Bookmarked Why Can’t We Be Friends — Real Life (Real Life)

Podcasts and other forms of “parasocial” media reframe friendship as monetized self-care

Brendan Mackie talks about the idea of parasociality and our desire for relationships

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 ‘social media of one‘ or even 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.)

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.

“Doug Belshaw” in Parasocial relationships through digital media – Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel ()

Replied to muse-letter 27: the state of the web (

The past couple of weeks have been dominated by a couple of things: sorting out the GitHub repository for (b)log-In and messing about with music now that I have a second Behringer TD-3. I can’t be bothered with, and certainly couldn’t afford, a sports car so maybe making acid music with actual hardware is my version of a midlife crisis as I approach the big five-oh. I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time tracking drum machines and synths on eBay.

Another interesting newsletter Colin.

I was particularly taken by your discussion of newsletters and relationships.

perhaps the current failings of online interaction are partly behind the resurgence of email newsletters: people looking for a smaller, closer experience, something more contained and intimate rather than the usual mass broadcasting. As I have been saying for years, it is, or should be, about relationships not metrics.

I find that there is something in the friction of the newsletter and the longer form that is a reward if we are will to put in the time, willing to build the connection.

In regards to music, I have found myself itching to buy some new equipment to tinker with. I went a couple of times to a music store near work, as well as did some research, but have found myself wondering what tool I am after. I had a play with the Korg Minilogue and some other synths. Unsure, I have instead found myself returning to the instruments we already have, whether it be the iPad and the upright piano we were lucky enough to recently inherit (although it does need a tune.)

Replied to The physics of social spaces are not like the physics of physical spaces by Jon Dron (

It’s very challenging to design a digital space that is both richly supportive of human social needs and easy to use. The Landing is definitely not the solution, but the underlying idea – that people are richly faceted social beings who interact and present themselves differently to different people at different times – still makes sense to me. As the conversation between Jesse and Stephen shows, there is a need for support for that more than ever.

Jon, this is one of the things that I wonder about in regards to domain of one’s own, what happens when everything is available in the form of a social exhaust. I guess that is the intent behind the discussion around private posts.
Bookmarked #162: Minimum Viable Self by Drew Austin (Kneeling Bus)

Offline we exist by default; online we have to post our way into selfhood. Reality, as Philip K. Dick said, is that which doesn’t go away when you stop believing in it, and while the digital and physical worlds may be converging as a hybridized domain of lived experience and outward perception, our own sustained presence as individuals is the quality that distinguishes the two.

Drew Austin reflects upon the nature of digital identity and the need to continually sustain it.

It is interesting to think of this alongside David White and Alison Le Cornu’s notion of visitors and residents. Although our klout maybe impacted on no longer being a ‘resident’, the demise still leaves behind a trace in the data.

” Doug Belshaw” in Online personas and liquid modernity – Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel ()

Replied to Remember the Days When People Commented on Blog Posts? (Activate Learning Solutions)

So from a blog post that started about re-introducing the comments section for my blog post, I realise that maybe we need to review our “why” of using social media.

Is it to simply “push” our articles, blog posts, thoughts and reflections. (The bombardment approach and hope that something sticks). Or, can we have more meaningful responses and conversations in our blogs in exchange with our readers who took the time to respond to our posts?

In the past, I would have stuck to my guns with social media but now I’ll take meaningful interactions any day.

What do you think?

Helen, this reminds me of a post I wrote a few years ago unpacking what actually makes a comment.

After unpacking all of the options, it makes me wonder if maybe the comments never left, but rather have become dispersed across various spaces. Maybe the answer is that everyone moves their content and conversations to Medium, but what happens when that space changes and folds under the pressure of investors. Maybe as Martin Weller recently suggested, “Blogging is both like it used to be, and a completely different thing”. Rather than a call to go back to basics, to a time when commenting seemed to be simple, what I think is needed is a broader appreciation of what constitutes a ‘comment’. As with the discussion of digital literacies, maybe we should focus on the act of defining, rather than restrict ourselves with concrete definitions.

