Ephemeral nature of social media



  • I think social media is on its way out; it’s a dead end in this form. There’s a variety of reasons for this, but the most important turn out to be two ends of the same common problem: there is no meaningful reward, but there are plenty of penalties.

    No reward refers to the good feeling of trying to do a right thing: trying to improve the world, trying to improve human relationships, and/or trying to increase fairness (this is especially important to me). None of those can be done effectively in social media. If I present a simple, obvious idea, like “employers should pay women fairly”, I immediately get two responses for my “reward”: A handful of “likes” from people who happen to agree; and few troll posts from people to inform I’m (paraphrased) “a Liberal ignoramus.”

    The likes are often pathetically overwhelmed by the troll posts. Gamergate is a perfect example: there were so many troll posts during that event (much less all the doxing) that many people simply stopped posting during that wreck; many left posting sites, apparently permanently. That was a big showy wreck, but the decline isn’t just from that: I’ve seen similar declines in posting in xkcd forums, which I have followed for some time; and even in the Liberal sites I go to (where ostensibly posters shouldn’t get trolled because we’re all of like mind).

    There is no way to meaningfully contribute to anything useful in “modern” social media. My posts are ephemeral: those posts I write will be liked or trolled over a short period of time and after that forgotten—regardless of their merit. This very topic might be discussed for a while…but then it will drop into the depths of the “Latest” list, never to be seen again.

    I’ve followed “Police misbehavior thread” on xkcd for several years, which is a serious thread discussing police abuses. An objection raised there repeatedly is, “What good does it do to discuss this? It doesn’t change anything.” Of course that is right, and exactly my complaint. There are 88 pages of posts (3500+) in that thread…and 85 of those pages (some including my posts) just as well not exist, water under the bridge; which emphasizes that those posts don’t matter, also my complaint.

    I’ve seen the same “what does it matter” objection raised during arguments here on TDWTF. And the same thing is true about the threads: the “BAD IDEAS” thread (not really serious but serves as an example) has 7,233 posts…how likely do any of you think it is that anyone will ever read post 4,116 again? (Besides those suckers who jump there to see if it’s something important…it’s not, don’t waste your time.)

    So all I can do is post something to be read for ten minutes and then be forgotten—jokes, links, or sensations. Anything useful and worthy of a longer duration is a waste of time and often results in more kicks than kudos; even my jokes enjoy a brief flash and…gone. Perhaps someday someone will come up with a social media structure that supports people who have great ideas, so that those ideas can affect the world. That doesn’t exist today: today’s social media is designed to bury every post in a trackless wilderness, regardless of merit. To make it so no one will ever see that post again. (Hey @PJH you listening? You want to change the world, here’s your chance…but Discourse isn’t it.)


  • SockDev

    @CoyneTheDup said:

    So all I can do is post something to be read for ten minutes and then be forgotten

    So true; I've already forgotten what you wrote above :trolleybus:



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    There is no way to meaningfully contribute to anything useful in “modern” social media.

    I get lots of baby pics, etc, from family that's thousands of miles away from me.

    @CoyneTheDup said:

    My posts are ephemeral: those posts I write will be liked or trolled over a short period of time and after that forgotten—regardless of their merit.

    As are most things in life. It would suck if we could never move on.

    I don't see any of what you've said as a case against social media.

    @CoyneTheDup said:

    Perhaps someday someone will come up with a social media structure that supports people who have great ideas, so that those ideas can affect the world.

    Now you sound like the people who say "Democracy is dead," because a bunch of people disagreed with them and voted in a way that they didn't like.

    If you don't like political interactions with social media, then don't use it for that. People disagree about stuff and it's genuinely not easy to change things for a zillion reasons. That was true before social media, too. Was it sold as something that would solve all that? I don't recall it, except from disillusioned folks like you.



  • So, what, you want your every little shitpost to be enshrined for all eternity? What makes you special? Everybody's yammering all the time. You don't remember other people's every little brain fart. Why should other people remember yours?

    Also, if social media is dead, why did you take the time to write all this stuff and post it here, expecting likes no doubt? Why not shut down the computer, and discuss this in person, with another human being?

