but I think it is a common belief that what we do on the internet should be transient in nature. Not something that should last forever and haunt us. For example: a chat group is better than a post with comments, or a tweet should be self limiting or self deleting.
I think that we are all haunted by the same technological demon: Permanence on the internet. But it's not only permanence that is the problem. In fact, when someone is ridiculed on the internet, a lot of the time it isn't a long term problem. Due to the speed of the internet it is actually quite an acute problem. A severe, acute, problem.
We are all haunted by a second technological demon: Instancy.
We are also haunted by a third technological demon: A lack of connection to our audience. By that I mean: Sometimes those who see your content have no feeling of good will toward you. No benefit of the doubt, and no confidence that there is, in fact, goodness in you.
In my view, the main problem with "social media" type services is due to their very nature. They have the instancy of speech, which we are accustomed to being an intimate, private, and personal form of communication. But despite having the instancy of speech, it has the wide reach of broadcast TV. So, what flows as natural as a conversation with your friend can quickly reach thousands or millions of people. As if that were not enough, it also has the *permanence* of written communication.
When you are speaking with a friend in a private context, or perhaps even in a crowded room, you are engaging in a free flowing form of communication. You are speaking to an audience. You listen to the person to whom yoh are speaking, and then formulate your response in a particular way based on your perception of your audience. As much as we all would like to think otherwise, to a certain extent we are all social chameleons. Usually our speech will vary, whether in tone of voice, vocabulary, or ideas, depending on who we are speaking to and in what context.
By contrast, written communication is a much more structured form of communication. When we write an essay, or a book, we will outline our work, think hard about what we are trying to say, and then proof read it to ensure that it conveys exactly what we intended it to, and we think of this within the context of "Anyone could find this and read it. Will it reflect well on me, and will it accurately convey my message?"
The problem we run into with social media services is that the instancy and the atmosphere provided by the service creates the illusion of an intimate, conversational experience with a small group of friends, but in fact this experience is as permanent as if you had written a book and as potentially far reaching as if you had read that book on live television.
To make matters worse, whether or not your message (attached to your identity) goes viral depends entirely on whether it is profitable to the social media service. To quote the Feringi rules of acquisition: "Flame wars are good for business"...
So, these are the reasons I believe that permanence is not our enemy when it comes to the internet. I think that the main problems on the internet are actually:
1.) The false pretense of a fleeting, intimate conversation attached to what is actually a permanent broadcast tied to your real identity.
2.) The motivations and intentions of those who host the social media services (Fake News and Cyber Bullying may be bad for humanity but certainly good for business! Further, propaganda and data miming may be bad for humanity but certainly good for the political whims of those who control social media services!)
Now, I'd like to share some ideas about why permanence on the internet can be a good thing.
Firstly, because we put work into our ideas-- and we and others should be able to benefit from the thinking and writing we do today. It would be a shame to let our efforts today go to waste tomorrow.
Secondly, because we can use our contributions to stay grounded, organized, and focused. I know that one day I expect to lean on material from my Flounder page when I begin the phase of my life when I become a teacher.
So, when it comes to having a healthy relationship with permanence on the internet, my philosophy is to keep things as permanent as I can. I take two approaches to make sure it works well for me.
Firstly, I act online pseudonymously. This protects me from a possible outrage mob. Sure, I could get doxxed. Sure, Alex could totally find out who I am based on the email address I signed up with. But it just keeps a healthy layer of separation between what I do online among the unmamagably large potential audience, and what I do in real life.
Secondly, I don't say things online that I wouldnt want to be associated with my real identity. I try to act professionally, and courteously. I dont believe in using your real identity online, nor do I believe in anonymity. Pseudonymity is the way to go.
Thirdly, I think smaller audience sizes are preferable. I'd rather tweet on flounder than twitter because I can handle the amount of interaction I might potentially see here. I don't want to drown in the reactions of others to my viewpoints. I want to have the capacity to care back aboit everyone who cares about me.
So with these measures in place, I hope that what I write online will not hurt me in the future, but actually HELP me in the future, and I hope that what I write online is worth being permanent.
I understand not everyone feels this way, and I respect everyone's right to use the internet in the best way that enriches their lives. But I wanted to share my perspective on this topic, because these are the core concepts that define my philosophy about the healthy way to use the internet, and what the toxic qualities of social media are (in my view)
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