Personally, I have taken to the world of webmentions where comments are first written on your own site. I have found this useful as it means I can come back to these ideas, also I feel that I actually own these ideas a bit more. When a corresponding site does not support webmentions, I just cut and paste.

In regards to social media, I have stepped away from broadcasting everything. Now I share out my posts and newsletter, and sometimes respond there depending on the context. I am still intrigued by Micro.Blog as a platform in that the only way an interaction is shown is if it is a comment. Although you can like, this is not presented to the other user. I think that this is a better model, just does not completely fit my own workflow at this point in time.

Bookmarked Repurpose & Reshare Your Talks on Social Media | Dr. Ian O’Byrne (Dr. Ian O'Byrne | Literacy, technology, and education)

Part of my job involves regularly giving a talk on a specific topic. This may be at a conference, a local workshop, or in class. These talks are often limited to the participants in attendance. I spend a lot of time building the presentation. Why should my ideas be limited to the people that decide… Continue reading →

Ian O’Byrne discusses some of the strategies he uses for repurposing content created for particular presentations to share with a wider audience. Although I have blogged about presentations in the past, I am not sure I have done enougb work for adjusting to the new context(s).

With O’Byrne’s reference to an essential idea, I was left thinking again about Peter Skillen’s wondering about the limits of a tweet. I also wonder about automating some of these processes while presenting as Alan Levine has documented.

Replied to a bit of friendly advice – Snakes and Ladders (

Here’s my suggestion: Assume that everything everyone says on social media in the first 72 hours after a news event is the product of temporary insanity or is a side-effect of a psychotropic drug. Write it off. Pretend it never happened. Only pay attention to what they say when three days have passed since the precipitating event.

Alan, this is one of the benefits I have found in following social media via RSS. I often come upon things long after the fact. This can also be strange though when you read a tweet a week later and reply. Often the conversation has long moved on. Kind of feels like being late to a party, but then maybe it was a party that was not necessarily worth attending in the first place?
Replied to

Ian, these pieces might be of interest to you and the Screentime Research Group.

I guess it adds to the evidence why social media has not destroyed a generation.

Bookmarked An Appeal for Friction Writing (THR Blog)

Our writing process lacks sufficient resistance, hesitation, reconsideration.

Richard Hughes Gibson pushes back on the frictionless experience to help foster clearer judgement.

My case for friction in writing (particularly writing on the Internet) echoes and amplifies Kosslyn’s concern that frictionless design is partly to blame for the rapid spread of misinformation. When writing meets no impediments, we can easily become links in a chain through which misinformation spreads. Yet my appeal for friction writing goes to something even more basic: When you encounter (and pay heed to) resistance in your writing, you have the chance to change not only your words but also your mind—and even to consider whether you need to be writing something at all, or at least at this moment.

Borrowing from Georg Christoph Lichtenberg he talks about the power and potential of the waste book. This allows us to write more and share better.

This touches on Ian O’Byrne’s discussion of thinking twice before sharing that hot take:

I’d urge you to focus on first doing the work yourself before you move to the local context. Read up. Problematize your perspectives. Question your assumptions and biases. Listen to others.

Personally, I find sharing first in my own space before sharing elsewhere builds in a healthy level of friction. This also reminds me of Clay Shirky’s discussion of junking perfectly good workflows to maintain attention.

At the end of every year, I junk a lot of perfectly good habits in favor of awkward new ones.

Some of those changes stick, most don’t, but since every tool switch involves a period of disorientation and sub-optimal use, I have to make myself be willing to bang around with things I don’t understand until I do understand them. This is the opposite of a dream setup; the thing I can least afford is to get things working so perfectly that I don’t notice what’s changing in the environment anymore.

“Snakes & Ladders” in Murmurations, Months, Masters • Buttondown ()

Replied to Before You Post That Hot Take by Sign in – Google Accounts (W. Ian O’Byrne)

I understand your rationale for wanting to post that hot take. You’re excited, upset, and want attention. It is a normal human reaction to want to exhale, scream, or preach.

