Bookmarked The Social Dilemma Fails to Tackle the Real Issues in Tech by an author (Slate)

Ultimately, this omission of experts and lack of nuance results in The Social Dilemma feeling like a missed opportunity. On the plus side, it informs a wide audience about issues like surveillance, persuasive design practices, and the spread of misinformation online, which may encourage them to hold big technology companies accountable. But who gets to convey this information and how it is framed are also crucial. Amplifying voices who have always had a seat at the table and continuing to ignore those who haven’t will not lead us any closer to resolving the dilemma the film claims to present.

Pranav Malhotra argues that although the documentry The Social Dilemma is helpful in providing information about the problems with social media, the choice of whose voices are included and how it is framed is problematic.

This documentary, which will undoubtedly reach a global audience being on Netflix (itself a key cog within the technology industry), could have amplified such voices. It could have also given space to critical internet and media scholars like Safiya Noble, Sarah T. Roberts, and Siva Vaidhyanathan, just to name a few, who continue to write about how broader structural inequalities are reflected in and often amplified by the practices of big technology companies.

This is something that Maria Farrell also touches on this in regards to the ‘prodigal techbros‘.

The prodigal tech bro doesn’t want structural change. He is reassurance, not revolution. He’s invested in the status quo, if we can only restore the founders’ purity of intent. Sure, we got some things wrong, he says, but that’s because we were over-optimistic / moved too fast / have a growth mindset. Just put the engineers back in charge / refocus on the original mission / get marketing out of the c-suite. Government “needs to step up”, but just enough to level the playing field / tweak the incentives. Because the prodigal techbro is a moderate, centrist, regular guy. Dammit, he’s a Democrat. Those others who said years ago what he’s telling you right now? They’re troublemakers, disgruntled outsiders obsessed with scandal and grievance. He gets why you ignored them. Hey, he did, too. He knows you want to fix this stuff. But it’s complicated. It needs nuance. He knows you’ll listen to him. Dude, he’s just like you…

via Bill Fitzgerald

Replied to Anti-social media by an author

I can’t stay on Twitter and only share things I think will acquire likes and positive comments. I’m not a poop disturber either, but I want to be able to go to hard places sometimes, to question and to learn. But I’m not feeling like good discourse can happen on social media anymore. Discourse has become argument and different views are not tolerated.

What I’m talking about goes far beyond the conversation I had, but what I’ve seen recently has pushed me away from following conversation threads on Twitter… Not because I’m not interested in the topic, but because I’m not interested in the polar, angry, and even nasty comments that fill any (even slightly) controversial thread.

David, I feel that this is the challenge that Douglas Rushkoff is trying to grapple with in regards to Team Human.

Ian O’Byrne also wrote a similar reflection lately in which he wonders if we need to take a step back:

We spend time teaching youth how to engage in digital practices and many times this is to prepare them to engage, connect, and participant in online spaces. Is this what we really want? Is this the type of future that we want for youth?

Maybe we have it all wrong.

Just because we could…doesn’t mean that we should.

I often come back to Venkatesh Rao’s piece on the Internet of Beefs.

Replied to Nostalgic for Twitter of the past

Maybe I lived in a safe bubble in the early days of Twitter, shielded from everything except my interests in education and learning? Maybe I allowed too much in? Maybe the tool itself is inviting the wrong kind of engagement? Maybe it’s time to take another break?

I too have written about this sense of nostalgia.

I do not regret that time, but it is not necessarily something that I miss. 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.

Ian Guest, who wrote a PhD on the topic, kindly left me with this response, which I will share with you:

A couple of hypotheticals I’ll throw into the pot to see what bubbles to the surface.
1. What would happen (for you) if Twitter’s ‘fail whale’ reappeared tomorrow and suddenly Twitter was gone?
2. What if you deactivated your original account and started afresh? Knowing what you know and bearing in mind what you wrote in this post, how would you do things differently, if at all? Is ‘making Twitter great again’ within your capacity?
3. If Twitter is broken beyond repair and neither Mastodon nor quite cut it, if you had the wherewithall, what would you design as a replacement? What would it need to have or be able to do?

