I’m having a moral struggle and I don’t know how to resolve it. I suspect some of my readers are too.
It’s the first day of December and I’m kicking off my annual blog-every-day-month, an act that is inherently meant to unleash a flood of interactivity, to communicate, to share, and to engage a whole group of people, friends, strangers, and everyone, in an admittedly eccentric and offbeat place on the web for interesting conversation. To bolster that, ideally, I would share the hell out of these posts on social media, tweet the snot out of them, link on facebook and through that bring interested people by this site for a peak at my roadside kiosk of curiosity… eight clicks to the middle of nowhere. (You thought that was a random name for blog, didn’t you?)
I’m not going to post anywhere but directly on this site. Sadly. To my own detriment, of course. But I can’t bring myself to do that anymore. There is something rotten in the land of social media.
I see the the problem as this. Every day the conversation on those (note: privately-owned) public social places grows darker. For the last year we’ve looked at Facebook and Twitter and many others as meeting areas where the conversation has slowly but surely become more hate-filled and driven by politics and writ-large with dark agendas. Yet, in the past month or so what has become increasingly obvious is that either (a) these sites are unwilling to take serious action to balance the need for freedom of speech with the ability to maintain meaning, facts, purpose and reality as a key part of this freedoms, or (b) they are actively complicit in ignoring or possibly enabling these forums to collapse into something that is chipping away at the foundations of our modern society.
As one commentator recently put it, truth is now a moving target, the once-obvious line between fact and fallacy grows fuzzier each day, and there is no sense in having a conversation with someone for whom reality is optional. I am just as interested in the metaphysics of our perceptions as the next eclectic dude you know, but I’ve just been dipping my toes in the water. You can’t have everyone jump into the truth-is-subjective crazy pool with both feet and expect society to continue to function.
Yet the sacking and burning of institutionalized reason is something I think we could manage as a society, because that has always existed. Today the larger threat seems to come from the commodification of attention. You visit social media, social media gets views and clicks and eyeballs, thus social media makes someone buckets of money. The process repeats, a little bit amplified, a little bit snowballed each time. Until… ? Does it end? Can it end?
Crazy makes coin. If it bleeds it leads. Boring is not bankable.
Thus my moral struggle. Everything I post on social media gives someone else a reason to come back and use social media. Participation creates motivation. Participation makes every participant at least a little bit a part of the feeding and nourishing this massive, rumbling, chaos machine that is slowly eating the fabric of our society.
I’m going to keep writing this blog. And I’m not going to tweet about it. I’m not going to brag about it on Facebook. I’m not going to put ads on it. I’m not going to make a single nickle from the effort. Ultimately that won’t matter to much of anyone but me. But it’s my participation in a conversation that needs to happen… just not inside the beast that is eating our words and shitting out the mess that is overwhelming everything else.