I often have those same feelings. I’m a digitally native scholar. I think of about 25 things a day that I want to tweet, write, or comment. Several times a day I write, revise, write, revise, and then ultimately delete messages that I’d like to send.

I ultimately delete these messages because I’ve learned (and continue to learn) the hard lesson that nothing good happens when my ego and emotion take control. I feel the same way when I watch friends and family post something online and think to myself…that’s not going to age well.

I’d urge you to focus on first doing the work yourself before you move to the local context. Read up. Problematize your perspectives. Question your assumptions and biases. Listen to others.

I have thought about this for a while Ian. I wrote a piece a few years ago about the problems of sharing.

A step beyond sharing a tweet is posting a comment. I am not sure if it is the effort involved or the process behind it, but I have always valued a comment more than a tweet. In recent times, this has included posting comments from my own site (where applicable) or pasting in.

However, I much prefer how you capture it so much better.

My current workflow involves composing on my own site before syndicating elsewhere. Not ideal, but I find this friction builds in the space for reflection that does not necessarily exist when engaging via an app.

Replied to 2 week social media vacation (

I actually deleted the Apps Sunday night, and I wrote everything above before going to bed. This morning I realized that one thing I’ll need to think about is how I get news? Normally I start my day in Twitter Search looking at the News tab and trending hashtags to get a sense of what’s happening in the world. This has been my strategy for a couple years because television and radio news are not designed to inform as much as to keep you watching and listening. And while I read some print news on my phone, it tends to be focussed on the coronavirus or US politics these days… and it seems to be more commentary and opinion than actual news.

I always find social media vacations intriguing, especially about what is particularly gained. I was particularly taken by the fact that you are only doing it out of curiousity.

There is no specific reason I’m doing this, other than curiosity. I want to see what I miss, and how I will use my time. I think I’ll end up with more audio book and podcast listening time, and I’m hoping that I’ll write and meditate more. Time will tell.

I was really interested in how you start your day in the Twitter Search. Personally, I follow Twitter via a feed in Inoreader. This kind of feels like a semi-vacation, especially when you have the shock when opening the app again for whatever reason. You kind of forget about the additional features and functions that you miss out on. I certainly do not post information as much as I used to.

Bookmarked The Pro-Trump Mob Was Doing It For The Gram by Elamin Abdelmahmoud (BuzzFeed News)

As a coup, the actions of the mob were a failure. In the wee hours of the morning, Joe Biden was once again declared the winner of the 2020 election. They didn’t stop shit. But as fodder for content, Jan. 6 was a resounding success.

Elamin Abdelmahmoud argues that the coup was simply about capturing attention.

You can see this most clearly in this photo, where the man in the god-knows-what costume, Jake Angeli, the so-called QAnon Shaman, is posing on the dais of the Senate, his friends carefully framing him to get the perfect shot. It is the Trump supporter equivalent of an Instagram influencer getting a photo beside a perfect mural.

Mike Caulfield takes this further, wondering if this is more than just confirmation bias, but rather a case of brand building?

can we really say the motivation is as simple as “confirmation bias”? Or would we be better off thinking of these dynamics around issues of personal brand-building, its incentives and disincentives?

Replied to

Dean, I really appreciate your attempt at balance, even if I do not really like golf. (Can’t agree on everything😜)

This seems like the sort of topic that one might blog about? Here was my attempt:

My fast food social media diet has been replaced by one managed around blogs, feeds and comments. I do sometimes feel I miss out on some things, but trust that if I need to know something that I will probably capture through some other means.

Bookmarked Social Networking 2.0 (Stratechery by Ben Thompson)

Facebook and Twitter represent the v1 of Social Networking; it’s a bad copy of the analog world, whereas v2 is something unique to digital, and a lot more promising.

