June 9, 2020

Ditch social media and start a blog if you're not parasitic on a news cycle (Angela Nagle, Alison Balsam, Heather Habsburg, Shamshi Adad)

I'm planning a history of social media platforms to see what factors are related to using them parasocially as opposed to not. Nothing mind-blowing, but sorely needed.

For now, though, I'll stick with the overall analysis, not the development over time of various platforms, and the "What is to be done?" section. Specifically, I'm calling for the abandonment of parasocial media -- Twitter especially -- and a return to blogs. And at the end I'm tagging a handful of people, off the top of my head, whose efforts would benefit most from this RETVRN TO TRADITION.

To begin with, parasocial media are inextricably incorporated into the broader media ecosystem, especially Twitter. When you log on, you are joining one great big talk-radio food fight that is owned, controlled, and managed by the media elite. The topics of discussion are not set by you -- they are set by the elites. You can react however you please, but you will be reacting to topics of their choosing. This could be the senior elite who choose what to cover on cable news, or it could be laundered through a "what's trending" algorithm that is prominently displayed on the platform.

Parasocial media reduce you to being a "talking head" -- or a "reacting avi," as it were. Such media only serve the interests of status-strivers who are wannabe pundits. If that's your goal, parasocial media is right up your alley. If you're not an aspiring cyber-pundit, then they are not for you.

You may think you're not reacting to the mass media news cycle, and are part of a niche that discusses its own pet interests. But most of that stuff is reactions to the news cycle, filtered through some niche lens. What are the left-Cath takes on the riots, for example? Or it's standalone stand-up comedy bits (see below), as filtered through that lens. A joke for insiders only about some 18th-century philosopher.

Fundamentally, these media prevent structured thought, and only promote discrete chunks of emotional energy -- hence the popularity of terms like "reaction," "take," etc. They're reflexive, reactive, emotive, and basic -- not in the sense of "pedestrian," but meaning not built upon or elaborated.

That is driven by the user base -- emotional cripples who require external injections of emotional energy, which they cannot get from their real lives. Some may be fanboys craving uppers -- white pills -- while others may be doomers who prefer to drown in downers -- black pills. Again, it's no accident that the popular terms are from addictive psychoactive substances. If you do not supply what is being demanded by the users, you will either go nowhere or get punished and hounded off the platform.

Structuring your thoughts, observations, experiences, and, yes, feelings into something meaningful like a message, an argument, a story, or an analysis, will be rejected by the parasocial media users. Digesting an argument, story, etc. requires understanding each of the pieces and how they relate to each other. Normal brains have no trouble handling this level of comprehension, which is one level above "getting a particular point," because you have to also get how the points fit together into an arrangement or pattern.

But emotionally crippled brains are so starved for emo injections that they can't deal with higher-order cognitive processes. It's akin to Maslow's hierarchy of needs. They cannot follow a line of argument, plot of a story (except for a bunch of unrelated events happening in sequence), or anything else. And even if they could manage this on occasion, they won't be able to perform it regularly and consistently.

"Wow, can't believe I managed to read an entire article!" [goes back to scrolling takes on Twitter for five hours straight]

It's not the character limit of Twitter that is to blame, either. Reddit allows multiple paragraphs per comment, but they are still just rapid-fire takes aimed at amassing upvotes and avoiding downvotes, as part of a cyber food fight, on a topic of discussion derived from the mass media news cycle -- whether a news cycle for politics, entertainment, or whatever else. It rarely promotes a structured, thought-over message -- and if so, that's only the original post that could just as well have been a blog entry, while the majority of stuff is comments on the post, i.e. a food fight of reactions and takes.

Podcasts are another "long-form" medium that are nevertheless devoid of structure. Except for lectures or other scripted forms, they are recorded on-the-fly -- no way to arrange things properly, develop thoughts, let thoughts ripen, and so on. They are mostly shooting-the-bull sessions (again, mainly on topics derived from some news cycle), whose purpose is to make users feel socially included in the conversational circle. They are not meant for delivering arguments or telling stories.

The telltale sign that parasocial media promotes reactive takes over structured messages is the upvote / like / fave. "Did this satisfy your emotional craving?" Clicking "like" is akin to a lab rat pressing a bar to receive another pellet, sending the signal to the content-supplier to keep on giving what they've been giving. Withholding your "likes" is refusing to pay your supplier because their content wasn't the real strong-feeling stuff.

