The mass scale of social media made its creators think first about the investor’s returns and profit margins and only then address usability and features. Everyone would post what they wanted, but some basic rules should be followed: sex and violence, treated as equally dangerous “violations” could not be depicted. When it comes to violence, everyone agrees. We’re not here to defend that mass shootings be exhibited on Instagram live. There couldn’t be a more opposed stance for this blog. But when it comes to sex, I’m not watching it live on camera either. I’ve touched upon the world of cam models, which is different, but nobody seemed to listen. Nevertheless, it’s still a violation, but these models have profiles on Instagram and Twitter.
Violence is never the answer. Moderation needs to be there. But when you fail to convince people that you’re right about something, and you realize they’re trying to control you, then you might change your behavior. That’s how most teenagers end up using drugs. The effects on their bodies causes a desired sense of otherness and presents an alternative. When it comes to sex, everyone is online and nobody does that anymore, since we found out that we could be easily identified.
But the question isn’t that. The main problem is everything we do, whether the cam is on or not, is being tracked. The time spent reading a news story is counterposed with the time spent watching cam models. So there is a reputational system. They don’t realize that all the reasons one could have for seeking pleasure, tackling addiction from the equation, aren’t being mapped out. The algorithm doesn’t say: “this user is lonely”. The algorithm says: “this user spent 4 hours watching cams”. And that repeats itself every single day.
If we don’t change the way that we think about social media maintenance, we won’t have a say when it comes to our jobs. Imagine trying to convince people that what you really care about is gender equality, when all you do is watch Pornhub. That doesn’t stick anymore. And they think they’re really smart. They don’t say who’s paying for ads on the site, and they don’t say what’s being done with our data. But they will, inevitably, judge based on that same data. Who convinced people this was fair?
Algorithms might make our experience better, but in the end, even when they’re excelling, we’ll have a feeling that we’re being shown “more of the same”. The need for new experiences is what drives creativity and discovery. We’ll always have that. The recent developments on AI technology invading conversations, lesson plans, customer service and other areas are moving in an astonishingly wrong direction. Algorithms are a form of control. But we control what we do and choose what to say, because that’s the stuff we want. Don’t be convinced of the opposite.
Whenever people say TikTok is a cybersecurity threat, you just wanna go for the deep ends. The last time I blogged, just like the Titanic meme, it was many years ago. I mean, imagine if you needed to wait for my next blog so you had something to do. That would be a bummer, wouldn’t it? I was proud of how I finished my text. But let me tell the joke: instead of a deep ending, I could invest in a deep beginning, and so I’d start talking about, I don’t know, Mariana’s web. Oh shit, that’s a spoiler. Alright, the philosophy of Kant, baby voice version! Here it goes.
This thumbnail shows Kant’s philosophy as a “no gray areas” kind of thing. As this (brilliant) content producer puts it, the author says “what is right is right, what is wrong is wrong, period”. Thanks to Maria Popova, who runs one of the most brilliant blogs in the world, now called The Marginalian, I found out about this video. My thing is whenever I think of a historical writer, I Google Maria’s blog to see if she’s written about it. She always has. And that happens to be a short version of something dense.
So you find that people have been there before you. But what are you talking about? The list of surprises in my childhood vary so much. When I was about 4, I think I saw my dad’s dick. I was 6, I broke my finger. By the time I was 9, someone at school asked me to translate “fish”, “ball” and “cat”, but in Portuguese. Here you go, geeks (or people who never got out of 3rd grade; you never know): those three words translated, in my first language, sound like I’m saying “I just sucked dick”.
Now, is that funny? Yes. It is. So you’d probably see this all over TikTok. And that is the appeal. We care less about children saying the word “dick” than we care about our kids being happy. So we let this one slide. Alright, kid: laugh about the blowjob joke. But what kind of blowjob? Have you actually scrolled TikTok?
This blog has written about the concerns of the competition. That’s what people don’t seem to get. TikTok in Brazil has people saying (to be honest, that was years ago) that teenagers liked to fuck “the brothers in the faction”, and then you saw 14 year olds tease their tiny tits on a top and jiggle their butts on camera at the sound of a videogame gun loading. Is that okay, Bolsonaro?
Why is TikTok a government issue?
I don’t know what the guy thought about that. In fact, in terms of media, we might be about to see what happens. What most people say about TikTok is that it compresses time and relevance. People have become obsessed with the ticking clock and they want to be talking flawlessly.
That lack of imperfection is a social factor that needs to be addressed, but the companies are injecting that into teenage brains, not anyone else.
The other aspect is how messages are heavily edited and it becomes hard to follow what’s being said. It’s literally too much information. For the younger or foreign, there’s a short: “tmi” — and you can probably add the Urban Dictionary to your favorites if you haven’t, or just keep in mind it exists. It speaks very closely to tl;dr. I’ve had to navigate these terms “growing up online”, with expressions like “wdym” (“what do you mean?”) being a puzzle to me — but I always found my way around it.