    Oh right, because then you would be reaching even fewer brains and have even less lasting impact. After all, all your forum posts are at least indexed somewhere and available for someone to stumble upon accidentally. The things you say are gone forever.

    No technology is gonna solve the problem of "I'm a tiny insignificant voice in the sea of humanity".



  • @cartman82 said:

    Everybody's yammering all the time.

    Really? I didn't think Yammer was that big ... Seems like MS is doing something right, isn't it?

    Boarding the :trolleybus: now.



  • And here's a case in point: No likes, four trolls. One troll trolling one of the other trolls.

    Good thing I'll be able to forget this thread by tomorrow morning.



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    No likes, four trolls.

    Well, I thought what you said was legitimately wrong. No troll, just a response. Did you want a discussion or did you want forumpointzzzzz?


  • area_pol

    @CoyneTheDup said:

    I think social media is on its way out; it’s a dead end in this form

    I disagree. People want to use the internet to communicate with others, it is a basic need of human nature and social networks are just technical implementations that make that more convenient. The sites which provide that may change, but there will always be a need for services supporting human interaction, and we may call them "social media".

    @CoyneTheDup said:

    No reward refers to the good feeling of trying to do a right thing: trying to improve the world, trying to improve human relationships, and/or trying to increase fairness (this is especially important to me). None of those can be done effectively in social media.

    That is an obvious conclusion, I see nothing surprising here.
    The world does not change because someone "presents an idea" on the forum, but it seems you have noticed this yourself already :) Do you change your life every time you read a forum post?

    If you want to "improve the world", perform actions which move you closer to that goal. You give the example of fair pay - if that is your goal: (if you employ people) increase their pay, or provide education for them so that they get a better paid job. If you organize some action, the forum can help you communicate: if you post "I am doing X, maybe someone would like to help me?", it is irrelevant if you get likes or "trolls", it is just enough that someone can contact you and participate in the actions.



  • @boomzilla said:

    @CoyneTheDup said:
    No likes, four trolls.

    Well, I thought what you said was legitimately wrong. No troll, just a response. Did you want a discussion or did you want forumpointzzzzz?

    No doubt that is why you wrote:

    Now you sound like the people who say "Democracy is dead," because a bunch of people disagreed with them and voted in a way that they didn't like.

    That, my friend, is a troll post; or at very least you forgot :trollface:.



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    And here's a case in point: No likes, four trolls. One troll trolling one of the other trolls.

    Good thing I'll be able to forget this thread by tomorrow morning.

    I can give you a pity like. Do you want a pity like?



  • Ahh, but can you image how future archaeologists will "reconstruct" our society when they come across a discrete backup of it. It causes me to piss myself laughing, now, when some old archaeologist finds a tiny shard of pottery and says with all seriousness "...this is definite iron age, and the maker of it had a beard, vitamin D deficiency and wore rabbit skin clothes..."



  • @Adynathos said:

    I disagree. People want to use the internet to communicate with others, it is a basic need of human nature and social networks are just technical implementations that make that more convenient. The sites which provide that may change, but there will always be a need for services supporting human interaction, and we may call them "social media".

    To hold the equivalent of small talk at a party, yes. That's ephemeral, and I don't denigrate that use. But then people try to pretend it is a place for serious discussion about the world's problems...and it is not that--that thought is wasted.



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    Well, I thought what you said was legitimately wrong. No troll, just a response. Did you want a discussion or did you want forumpointzzzzz?

    No doubt that is why you wrote:

    Now you sound like the people who say "Democracy is dead," because a bunch of people disagreed with them and voted in a way that they didn't like.

    That, my friend, is a troll post; or at very least you forgot :trollface:.
    [/quote]

    That's not a troll. You legitimately reminded me of those guys.



  • @loose said:

    Ahh, but can you image how future archaeologists will "reconstruct" our society when they come across a discrete backup of it. It causes me to piss myself laughing, now, when some old archaeologist finds a tiny shard of pottery and says with all seriousness "...this is definite iron age, and the maker of it had a beard, vitamin D deficiency and wore rabbit skin clothes..."

    That's silly. Archaeologists won't dig through all this crap, and it won't be here anyway. Sites tend to disappear, if you haven't noticed. How much do you think archaeologists will learn from digging through myspace.com? Right.