Parasocial media intensify this atomized structurelessness even further by slicing up the entire message into discrete takes -- each one of which is put under the like-meter to gauge how hot the take was. It's worse than a generic thumbs-up for an entire movie, or book recommendation. Every single micro-remark is rated for potency by the junkie user base. They wouldn't do that if they were interested in your overall, big-picture view.

It's as though you made a meal, and the consumer is trying to throw out all but the most taste bud-inflaming ingredients. There it is -- the ingredient with the most likes, not the other ingredients with fewer likes. Just pump that simple sugar straight into their desperate pathetic veins.

That's assuming you were trying to structure your thoughts and feelings to begin with, e.g. in a thread on Twitter. Soon you'll learn to stop trying threads and structure, and reduce yourself to standalone riffs and takes, after which the audience either laughs or does not. Aside from the talk radio atmosphere, parasocial media increasingly resembles a stand-up comedy club whose topics are all topical news-cycle fodder. It seems like a coalition-building cohesion exercise, but it's less of a pep rally and more of a group therapy session. It does not lead to any meaningful victories -- rather, success is avoiding thoughts of suicide for another night. It is numbing, narcotic, enervating -- not motivational, joyful, or satiating.

Sure, there are a handful of exceptions where someone writes a structured message in a text editor, then screenshots that message into an image, and uploads the image into a tweet, for digestion by normal brains, rather than a continual IV-drip of white-pill junk or black-pill junk. Nassim Taleb, for example. But that is more like composing a blog entry and linking to it on a social media platform, it's not really tweeting per se.

And in fact, Taleb was already famous outside of Twitter / before Twitter. You are not. Readers find Taleb's structured messages because they already knew who he was, followed him on that basis, and saw the screenshots in his feed. How will anyone find your screenshots of structured messages? Twitter is a verbal platform, you can't search images with text recognition software. Maybe write a brief headline -- but then people could only find keywords from your headline, not the actual body of text. Taleb's screenshots come with some expectation about content -- they're going to be a mathematical proof, or logical argument, etc. Your screenshot is coming to users from an unknown source -- as far as they're aware, it's just a pointless wall-of-text that's too small to read. Why bother inspecting it?

Just start a blog instead. If you want to retain a bare presence on Twitter to link to your blog, OK. But why else would you continue to be on there? To cling to an unfulfilling role as a pseudo-pundit in a neverending talk radio show, with millions of spazzes crammed into the same conference call? Respect yourself.

* * *

Let's end with some concrete examples of people who should revive the blog form. This is partly a suggestion to them, if they somehow come across this (it's not urgent enough for me to message them directly), but more to use them as examples that others may resemble, including their devoted followers.

First, Angela Nagle is not on Twitter, but is part of the commentariat in the media ecosystem. She's already logged off, and is halfway there. She's observant, insightful, empathetic, curious, sincere, and uncloistered (unlike many aspiring / former / actual academics). She already writes long articles and books on political or economic topics, but there's a lot more going on than just that. It'd be interesting to see what strikes her curiosity enough to write a blog entry about.

Next is a soul too generous for Twitter, Alison Balsam (AKA @foolinthelotus when she's not deactivated). She's come the closest to trying to use social media for thought-structuring and storytelling, while also doing standalone riffs. But the two cannot co-exist: it's either ironic lib-arts riffs that go viral and attract a following of take junkies, or sincere stories from her childhood, amusing encounters with the critter world, the state of the culture (overall, not following some news cycle), and frank but relatable confessions from the present (not emo trauma porn). She would never have to apologize for sincere-posting on a blog -- it's understood, and appreciated.

Those two were born in the first half of the 1980s, what I'd call the tail-end of Gen X. We are more introspective and less exhibitionistic than Boomers or Millennials, so I think we make the best bloggers. Millennials are generationally unable to amass great material wealth, and mostly unable to afford the lifestyle contests that Gen X-ers compete in, so they resort to persona-construction for their status contests. (See these two posts here and here.)

That puts immense pressure on Millennials to amass currency in the form of clicks, likes, retweets, followers, and for the lucky few, donations via Patreon or Venmo. They generate this currency and status through their persona construction, which is disseminated over social media. I don't know that they can resist the urge to keep investing effort in their persona / brand maintenance and do something that doesn't generate likes and faves. At most, you see how many views a specific post got, or your blog domain overall. But even those stats are not public -- no way to display your status to your rivals. It's a hobby or an ongoing project -- not a hustle.