A third aspect is how that’s going to play out. On the one side, you have too much information (and let’s not even talk about data); on the other, you have too little information. The videos are short by standard, just like Twitter. You see, TikTok observed Twitter for a while, but it also observed Instagram and YouTube. Then it mixed it all together, made the “best algorithm for success”, and got every teenager in the world addicted.
So the question of whether TikTok represents a cybersecurity threat becomes relevant. What is cybersecurity anyway? 2FA? Incognito? Lock screens? Passwords with caps lock? Apparently, it’s not a password manager, and it’s not believing too much in digital money either (just in case someone needs a reminder about LastPass and FTX).
To me, this is absolutely about identity. And what I would personally point out as a cybersecurity threat is the use of biometrics. Do your own research, or maybe ask at the local bank. Hell, we ever had to do that during elections in Brazil. I didn’t. Many did.
Specifically, why is TikTok a cybersecurity threat, and not everything else?
Well, this one’s easy: the big four (Scott Galloway is my mentor) don’t like competition. As this video is from 2015, I think 8 years later we should be looking at how Meta is wasting our money. He does point out to Tumblr as a problem deal; today I strongly think Meta is guilty of fiscal irresponsibility, not in the fashion that Brazilian ousted president Dilma Rousseff was accused of, by using the Bank of Brazil’s money to buy food, but taking 87 billion dollars and investing in some virtual reality.
But why would you care about international context?
If you wanna draw a parallel, I’ll be translating from Brazil’s Veja magazine:
The accusation is that the government delayed the repayment of 3.5 billion Brazilian Real to the Bank of Brazil for the settlement with beneficiaries of the Plan of Agricultural Incentive. With that, The Bank of Brazil had to deal with the expenses from its own pocket, with a bond from the Treasury. This credit transaction, since the government ended up taking a loan from a State bank as the Bank of Brazil, is prohibited by the Law of Fiscal Responsibility. By the end if 2015, in a decision from the Federal Court of Accounts, Treasury finally settled the 72.4 billion that were still late. The main consequence: a deficit of 115 billion in the government’s budget.
I have questions! Was it 115 billion or 72 billion? The magazine doesn’t explain the 42 billion difference in the report. What consequence? Didn’t the payment go through? If you care about finance, it’s one thing. If you care about money, it’s arguably another. Having a credit card, you pay your bills because you have a job — otherwise, you wouldn’t be having a credit card. But go say that in public today. Fintech is the future! Notice how interest rates made a 3 and a half billion loan turn into a +100 billion debt. And again, the payment went through. To whom? It’s safe to say that was the market. But it seems that people forget about that part, don’t they?
And this market build on other things. Dilma had to face, in her own way, what happened when the American government wanted to spy on the country’s communications. The result was to let them, while Americans ran their businesses we treated abusive practices as normal. But they wanna talk about TikTok? Without addressing how much money people derive from data, we’ll never get to the point.
Without addressing the role of marketing in our lives, we’ll never get to the point. Cybersecurity has a lot to do with marketing. There are many initiatives to stop companies from spying on us, the most famous being Ad Blockers, recommended by many.
But what about the young girls dancing?
I’m not here to judge, man. Are you? The girls can surely listen to some better music, but I think I barely understood the Red Hot Chilli Peppers when I was 11. And I actually liked Eminem. I’m not gonna judge the girls, and I’m not interested in supporting their little dance moves either; but you see, I’m far from being their daddy. If we’re talking about Snapchat, though, there’s much to debate.
The biggest cybersecurity threat doesn’t come from TikTok, necessarily. What we face today is companies having access to your every account, without distinction. You can’t just label an Instagram account “just for fun” without calling it “professional”. And that is far more troubling. But we might just get stuck on this idea that if there’s a tick on our cock, you might wanna get rid of it. That might be, indeed, a very serious threat. Or maybe just another blowjob joke.
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):
“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.
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?
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?
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.
The academics are in for a treat. Or maybe not: I bet they’ve paid for the biggest golden retrievers they could find for their grand daughters, and well, with this inflation thing, it’s come at considerable cost the affection you’re supposed to show in gestures instead of cuddling or whatever it is that kids are assimilating these days. One of the most interesting pages on the newly nicknamed “hellsite” was (still is; have faith) “Thoughts of Dog“.
So, basically, of course I have to say that I have a Linguistics background, and I have a faint memory of addressing the whole issue of what that means in America and what it means here (TL;DR: computer languages began to be considered languages like any other, including natural, sign, etc.), but my way of explaining it is that the dog tweets in his or her own rhythm, making pauses marked by dots — and I think the dots are fucking hilarious. But I mean, you have to look at this stuff to understand. The example below was the latest I could find, and it didn’t disappoint me — it made me smile, then laugh, then almost cry.
