Category Archives: Future of Education

Worries of the world: globalized or localized?

What are the worries of the world? I’m not trying to make a thesis out of it, but a Portuguese author once analyzed the concept of micro and macro in a way that made a lot of sense to me. We tend to make small things very big and bigger things very small. Is that me criticizing TikTok? No, calm down, Chinese investors. I know the biggest bank in the world is Chinese, so why would I even pick up a fight? And it’s not about the economy. Or is it?

Most of what we’ve faced in recent years, to be honest, I can barely remember. I was in college, I made friends online, then came Instagram and everything faded away. My relationship didn’t mean the same. The opportunities were all “out there”. And if you fast forward, it seems like people agreed they pushed this a little too far, but you know, for the kids. Not for my generation, who suffers with discrimination in the workplace and family, not to mention neighborhoods.

We might have contacts from far away. That doesn’t mean they live in a different country. And if we look at the stuff that happened globally speaking, we might need to sort of dumb it down. People don’t care so much. And if they do, they wanna talk about it as humans, not professionals of etiquette in front of a camera. Obviously, because people can do many things in front of a camera. But that’s a topic I address too often, excuse me.

So what are the worries of the world as of 2023? Historically, what have they been in the last decade?

1) Wars and military spending

You’ll hear Americans defend that the trillions spent in defense should go somewhere else, and the more you talk, the more they’ll label you. It feels like people think you’re siding with criminals, or maybe you’re just an idiot. Knowing the dangers we have to avoid is essential for Americans, but it’s not just them. I’m sure Eastern Europe has a solid infrastructure that they’re fighting to preserve, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The fact that they call it a “special operation” is nuts. They’re using kamikaze drones in freaking hospitals. What kind of world do we live in where international agencies are incapable of labelling this a terrorism?

But then comes a crucial point: precisely because of military power, the answers are only diplomatic. And now we call diplomacy the funding of war tanks. We could be talking about hot girls, you know. But they really like their equipment. It’s such a small dick analogy. But you can’t say that either. You gotta say “Slava Ukraini”. Curiously, on Linktree, a website I use for my portfolios (that gave me a phenomenal rate of 23 clicks maximum on my Bandcamp), you choose between that and BLM. Maybe living in a majorly Black neighborhood in the periphery would make you feel like you need protection. Maybe you wouldn’t have so much media exposure, because you’re afraid people will find out. And so technology is dropped. There needs to be a study of where technology is not used and why. “Excuse me sir, you say you have two rifles, three handguns, a shipment of 30 tons every year, but your home doesn’t have a flat screen TV?” — and the guy would say: “It is what it is”.

2) Foreign media

Nothing is more annoying than watching an American try to speak Spanish (and how proud they feel because they could accurately make a different than usual sound with their vocal tracts). Across the world, it’s not really like that, we’d like to think. But yes, of course it is. People with heavy accents are cut off from high profile jobs. Period. But when there’s nobody else who would represent that stretch of the economy, they’ll call on them to report findings, speak the jargon and make everyone uncomfortable because they’re not supposed to judge — they judge everything.

Yes, of course I’m speaking of Bloomberg, and I’ll never drop my criticism. Bloomberg has merits, but to have the audacity to ask me to stop what I’m doing and tune in to see what billionaires are deciding to do with my life is absolutely fucking ridiculous. Yet, they’re 24/7. Except on Sundays. Then, we have interviews. And lots of ads. Actually, the ads never stop either. Speaking of which: “you will make aging optional, because when you subscribe to Bloomberg you will have access to limitless possibilities”. I think SBF might have a better pitch.

But it’s far from that. I don’t see people speaking of any foreign media at all if not the American, and from my experience, you just need to switch to the BBC to notice the severe difference. But that might not be in the way you think. Literacy, this word few people know how to use, is about noticing things and making sense of them — knowing what they are, and how to make use of your knowledge. Foreign media in America has a long debate that starts with college applications and is best portrayed, unfortunately, by Hollywood and, today, Netflix. They’re not worried about misrepresentation, sorry. They’re worried about the change in their own industry and how to make maximum profit. And that profit stays in the United States of America.

3) Our kids

Gender identity, sex education, critical race theory, gun control, biology, ethics, literature, performative arts… none of that matters to the right side of the aisle. Unless it’s cheerleaders and basketball. Yeah! Spread those legs wide! Dunk! Let’s get hammered, then I’ll hammer you! That matters. A lot. And yet, they pretend it’s not there at all. Because they’re raised to pretend. The right wing as a whole, and that means on the planet, is worried about profits because they want to raise people like they’re raising puppies. You tell them to sit, they sit. If someone wants to break into your house, they bark.

People are afraid of you as you grow older. Nobody admires you, they fear you instead. That’s Machiavelli, by the way. But it’s way more subtle. Living in this context for so long now, I’ve noticed that no matter what I do, they’ll refuse to admit they’ve made mistakes, even when the mistake was, you know, paying attention to you. It’s their way or the highway (quoting from Limp Bizkit, that band who got famous in the early 2000s for some fucking reason).

It’s funny because I’ve been homeless, and today there’s one fucking pack of pasta to cook and nothing else. No money for cigarettes — don’t smoke, kids! — or anything else. I can’t have a beer. And while I try to understand the economy, all these cars keep passing by, with people on them who could afford them, can you imagine? I’m 33 and I’m still doing the walking. I’m well aware the very least I deserve is a personal Uber and a limitless credit card. Because the rest is pussy. You know how hard it is to get pussy, kid? No? Yeah, that’s because you learned stuff the wrong way. We used to actually get it, not fucking steal it. Prick.

How transparent are public-private partnerships on media?

The Rolling Stones have a masterpiece of a song called Gimme Shelter. On their official YouTube channel, it has, as of January 2023, nearly 5 million views. Another version, very colorful, with the lyrics on the screen, has 95 million. This one’s published by ABKCO. It looks like a celebration. I guess the event of looking at fireworks and being glad that the year was over made some of us feel hope that better things would be on our way. We’re totally fine with the loud sounds and actual bombs in the air, while war is still happening. The reasons? Few can explain.

A lot of people have come forward to popularize the term “streaming wars”. Their good intentions in explaining the phenomenon of people looking for entertainment on screens, but not the TV this time around, made up some interesting debates. But when it comes to things like competition, you might wanna have a second look. After all, if you make a product (in the media, people avoid this notion, but still get the money) and someone else makes a similar one, there’s conflict between the parts. But they have an underlying principle: if it’s a conflict in the field of entertainment, both sides agree entertainment is good.

But who’s going to say that certain kinds of entertainment are actually bad? Sure, this kind of thing brings engagement. But we can’t even talk about restriction zones here without stepping into legal requirements and hard-liners of speech moderation (some, granted, with a much valid cause). Would you look at videogames? Kids were handed controllers and told to go kill some people. Boys, mostly. An incentive to bravery? A trigger of action and promptness of decision? An exercise in strategy calculation? The arguments in favor are many, but that doesn’t take away the fact that the theme is violent.