Thankfully there are some people still out there blogging.

Replied to The Endless Doomscroller

“Doomscrolling” refers to the ways in which people find themselves regularly—and in some cases, almost involuntarily—scrolling bad news headlines on their phone, often for hours each night in bed when they had meant to be sleeping. Certainly the realities of the pandemic necessitate a level of vigilance for the purposes of personal safety. But doomscrolling isn’t just a natural reaction to the news of the day—it’s the result of a perfect yet evil marriage between a populace stuck online, social media interfaces designed to game and hold our attention, and the realities of an existential global crisis. Yes, it may be hard to look away from bad news in any format, but it’s nearly impossible to avert our eyes when that news is endlessly presented via designed-to-be-addictive social media interfaces that know just what to show us next in order to keep us “engaged.” As an alternative interface, The Endless Doomscroller acts as a lens on our software-enabled collective descent into despair. By distilling the news and social media sites down to their barest most generalized messages and interface conventions, The Endless Doomscroller shows us the mechanism that’s behind our scroll-induced anxiety: interfaces—and corporations—that always want more. More doom (bad news headlines) compels more engagement (via continued liking/sharing/posting) which produces more personal data, thus making possible ever more profit. By stripping away the specifics wrapped up in each headline and minimizing the mechanics behind most interface patterns, The Endless Doomscroller offers up an opportunity for mindfulness about how we’re spending our time online and about who most benefits from our late night scroll sessions. And, if one scrolls as endlessly as the work makes possible, The Endless Doomscroller might even enable a sort of exposure or substitution therapy, a way to escape or replace what these interfaces want from and do to us. In other words, perhaps the only way out of too much doomscrolling is endless doomscrolling.

I love this Ben. Why go on social media, when you can get straight to the point and just engage in some meta doomscrolling.
Bookmarked Thread by @timminchin: If someone writes an article you disagree with, here is an option that a lot of you seem to have forgotten: read it, then have some thoughts… (

Thread by @timminchin: “If someone writes an article you disagree with, here is an option that a lot of you seem to have forgotten: read it, then have some thoughts about it.

Then have some thoughts about your thoughts. Critically assess your intuitive reaction. Then see if there’s any elements of the piece that you might agree with. See if it might even — god forbid – adjust your view. Just a tiny bit.

Give to the writer all the credit & generosity of interpretation you would give a friend. Apply to yourself all the criticism you’d intuitively direct at an enemy. Then wait a day. Perhaps read the article again.

Then, before deciding to post about it on twitter, consider: am I signaling my virtue? Am I just polishing my brand? Am I going to be inadvertently boosting the signal of something I wish had less exposure?

Am I just fishing for ‘likes’. Do I have a strategy whereby I might effect positive change? Is my interpretation unique enough to add to the debate? Am I just fueling ineffectual anger? Have I noted my biases? Have I applied humility? Then think, maybe I’ll have a tea. Then go make a tea. Then drink your tea.”

Tim Minchin’s shares a thread about considering other ideas and intent before responding.

Am I just fishing for “likes”. Do I have a strategy whereby I might effect positive change? Is my interpretation unique enough to add to the debate? Am I just fueling ineffectual anger? Have I noted my biases? Have I applied humility? Then think, maybe I’ll have a tea. Then go make a tea.

This reminds me of Venkatesh Rao’s discussion of the internet of beefs. Alternatively, Austin Kleon argues that maybe rather than write a comment or an email, just write your own blog post.

Abby Gardner sums this all up as follows:

Guess who’s waiting to hear where I stand on the issue on Twitter? Nobody.

via Harold Jarche

Social media can be a great space to share ideas, however not every space is helpful with connecting the dots. Although you can trace a thread through a series of Tweets, you are not always able to link to points of context and clarification. For me, this is one thing that I like about Micro.Blog’s use of Markdown. Clearly, not as rich as WordPress, but much better than Twitter or Google+(rip).
Responding to John Johnston’s discussion of the value of blogging as a space for sharing, Ian Guest wonders about the various features associated with Twitter.

