The psychologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary showed in this 1995 paper that people’s need to belong is satisfied only when pleasant interactions with other people are framed in a predictable and regular structure. In the deep human past, such belongingness was mostly provided by the extended family: spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The history of modern friendship is how people have responded to disruptions of that family structure of belongingness by looking outside it, to sworn brothers, friends, TV hosts, and podcasters.
Mackie discusses this all in regards to mediums, such as podcasts or video casts, and the way in which conversations becomes one-way.
This isn’t the democratic paradise that social media once seemed to promise, an open-ended and unpredictable set of conversations among peers who would grow through free debate. Instead it has turned out to be more like looking through a window at a group of friends having a conversation, who can’t hear you as you laugh along with their jokes. In this sense, the prevalence of parasocial media reveals the disappointing parasocial interaction at heart of the internet more broadly.
There is reference throughout the piece to this being applied to supposed ‘online celebrity friends’? However, the question of what constitutes a ‘celebrity’ in the ‘online’ world to me is sometimes blurred. This is something that John Johnston touches upon.
When I think about some of the podcasts, newsletters and even artists I follow on Bandcamp, so often there is the offer of reciprocity, with suggestions as “We would love a review” or “feel free to leave a comment”. But as one follows these ‘likes’ and ‘subscribes’ we discover that this has more consequence for engagement analytics and algorithms than it does for our relationships with such creators. This adds a different twist to the notion of a ‘comments in general. Putting the problem of spam aside, I wonder if the problem with commenting is that it is actually an ill-conceived promise that nobody actually walked through until they did? Although I can easily comment on social media, I wonder how much it actually carries the conversation or is merely another act of destruction? (As a side note, really not sure where webmentions fits within all of this, that is something I will continue to think about.)‘ or even
Austin Kleon discusses the challenge associated with answering letters from readers by suggesting that the act of sharing itself should be enough. To expect anything more steals from what matters. I assume that it is for this reason he has no comments on his blog?
Maybe Damian Cowell stoically sums it all up best in an interview with Matt Stewart in which he says:
I think what’s important is to remind yourself that it’s all bullshit and you’re not making any difference
In part it is for this reason that as I collect these words and join the dots with my monthly newsletter that I do it for me first and fore-mostly, anything else is a bonus.