    Now the NSA will get utility, if they're looking for a reason to throw you in Guantanamo.



  • @boomzilla said:

    That's not a troll. You legitimately reminded me of those guys.

    But you still applied it as a label, to denigrate me, didn't you?

    "You're like those other idiots."



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    But then people try to pretend it is a place for serious discussion about the world's problems...and it is not that--that thought is wasted.

    Didn't several groups in the Middle East use it to organize protests / rebellions? What about people who communicate in places like China? It might not be people directly fomenting something, but just the interaction gives people a broader perspective that I think could make a big difference.


  • area_pol

    @CoyneTheDup said:

    But then people try to pretend it is a place for serious discussion

    Those would not make any real effort anyway. They just post their ideas on the forums to feel that they did something good.

    By the way, could we please stop with dividing posts into "normal" and "troll"?



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    @boomzilla said:
    That's not a troll. You legitimately reminded me of those guys.

    But you still applied it as a label, to denigrate me, didn't you?

    "You're like those other idiots."

    Yes. You said something that seemed to me to be basically equivalent to, "The stuff I think is great other people don't think is great. The problem is this place where the stuff was posted." Maybe that's not what you meant to say, but that's how it came across.

    But you're right. Not all of those people are idiots. Some are probably evil.



  • @Adynathos said:

    By the way, could we please stop with dividing posts into "normal" and "troll"?

    Not in this thread, because that is explicitly part of my point. Troll posts are those designed to make the poster feel bad. There are ways to argue fairly, but telling someone (in effect) they're an idiot is not one of those.

    So let's be open about it here.



  • @cartman82 said:

    I can give you a pity like. Do you want a pity like?

    If you don't agree, skip the like. You've already outvoted it with your troll-y post anyway. Starting with the phrase, "...your every little shitpost...", which I figure amounts to about -15 likes.



  • Sorry, I was thinking in terms of digging up a USB memory stick or the like. Or, I supposed, some archaic self powered web server left running in a blocked of cave somewhere



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    If you don't agree, skip the like. You've already outvoted it with your troll-y post anyway. Starting with the phrase, "...your every little shitpost...", which I figure amounts to about -15 likes.

    Sorry, sorry, didn't mean to offend.

    *poop post.



  • @boomzilla said:

    Didn't several groups in the Middle East use it to organize protests / rebellions? What about people who communicate in places like China? It might not be people directly fomenting something, but just the interaction gives people a broader perspective that I think could make a big difference.

    OMG, a serious argument. I didn't think it was possible.

    Yes they did. Unfortunately, and very sadly, protests usually have all the effect of dipping a toe in the Pacific. They also are ephemeral--well, unless the government shoots them up. That can have an effect (Tienanmen Square).

    I suppose you might have a point about the possibility of such discussions giving people a broader perspective. But these days, what I see is people using them for support for their carved granite belief system. You can't change anyone's mind with an argument these days; you can only give them ammunition to fire back with.

    My post was primarily about social media, but the fact is that a person like me--typical peon--can basically have no influence on anything significant, no matter how hard I try. The system is designed to ensure that. That anyone does ever succeed at changing something is as random and capricious as someone succeeding at being a rock star. And it pays a pittance.



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    So let's be open about it here.

    I thought you said something stupid. That was me being open. If you disagree, then please explain why I'm wrong.

    Reading additional posts, I think I agree with your overall point that if you believe social media's purpose is to push causes, you're bound for disappointment. But mainly because no one has really figured out how to do that sort of thing.

    OTOH, occasionally you get a major shitstorm that gets someone fired or whatever, so sometimes it does make a difference, even if it's only a new way to form a mob.



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    OMG, a serious argument. I didn't think it was possible.

    Like I said, you're an idiot. :trollface: Yes, that one was a legitimate troll...you walked right into that one.

    @CoyneTheDup said:

    I suppose you might have a point about the possibility of such discussions giving people a broader perspective. But these days, what I see is people using them for support for their carved granite belief system. You can't change anyone's mind with an argument these days; you can only give them ammunition to fire back with.

