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The Peculiar Draw of Social Media.

25 April 2016

I tried Facebook again. It didn’t work. The algorithms are scary good. I never gave it access to my phone. I never gave it any personal information except my birthday – not where I live, or work. I never sent friend requests to my co-workers or indeed, anyone who lives in ECC. And yet the “People you might know” suggestions included people in my office and my personal trainer. So I re-deleted my account.

I know that there are algorithms working in the background of multiple websites (probably including wordpress) doing similar things, scraping similar information. But I don’t want to make it so easy.

I have taken another hiatus from my primary twitter account, and obviously, I took a short hiatus here as well. I don’t know what I’m doing on social media these days. I like connecting with people, but the communities I’ve found end up so toxic. The world of academia online has wonderful aspects, and yet is also full of hate and viciousness that rivals any hate-group.

I’ve maintained my professional account which never wades into politics or the culture wars. But that also means that I can’t really connect with people there, because I’m deliberately excluding myself from the biggest topics of conversation. When I’m restricting my own expressions and communications (as is appropriate on a named, professional account), it limits my ability to befriend people.

I imagine taking a long break here to write other things. But in almost three weeks away from this place, I wrote exactly nothing on any topic. Blogging and twitter feel like my natural homes, for long-form and short-form online interactions. But what I bring to those spaces is not particularly valuable. As I wrote before, very few people read this. And in the communities I’ve found on twitter, I end up railing pointlessly against the hateful rhetoric, and functionally excluding myself because I don’t flow along with the mob.

It’s hard to find the right community. I’m trying to pivot from an academic-based online experience to an athletics-based one, because the amateur athletic community is a lot more welcoming and supportive, and seems less likely to eat its young. Academics love nothing more than picking clean the bones of the unorthodox. An irony among those so often excluded when young for being different.

Sometimes it seems that the marginalized create closed-door societies among themselves. Wounded by exclusion, they create exclusive systems in mimicry of the power structures that marginalized them in the first place. It makes me sad to see it among my brilliant and capable colleagues. And it reveals how remarkable AA truly is by contrast.

So I don’t know where I belong. Not a true academic, I will never be a real member of that community. I am not that person. And I do not admire the communities that academics build.

Maybe I belong here. Whispering my arrogant lamentations into a void.


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