Now, we don’t know what exactly the metaverse wants to do. What we’ve heard was that you could listen to the same music together, for example (and hey, that actually sounds pretty amazing). But as a very naïve musician, who cares more about the music than promoting a product, I’m more inclined to show people what Snarky Puppy did when they invited everyone into the studio and gave them some amazing headphones, instead of sharing their thoughts on not-so-great immersivity “conquering the world”, as per Pitchfork reporting on the future of music.

That reminds me of an interesting thing about the company once simply called Facebook: as a mission, the company talked about accountability, while Twitter talked about transparency. Anyone remember that? I might have merged the two realms. But when I started following the whole thing more closely, I was recently graduated from college, and changing homes, when Mark did Facebook’s first Public Q&A.

It’s noticeable that Sheryl Sandberg is still there, and that questions should be forwarded to them as they go through the event; also that the very first is related to the need to install Messenger as a separate app in order to see your messages on Facebook. This, of course, was before disclosures about private messaging being targeted by advertisers were made public, something this blog has written about; also, before the Congress hearing where Mark Zuckerberg infamously says: “we sell ads” to explain his company’s near hundred billion profits. If you wanna watch, click the video from 2014 and enjoy an hour of stuff that’s probably not relevant anymore — or be an adult and try to analyze the changes and evolution of these debates, which weirdly seem like historical events. While this is a corporate event, it’s also the biggest company in the world and its CEO coming forward to talk about user issues.

Twitter, arguably not less than Facebook, was pressured too, in a few, not just one Congress hearing (4 hours, everyone).

Now, you may ask: what’s the purpose of asking people to watch these insanely long videos, on a blog, while everyone knows what’s happening today is TikTok, where people get bored after 15 seconds? Firstly, I’d like to say, people are different. Second, people can change. Third, people can be prompted to change, and by association, there are people responsible for guiding others in at least an attempt of showing them ways they can nurture critical thinking. For English learners, I think these are great material sources: we have better informed opinions on these platform issues today, and we’re able to comment, also given that they’re familiar topics. The other argument is that witnessing how these people responded to huge debates on the future of communications, our biggest collective obsession, is undoubtedly going to make you learn some new stuff.

But transparency and accountability are concepts to explore. I don’t mind making it personal: until recently, I didn’t know exactly how much money Facebook operated with. And maybe you’ll struggle figuring out what revenue is against profit, try to understand more specific terminology, understand that Q1, for example, is just one quarter of the year and that public companies listed in stock exchanges need to declare their earnings, which are just for that particular stretch of the year. An earnings report is a form of transparency; so is a hearing broadcast by a media channel answering to tough questions from regulators. Accountability comes when something needs to be either improved or fixed: when you’re responsible for something, it’s your job to make sure it’s working well — and with social media, we find this sort of paradox where we can’t really tell if we’re looking at reality or some projection of it. Surely, we don’t need to all be transparent about our projections; and we don’t need to be held accountable for a projected reality produced by social media that does not represent the facts of our lives accurately.

Two pressing issues seem relevant to discuss and to keep emphasizing: while whatever’s produced on the web has a living component to it that can’t quite be controlled, because of how easily it’s reproduced (and the question of how is probably for security specialists, but sure, call an influencer), we should own what we produce. Marx, anyone? You know, I struggle with the notion that the man was German; but I still see that when I decided to dedicate myself to writing more often, I didn’t just want to be read by a lot of people, and it had nothing to do with authority either — I wanted people saying: “I’ve always felt that. You put into words what I couldn’t express. Thank you for your work.” That is no different than the lady who stands up behind a cash register every day and just puts the money where it needs to be, but that’s what I say after some lessons in humility throughout my life: I always say thank you to them. A much more complicated issue comes to play when we look at what’s put on the web and how it’s manipulated, with oversight of companies. These companies want profit, and sometimes, their control over our internet experience, which is our communication experience and need — therefore, a basic human right — is precisely what determines their profit margins, at the sake of our mental health and the dismissal of our own bodily responses.

I say that with a romantic mindset. There are certain areas where this is all fun and games, thrill and new. But things can change very quickly — and with the implementation of mass monitoring programs, unfortunately, they have been. At some point, those companies were operating at such large scales that there was no other way than putting the task of regulation in the hands of trained artificial systems; and while we might criticize those, we should be concerned about the dangers we might face and damaging effects of an unfiltered internet. If you think I’m being a moderate, you just don’t realize I’m a particularly sensitive man. I come back to the song: something as ugly as war is closer to us than ever before — maybe not geographically, for some; but it’s all over the news already. If you see the metaphor, small actions can provoke immense conflict, and maybe we should all try to catch up on what the motivations to those might be. The machines are; but are we just going to look at beautifully presented graphs?

Jack Dorsey, in the 2018 hearing linked above, faced some of these less dirty and raw questions, and I think it might be in the public interest to debate them — after all, we’re in 2023 and everyone knows, I think, what happened in 2018. No? Just me? Just Brazil? Well, anyway, here’s a summary of the first 30 minutes of that conversation (and you can judge for yourself, as well as my mental health for being simply unable to go back there to watch the rest, but I swear I’ll try):

1) Shadowbanning

“Have you heard of Google?” Well, we all have. But we don’t know a ton of stuff, if you’ll excuse the strong language, about its inner workings. Twitter, a minor operator in comparison, defined the role of the company in holding back visibility of specific accounts as non-existent. My mass is non-existent (I’m anorexic). A smart guy asked a question and said that the opposite of shadow banning, and apparently a role of Twitter, would be “augmenting voices that may otherwise never be heard”. He kissed. And then he slapped: it also allowed unprecedented speed of misinformation to circulate on the platform (a study from the MIT showed), and then he played a card: it was questionable how the company worked to prevent “malicious foreign influence”. Draw your own conclusions.

2) Impartiality

Not a populist, Jack Dorsey stated, however, that “Twitter will always default to open and free exchange” in his opening statement. I mean, do we call on the TMZ? Who’s the guy dating? We all want to know. Maybe he’s self-sufficient: bucket of ice do the work for him. Who knows what kind of pleasure the man derives from that. Maybe it’s the feeling that he’s saving the world, because he’s so hot and he feels guilty, cause he’s also such a good boy, and so he does his part in preventing global warming. Buckets and buckets. Constantly.

3) Opinions and behaviors

The man also says that the team is “always looking for patterns of behavior”, which includes blocking. Hold on a second. Did you say crypto? No? Ok, just checking, cause you know that’s not cool anymore. Opinions are a thing of the past, today we have icons that you click on. Let’s modernize this biz. But notice how generic “behavior” is. In a public hearing. Creepy?

4) Amplification

Parallel to shadow banning, there’s a discussion on users “not having the power to amplify a message to an audience that doesn’t follow [them]”. I mean, what’s even journalism? Certainly not people amplifying messages to an audience of people that don’t know them, right? But on top of that, if anyone still appreciates sarcasm, there’s the role of machine learning, and the task of reducing bias. This debate has become so toxic that the best answer will come from a NASA meme. And then another meme, which asks NASA: “are you sure?”