    Maybe. In this case (China) I'm thinking about how wide communication makes it more difficult to propagate the sorts of lies an authoritarian government has to use in order to keep control. Think what might happen if North Koreans were looking at everyone's lunches on Instagram.

    @CoyneTheDup said:

    My post was primarily about social media, but the fact is that a person like me--typical peon--can basically have no influence on anything significant, no matter how hard I try. The system is designed to ensure that.

    I don't think there's any sane system that would allow all the peons to have massive influence. Or really, any system at all. If there were, the numbers involved would make it a literal hell.



  • @boomzilla said:

    I thought you said something stupid. That was me being open. If you disagree, then please explain why I'm wrong.

    It is entirely reasonable for you to tell me my idea is stupid. It is entirely something else to call me an idiot.

    I admit that's a fine point, but one is an attack on my idea, the other is an attack on me. That makes the latter a troll post, even though people tend not to think of it that way.

    That is why I responded so bluntly to your imputation of "feigning offense" the other day: It was an attack on my person. You not only were telling me when I should and should not be offended, bad enough, but accused me of worse, of faux offense. That didn't have anything to do with what I was trying to say, it only had to do with an attack on me.



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    That didn't have anything to do with what I was trying to say, it only had to do with an attack on me.

    Hmm...Were you really offended? Here was my original logic: "Allahu Ackbar!" is certainly something that terrorists have been known to shout preceding / during an attack, so it made sense in the context of the joke. It's also true that it's used in other contexts, but hearing the phrase shouted on an airplane certainly evokes terrorism. Were you really offended that the phrase has been associated with terrorism? That didn't make any sense to me, since the association is legitimate. Maybe you feel otherwise, but it seemed ridiculous to go out of one's way in that case, rather like the discussion of words like "gyp" that have been going on in that same topic.

    So it seemed more likely that you were being offended on behalf of someone else, i.e., feigning offense.



  • @loose said:

    Sorry, I was thinking in terms of digging up a USB memory stick or the like. Or, I supposed, some archaic self powered web server left running in a blocked of cave somewhere

    And that is an interesting thought. But that's one of the problems of the computer age: keeping and being able to use anything like that.

    Back in Egypt, someone dropped a pot and it broke. The pieces remain, and we can put it back together and speculate about it. But pot shards have their own reality.

    Now let's talk about myspace.com: odds are, there's not even a backup left, because someone would have to pay for the backup and...why? But let's suppose there is, and it's on a USB stick as you propose. The archaeologists' next problem is reading the stick, which uses an interface no one remembers how to use and structures memory in a way no one remembers. And if they overcome that problem, they'll be confronted with database files that require database software that no longer exists, and if they overcome that, then the database will be in MySpace table structure, which no one remembers.

    But finally, they've overcome all those problems and there's the data, just as it would appear on a MySpace page...and they're going to have to wade through...almost certainly...billions of pages, 99.9% of which will be crap and tell them nothing beyond the fact that the user liked "Barbie"...what the hell is a "Barbie"?

    Maybe robot brains or an AI could make sense of it all, but for human archaeologists I really think it would be a waste of time.



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    Maybe robot brains or an AI could make sense of it all, but for human archaeologists I really think it would be a waste of time.

    Just like the original!



  • :) That's my point exactly. It will be done (see my contemporary post here https://what.thedailywtf.com/t/crontab-is-very-1982/49666/5?u=loose). I was just extrapolating from what happens now about how things 1000's of years ago are explained, and expecting the reader to fill in the details according to their own experience and prejudice etc.



  • @boomzilla said:

    So it seemed more likely that you were being offended on behalf of someone else, i.e., feigning offense.

    Well, first a bit of history. As it turns out, I was offended for nothing, because I failed to recognize that someone was trying to make a lame joke. Which wasn't offensive in the proper context.

    But a personal note: I am really big on fairness, it is the core driver of my belief system. There is nothing that annoys me personally, more than gratuitous unfairness: People who are unfair on purpose because it gives them an advantage, people who are unfair because they just plain don't care.

    People who screw someone and then declaim it, saying, "Hey, the world isn't fair."

    The world might be unfair, but we as humans should try to make it more fair, rather than using its fundamental unfairness as an excuse to make it more unfair.