Ben Thompson discusses the evolution of online identity from a mirror of offline reality to an existence that is only possible online. He describes this transition as a move from social networking 1.0 to social networking 2.0.

To the extent that v2 social networking allows people to be themselves in all the different ways they wish to be, the more likely it is they become close to people who see other parts of the world in ways that differ from their own. Critically, though, unlike Facebook or Twitter, that exposure happens in an environment of trust that encourages understanding, not posturing.

It is interesting to think of alongside Ian O’Byrne’s discussion of building up your digital identity and Kin Lane’s exploration of personal API’s. It also seems in opposition to Dave Eggars’ TruYou. I wonder what this means for the notion of a ‘canonical’ self?

Replied to No more performative professionalism by Doug Belshaw (Open Thinkering)

It would be disingenuous for me to say that I don’t find LinkedIn handy for some things. I’ve discovered opportunities through the platform, made connections with people, and found out genuinely useful information.

But what makes me a little sad inside is that the whole thing is built on the assumption that capitalist competition is a good thing. It’s predicated on celebrating spurious awards that people and organisations have (often) paid to be in the running for. And, to be honest, the performative professionalism highlighted by Adegbuyi makes the whole thing a bit cringey.

I have never really gotten into LinkedIn. It has never really worked for me.

What is sad is that I see people move their writing output there, when they had a perfectly good blog. Although the same could be said about Substack too.

I am intrigued by the the notion of a hostage situation and wonder if this is the end game for all the platforms? I feel that this is Cory Doctorow’s point about adversarial interoperability?

Bookmarked What if Social Media Worked More Like Email? (

Using our axes, we can analyze what makes decentralized logic distinct:

  • Technology — decentralized
  • Revenue model — donations/subscriptions
  • Ideology — autonomy, privacy for everyone
  • Governance — community
  • Affordances — varied
Ethan Zuckerman and Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci explore the possibilities of decentralised models to respond to social media, especially in regards to the challenges of moderation.

Decentralizing governance means that a diverse array of communities with different norms and standards can arise. For example, Mastodon is home to instances with strict harassment policies while also being home to the instance that hosts the vitriolic and far-right Gab. This is sustainable because users and servers can choose who to connect with. So, when Gab forked Mastodon or ISIS recruiters joined Diaspora, most servers simply blocked all content originating from the offending servers and accounts. Gab users can see their server and the few that are willing to federate with it; the rest of the Mastodon universe has functionally closed themselves down to Gab and its content.

via Chris Aldrich

Bookmarked Webring History: Social Media Before Social Media (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

How the webring became the grassroots tool of choice for sharing content online in the ‘90s. The concept was social media before media was social.

Ernie Smith provides a history associated with webrings.

Structurally, a webring has many parallels to the modern-day Twitter quote-tweet chain, a Russian nesting doll of sorts in which you’re encouraged to keep clicking on the tweets being quoted, with no end in sight. Depending on what you’re up to at the time, it’s a novel, entertaining, somewhat curated experience.

Smith discusses the pioneering work of Sage Weil, as well as the association with Bomis, the website that led to the development of Wikipedia.

In some ways, Wikipedia’s success as a concept benefited from the same feedback-loop dynamics that a webring does. It’s a site that rewards clicking, and becomes more valuable the further down the rabbit hole you go. It becomes like a game, almost. That, in its own way, is a dynamic that Wikipedia borrowed from Bomis and other webring-driven networks.

This is a useful piece alongside Charlie Owen’s more technical examination.

Liked Why Twitter is (Epistemically) Better Than Facebook (

Design can’t solve all of our problems. Users still need to decide to make good use of the tools available to them. But as we spend more time on social media platforms, it’s important to recognize the strengths of their effects on us. Platforms can mimic and codify the limitations of our offline epistemic environments by only connecting us with people we already know (and giving us the option to filter them out when it’s uncomfortable). Or they can encourage productive epistemic friction by pushing us to consider who to engage with, what topics to avoid, and for how long, so that we consciously shape our own epistemic environments.