One thing I wonder about sharing spaces is not what is technically possible – Twitter actually includes quite a few features to help users, such as hashtags, saved searches, bookmarks and moments to name a few – the question is how easy is it to personally mine this information and subsequently build upon it?  This was the point that both Cal Newport and Austin Kleon have recently touched upon, sharing the power of a space of one’s own.

Bookmarked The 4 Questions to Ask before You Unplug

If you’re concerned about the internet’s effects on the world and on yourself, unplugging might not be the answer.

Alexandra Samuel looks at the research into unplugging. She frames this around four questions:

  1. What’s the problem we’re trying to address by unplugging?
  2. What else would we (or our kids) do with this time?
  3. What do we give up when we unplug?
  4. How does unplugging help prepare us for our daily lives in a digital world?

Maybe a part of the solution is not ‘unplugging’, but being more digitally mindful? Amber Case has listed some interesting strategies associated with this topic.

Replied to
David, I enjoyed your reflection on the decisions that we make online.

Our online actions can feed a system that rewards the shaming of others, or our actions can reflect the same sort of empathy we would want others to give us if our worst indiscretions (past or future) ever became publicly viral.

You might be interested in this piece by Kate O’Halloran on the abuse that she received when she made a mistake online. I also enjoyed Anil Dash’s recent discussion of our rights online on the Function Podcast.

Replied to

I never encouraged the students to use Pinterest. I think that it sat in that collection of apps that I knew students used, but they were not necessarily a part of the classroom (see David White’s Resident and Visitor)
Liked Bots and trolls spread false arson claims in Australian fires ‘disinformation campaign’ (the Guardian)

The Queensland University of Technology senior lecturer on social network analysis Dr Timothy Graham examined content published on the #arsonemergency hashtag on Twitter, assessing 1,340 tweets, 1,203 of which were unique, published by 315 accounts.

Bookmarked constant doubt and outrage

While consumer social media networks are great for getting a diversity of opinions, they are not safe or trusted spaces. They nourish the Internet of Beefs. We need safe communities to take time for reflection, consideration, and testing out ideas without getting harassed. Professional social networks and communities of practices help us make sense of the world outside the workplace. They also enable each of us to bring to bear much more knowledge and insight that we could do on our own.

Harold Jarche shares his own experience of the Internet of Beefs involving Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Reflecting on this, Jarche discuses the way in which we often respond without context in online environments:

My own experience is that only 0.04% of people who view my Tweets on Twitter click on any link to read the full article.

He suggests that the challenge is in building trusted spaces.

Bookmarked 8 Tips For Sharing Your Blog Posts On Twitter (The Edublogger)

Let’s recap the eight tips:

  1. Break down your blog post (create bite-sized content from quotes, tips, images etc.).
  2. Build interest (give your followers a reason to click and read your blog post).
  3. Create a custom image to catch your followers’ eyes.
  4. Try emojis (perhaps as bullet points) and white space to make your tweets stand out.
  5. Use hashtags in your tweets but don’t overdo it. One or two is plenty.
  6. Tag others wisely especially if you mentioned them in your blog post.
  7. Replicate what works and make the most of the provided analytics.
  8. Be part of your community — give and take is the key to success.
I remember thinking about this a few years ago, I also discussed some different applications that can be used to support visuals and methods for sharing on Twitter, I never properly unpacked the differences as you have done in this post Kathleen.
Liked a post

I soon found myself wondering how the inhabitants of Austen’s world put up with this constant pressure to socialize—until I realized that we face just as much demand for interaction, albeit in digital form. Austen’s characters may face a nonstop parade of callers, but at least they don’t have to deal with Facebook friend invitations and an endless series of requests to connect on LinkedIn.