    One of the main things that will trigger my anger faster than almost anything else is that bastard statement, "All x are y." You probably know what I mean, but here's a few:

    • All blacks are thieves.
    • All people on welfare are black leeches.
    • All women are sluts.

    Any one of those is false almost by definition; any logician will tell you that. Even if you aren't into logic, it is trivially established that any of those is false, by honest examination of the set.

    Worse, they are used to justify unfairness, to make policy. "Let's end welfare, only black leeches use it anyway," or "We must drive all blacks out of the neighborhood because all blacks are thieves."

    In that form, used for policy, such statements are the epitome of unfair.

    The media portrayal of "Allahu Akbar!" is one of those. The direct translation of that phrase is, "God is great!" a statement of piety; no doubt used billions of times every day. But the media portrayal boils down to, "Every terrorist shouts, 'Allahu Akbar!' before pushing the button." Which is obviously untrue: do you suppose the members of the Army of God yelled that when they blew up abortion clinics? Right.

    But then the statement above, of course, leads us to the corollary, "All people who shout, 'Allahu Akbar!' are terrorists." And that gets derived in turn as, "All Muslims are terrorists." And that is exactly the form to set me off. I'm pissed even telling you about it.


  • SockDev

    All humans are people :passport_control:



  • @RaceProUK said:

    All humans are people :passport_control:

    You looking for a fight? :fist:

    Strictly speaking, you're right, because saying that all, "All x are y" is always false is equivalent to saying "All ('All x are y') are y" is false. Which I think may actually be a paradox; it seems to meet the requirements.

    I don't know. Ask a logician.



  • All negative values are less than 0

    All left handed people are sinister by nature

    Two wrongs don't make a right - but three left turns do



  • @RaceProUK said:

    All humans are people

    @loose said:

    All negative values are less than 0

    All left handed people are sinister by nature

    Two wrongs don't make a right - but three left turns do

    Fine. Any one of those is false almost by definition; any logician will tell you that.

    Everyone happy now? :imp:



  • I'm not sure about "All humans are people" because the reverse is not true: I.e. All people are human. In this case I am thinking about Nobby Nobbs, in particular :imp:



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    Worse, they are used to justify unfairness, to make policy.

    Wait, do you mean they are always used for that, or they could possibly be used for that?

    This seems like the type of statement that is either an unfair generalization or such a weak claim as to be essentially meaningless. 95% of everything has been used as a justification for something bad, once upon a time.



  • @Buddy said:

    @CoyneTheDup said:
    Worse, they are used to justify unfairness, to make policy.

    Wait, do you mean they are always used for that, or they could possibly be used for that?

    This seems like the type of statement that is either an unfair generalization or such a weak claim as to be essentially meaningless. 95% of everything has been used as a justification for something bad, once upon a time.

    I was just giving a few made up examples because I was too lazy to dig up an actual example, but people often use statements like that to implicate action hat should be taken. For me, that's a problem only when the result is not fair, but others may see the same statements differently.

    Just as an example, the FBI has been recording and observing every Muslim congregation they could sneak into, just like they did in Co-Intel days. When challenged about it, their response was a weasel-worded version of the "all Muslims are terrorists" generalization, which to me didn't help their case one tiny bit.

    They used a similar generalization along the line of "all [people who aren't normal] are terrorists" to justify equivalent snooping into the ever-so-violent (NOT) Society of Friends (many people call them Quakers) which is purely stupid.



  • Those are still just individual incidents. Are we allowed to extrapolate a pattern from them, and assume one thing any time we see the other, or are we not?

    Edit: Because if we aren't, I'm not sure I follow your argument, and if we are, I definitely don't follow.



  • Also, but separately: I think you're being a bit too critical of trolling, in some of your posts here. The way I see it, getting trolled has basically come to mean the same thing as being exposed to different viewpoints than your own, which is pretty much the most enriching thing anyone can do. Probably the same approach could be used to explain the value of social media: even though it doesn't tend to produce much in the way of ‘cultural artifacts’ (I think they call them), the people who engage in it are being exposed to a whole world of ideas that they never would have experienced otherwise.