5) Toxic conversations

This one’s more intriguing. Reports about Twitter accounts that included abuse made the platform act on behalf of users. Sure, you might find the current landscape a little grim or slightly less funny — or fun. But they got to work: to promote “conversational health”, they mapped out four indicators: shared attention, shared facts, reception, perspective (in contrast with bubbles and echo chambers). That is according to Dorsey. Notoriously, Jack said about the team at Twitter: “we don’t feel it’s fair that the victims of abuse have to do the work to report it”, and then talked about creating technology to reduce the instances. A noble mission.

There’s an underlying theme in all of social media, apparently: better to prevent than to remedy. But that might not be a clear-cut statement anymore, with people who have started to doubt scientific research (ahem) is the way to do this properly. And among restrictions and prescriptions on the internet, we seem to have moving concepts, but persistent, if not fixed values. Exposure is good, but it can be bad. Visibility works the same way, but you don’t know it until you “earn it”. And so we enter the decision-making area: it seems that whenever ridicule is a road one can travel, they inevitably will. But we’re facing more pressing issues than discussing the fable of the naked king (ahem). A lot of people are naked. So what? Isn’t that good? The human body, a great username from the past of artistic intervention born in the Czech Republic but hosted in Las Vegas, travelled these virgin steps. But who’s a virgin anymore, right? Beyond the ordinary and the confidential, we have an expectation of a less judgmental society that seems to never fulfill itself. LinkedIn showed me an interesting post today, over a week after the beginning of this entry and a tremendously tortuous process: the most viewed TED talk of all time. May its giver rest in peace. He speaks about children’s innate ability and drive for experimentation of the new, through drawing, in his example. But it speaks to us more profoundly, and with British humor. It seems, not a lot of people are capable of understanding nuance. And people have plenty of those. Imperfection, which seems so opposed to the concept of cartooning (arguably a sketch with preserved infant intention), is supposed to be valued. That’s how we know love. It’s also how it may end, but it never does. It wins. It thrives. It hurts, but it heals. The biggest fear of parents today, and grown ups themselves, seems to be the abundance of love. Along with the concepts of memory and affection, care and concern, sensibility and tactfulness which allows its literal nuances and exacerbations, can we build a future where personal lives, political beliefs, interests in general, working histories and positive reputation can speak the same language? We might. If we close our eyes, roll them and let the future be present — a public interest, but a private business model documented for a ridiculously selective few, in charge of selection itself. Time for change, don’t you think?

Sustainable economy and lifestyle

The phrase is difficult, but everyone’s talking about the concept of sustainable economy: to preserve is to take care of something. You might want to preserve your kids from frenetic scrolling. Maybe you think they’re supposed to play board games. From a different perspective, sometimes you find yourself in the supermarket. You don’t have children, so you observe this little guy asking for chocolate. The mother explains: “no, we’re taking your cereal, which already has chocolate in it, so that’s it.” And of course we all love chocolate. But will everyone start going to Google to see who the main producers are? Maybe someone wants to find the place of manufacture and investigate working conditions. That’s what they did with Mondeléz.

For a company who has around 29 billion dollars in revenue every year, the stakes are high; but besides the African story linked above, they’ve suffered a loss with the Ukrainian conflict. It seems they have plenty to worry about: reports of working conditions have led to unionizing in the US, and the response from the company was to fire the organizer — which was reported by Reuters as illegal. Just when you thought you knew enough about cookies. I don’t know about you, but I think 30B is a lot of money for snacks.

Mondeléz is most famous in Brazil as the maker of cookies like Trakinas.

The mother in the supermarket wouldn’t teach her son or daughter about the economy, but maybe later in school, they’d have to look at sustainability in the environment. They’d have to analyze a global picture, and maybe names like Greta Thunberg would come up in the debate. A social media icon with appearances on television and many events devoted to climate change debate, she’s gained popularity — and so has the cause. A sustainable economy, however, will drive the conversation back to how dependent we are on fossil fuel.

You can pick any topic: crypto, fintech, phone manufacturing, programming languages, remote learning, dating apps, AI. All of these things seem very up-to-date, but maybe they don’t reflect our reality. Brazilians need to learn how to discuss a new economy. First, it seems logical, they would need to learn about the global economy; then, look at strengths and weaknesses, and follow their passion. That can be a beautiful story, and maybe that’s how Facebook came to life, with Eduardo Saverin as co-founder.

It seems we need to be looking at the future with less distractions and a more sharp focus. Even if that means a drop in our quality of life, we’re going for bigger issues. People talk about freedom of speech, but look at what these kids in Ghana do for a living. Shouldn’t it concern us, as human beings who love comfort and safety? We can talk about sustainable economy, sure. But if economic models include exploitative conditions, we should prepare for a fight. And a lot of people are looking at tech this way.

But it’s not just the tech. This blog has talked about the frustrations of being an English teacher in a country where 5% are fluent. If Brazil wants to present solutions to the world, it’s not just a biodiversity question, or solar energy; in terms of culture, the language alone plays an immense role. Our music, literature and urban language have peculiar characteristics that people need to know about. And so everyone thinks about tourism. I’d love to talk about my latest trip to cities nobody’s heard about, like Brno in the Czech Republic, Wrexham in Wales, Lelystad in the Netherlands or Bethel Park in the United States. I can’t. Can you guess why? Because my lifestyle is not sustainable.

Maybe we should think about what’s compatible, instead of sustainable. The lemonade thing. Squeeze me and I’ll say good things about my country. I do have an interest in finance, but not to the point where I can’t miss a fresh analysis of whatever the basis points mean. The idea of investment is more related to my time than my money, for very obvious reasons. And so we should all normalize that: stop thinking everything’s a big deal. In the end, you got bills to pay, and you feel a certain way.

But when we’re thinking about the context of work, I’ll give you my version: I’m currently not on Facebook. I do use Instagram, and also WhatsApp; just not the blue thing where my family posts regularly. I’ve decided not to participate in the family group on WhatsApp — I thought that was the ultimate, most blatant invasion of my privacy. And so I’m looking for alternatives. When there’s nothing else to eat but chicken, I like to make some risotto with vegetables I can find. I always put too much salt, and feel like a useless human being. Then I remember I can just buy some cookies.

The problem is that I buy cookies with change. I’m unemployed right now, just posting blogs because I want to reach people — so badly. But my reality is: this company makes 30 billion dollars selling cookies. I collect coins to buy a pack, the cheapest one, for 2 real. Not two billion, obviously, not two million, not two thousand. 2 real. Cents that circulate among beggars in the street, addicts and so on. Just to remind you, 30 billion dollars is 150 billion real as of December 2022. And isn’t it crazy how these numbers are always changing?