Bookmarked The Internet of Beefs (ribbonfarm)

If the relatively peaceful web of the 90s and aughts was about civilian eyeballs, the IoB is about mook-on-mook combat clicks, and is now entering its second decade

In this lengthy post, Venkatesh Rao makes the case for the ‘internet of beefs’, where the focus is on

A beef is a ritualized, extended conflict between named, evenly matched combatants who each stand for a marquee ideological position, and most importantly, reciprocate each other’s hostile feelings in active, engaged ways. A beef is something like the evil twin of a love affair. A beef must be conducted with visible skill and honor (though codes of honor may be different on the different sides), and in public view. Each combatant must be viewed, by his or her supporters, as having picked a worthy adversary, otherwise the contest means nothing. The combatants fight not for material advantage, but for a symbolic victory that can be read as signifying the cosmic, spiritual righteousness and rightness of what they are fighting for. So the conflict must be at least nominally fair, hard to call decisively, and open to luck, cunning cheating, and ex-post mythologizing by all sides, in terms favorable to their own champions.

These arguments are built around a feudal model of knigths, mooks and manors.

Mook manorialism is an economy based on axe-grinding. As the peasantry, mooks do more than fight other mooks. They are also responsible for keeping grievances large and small well-nursed and alive. Occasionally, through an act like whistleblowing or leaking of confidential communications, a mook might briefly become a named player in a particular theater of conflict, but the median mook is primarily expected to keep everyday grievances alive and fight under the glare of algorithmic lights when called upon to do so, unrecognized by history, but counted in the statistics and noticed by the AIs (senpAIs?).

The problem is that there is no way of ignoring or escaping this space.

If you participate in online public life, you cannot entirely avoid the Internet of Beefs. It is too big, too ubiquitous, and too widely distributed and connected across platforms. To continue operating in public spaces without being drawn into the conflict, you have to build an arsenal of passive-aggressive behaviors like subtweeting, ghosting, blocking, and muting — all while ignoring beef-only thinkers calling you out furiously as dishonorable and cowardly, and trying to bait you into active aggression.

It has come to define the modern web.

If the relatively peaceful web of the 90s and aughts was about civilian eyeballs, the IoB is about mook-on-mook combat clicks, and is now entering its second decade

The only way is to foster a new way of being.

We are not beefing endlessly because we do not desire peace or because we do not know how to engineer peace. We are beefing because we no longer know who we are, each of us individually, and collectively as a species. Knight and mook alike are faced with the terrifying possibility that if there is no history in the future, there is nobody in particular to be once the beefing stops.

And the only way to reboot history is to figure out new beings to be. Because that’s ultimately what beefing is about: a way to avoid being, without allowing time itself to end.

This is one of those posts which seemingly forces you to stop and reassess many actions and assumptions. Interestingly, it also inoculates itself against criticism.

One piece that I am left thinking about was my question of tribes from a few years ago.

Liked The strange case of Paul Zimmer, the influencer who came back as a different person (

