Category Archives: twitter

Various compulsions

I’ve taken Twitter breaks before, from a week to a month in length, because it messes with my head: it’s like I have a little cloud of arguments and jokes following me around, and I’m always distracted, either by anger or by the ever-present urge to turn a situation or a stray thought into a sentence which can get me some dopamine. My current break is the longest I’ve had, and I did it for a slightly different reason.

Once I’ve started checking Twitter in a given twenty-four hour period, I can’t let go of it. I’ll keep checking it at short intervals, unless interrupted by something which forces me to focus my attention elsewhere, like driving or eating. This year, my compulsive urge to check it became dramatically worse, and I tried to stay off it until after 5pm. This seemed to be going OK, until I noticed that every afternoon at 4:30 or so I’d get a massive knot in my stomach. It was the first time I’d ever had Twitter make me anxious before I’d even read it, so I decided to give it a rest for a while, and then the while turned into a couple of months.

I still miss it and one of the things on my to-do list is to prune my follow list back to under a hundred people, or maybe just start a new account and follow back anyone who cares enough to follow me, but neither of these things is very high up my to-do list. Which is annoying: over the years Twitter has provided me with a form of social connection which has been really important to me, and I’m not very good at making connections in more traditional ways, so it’s left me feeling a bit isolated.

What’s also annoying is that the compulsiveness itself hasn’t gone away, it seems to have displaced itself into other behaviours which honestly aren’t much better than Twitter:

Hatereading rationalist blogs. I’ve been unhealthily fascinated with places like LessWrong since I first found out about them, and a few months ago I actually added Slate Star Codex to my RSS reader. These people write so much that following what’s going on at all requires way more effort than it would be worth even if they were any good. But they’re not. I still want someone to do a “Serial” style podcast about a group of American psychiatric outpatients who slowly discover that their doctor is running an incredibly earnest and verbose blog in which he tries to reverse-engineer every form of human activity in order to solve the world and prevent a harmful AI from eating our brains.

Compulsively checking the output of my Twitter bots. Yes, I know that this is a bit sad, but I’m sure I can’t be the only botteur who does it.

Trying to keep up with the Trump megathreads on Metafilter, which is like trying to keep up with a screaming mob. Even if you agree with them, it’s not advisable.

Checking Mastodon. This seems healthier than Twitter, or, at least, it doesn’t wind me up as much. But it’s less worthwhile as a source of social connection. It might improve: I remember a while in 2009 or so when Twitter seemed a bit pointless, and then for some reason, some threshold in my corner of the social graph was passed and it seemed to take off. Mastodon, or my slice of it, has better politics but too many people complaining about how software and computers are terrible and we should burn them down and start again.

Reading Wikipedia articles. I was one of those kids who read an entire encyclopaedia (the World Book) just because it was comforting and full of facts, although I got an aversion to several letters because their volumes contained articles which were not comforting at all: D for Disease, H for Heart (disease). Looking up obscure topics in astrophysics or biology and reading through thousands of words of the output of the internet’s Bouvards and Pécuchets is not something of which I’m proud, but it’s better, again, than reading Scott Alexander.

I’ve started using a site blocker to keep me off the worst of these places altogether and restrict my access to the less bad ones. I’m hoping to get some compulsive behaviours going which are constructive, like posting things here, and drawing again, and writing more stories.

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Blogging again

Screenshot 2018-07-04 07.59.22.png

S L I T S C A N S P A C E

I’m going to be posting regularly here again, as a replacement for Twitter. I still miss it but  can’t see myself going back there anytime soon. I’m still persisting with Mastodon but it’s very much its own world.

Auch du bist liberal

liberal

I don’t know the political context of this poster – “You, too, are liberal” – which I first saw in Lewis Blackwell’s Twentieth Century Type (1992) as an example of the Swiss International Style. But it’s been on my mind since last year. I could feel myself turning into the kind of lefty who has a comfortable job and kids and acts online like they start each day with a cup of smoking hot bourgeois liberal blood, which is one of the reasons I got off Twitter. I know that liberalism as a political philosophy is based on horrors which its own history has carefully airbrushed away, but I also know that personally I’d shit my pants if I was ever made to live in a political system which wasn’t liberal in the broader sense, which is easy for a white dude to say but it’s still true, and that it’s our job to reform it and to defend the parts worth keeping from the Right, to whom we’re all just one enemy. The poster is by Karl Gerstner, who passed away on the first of January this year, I just found out. It’s a brilliant design.

The other image that’s been on my mind is from Blue Velvet and is about how fucking uneasy the Shitposter-In-Chief makes me feel about my own compulsive use of Twitter-

frank_booth

-even though I miss it like hell.