I think I’ve focused so much on this task of educating people with media that I sort of became an edible chocolate bar. Not healthy, doesn’t actually feed you, but feels so good to get out of your routine. Unless you think this is all crap. Maybe I should stop talking about rich people. But you see: we’re supposed to care about how sustainable the economy is… for whom? We’re supposed to take care of ourselves! And the tech issues I mentioned are just an example. Think about relationships. Trust, affection, true love, care, bonding, getting to know each other, small acts of kindness. Then you have distrust, talking behind one’s back, lying, cheating, abuse, aggressiveness, games. Cookies aren’t gonna help. Your relationships should be sustainable, healthy, beneficial. And then I think to myself that it’s nice to eat at a restaurant with your significant other.

Social media stress? Let’s start with age.

While the world turned its attention to COVID, Ukraine, inflation, Twitter and the World Cup, I knew I had a story, despite the stress on social media. The big companies were investing in the metaverse, but that conversation never really happened. Why would they do that? Isn’t that just some kid-friendly alternative to parenthood? I mean, put them all in a virtual space, moderate the language, and they won’t have the burdens of managing block lists. Of course, that was the entire purpose of not showing anything below the waist — but an alternative was what we all looked for. This escape from reality might have seemed foolish, but most people didn’t think it through (knowing general statistics of use, analyzing recent psychology data) and complained about the graphics. Actually, people were sick and tired of marketing on Meta platforms, so they demanded quality content.

The solution, they said, wouldn’t come from artificial intelligence. That can’t be trusted: look at TikTok and how quickly young populations get addicted to it. The behavioral perspective came into scrutiny; but the tools designed to capture more eyeballs, less so. People are right now discussing a ban on TikTok, but that was very early on and it came back into public debate. A Chinese company collecting data on young people can’t possibly happen. What they seemed to miss, though, was that the rhythm of interactions amongst the youth was in fact getting faster. Analysts might propose another debate: how quickly we bond. And psychologist would complement: what constitutes a bond, these days?

The paths people take

I’m among the people collecting data on the youth. And I actually got banned from social media for that reason. It seems that people forgot that was my premise, since 2011, doing research on social media. Without a book to publish, I relied on the academics who knew about my intentions to recommend me a path. I remember, back in 2008, asking a senior professor, Ângela Rodrigues, who got her PhD in 1987, about future research. I learned all my life that you call the elderly the equivalent of Mrs. It’s not like Americans do; it’s something for the elderly exclusively: “senhora”. So I said: “Mrs. Rodrigues, do you think I should study in the Social Sciences building?” And she smiled, answering that was a great idea. I never knew I’d be shifting from transcription of speech to social media analysis.

Today, they advertise me a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Michigan. The concept takes me to the world of “social assistance”, which in many cases we associate with mental health. And my last conversation with my therapist Adriana was very clarifying. I guess I chose a more difficult path. I wanted to participate in decisions taken by social media platforms, because of my background. Maybe I saw myself pointing out that humor is like that because it’s always been: look at the classic poetry of Catullus. Since Ancient Rome, people have used dirty words. Even in poetry. But my job was to investigate how often, with who and where from.

The challenge of contextualizing

When COVID struck us, America was living under the Trump administration. We had witnessed, or at least heard about, a “trade war” with China. Much later on, they’d talk about the shortage of semiconductors — nothing to do with how much you sext. And we’d hear that the major grain producer in the world was suddenly seeing a supply chain interruption. That led prices to spike, and geopolitical tensions, with gas prices following up, to be more widely debated. In the midst of that, people were looking for entertainment, from their homes. But they wanted to understand what was happening too, and a lot of people thought at least one social media platform was designed for that. It’s hard to sum it up, but we’re all trying.

Ask an average American teenager if saying the N-word is alright. This kind of discussion is essential, but we can’t change the culture, especially when there’s a notion of who’s allowed and who’s not. We enter the zone of freedom and restriction. Americans don’t like restrictions on them — it’s the free world. But you’d have to think twice when your companies are responsible for global policy. And that’s where the big problem lies. Accountability, so it seems, was for the people using platforms, not for its creators. We fell for a scheme. Our data has already been sold. Our activity, analyzed by every angle, makes a new company create strategy somewhere in the world, and that’s beautiful. And what are we doing when we question that? The data is the solution, not the problem. But who’s taking a closer look?

Social media policy, education and age-related stress

When I was creating my pedagogical material, I thought about something that happened in my life. I was talking to an underage girl for the first time. I was about 21; at the risk of censorship, I’ll just be honest like I always have and confess that she was 15. But I didn’t learn that until, well, we were past the greeting phase, so to speak. And today that’s an opportunity for the smart; the biggest headache of your life for those who chose that more difficult path. You’d have to look at it the way they do: if people don’t know how to start conversations, let’s teach them — we can charge for that.

Nobody seems to realize that’s barely necessary: everyone has profiles containing all you need to know about them (if not on the surface, in the data collected). But we don’t run technology companies: we’re average internet users. And once we get past the greeting phase, where do we go? That’s my actual job. How to build solid argumentation, how to avoid taking pauses when you speak, how to connect your thoughts clearly and naturally. It turns out that this girl was asking me for something: “I want you to call me a slut”, she said. My conflicts were too big to accept that I wanted her to be satisfied with our virtual play, but I faced them with a whisper, and said the words. She dropped the call. We never interacted on social media, because of the stress.

Different age, same issues

You might wonder: did she want to hear a more masculine voice, sounding like a guy who’s in charge? But of course you’ll point out: “so, let me get this straight: how old was she, then?” — and I would have to say I don’t remember. And that’s the reason why I don’t include a discussion of the word “slut” in my pedagogical material. Far from my personal narrative, my work is where I refer to policy that I think needs an update, but use a lot of moderation to address what nobody’s addressed yet.

Maybe I need a change of mindset. Working in America, of course my videocalls would pose a security risk to myself — but how exactly is it any different here? If I was among teens, I could play a game: “we have some words here, and I need you to put them in the OK circle or the NOT OK circle”.

They would need to discuss among themselves. You’d barely talk, just observe. And maybe you’d be surprised. I don’t speak English as a first language, but I tend to think that they’d be okay with “bad bitch”, “baddie”, “hottie”, “daddy”, “babe”, “thick” and so on. Is it the role of the teacher to ask: “so it’s okay if someone calls you a bitch?” — and then hear them explain: “I mean, yeah, it’s not a bad word for me, but a baddie is more like a girl who does what she wants, so I’m totally fine with it”. And the thick girls would get called thick and that would be fine. I wonder if that would cause social media stress.

Real life and media projections

But that’s not how the world sees it, and not how policy makers do either. Maybe that’s because of social media attention. Call someone famous a slut because of an Instagram picture, and watch what happens. You might get banned if you do it too often. You’ll get reports and the platform’s AI will send you a warning saying that “people don’t use this kind of language”. Disinformation, ladies and gentlemen. They absolutely do. And that’s the soft version of the game, as I’m sure you’re aware. Misrepresentation of teens can has been addressed within the media and within the legal frameworks, but not exactly as the core reason of moderation agencies, and probably not a minor point of stress at a social media company’s decision-making working spaces, not the spaces of regular users on social media, who might take this very seriously — or not.