  • The majority of everyday mass-communication has been ephemeral e.g. newspapers, TV and radio. I agree with @Buddy when he says:

    @Buddy said:

    even though it doesn't tend to produce much in the way of ‘cultural artifacts’ (I think they call them), the people who engage in it are being exposed to a whole world of ideas that they never would have experienced otherwise

    If someone is exposed to views different to their own then there's a chance their opinions may change. It may be a small chance and it may be a small change but it's something to consider.

    As for this:

    @CoyneTheDup said:

    The likes are often pathetically overwhelmed by the troll posts.

    This is just how human nature seems to work. How many people complain about bad service, but don't praise the good?



  • @boomzilla said:

    As are most things in life. It would suck if we could never move on.

    At the same time, it's nice to be able to pull up family photos from 20 years ago without leaving my seat.



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    I think social media is on its way out; it’s a dead end in this form.



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    I think social media is on its way out; it’s a dead end in this form.

    Back in the mists of time, when Usenet was just beginning to be a thing, I was astonished to discover this wondrous oracle that you could just ask any technical question, wait a few days, and somebody would have a useful answer for you.

    Once the WWW got firmly established, and discussion boards began to be a thing, my early experiences with Usenet colored my view of those. For a while, it seemed to me that people debating things on discussion boards would inevitably cause issues to be examined from all angles and refined and sorted out; the truth would simply have to emerge, given the light of so many minds being shone on its disguises. And I thought this was wonderful.

    But it became apparent fairly quickly that this was not actually going to happen; not even close. Most people are simply not interested in coming to grips with genuinely difficult issues, and most of what most people say is of no consequence whatsoever.

    So when you say you think social media is on the way out, and you give as your reason that getting difficult issues taken seriously on social media is at least as difficult as getting them taken seriously by standing on a soap box on a street corner, I feel for you. I really do. Realizing that most people suck at thinking: that feels terrible.

    But I don't think you're right about social media being on the way out as a consequence of that. Sucking at thinking is one thing, but blurting our own opinions to the whole world is another. People excel at doing that. And social media, by letting us form ourselves into little tribal groups based on nothing at all but commonality of opinions, provide a way to do that without serious risk of looking like assholes to people whose opinion you care about.

    I am quite sure that none of the social media giants currently in existence will still be here in twenty years, because I am quite sure that none of them will be able to resist pissing off their user base to the point where some New Hotness actually looks worth jumping ship for. But social media as a form are, I think, likely to last at least as long as telephones.



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    people try to pretend it is a place for serious discussion about the world's problems

    I think most people who believe that are young and inexperienced.



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    You can't change anyone's mind with an argument these days

    I can count all the occasions on which I changed anybody's mind with an argument on the fingers of one hand. And that's after 50 years of having some kind of command of the language.



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    the fact is that a person like me--typical peon--can basically have no influence on anything significant, no matter how hard I try.

    That's a cop-out. If you truly wish to have an influence on significant things, you will work hard enough to get involved in politics, and work your way toward a position of influence. That's how everybody influential who wasn't born into a wealthy and influential family has done it.



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    But then the statement above, of course, leads us to the corollary, "All people who shout, 'Allahu Akbar!' are terrorists." And that gets derived in turn as, "All Muslims are terrorists." And that is exactly the form to set me off. I'm pissed even telling you about it.

    Yeah. If someone had said that, I would have agreed with you.



  • @loose said:

    All left handed people are sinister by nature

    Some might have had their (dominant) right hand amputated.



  • @CoyneTheDup said:

    @boomzilla said:
    That's not a troll. You legitimately reminded me of those guys.

    But you still applied it as a label, to denigrate me, didn't you?

    "You're like those other idiots."

    You know what...I actually went back and read what I wrote. I used pretty neutral language:

    @boomzilla said:

    Now you sound like the people who say "Democracy is dead," because a bunch of people disagreed with them and voted in a way that they didn't like.

    I guess you agree that those people are idiots, but I only linked the analogous (IMO) statements. Was I wrong to notice? I forgot exactly what I wrote and assumed I made a much sterner statement than this. But I practically went out of my way to respond seriously and politely.

    MOD ABUSE!


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