Two projects and an absence

My entry for NaNoGenMo 2016 is ANNALES, a procedurally-generated chronology of rulers, courtiers, tribes and intrigue:

Being a faithful narration of the history of the realm from the reign of Fobbial Artesia I to the present day

As transcribed by the algorithm annales-exe using the pseudo-random seed 1835917550 1 during the reign of Armey Engine III

“For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground / And tell sad stories of the death of kings”

Reign of Fobbial Artesia I the Unbridgeable.

Fobbial Artesia I, surnamed the Unbridgeable, won the throne by divination.

Fobbial Artesia I espoused Sidentilation with wild channession.

Rumours of morees in Wire Star.

3.FA.I

Fobbial Artesia I the Unbridgeable gave birth to a son, Lavaloman, under the influence of Kabdhilinan.

Rumours of rederes in Vectary Viroth.

The source code is here and I’ll be blogging a bit about the technical details on mikelynch.org when I get around to it.

I also got around to implementing my dumbest Twitter bot idea, @TVisoTropes.

I’ve been away from Twitter proper since the US election: my mental health has been poor this year, so I’ve had a couple of enforced absences, but the way I was reacting late stages of the campaign and Trump’s victory were pretty decisive in showing me that the way I’ve been using social media is really bad for my brain. I miss it a lot but I still don’t know how to return: maybe when my mood improves? Maybe I should start a new account and reset things?

Usylessly

Instead of my usual blog post, this Bloomsday I made a Twitter bot, @usylessly, which posts the output of a neural net trained on the text of Ulysses. There’s a bit more information about it on the bot’s website.

A new refutation of the timeline

Once the idealist argument is admitted, I see that it is possible, and perhaps inevitable, to go further. For Hume it is not licit to speak of the form of the moon or of its colour: the form and colour are the moon; neither can one speak of the perceptions of the mind, since the mind is nothing other than a series of perceptions. Once location and presence which are continuities, are negated, once space too has been negated, I do not know what right we have to that continuity which is time. Let us imagine a present moment of any kind. During one of his nights on the Mississippi, Huckleberry Finn recognised the soft indefatigable sound of the water; he negligently reaches for his phone: he sees a vague number of tweets, an indistinct thread about the Clinton campaign; he skips forward to the top of his timeline, checks his mentions, scrolls back a few pages; notes that some Australians are arguing about something impossible to understand; then, he sinks back into his sleep as into the dark waters. Idealist metaphysics declares that to add a material substance (the object) and a spiritual substance (the subject) to those perceptions is venturesome and useless; I maintain that it is no less illogical to think that such perceptions are terms in a series whose beginning is as inconceivable as its end. To add to the words behind the borosilicate glass, Huck perceives the notion of a number of persons widely separated in space who have typed them; for myself, it is no less unjustifiable to add a chronological precision: the fact, for example, that the foregoing event took place on the night of the seventh of February, 2016, between ten or eleven minutes past four. In other words, I deny, with the arguments of idealism, the vast temporal series which idealism admits. Hume denied the existence of an absolute space, in which all things have their place; I deny the existence of one single time, in which all things are linked as in a chain. The denial of coexistence is no less arduous than the denial of succession.

The concept that there is a single timeline, an absolute ticking clock containing all tweets, to which any of our mere individual timelines is at best an approximation, is no less an illusion, or an ideal of the software developer. Just as our perception of Twitter is atomised, a constellation of discrete moments of anger, amusement, impatience, being owned, with no necessary chain of causation linking them other than the ex post facto construction of a Storify or a screencap, so too is the underlying data, striped across who knows how many hard disks, a maelstrom of letters in an infinite and roaring library of server rooms and databases, which may only be composed into a calendar by an act of subsequent rationalisation.

And yet, and yet… denying temporal succession, denying the self, denying the astronomical universe, are apparent desperations and secret consolations. As much as I may desultorily build these feeble attempts at metaphysics, in several hours night will fall over the two Americas, and not long after that, all of the Australians will be noisily waking up, an unfortunate fact of the orientation of the globe which Twitter’s algorithmic timeline is unlikely to overcome.

Antisocial August Again

It’s a thing! That… at least four of us are doing!

I’m having a break from Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook. Mostly from Twitter, because that’s the one I get obsessive about.

If last year is anything to go by, I anticipate three or four days of intense FOMO, followed by a relaxation in my dopamine cycle and a renewed ability to concentrate on boring tv again. I’m also hoping to get more writing done.

I’ll still be blogging book reviews and reading my email: spike dot lynch at gmail dot com. See you in September. Or here.