We’re having to deal with a debate that says it’s okay to call your recently added contact a “whore” (if she’s showing interest), but not a “disgusting whore” (because, obviously, that’s detrimental to the pleasures of interaction, dangerously aggressive and demeaning). Twitter policy was updated so that users would be prohibited from using “dehumanizing language”. And we have to wonder: where’s the research? As of now, it’s in the hands of the second richest man in the world. Things happen fast, don’t they?

WFH, NSFW and social media stress

I’m just gonna go trashy for a bit: “wanking from home, no stress from work”. Seems legit? Of course that kind of language comes from a certain construct and niche. The people who were first looking for other people to have a flirty conversation might know more than you do. But first of all, not everyone uses the word “wanking”, and we seem to find a problem with those who are opposed to the practice of masturbation by all means. Second, of course we know it’s working, not wanking, that puts money on your bank account — not the wank account. If only there was a wank account… but here’s the last part: “not safe for work” is a term that users found to describe sexual content. How did we not notice that imposing work policy in our homes would become an issue?

Needless to say, the cases of domestic violence sore high during the worst periods of the pandemic, because people were just not getting along very well. We need our friends. We also need privacy. When deprived of these things, we became a wreck of nerves. But it wasn’t only that: in China, they made biometrics for everything, and today we see news about how you need your phone to use the subway. Should we copy that model? Americans certainly don’t think so, but Alexa wants to be in your toilet. Doing what, you’d wonder? Maybe that’s the appeal from Peloton, isn’t it? Such a great idea.

Problems you could be facing

Instead of feeds of news, you’d get a monitor of your health. At 2PM, you have a meeting. At 5PM, you’ll check on progress with a synchronized Calendar. Then you might be ready to go home, or have to stay in for a little longer. But you see, you’re not in the office. You might be ready to go watch TV. And what if your kid is playing X Box? Imagine if, in those massively online games, someone takes over their account that ends up compromising your work.

Instead of an earnings chart, or a marketing funnel with a projection of CRM, you’d have Kirby, Thanos or maybe an AK47. That would be distressing, wouldn’t it? But that’s not related to social media — the stress you may get from the situation of being at home and attending to way too many things at a time might be the reason why you’d feel on the verge of a breakdown.

Of course, there are many distractions at work. But the office used to be a space where people focused on their task at hand and the management informed the highest performances would be rewarded. Not everyone works at an office, of course. Then, it begs the question: what’s our reward? You’re probably baking bread all by yourself, if you live a happy life; maybe you’re asking for a lot of delivery food; if you’re not unemployed and on the margins of society, maybe at a lower level you’d open a tuna can and mix it with mayo, then some crackers to follow. But in terms of data, you have to keep things separate.

How exactly do we separate work from social media?

Do we? Should we? While the former refers to the culture, the latter refers to policy in development, constantly updated. The contexts which I referred to at the beginning are routinely coming back on our feeds, and ignoring them became a habit. That doesn’t mean, however, that we’re not interested or do not care. My life is separate from Ukraine. The fact that I eat rice and beans, maybe not quite. What we can do is to focus on the important, practical stuff. But you see, that makes us work too much and forget to live life. The life that a technology-immersed society envisioned for us doesn’t take into account that maybe I won’t be in the mood to get the latest financial developments in Europe. Hell, I’m in Brazil! But the global economy cares.

Social media became stressful when we started comparing living standards, but that only came with the possibility of communication. Naturally, those who could speak the language have led the way; but do these people know where we’re going? It matters to point out: this is, absolutely, an expectation. But most people are planning their next trip, instead of thinking about giving back to their communities.

The social media we see when looking for content on hashtags or accessing what the algorithm machine feeds us is a whole list of “gym” related videos, “hot” girl pictures or even “motivational” quotes to reproduce and “leadership” advice for us to apply. We know that is very different from a personal videocall, where you let go of everything around you. You might stop to say: “that was my neighbor’s kid”, or “sorry, there’s a construction going on here”. Being real, though, we don’t categorize adult content as social media because we don’t want groups of people to know what we’re looking at late at night. And then, what we have is words that sound a lot different than that.

What are social media companies doing, then?

There is a term called “whistleblower“. If there’s anything wrong happening inside a company, institution, conglomerate, enterprise, government: you can speak out. It’s hard to compare Julian Assange reporting on war crimes to Edward Snowden revealing a mass-surveillance program designed to spy on basically anyone with internet access. After them, since we’re talking about social media, came Frances Haugen and Peter Zatko. When people realize an ethical line has been trespassed, they act; but most of us do not, again, because social media has become a synonym of stress for those working closely with goals in security, brand identity and user experience.

In a more routine-based analysis, that might not be a case for concern. Everyone’s enjoying themselves. We laugh at stupid things. We share without caring — which might be a problem, but only if you’re picky. Socials and society are not the same, we all get it by now. Teaching people how to be more honest is probably worth the go. But that’s a role of parents, and some teachers are legally prohibited from doing so. That raises the question: what can we talk about? Aren’t we supposed to, collaboratively, improve social media? Isn’t the whole point to have a safe space for everyone, not just the ones willing to post and manage their content?

With content management, comes content moderation. You wouldn’t like to receive an overly intimate DM, so maybe you’d have to avoid posting a certain kind of picture. Probably because of stress, social media hasn’t done that work. It hasn’t said to people: “look, if this is how your page looks like, but you may get unwanted attention”. Instead, it introduced a list of things you can do. Instagram introduced restriction tools in 2019, but that doesn’t mean what a teenager allows is totally fine. They might have a circle where they allow just about anything, and we just don’t know about it.

But it’s not social media’s role to spy on teenagers. They can talk as much as they want. The problem is split into two main factors: whether to act when abusive language comes into play; whether to inform that language is being tracked. Teenagers took notice. The number of people who prefer communicating by taking random pictures of their ceiling is considerable. They also talk, not type: a case of paranoia, without a prescription or a word with the therapist. But it turns out that robots can help you solve issues, and so can algorithms. If you want motivation, trust TikTok to show you what’s up — or Reels on Instagram.

What these companies are not doing is to inform the population, regardless of age, how their data is an asset. We have new stuff getting traction. It’s not just the news shifting from one place to another; it’s an unsatisfied userbase of real people. Businesses may follow. For example, Pete Buttigieg has joined Post. Neil Gaiman, massively active writer, has gained a major following on Mastodon. These are less talked about events on the internet. But what we still don’t know is whether Twitch is a preparation for other kinds of livestream, for example.

So, what’s the social stress all about, then?

Well, we still need to talk about sex work. But we should reach common ground with the people involved in it. That is a hard task: are you going to contact them directly? How did you get to know them? What makes you think they have the time? If they reply, what’s the conversation going to be like? Do you have a skeleton for an interview? How do you think your questions will make them feel? Are you sure you can publish this stuff? How about the language moderation? Who’s going to be the audience?

