An unoriginal observation: the “attention economy” encourages us to become weird versions of ourselves.
If you’re just a regular slob with a social media account, what do you post when your audience includes basically everyone you’ve ever known? Jenny Odell said it well: you imagine what you would say if you walked into a party where the attendees included everyone in your high-school class, plus a few hundred randos you met in college and after, plus your family members across all generations, plus strangers you met through common interests.* And, by the way, all of them will hear whatever you say to some of them, because for some reason you’re miked up.
You probably say something pretty boring.
It’s natural, it’s human, for us to calibrate our conversation to suit who we’re speaking to. But social media asks us to turn this impulse off, and just say “it”—whatever it might be—to everyone at once. This can’t help but change what we say. It tends to make us second-guess our spiciest opinions, which we’d feel comfortable exploring with this group but certainly not if that one is listening in. And then there is a concrete system of reward (likes) and punishment (crickets) that cannot but encourage us to mold all of our expression into whatever the crowd enjoys most loudly.Continue reading