Taking Back Social Streams


There's a disturbing trend online fueled by social networks.

Places like Facebook for example, which make it easy to see the posts of a few people who think like you and agree with you. They give you the illusion that anyone who thinks differently is evil without giving you the benefit of new context, especially if you don't take the time to read up on the issues.

Life is not black and white. It's a bit more complicated than that.

Information being available is not the same as you being informed or letting data and facts inform your thinking. Because I see evidence that there is less critical thinking in social streams than even a couple of years ago.

People don't converse: they comment. Big difference.

There are bullshitters in every category, and we should call the BS out. And before you jump up and down my throat, be aware that “bullshit” doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong—it is that the practitioners of bullshit are more interested in getting their way by impressing each other*.

Like the sad displays of judgment I've come across on Twitter.

Conversation is the white space, the place where people turn together to deliberate, and weigh out, to suspend judgment (listening without resistance), explore the underlying causes, rules, and assumptions to get to deeper questions and framing of problems, and to generative dialogue that invents unprecedented possibilities and new insights, producing collective flow.

Bullshit is used to conceal, to impress or to coerce. Unlike liars, bullshitters have no use for the truth. All that matters to them is hiding their ignorance or bringing about their own benefit*. The product of fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

What I see in social networks is the exact opposite of critical thinking. I propose there is a better way to connection than amassing friends who agree with us.

At the time of birth, we have the same potential as Leonardo da Vinci.

Let's lean into our human potential. Leave every place we visit in a better condition than we found it. 

Let's take our streams back.

We can start in small steps. I like Ike Pigott's advice: Why don't you read it first? Before you decide to disagree with it.


* Ian Bogos, Gamification is Bullshit

[image credit]

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0 responses to “Taking Back Social Streams”

  1. Valeria, I totally agree and might even take it one step further. I think critical thought is in danger every where. I just had a conversation with a client yesterday about how deeper analysis is overlooked in most places. Metrics do not equal understanding. Nodding along does not mean internalizing. And so on and so on.
    I think social media puts a spotlight on this and makes it easy to nod along without thinking through anything. I watched Ike’s video (based on your suggestion) and loved what he said about reading things first, too. Politically and otherwise, we are surrounding ourselves with echo chambers. It’s dangerous on many levels.
    Thanks for making me think today, Valeria!

  2. Agree with you Valeria ,and with Jeanniecw’s comment.
    As we (and at times that includes me! ) integrate fast technology and fast communication whether it be Twitter, YouTube or a drive-by Facebook comment, there is no time for thoughtful consideration. Politicians and media get sucked into the same trap and feel a fast response or reaction is better than a more considered response later.
    We love to use metaphors to illustrate a point because they are quick, easier to understand, and we can borrow them from somewhere else. Social streams are the ideal place to seed that thinking and soon no one in the stream is digging any deeper than the re-post, re-tweet, or reiteration of the same idea.
    We need a Twitter like stream where 140 characters are not allowed. 140 words is the minimum and where ‘awesome’ gets you banned for a week !

  3. Replace “social networks” in the above discussion with “personal letters,” or “telephone calls,” or “texting,” or “written language,” and you can immediately see where the problem in logical reasoning occurs in the process of the discussion. The problem is a confusion between means of broadcast and content, between the map and the message.
    The author apparently wants us to believe that “social networks” lead to people reading only what they want to read. You know, like being able to choose your own newspaper, or turn the TV channel, or pick whose status update you want to read on a regular basis, or what blogs to read. The author’s problem is not, truly, with social networks – even though that’s a convenient buzzword to go hunting for clicks with – the author’s problem is with choice and with people making choices that the author does not agree with.
    I’m pretty sure that every reader can decide for themselves how they feel about that idea. I don’t agree with it. I don’t, however, blame that on the medium of blogging or the fact that people can choose to read or not read things that they don’t agree with. I might blame it on the author being dim. That’s an entirely different question.
    If the real problem is, at heart, an issue of choice – that is, “how dare people get the ability to choose things that I disagree with and furthermore, the ability to share and disseminate those ideas,” the implications of following through with that line of reasoning are chilling. Not only that, implications of following through with that line of reasoning are exactly the same as what the author is accusing people using “social networks” of engaging in.
    This is exactly the sort of bullshit that we have been told that we should agitate against. This is me, agitating against it.

  4. I have it on good word from “the author” that this article does not confuse the means with the end. Furthermore, a little critical thinking (which perhaps got confused with slamming) might have uncovered the real point.
    On the other hand, the commenter (who may or may not have used a real name) has a problem with discussing ideas without dissing, which is exactly the point that was made in the post. An example of a chilling consequence. No sir, this is you not reading. Best.

  5. Indeed, by social streams I’m looking at all the places where we, as a society, are social. Reducing relationships to the last click doesn’t tell a whole story, and, as you point out, doesn’t lead to understanding.
    It’s easy to react to information we see, and there is lots and lots of it. It’s also easy to forget that there are real people on the other end of the screen, not just avatars or bots.