We know that not everything on the internet is about sex. Increasingly, productivity tools ask for our data (just a click to sign in from Google) to integrate with other services. Once you do that, you’re good to go — but didn’t they just retrieve information about your entire life? Maybe you just have to accept it. And some people won’t — ever. Some people will say: privacy is an unalienable right of the worker, the citizen and the individual in equal measure. Does that have a solid legal standing? And what does the culture reveal? Further, in a context where so many rights are being taken away, how do you make the argument that this one should stay untouched?

The whole point of stress might be what we wanted to do with our lives 10 years ago and how we look at it now. And you can’t go back in time. Maybe some of us decided to fight for things that are, for sure, going to make the web a better place. The social media stress comes when we navigate different ages and their experiences, but not exclusively. We should think about our own experiences. In the end, we’re not looking forward to learning more about how kids play these days. It might be a problem if they’re carrying a dagger to school. But taking that aside, there’s no reason to worry. Unless we find a video on YouTube where a student practices ripping off a pillow with Swiss knife. Then, maybe some pills can do the trick, followed by a good conversation with mental health professionals.

We watch more than we read. Is this normal?

If I didn’t put storytelling on my blogs, it wouldn’t be me. I’m not a vehicle, I’m a person (and I tend to be boring). So why not get out of the common place and try to grab people’s attention with facts, not numbers? Well, sure: anyone who’s asked to talk about motion pictures is going to go all the way back to Charlie Chaplin. They’d probably skip the entire history of advertising, and wake up when they remember the personalities of Larry King or maybe the very traditional NBC program Saturday Night Live. Talk shows, so it seems, have become part of American culture just like Snickers, Nike and Coca Cola. Except that the whole dynamics of a TV network will show you a range of attention focus that goes from an artist, a host, a topic at hand and a bunch of products.

What I want to make clear, first, is that I have many stories to tell in relation to educational institutions; but today, I have more of a business mindset. What led people to make such and such decisions? How did they assess risk? Who were the people sitting in a sort of board room, advising them? How did mission translate to policy and was in turn applied at every level in a company? So let’s take a quick detour, and then I’ll give you my bits about why we watch stuff more than we read.

The niche called ESL (English as a Second Language)

Here’s the storytelling part: I dated a film maker. I say this in a professional perspective (I still think she’s one of the greatest people I’ve met in my life): a guy wants to teach you the basics of traveling abroad, so he says: “when you’re on your first date, ask if you can split the bill”. And so I think he winks or smirks. That is the advertisement for every independent English teacher’s competitor in Brazil and all the companies as well, by any standard. As for its owner, it suffices to say that he’s reached the 7 figure landmark, then doubled that, with investments in foreign capital and sell-outs (which, if not granted with immunity from top PR, would make him feature on other sorts of news stories). Interviewed by Forbes, recently, about the secrets to successful entrepreneurship, he says:

Go with ambition. Don’t confuse that with greed, where an individual does anything it takes to reach a goal, regardless of the methods or whether people get hurt. I’m talking about your appetite, which is connected to your purpose and your most noble motivations. Also, if you want success, you need technical knowledge: that has more to do with focus than academic background. Lastly, you need to thrive over fear. Determination, persistence and the ability to overcome frustration and betrayal are essential ingredients of a great journey of entrepreneurship, where you have to show malleability and patience.

Flávio Augusto da Silva, Brazilian businessman

When the guy was making the top decisions in the company and I played a minor role as a teacher, though it was a considerably busy commercial hub in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, everyone (from teachers to coordinators to students) thought that the idea of creating original materials for study was crazy, with a variable pinch of lame, depending on who you asked.

They had this whole DVD series that students received to follow with the study books, 4 bulks of around 300 pages each, and the preparation for classes was watching 10 minutes of an episode of “That’s all about fame“, a series produced by a less talked-about man, who happens to be black and homosexual but also a father to four adoptive kids, as a low-circulation vehicle points out. And everyone, literally, knows he’s the man who made it all possible. In his words, he describes the creative process, which has to do with his background in theater but also a vast study that includes a Master’s Degree with the New York University, as follows:

To create as a profession demanded that I learned how to navigate in between the extremes of deep sorrow and a shiny joy without losing my way, knowing that my journey was a story in itself and I had to keep things on a scale in order to produce creative work both in melancholy states and in euphoric states. This aspect of creation develops in and around you becoming a voice of its own, but you’re the one responsible for controlling where it goes.

Sérgio Barreto, educator, social worker and the man who made Flávio Augusto a billionaire

But we all witnessed what happened with mass adoption of social media: everyone was able to create content: in the words of consultant Brian Solis, quoted previously on this blog, “people shifted from content consumers to content creators”. And there you have it: YouTube became the sensation of the web — until Facebook took notice. In the meantime, Google itself tried to make people migrate to Plus, but Facebook successfully made its userbase spend time watching videos. That happened on that original platform, but also sharing on WhatsApp and later producing in unprecedented scale on Instagram — which drove interest from marketing companies. That’s where we lost track of things.

The experience of watching is not the experience of reading

Motion entices us. The still pictures are a historical and technological landmark, but maybe people didn’t know how quickly another door could open into massive scale production of film. We don’t have to study Cartier Bresson, but The Sound of Music is a reference not only for the plot. There we have it: the ability to tell a story, in one frame, suddenly got transposed to a wider spectrum. It was not about shades and patterns, or portraits closer to reality — history of art has its evolution. Instead, what we had were narratives, and human emotion expressed not just in one recognizable facial feature, but many. A variety of exchanges, bringing to literature what it couldn’t before: a life of its own, more recognizable. Soundtracks were produced with the techniques and tools of the time, but that didn’t stop people from being touched deeply. And so dialogues, interpretation, sectionality or photography as a technique in motion pictures, as well as soundtracks, were scrutinized.

To be accurate, Cartier Bresson passed away in 2004, while The Sound of Music debuted in 1965. Regardless, we know that the Hollywood enterprises only grew bigger. The ability to captivate audiences of all kinds, due to high demand, made people suddenly look forward to more formats and genres. Television tried to capture everyone, every day. That was a hard task. And so movies began to gain some sort of space in our subconscious, like fiction writing used to.

Of course, as this blog has previously mentioned, reading was not exactly widespread until a certain point in time, much less fiction. What happened was a tendency for news media to try to occupy people’s minds with whatever was happening in the world — at the top levels of decision-making. That tendency, if we fast forward to the internet age, makes the influence of mass media easily identifiable for the people searching for implicit biases and stories not told. Today, we talk about fake news; the problem is that, with social media, our lives became the spectacle.

While I may want to see a picture of the sunset when my friend just woke up, maybe I just need some rest. And then we have to catch up. There’s not only this one friend who likes to run early in the morning and always captures the moment: there’s hundreds, maybe thousands of people — some of them, complete strangers. And we still need to catch up. How about turning to what’s really important? Traditional media, which is not the social, but tried and succeeded in incorporating itself onto it, brings you the latest. And what if we just don’t care? The internet made it perfectly fine to wake up and watch a dog doing something stupid — it could happen in your own home, and so you can share it. We have become the producers. But do we take good shots? Are we master framers? Can we build a narrative? Can we put music on a score and carefully design the experience of our viewers to engage with our content in a way that is, like motion pictures, inciting?

