The next time you see the present,

April 4, 2018

consider believing your eyes. Since last I wrote, the walled gardens took advantage of being something far more insideous. It’s common now to decry their influence. Less common to leave them. I didn’t leave them either; more fool me. Yet so long as the social connections we need are with people who are there, it’s not feasible to just up sticks. But a component of the problem is (presently) dependent on the interface, and that can be altered.

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I’ll give you another word for the automated collection, ad placement, algorithmic timelines, and autosuggest lists: Man in the middle attack. {eavesdropping, injection, replay and drop, and injection again respectively}; just remove all mention of encryption and substitute “Mallory” with “server”. Is there any longer any doubt that it’s an attack? The worst part is on what, but that will become clear.

I went into my facebook account and loaded each followed page individually. About 1/5 of the content was stuff that had never appeared in my feed. RSS export is no longer supported so I can’t trivially move off timeline there. I may move to email notification, if that’s still available. They probably don’t have sufficient cause to bother making that not chronological. I did the same verification on twitter. About 4/5 of the content had not appeared on my timeline. (Taking into account posting times; it’s not like I just ‘missed’ old content because I was offline and it’d already scrolled down.) Some accounts had made upwards of 20 posts without one of them appearing. (Anyone bored enough to make a plugin for performing this analysis properly instead of guesstimating?) Instead I was treated to ‘likes’, sponsored posts, and replays of posts I already read.

Only posts from locked accounts seemed to appear consistently. An RSS pull of my twitter follows provided far more interesting reading than the curated (mitm attacked) so-called timeline. Maybe I picked a bad moment, or I have interesting choice in follows. I don’t know or care; the curated (mitm’d) experience isn’t what I signed up for. The desolate feeling landscape of replays and personal tragedies I’d become accustomed to on twitter was not at all representative of what my follows were actually posting. Everything about how I felt there existed only in that distorted lens. What if you bought a pair of rose colored glasses, but over time they turned harsh and muddy until they showed you a world of grime devoid of joy. Wouldn’t you take them off?

Interpretation of the mind renders worlds of text as affective as the virtual realities of our fiction. You don’t have to cover your eyes to alter your perception.

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Collated apart from their native interfaces, the feeds are initially overwhelming. I’ve migrated between services so many times, generally only using one heavily at a time, that each has follows up to my magic number—the quantity necessary to create an ideal reward profile for hitting refresh. Not so many that I get anxious trying to keep up; not so few that I get frustrated by having nothing new to read.

Are there somehow exactly that many interesting people per service? Hardly. There are thousands of interesting people, and thousands of boring ones; I follow some few of each. Excepting the refresh reward cycle, this number would not be at all optimal. Refresh is not a desirable behavior. So one of two options must be practiced: Either I need the computer to help me obtain some information from all the data sources I desire by pre-processing them, or I have to pare the list down. A lot.

Even if I desire the former in some cases, I must begin with the latter. After all, the lists as they stand were not curated for impact of data they provided, only for a pleasant refresh cycle. This is not easy. Oh, on the technical level it is, but humanly it’s another matter entirely. Stop looking there? Stop involving myself in the melodrama of those 20 or 80 or 180 people I don’t even know? But… But nothing. Watching their show play out isn’t achieving anything.

It’s more productive to rant in a notebook than to hit refresh. But refresh seeps back in. The habit of finding new interesting follows recurs, dogging me even into mastodon now. No, no, enough. There is always another interesting follow… No, enough. No refresh. No new follows (at least for now). A time limit to reading—if it’s not complete within time, unfollow someone. This is going to hurt but it’s a lot more sustainable than logging off while leaving the temptation lurking ready to swallow me whole the next time I have cause to log in.

When I’m ready… RSS follows, topic follows, carefully ferreted out blogs away from the main flow, actual books and journals. Not yet. I don’t want those to fill my time again, when there’s a real world out here in need of those hours.

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I’d considered giving up the net entirely other than necessary tasks. We’ll see how far I need to go. And what I deem necessary.

The next time you see the present, - April 4, 2018 - Kim Reece