Information endurance: a haunting concept for new media

Someone must’ve said on Twitter the other day that people born in 2003 were now 18 years old. I was very troubled. 2003 was a particularly eventful year for me, who used to play videogames every day and go out for basketball at the public square, and I could do an entire blog about the organization that made that possible — but I remember being at work and reading a piece by the NYT, which definitely has a better standard of writing. When I say eventful, though, I mean the year is a reference even for my passwords: it was when my life really started, but that was because of a relationship, and now that it’s been almost 20 years, inevitably a new reality comes to play. Work life is not a thing I can write freely about anymore, because I’m not aware of corporate tools for recruiting, training, assessment of performance and productivity, commitment to the brand or whatever. And if I had to prepare people, as a youth conselor, let’s say, to the world of higher education and corporate culture, I’d try my best, but I know somewhere along the way I’d be the guy who doesn’t understand how the world works anymore.

Maybe we have this thing in common: we play videogames when we’re young. And here I’m reminded of a concept: Mortal Kombat, basically a game for boys, had this thing called endurance mode, where you played against as many competitors as you could, defeating them (bodies shattered in pieces, blood, screams, etc) and facing the next, but without an energy or life refill. That stuff was pretty challenging. But we played against each other most of the time, and to be fair, I only ever played the game in an older version in my cousin’s modest home. His dad was a truck driver, his mom a hairdresser, so naturally as of now they aren’t very much interested in the discussion of Bitcoin or the definition of bull market. But entertainment aside, you know the skills required for the new workplace are increasing in number, and the competition is brutal: in Brazil, we say the companies “chop heads off” when they’re selecting candidates. Despite the variety of criteria in the selection process, increasingly remote, the daily tasks in your professional environment will require indivudual development in areas that most people overlook until they’re tested, and the separation between expectations in your personal and professional life is a reason to put many in a state of constant self-doubt and lack of confidence, unless they know what’s being asked of them or simply look at the data.

You have a right to have assumptions. Girl posts bikini picture? That doesn’t give you a right to DM her saying what you’d do to her between four walls, but a fire emoji is totally fine and maybe she’ll appretiate that. Otherwise, why the hell did she post it? Political figure posts about the importance of ensuring better pay for the working class? You have a right to manifest your support with a button, and that doesn’t mean you’re less likely to get employed by a company who wants to exploit your skill set, energy and life goals. Of course, depending on the frequency, to stay with these two examples, you’ll become public enemy number one (let me quote a song), but that’s something you can handle. Truth is people are bored all the time, and people back then didn’t predict that. They predicted hyperactivity and demand for new professions, but they didn’t see information overload as immediate eye roll. Yet, they’ve already decided on a strategy that makes idiotic content thrive because that’s what people are looking for, apparently (I thought I was applying for a job, but turns out everyone wants to see me on TikTok). While some focus on gender, nationality and roles, there’s always a new update to terms of use when in comes to technology, and we’re supposed to be all on board by now, completely. But the question of trust on social media is almost unanimous: you can’t rely on the platforms, they’re harmful and things have to change. A more recent study shows the relationship between users and advertising, along with their perception of the brand (and here the question of age should’ve been factored in, but I emphasize, it wasn’t). That’s exactly what my research is about, in case you’re still wondering.

While we’re at it, the discussion of what bothers people on social media takes every label: gender politics, privacy rights, race and identity, safety and standards. It’s estimated that in 2021 the number of sent e-mails is going to hit 320 billion per day. Can you imagine if we were to factor in the messages our kids are sending and receiving? Should I follow more accounts on Twitter? Should I be talking to more people, and not deleting my messages? There’s no consensus on how to use the tools we were given, but they are many. It’s just that we’ve already realized there’s a lot we’ll never get the chance to see, and though it’s been widely reproduced that human memory and concentration have reduced to that of a goldfish, we know that’s not a fair comparison: the web is not a fish tank, and your snap map can give you a better sense of your social life than your Facebook feed — I would argue.

The problem with scrutinizing another generation’s habits is always beyond the “cringe“: if you take me, I’m not a parent, but I’ve pointed out repeatedly and excessively that entertainment has many faces and so does company (being together), which makes a case for how problematic your home environment is as well as your family relationships. If a parent says: “go meet people in real life” at the same time as the entire world starts working remotely, you’re not allowed to say “I told you” to your sick dad, let alone your grandma who can’t articulate words anymore. But although psychologists seem to agree that 2 hours of screen time is good enough and more of it can cause depression, they also point out there’s many things you can do on screens — and that’s where we need to go, not exhaustively repeating that the internet is not the real world. It’s about better connections, better experiences, better learning, better work and better relationships; hell, it’s about a better society. But the remote work is going to ask you to do many things in a day, and if you’re ever scrolling Twitter, maybe you’ll feel curious to know what it’s really like to be a journalist.

For all users, social media consumption is part of daily life (and daily life is part of social media). Most people spend from 5 to 6 hours on their mobile devices every day in the United States, but that’s not all people and it’s just in the United States. Brazil actually ranks first in the average of hours spent on apps, according to a recent study. From how adaptable the younger generations are to how much they’re compromised for sharing too much information about themselves and navigating too many different circles of influence, which has been approached by documentaries and journalists repeatedly, the question of how to fix the internet isn’t easy to answer, and whenever it’s debated how the structure is failing us, with lack of legislation on content to be more positive, or the so called “creator economy” being promoted with a badge of inclusivity displayed by forward thinking, judgement-free facilitators, it’s never clear how many people are going to fail at making a living wage and whether their problems are going to be a topic on the news in a best case scenario, and that without even mentioning their names, most of the time.

To abandon social media would ease discomfort and anxiety; to consume better content would make you hopeful for a brighter future. But not everyone wants to share super relevant information all the time, 2 funny videos a day on Facebook, 3 from TikTok on Instagram cause whatever, and still talk to people while performing outstandingly at their job. That’s just not reality — but if we don’t look closely at what the media presents to us, we miss the spectrum of influence that is used for political reasons, with the help of of algorithms that feed you more of the same, or rather, more extreme versions of the same big topic — no need for further explanation, I believe.

The very possibility of interaction with people from different cultures and backgrounds sounds very exciting, until you realize that “how are you” is not a level you’ll reach if the person interacting with you doesn’t like your face, to put it truthfully. So what about connecting the world as a mission? In the midst and hopefully on the way out of a global catastrophe that took more than 4 million lives, it’s more important than ever to make sure that what connects us is the desire to maintain good relationships and functioning structures to serve people with their basic rights and needs, which are not just being online. I argue, education is a key factor; but that discussion is assigned to teachers, who need to reassess the quality of their communication in a world that rewards solid design and marginalizes policy criticism and defiance — but watch out, because machine learning doesn’t guarantee that you can switch from Left to Right.

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