The answer might tend to hell nah. But at the same time, more and more people are sharing videos, and they dominate social media (although, through the means of logics or corporate level intervention, they’ve become considerably shorter). Nobody’s going to sit for an hour to watch you talk about your life. But they might, if it’s an artist’s biography or a documentary. You never know — and everyone has a different interest. For education, that raises many questions: are we supposed to teach kids how to inform, like journalists? Are they supposed to look good in a talent concert presentation, or maybe in a sports competition? Because yes, these will all go to freaking Instagram. And what about the conversations, and more than that, observation? That’s what reading entices, without a direct competition with film, but more accurately through the power of words alone.

You are what you read, but who are you?

If we teach teenagers that the best way to learn how to make a solid argument is to read comments on social media, we’re all doomed. What companies seem to be doing is to monitor conversations, and then offer solutions. But these are not conversational solutions, but software solutions instead. We enter a completely new realm: instead of fiction and all its genres, you can be a great writer — of code.

Maybe they don’t want us to know what they’re talking about. I mean, of course they don’t — would you? But their conflict-solving strategies might shock you, if you don’t at least entertain having a good conversation about habits. Considering the problem with gender-based violence, and that being expressed in speech more frequently, ask your daughter how many people she has blocked on social media. The response might surprise you, but are you going to ask why? You’ll probably hear: “they were bothering me” — but how so?

If teenagers had narratives written for them (and maybe by them), this would all be more relatable, to use a common word these days. Here in Brazil, you don’t ask a teenager to analyze the historical context when Castro Alves wrote — except you do. The lesson is clear: they have to learn about slavery, which ended on paper in 1888 in our country. In turn, just to make sure we include a range of authors on this blog that aims to foster cultural exchange, young Russians are not memorizing Pushkin; the British youth aren’t quoting from Ezra Pound; Americans are not interested in Salinger’s style, the German girl whose picture you just liked isn’t going to reply to your DM with a quote from Kafka and neither is the French goth you were stalking all night suddenly going to start following you because you quoted from Baudelaire. But maybe (and this is just a stretch of a theory) someone from Chile might appreciate the fact that you researched Isabel Allende, being from Brazil.

Tumblr is one thing, Reddit is another. News are all over the place, and over time, we form opinions. We can follow the authors and journalists we like the most — even the artists! The world can be beautiful, and they show us love and appreciation all the time. Not just them, your idols and role models, but your peers. And sometimes, you might stumble upon a post from a friend describing exactly what you’re feeling, or how you’ve felt. You’ll reach out to them, and just say: “thank you”. And these little moments are what make social media worth it.

Nobody’s watching what you watch (because that’s highly personalized)

It might be true that our watching habits became, on a very modest account, dispersed. This blog needs a break from addressing the controversies and taboos of pornography. Just draw your own conclusions — or search for data. You know what? Why don’t you talk to the people involved in this business? I don’t care. Because I’ve never even watched pornography more than 3 hours a week (I think that’s a rough average, but it might be less). Meanwhile, you have teenagers reporting 20 hours of screen time every single damn day. And we, as educators, need to offer solutions. As scholars or activists, and content producers or creators or maybe just creative people; rather, as people who have, inherently, creativity or creative impulses, we need to point out that compensation matters. Remember the video?

But on the other side of the equation, we have an entire scientific approach that takes data into bulks of organizational tasks performed by machines, and at maximum speed, provide us with products we consume. These products are advertised by people, entities, governments, industries of all sorts. Some of these products are within the very platforms we use (which is against the law, by the way). But we all know that YouTube popularized the combo “please don’t forget to like and subscribe”. With those simple clicks, machines go crazy. They calculate rates at which we’ll be most likely to consume a certain kind of content, and our levels of investment on them. Shoshana Zuboff, who this blog has quoted previously, associates this practice to the “futures market” — not just a fancy term, but a whole thing in finance. That means big banks want to control what you do on the internet. Will you do as told?

It matters, needless to say, to break away from cycles in which companies control our consumption of popular content and reinforce these for maximum profit. Twitter, when it still mattered, pivoted, when the word still meant something, to user choice in the feed: you could see the latest or the tailored ones. And then things got a little off hand, but how could they have predicted that? They probably did, but then the entire staff had to leave because of a rich man’s ego. Let’s not forget that this man wants to create the “everything app”, where all services will connect seamlessly; but somehow, he’s the one making the most money and holds power to veto anything he wants.

Short or long, nasty or informational, boring or inspiring, colorful or eerie, videos have become part of our language. Communication, including interpersonal (and without a need to classify the institutional and so on), has become dependent on cameras and software tools or apps. What we make of it — more of the same, less of the toxic, a sudden change in everything — is up to us. But we’re seeing a world that relies too much on the technologies we see today and forgets to seek knowledge that has been around for maybe centuries, like the classics we all ignored in school because we wanted an entire night on Snap with 10 different people (or something of that nature). Non-fiction will teach us loads about our recent history, coaches have the right words to hit us when we need, poetry can shed a light on our entire perspective about life and living things, different genres of romance literature can make us see how much of our problems were common ages ago, philosophy will help us understand how societies evolved, and the list goes on and on. We may read from other sources, but we’re more interested in telling people what we know, and that ethical failure hasn’t been emphasized enough. That’s the kind of problem society needs to tackle, and preferably, without a TikTok to explain your behavior.

Image: tgilbers (Flickr Creative Commons)

More faces, less books: are we going somewhere else with digital literacy?

If you’re a man or a woman on the internet, inevitably, you’ll be led to explore certain trends on sites you’d never want your parents to find out you were visiting, and that’s a fact regardless of your age or profession. Well, at least, it was supposed to be, until Pornhub’s community manager Aria Nathaniel narrated how she told her mom she was working for a porn site, a topic mentioned by this blog previously. Inevitable is a strong word, but in this kind of “niche”, you’ll learn some new words, for sure. And then you’ll learn more. It’s not appropriate to address the tone and language while we’re debating a better public discourse practice, but it’s worth mentioning that the private talk is supposed to be private; then, remind you that certain “niches”, so to speak, will lack careful consideration on the kind of strategy used to promote their content. As they make more of these and content consumption starts to convert into practice, we enter a sort of danger zone: are we supposed to think that what we saw online is going to happen in real life? When it comes to sex, that is obviously a sensitive topic. But there are subtleties — always.

Take a look at Instagram’s explore feature. We know there’s an algorithm that makes us see certain things on top, according to what we’ve liked previously — and a sad lack of disclosure from the company on how previous data is inputted or not to configure this experience. If you take that into consideration, you’ll start to think that your activity linked to an email was compiled and translated into a bulk of suggestions; but that didn’t happen since the Android boom: Gmail required your sign in. Before that, we only had IP addresses, but let’s bear in mind that people in general didn’t even know what the hell that was — and many still don’t. We can choose a path: to address lack of knowledge of basic concepts in technology or to require people to know everything about digital in order to be successful, pretty much in anything. A number of exceptions granted, we’re choosing the latter. If Instagram was more of a Flickr, we’d see a lot more pictures of streets, buildings, trees and cloud patterns. It’s safe to say that a considerable number of posts will instead display people’s faces.

