The more I look at the news, the more comes a sense we are close to a crossroads. Twitter announced profits this week, with the revelation that millions of accounts had been removed or deleted which were being driven by AI. I’ve spoken before on how ‘robot accounts’ can create wonderfully diverse works of poetry and prose. Those same architectures, when loaded with hate speech or abuse and driven by those determined to wreck lives, can (and are) getting high-profile individuals tossed from their jobs. It is easy to see why those who use Twitter to sell themselves want this kind of stuff removed and silenced.
Except, as I have found to my cost, removing what you think is bad has unforeseen consequences.
Manufacturing a place where people can’t say bad things about you is a dangerous game to play. As a writer, criticism is an absolutely vital part of the playbook; you need people to point out what they think doesn’t work. Except, of course, many actors and creatives won’t even read reviews or consider a contrary viewpoint. I’m seeing increasing numbers of online individuals either embracing the abuse head on or, as seems to be the case for certain individuals, remaining online but curating their feeds to a point where ‘bad stuff’ is not sorted or even filtered. If you aren’t nice, regardless of who you are, you get blocked.
This is where I sit right now: people never spoken to, or interacted with, block me because a) an awful lot gets tweeted and b) a lot of that output is retweeted into other people’s feeds, something others don’t want. I am curated out because these individuals don’t care what is said. This seems harsh, but fair on initial examination but as people start dictating to others what they think is bad and good and others don’t think and blithely just copy and import block lists… this is no longer a public forum. If you place yourself here and have an opinion, there are always consequences.
I spend a lot of time getting annoyed at how easy some people expect their lives to be. In fact, there are days when there’s genuine disbelief at the narrow mindedness and arrogance of individuals who clearly think that unless it is all done for their benefit, then what’s the point to begin with? We’ve had the absolute pleasure of a house guest for the last five days, who has taught me enough stuff in his brief presence to keep brain busy for weeks. Under normal circumstances, I would never have interacted with this individual (a friend of my son’s) and to do so is the constant, unerring reminder that the unexpected brings reward. Opening yourself to new views and attitudes is a vital part of existence.
Those who malign far right (and far left) as being the enemy yet block out all noise that doesn’t suit them seem not to grasp that the only way to truly be free is to embrace everything as an intractable and inevitable consequence of humanity. Ignoring anything, like it or not, remains a form of wilful ignorance. How we deal with such noise as society moving forward will become almost as important as what is said in ‘public’ places where, perhaps stupidly, we believe ourselves free of criticism or consequence. You might think nobody listens or cares that you too are restricting your online existence, until contention arises, by which time it may already be too late.
Everything you say and do online has the potential to alter your life.