There has always been something different about Paul Zimmer. In 2015, when he joined, the app for sharing lip-syncing videos that was bought by TikTok in 2018, he posted near-daily clips of himself doing jerky dance moves, acting out scenes with his fiancé, Jamie, and flashing his abs. Within 18 months, Zimmer’s seemingly mundane videos were regularly drawing half a million views per clip and he became one of the most popular users on the app. By the start of 2017, Zimmer had gained an audience of just under a million Instagram followers and a whopping seven million on These followers then transferred to TikTok when it was bought, giving Zimmer one of the largest followings on the world’s fastest-growing social media platform. But in April 2017, Zimmer’s empire began to crumble. Using’s sister app,, a platform for livestreaming videos, Zimmer had been soliciting “gifts”: paid-for stickers that users could send to their favourite stars, which transferred the cash value of the gift to that star, from his fans in exchange for favours such as shout-outs in videos, sharing their videos on his page, and sending them personalised DMs thanking them for their donation. At the time, this was a relatively normal practice (if a slightly dodgy one, given it involved users as young as 13). But Zimmer rapidly became’s most talked-about star when hundreds of users complained that he had not honoured the promises he’d made to secure these gifts, prompting the hashtag #BanPaulZimmer. In the midst of the controversy, he disappeared from social media entirely – wiping his Instagram and YouTube channel of all content. @username7265824 Spam me with likes picking some texting buddies original sound – paulzimmer For nearly two years, Zimmer remained silent. His fiancé, Jamie Rose, who featured heavily in his videos at the time, also disappeared from social media at around the same time. That was until late last year, when Zimmer reappeared with a bizarre post that many claim was an attempt to rebrand himself as a new person, Troy Becker: someone with a different age, job, and identity. Screenshot via Zimmer’s Instagram account On 14 October 2019, Paul Zimmer posted a side-by-side image of himself (sporting a barely-grown-out beard) next to another image of what appeared to be himself, albeit clean-shaven. “This actor @TroyBeckerIG kid literally looks like a younger sexier version of me,” Zimmer wrote. “I don’t even use social media anymore but had to post this hahah…” Clicking on Troy Becker’s Instagram led to an almost unpopulated account, with only 11 posts uploaded before Zimmer’s side-by-side post. For a Gen-Z actor, this would amount to an unusually sparse social media presence. It’s hard to track the fan response to this post because comments on Zimmer’s Instagram are disabled. But almost two months later, on December 10, another “Troy Becker” post was made, addressing those who had responded that Becker was in fact Zimmer by saying: “IM TELLING YOU HE IS MY YOUNGER BRO [crying laughing emoji]”). The third post, on 18 December, was a bombshell: “Hey it’s Paul Zimmer,” he wrote, “this is prolly gonna be my last social post ever… I have come to a place in my life where being in the spotlight and being an entertainer is no longer my passion… although it deeply saddens me to leave so bluntly, especially that so many of you have watched me for so many years…. I didn’t wanna leave my social media pages just sitting to die… soo I have decided to give my social media accounts to @troybeckerig because he is one of the dopest people I know and he is literally my younger twin my much younger twin I believe Troy is 15 or 16 years old hahaha…” Zimmer was apparently offering to give up public life and hand over an audience of more than eight million followers to a teenage boy who just happened to look exactly like him. In any situation, this would be an unusual, and unusually generous thing to do. But for many commentators it was simply unbelievable. YouTube sleuth Haylo Hayley is a long-time Zimmer obsessive. Hayley posted a video on her channel in October, following Zimmer’s first Troy-related Instagram post. “If you listen to [Troy’s voice on his Instagram] it sounds exactly the same as Paul Zimmer,” she said. For her, it seemed painfully obvious evidence that Troy Becker was just Zimmer in new clothes. “I know for 100% it’s Paul Zimmer… [because] I met him in person when I went to New York in 2017″, she added. “I met Paul and Jamie [his fiancé] there.” Another YouTuber, Danny Gonzalez also made a video about Zimmer’s apparent transformation to Troy Becker on 30 December 2019, after Zimmer revealed that he’d be giving “Troy” his social media accounts. Gonzalez included videos and pictures of “Troy Becker” taking part in an acting class with Zimmer’s fiancé at The Heller Approach, an acting school in LA, on June 10 – four months before Zimmer’s first post about Becker. The appearance and voice of Zimmer and “Becker” appear to be identical. View this post on Instagram Surprise yourself. Take risks. See what colors come out in the moment. #thehellerapproach #nonmethodacting #bradheller #acting #film #television #freeactingtips #actorstudio #theateracting #screenacting #commercialacting #training #audition #auditioning #moviestar #celebrity #drama #comedy #farce #filmgnere #filming #donrichardson #skype #grouptheater #hollywood #losangeles #troybecker #mattsato #mathewsato A post shared by The Heller Approach (@thehellerapproach) on Jun 9, 2019 at 7:09pm PDT Zimmer’s followers didn’t need a YouTube explainer video to convince them that Zimmer and Becker are the same man – on TikTok, every video posted as “Troy” brings in an avalanche of comments on the subject. “Paul it’s really creepy you’re pretending to be 16”; “nobody is falling for it”; “you’re literally wearing the same earrings that you always post photos in”; “even their voices are the same”; “you’re not fooling anyone”; “CEO of pretending to be a different person”. There are more than ten thousand comments on Zimmer’s recent TikToks. It’s difficult to find any that aren’t related to, and critical of, the apparent rebrand. Zimmer continues to maintain that he and Becker aren’t the same person. However, Becker’s IMDb page indicates the actor may have had doubts of his own. While in its current state it includes very little information, a cached version from 7 October 2019 shows that Troy Becker’s “nickname” was “Paul Zimmer”. The page was cached a week before Zimmer did his original side-by-side post having apprently discovered his doppelgänger. Until Monday morning the trivia section on Becker’s IMDb page also read “Troy Becker is an alter ego of Paul Zimmer of fame” and “Troy Becker was formerly known as Paul Zimmer as a musically star”, although these could have been added by fans rather than by Zimmer himself. Screenshots of Zimmer’s now deleted TikToks as “Troy” I contacted “Troy Becker” through his social media accounts and website, but he did not respond to requests for comment. He continues to post regular videos to TikTok and Instagram. Zimmer shows that, even when you seem to have been permanently cancelled, there are creative ways to make a comeback – and he has undoubtedly regained everyone’s attention. Update: This piece was updated at 11:30 on 9 January 2020 to reflect that Zimmer has deleted his Instagram account, deleted his TikToks as “Troy”, and has changed his TikTok handle.