What data says

A study on body image conducted in 2020 by the Florida House Experience, “a healthcare institution that delivers quality, medically integrated personalized treatment for those suffering from Behavioral Health Disorders”, gave us some important data to look at, not from the perspective of tech companies, but of wellbeing. For tech companies, it would never be valid: only 1024 people answered the survey. But among the findings is the fact that over 50% of people need more than 20 likes on a selfie to feel good about themselves; the average number of pictures they take before sharing their favorite varies from 2 to 5. Considering that almost 3% of women only feel good with over 100 likes, you’d wonder who are the people with Snapscores above the one million milestone. As it turns out, Snap took notice and decided to protect sensitive information, but that is according to California Law and only applies there. If you can think less about the numbers and more about the context, it’s pretty simple: people are talking, and their conversations are, let’s put it this way, “sensitive”. But then, of course, now we have the numbers. If 3% of women need more than 100 likes to feel good about themselves, how many of those likes will convert in a DM? This isn’t addressed in the 2020 study. Also, it refers to Instagram, not Snapchat — a platform that started out with the basic principle of bringing privacy to conversations, which disappeared right after the recipient read them.

If you need 20 likes to feel good, you need 20 people to see your content. Chances are you’re going to have a larger number of people you’re following in the hopes of getting followed back, and with a strong enough network, your follower count won’t ever be a reason for feeling unseen. But chances are just that: chances. Let’s imagine a scenario here: it’s late at night, you feel chatty and bored out of your mind; it just wasn’t a very productive day, you had concerns and things to look back on, but now you want something different. You’re not in a relationship, and you keep thinking that displaying this on your bio would make people see you differently; instead, you have the snap on your insta. First question, parents: why would your kid put the snap name on Instagram? Second question: what’s the content in both? You see, you’ll have to trust me on this one: they don’t want you to know. But I’m not gonna say I do — because that’s just a fact. Even when I tried to understand what exactly was happening with younger generations, exponentially connected to more people every day, but in almost equal measure, rejecting connections and building bias in the most unethical ways imaginable, I couldn’t really get it. I wasn’t looking to understand factors in rejection, or ethics as a concept for different generations; it was the numbers that bothered me. I found myself represented, in a crazy but accurate parallel, in the socialist perception that so many have so little while so few have so much. The only possible outcome of my personal analysis, which wasn’t a scientific report published anywhere, was that rich people would hate my guts; but I had to deal with the fact that, for a great number of people as well, I shouldn’t be so interested in that kind of dissecting investigation. As it turns out, I would conclude later, teenagers are just that: teenagers. I wanted to understand how this “bias” is actually purely reproduced racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and generates a stronger than ever trolling culture, with connection to the most awful practices of web participation. But there were always other factors at stake.

It’s not just exposure

When I noticed, long ago, that body positivity was gaining momentum on the internet, I was getting less attached to my romantic partner, precisely because of the internet. I also wanted to stay away from “mainstream” platforms like Facebook, because I just didn’t want to share my thoughts with everyone on my network. My Instagram used to be quite random: subway shots, street signs, a house with the warmest shades of red brick I’d ever seen, cats looking lazy, food I’d just learned how to make, some angle of a musical instrument. Suddenly, a couple picture. That changed a lot. After the breakup, I didn’t find myself taking a lot of pictures of my face (I never liked my own appearance, being honest with myself; I learned to accept it). But I saw other people showing themselves — not like that, but maybe trying to feel seen. Eventually, I came across a whole different trend (thanks a lot, Tumblr): most of the girls I’d met never shared their contact info, but now everyone was using Instagram to show not just the face, but the tongue too. Mind you, that was before TikTok. Why? I never cared enough to know. But then I just tried to put the pieces together: showing off their bodies wasn’t acceptable; showing off their faces was. Having explicit conversations wasn’t acceptable; making implicit suggestions was. Yes, that’s exactly what you’re thinking: people were associating sex with faces. And I mean, fine. Who’s to judge? Like I mentioned, the “niches” you’ll come across are many. But how often were they doing that?

That makes me think of how the whole thing started. My first internet adventure wasn’t exactly an adventure, it was quite close to a relationship and quite close to an affair. I had to choose — literally. But the details aren’t the point, and it was such a long time ago that I wonder if that’s even true: having assimilated that relationships are built with the basic notion that you’re supposed to disclose most of what you’re doing to a counterpart, I struggle with the definition, and also to accept certain kinds of “relationships” I got into, later in my life. What I want to come back to is that, whether it was an adventure, an incitement, a fling, or a series of situations that “felt like an ONS” (but left both sides crying about it), there wasn’t much of an obsession with facial features. She was very into fashion. Her Tumblr was not easily digestible (most would cringe), but she dressed impeccably. And there you have it: instead of focusing on this aspect of yourself that you don’t want others to scrutinize, you direct them to something else. But it’s not something that started yesterday: artists have started fashion campaigns, advertising products like perfume or clothing, for many years; in fact, the world of advertising has invited in various sorts of public figures, and they obviously were “known faces”; but more than that, they became associated with something else, and that could be anything from a gambling website to a brand of dairy products. In the midst of our routine, we don’t have so much time, as it turns out, to scroll over pretty faces that we like, literally or cabalistically; we do what we have to do. Then, eventually, we’ll need some kind of relief, and that certain “niche” will turn into “fetish”.

You’ve probably seen girls selling “feet packs”. You’ve probably scrolled through “gym” videos. And you’re not required to say what other categories you’ve deliberately searched for — unless you’re reading this from a specific legal point of view. It matters to say that, in terms of laws, data is private and communications are slowly becoming more encrypted; it also matters to say that not everything that is said in private communications is welcome in our private lives, in real life — not just on the internet. It’s a very thin line, but people are too different for anyone to say where to draw the split. What we have to worry about is that not just our faces are being evaluated, to use a raw term. Whether you’re aware or not, everyone has a personal branding hustle and every action counts, so if we’re living more online than offline, the remote worker will be worried about a mistyped phone number on an Excel sheet while the internet influencer will apologize for mispronouncing someone’s name. Is that a good representation of what’s happening on the internet (phone numbers and pronunciation)? Not really. But coming back to Facebook and finally telling the end of the joke, making our profiles look appealing enough has become a skill on demand, while a lot of people who have mastered it can’t seem to understand what a narrative is made of: if those 3% of people who take over 26 selfies a day post every day, they'll collect thousands of face samples a month from one single person, but curiously enough, we can’t tell who can read them or if they’ll be devoted to the habit of reading at all. So less books, cause that’s boring; more faces, cause that’s hot — but can you read them? The joke is that, as of December 2022, Lady Gaga has 55 million followers on Facebook, but most young people have never heard about her. Would you bet on a pair of fives?