  6. Hi Alexander,
    Choice is the easist thing to defend but the hardest thing to explain. I think you will find it is a belief (like God)and not an idea that can be established by reason.
    You are defending a belief (a feeling by your words) which is cool provided you don’t do it in anger) but don’t confuse it for reason.
    I know Valeria, and she is not dim (indeed she’s quite the lighthouse of mindfullness). She (and this community) looks for the deeper causes, conditions and connections for why things are and don’t rely on the idea of choice as an excuse not to think or ask why.
    I hope you and those who told you to agitate get to read this.

  7. Valeria,
    Thanks for bringing this up. When I want to talk about things and have a deeper conversation I am told to lighten up.
    The sound byte drivel that occurs online really annoys me. I know we have to be mindful and be willing to look not just at the conversation but at ourselves and ask tougher questions.
    Not too many people are willing to do that, heck they cannot even be honest what what they want from life to make them happy. So if they cannot be honest with themselves why would they be honest with each other?
    One thing that perplexes me is why folks think social media has made humans dumb. Frankly, they didn’t need social media for that, they make that choice everyday when they are not willing to ask those deeper questions. It requires work to think, listen with intention and consciousness and then ask really good questions.
    The hate filled streams need to stop, I agree, it is only cause more reactions and deeper divides. Not solving a dang thing.

  8. In my experience, it is really hard to know what you want. There’s something I think about when the illusion of getting stuff done by just talking about it publicly that reminds me of the idea of looking for love in all the wrong places. I was discussing it separately with Tamar for a thread about content and republishing she started on G+ yesterday.
    The whole “exposure” thing in exchange for hard work given for free preys on emotions. It’s the insecurity for authors and ignorance and selfishness for the people who want and need to fill their streams with content, but do not want to go through the rigor and work of actually writing, producing, or paying for it. Where thinking, planning, and consideration play a role, that’s a conversation that requires skin in the game. Most people love the game, would rather skip the skin. So it’s beyond even discussing the questions to even admitting there’s white space in asking…

  9. It’s more than just the company we keep Valeria, it’s the entire Web. From the outset, everything has been geared to our interests feeding us links and content where our history demonstrates interest. Maybe, bit by bit, as the technological refinement of relevancy has improved, it chips away at diverse thought. If there’s an argument for print publications, it was that they ostensibly offered a range of content, and with that came different viewpoints. Nice post – though provoking and I enjoyed the link to Ike’s rant – fortunately or unfortunately…I agree.

  10. I had been contemplating a blog post of my own called “whose side are you on?” — with the point being that there aren’t two sides to any issue — but you’ve stated this point so much more eloquently here than I ever could. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” sentiments spreading right now disturb me greatly because, as you say, there’s no critical thought involved in knee-jerk defenses of one’s clique.
    As others have said, this is going in other parts of our 24/7 culture (for example, in politics, where pundits ask the ridiculous question “who won the week?”). But in social media, it’s my belief that the emergence of Facebook’s private groups has exacerbated this. People are sniping and backbiting within a private group’s clubby atmosphere, and then move from private to public conversations emboldened and with new venom.
    I have hope that the majority of the participants in social media won’t get sucked into this sorority rush mentality, and can rise above it and focus on real issues.

  11. Which is where curated content and the role of the editor still play a role. Hopefully, I’ve been providing enough challenging content here to justify coming back because you really don’t know whether you’ll agree or not, yet the material makes you think, in a good way.
    I’ve also had 4 interviews out to various thinkers and practitioners and was hoping to be publishing that material some time in the not too distant future. I don’t always pick people I agree with for this very reason. I do pick people who can have a healthy and respectful conversation.
    Which is what seems to be missing. I’m fine with people pushing back. Where I’m not fine is when they push me around, instead of debating the issues. The lost art of being able to be soft on people and hard on issues!
    Ike’s rant was great. I agree.

  12. Valeria,
    Alexander’s comment actually got me to understand your point more clearly. I think.
    Your idea is that options are being streamlined to our likings, and not diversified, and that it discourages discovery.
    I think it is giving us what we want, like Alexander said. We seek familiar ideas, friends, our village, that makes us feel safe.
    But I think you were also encouraging us to challenge ourselves to have a conversation (stop bullshitting, stop commenting) and share different ideas, because that’s what we need.
    If this is what you were getting at, I would agree.
    If not, well…here’s my two cents.

  13. His execution was just very poor – why slam someone for an idea? Which is the reason I wave a red flag on the observation that lack of critical thinking is making us the poorer. Even in biology, it is the most diverse gene that grows stronger.
    There is also a bigger or meta thought in my post. Which is we better we careful what we wish for, because we might just get it… will the Internet become a pipe just like TV, where we’re streamed what to think about and see only what the organizations controlling the pipes want us to see?
    Strangely, your site pulls up saying “Just another WordPress.com site” like one of the many automated sites that take content from around the web to serve up ads. And I don’t think it is one of those. You may want to have it looked at.

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