Liked My Facebook Moratorium, One Year Later

For me, it became a case of the more connected I became, the more disconnected I felt. I decided that there is a whole real world out there that is far more interesting and more deserving of my time than Facebook. I’m glad we are friends, and I’m glad that I can stay connected to you in some way, but it will be far less on Facebook. If you want to know what’s going on in my life, I’d much rather you call, or have lunch, or meet for a drink, or go for a walk together, or something…

I still like social media, I just don’t want it to be a permanent proxy for my real life.

Bookmarked All of YouTube, Not Just the Algorithm, is a Far-Right Propaganda Machine (Medium)

I have been researching far-right propaganda on YouTube since 2017, and I have consistently argued that we cannot understand radicalization on the platform by focusing solely on the algorithm. I have also come to find that we don’t actually need to understand the recommendation algorithm to still know that YouTube is an effective source of far-right propaganda. In fact, I will go even further: according to my research, YouTube could remove its recommendation algorithm entirely tomorrow and it would still be one of the largest sources of far-right propaganda and radicalization online.

Becca Lewis expands on her commentary on the recent research into YouTube and radicalisation. She argues that the platform itself is the source of far-right propaganda.

When we focus only on the algorithm, we miss two incredibly important aspects of YouTube that play a critical role in far-right propaganda: celebrity culture and community.

This is all fed by the incentives inherent within the platform.

Through parasocial relationships and platform-facilitated social networking, YouTube creators and audiences alike are incentivized to spread and reinforce far-right ideas.

Rather than a ‘propaganda machine’, Lewis argues that YouTube is best considered as a ‘pollutant’.

To invoke a metaphor from my colleague Whitney Phillips, far-right propaganda on the platform acts more like a pollutant than a rabbit hole: it contaminates those who consume it and simultaneously impacts the whole media environment.

Bookmarked What is Mastodon and why should I use it? (Laura Kalbag)

Now you know why I’m moving away from Twitter, you probably have a vague idea of what I’m looking for in a social network. Mastodon is unique for a few reasons: it is federated, ethical, and inclusive.

Laura Kalbag discusses Mastodon, what is a federated network and how to setup your own instance of one.

But posting status updates to a blog misses the social element of social networks. We don’t just use social networks to shout into the void, we use them to share experiences with each other …

I have my own Mastodon instance, where it’s just me (and Oskar). This is referred to as an “instance-of-one.” It’s hosted on my own domain, so I own and control everything I post on there, but because I have the Mastodon installed on there, I can see what other people post on their Mastodon instances, and reply to them with mentions, or favourite and boost (like retweet) their toots, even though they are on different instances. It’s like having my own Twitter which can talk to other Twitters, where I make the rules.

This touches on my discussion of a ‘social media of one‘.

via Kevin Hodgson