Still, there's a critical mass of Millennials who are growing tired of social media toxicity that could revive the heyday of blogs. I'll just mention two, both of whom show enough other-orientation through their interest in the past to rise above typical Millennial self-absorption (they can have a little, as a treat).

Heather Habsburg (@HeatherHabsburg on Twitter, when she's not locked or deactivated). Aside from anti-woke left takes on topics from the news cycle, she's also got the seeds for an oral/social history of the cultural period from roughly 2005 to 2019, which is only just concluding and thus not a fully formed narrative. I think she would lean more toward evoking the zeitgeist through personal stories than describing it through clinical examination. And she's illuminating on lesbian patterns of thoughts and feelings, again more through showing or expressing it directly than through describing it analytically. Even if you're not the target audience, you come away understanding a lot. Pleasantly and refreshingly feminine mindset and expressive style.

Marina (@Shamshi_Adad on Twitter, when not deactivated). I only recently found her through comments on Heather's posts, but what little I've read is interesting enough to wish she kept a blog. Pre-Axial Age history especially. But also Long Island life and ethnography -- I'm so sick to death of being aware of Da City, which is full of transplants with no collective histories to tell. Or whatever else strikes her fancy -- lots of things are fascinating when you're in your early 20s and have an inquisitive mind.

Those are just a few whose interests overlap with my own -- even if I couldn't care less about your subject matter, you should still be discussing it on a blog rather than takes on Twitter.

I keep saying "when not deactivated" because the non-retarded minority on Twitter are increasingly locking or deactivating their accounts on a regular basis, to avoid the gay slap fights that the retarded majority want to keep dragging them into. At that point, you might as well start a blog instead and just moderate comments to keep out the emotionally addled take junkies jonesing for their dopamine fix.

The parasocial and parapolitical phase of 2015-'19 is over. There's no point in participating in it anymore, and that's all that remains for most social media people now. You know you hate it, so starve it rather than feed it. Your friends will follow you anyway.


  1. I heard on one podcast that today's big social media sites may become like American inner cities in the Eighties - full of weirdos and criminal elements while the respectable people have moved elsewhere.

    What would describe the current global protests as if we are out of a parapolitical phase?

  2. Protests and especially riots are political. Just because they don't lead to the commenter's goal, doesn't make them non-political or parapolitical.

    Obviously they're not revolutionary, not socialist, not going to disband the policing function in society, etc.

    They're extremely woketarded -- but no less political for that. Most political activity is not revolutionary, realigning, and so on.

    Parapolitical was the 2015-'19 model -- making / listening to podcasts as political activity per se, joining the DSA, getting "Nazis" suspended on Twitter, etc. None of that was actual political activity. It was cosplaying.

    Rioting is real activity -- again, regardless of what the goal of it is, or what its ultimate outcome is likely to be. It's not cosplaying. In fact, there was a brief bout of cosplay rioting in 2017 when the Alt-Right and Antifa showed up in the same places at the same time. The cosplay aspect was very clear, in that so many were decked out in costumes, unlike the rioters of the past couple weeks. The Alt-Right / Antifa fights were purely ritualistic, not real riots (also did not draw many participants, unlike Minneapolis).

    Parapolitical bubbles also tend to coalesce around a single savior from electoral races -- McGovern in '72, Jesse Jackson in '88, Nader in 2000, and Bernie in 2016-'19. Or Trump during the last period, for that matter.

    Not that presidential elections don't matter, but in parapolitical mode, people put all their eggs in that basket, and think that's all there is to it. It's para- rather than actual politics because real politics is subject to all sorts of other forces than just who wins an election.

    The parapolitical Right bubble got Trump elected against all odds in 2016, and yet everything he campaigned on was flushed down the drain almost immediately. It quickly became apparent that his would be just another Reaganite GOP admin, perhaps with some disjunctive aspects (like Carter at the end of the New Deal). Not only was he not the God-Emperor, he wasn't even a realigner.

  3. Razib Khan has mostly switched back to blogging Michael Tracey should blog more, he seems to be getting even less woke case in point noticing how mentally unstable trannies are: https://twitter.com/mtracey/status/1270716412986658819

    There are people who are better on twitter than long form like Yglesias who lets his woke guard down on twitter from time to time


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