The account has nearly 4 million followers, and this tweet, by the time I screenshotted it (I hope the FBI doesn’t knock on my door), had nearly 58 thousand likes. And no, I’m not even barely interested in how that translates into all these things people keep shoving into our feeds: “conversion rates”, “engagement metrics”, “analytics”, “marketing strategy” or whatever the hell they wanna write in capital letters to make people feel stupid. It’s a great account. I hope they’re making good use of the money, and honestly, if they’re drinking champagne every night, I don’t fucking care. Amazing stuff.
But then I come into another point. First, you might have noticed that I’m using what some people call “lewd”, “explicit”, “vile” or “inappropriate” language. If that’s you, door is open. For you to leave, just to be clear. Notice how we don’t need articles anymore? “The door is open for you to leave”: that’s a grammatically correct sentence; but awfully rude, isn’t it?
Well, here we are, in 2022, debating whether or not “fucking” has become a mainstream word. Give me a freaking break. And I won’t explore the semantics of “vile” or “explicit”; I’ll actually point out there’s nothing “lewd” about it; that’s completely different and if you want a word salad go run your experiment with whoever’s on the news now talking about innovation. The important thing to remember here is: even grammar is changing; pronunciation always does; with some solid argumentation, you could say rules are temporary and also apply to context. But hey, I’m not a lawyer. You see… I just wanted to say: idfc.
There you go, no caps. Guess who’s categorizing this as what previous linguistic research labelled as “acronym”, which was carefully differentiated from “abbreviation”, but nevertheless still referred to as “short for” the feeling I expressed about how people make money on social media — as long as it’s good content. I could go on, you could jump in, but here’s what I really wanna talk about: literacy.
What is literacy?
I’m not really the best in the field. The concept of literacy in the Brazilian context probably started to take more of a solid shape when prominent educator Paulo Freire started his writings, witnessing levels of education in the country that needed to be improved so that a wide group of people could be properly included in civil society.
Not knowing how to read and write was that divide; but the author didn’t just write, he spent a life trying to tackle issues and even served in office (as Secretary of Education in our biggest city, São Paulo). Knowing a range of Brazilian audiences, it’s predictable enough that someone would point a controversy: why did he go to São Paulo instead of keeping his work in the under-privileged areas of Brazil? But well, maybe these people haven’t read him. He addresses that sort of “dilemma” in his work “Pedagogy of Hope” (on Amazon, if you’re from abroad), and I remember it because it made me nod and sigh and whisper to myself: “yeah… that’s the whole thing: people think we’re trying to be better, but they always seem to ignore how we’re aiming a better society as a goal”.
I know it’s a wild shift, but consider Facebook. Did it contribute to a better society? That’s a high-school debate, I guess. And really, I’m just guessing — I have no idea what high-schools debate these days, and honestly, I have to point out it depends where and if it costs to study there. Notice that I’m not even touching on the issue of investment bringing actual numbers. I could just start rambling about Joe Biden; I won’t. Primarily, because I feel like I can’t; but most of all, because despite how annoying the ranting gets, you can rest assured you’ll learn something new.
So, back to Facebook: it sounds reasonable to say the approach would be better received if we touched upon the history of media. But isn’t that, like, boring? And at the risk of sounding like one of those very carefully scrutinized figures the dating apps and nobody else decided to call “moderates”, aren’t we supposed to address to policy violations, the rampant toxicity in speech and even the concept of polarization and what everyone decided to call “fake news”? There we have it: this is all literacy.
Fake stories didn’t make a first appearance when Donald Trump decided to turn to Jim Acosta and call the network he worked for “fake news”. If you want me to be really boring, I’ll have to get back to you when I find out whatever the hell happened with what people call the “dot com burst”. And no, I haven’t read the wiki — yet, or maybe I just forgot.
Is Wikipedia literacy? Yes. It’s actually knowledge, but to be more accurate, you’d have to say it’s a network where people across the globe have contributed and are still doing so with entries for a very burdensome task of creating a version of the old physical encyclopedias, but somehow more or less susceptible to bias.
Is “bias” a concept in literacy? Yes. But “trust” isn’t. Trust is a concept in life. Bias, because of its media interpretation and considerable, undeniable influence, is tendency to favor someone, often marked by strong language, as opposed to something we should probably know about. And that latter one is my best definition of literacy. So in case you’re wondering, it’s very personal — just like bias, and you can scream all you want.
Going further, it’s “relevant”, today, to know what the biggest apps in the world are. Why? Because communication turned to the digital media massively and rapidly, especially with the introduction of smartphones in global marketplaces. The rules weren’t designed yet; the products were. Here alone, we have much debate in the future.
The example from Twitter is just a funny joke, right? Well, okay. But it’s a funny joke that you probably won’t get if you haven’t spent enough time on the platform, witnessed how communication changed within it, and maybe participated — willingly or not — in some of the biggest interactions people were having. It was too crazy for some people, who preferred other kinds of communication, platform, people. At the beginning, Twitter was all about a short text. For the less well-read (excuse me, I don’t mean to offend), the 140 character format was specifically that because the same length was the maximum for SMS.
Things have changed a bit. It’s going to be very exhausting to talk about image, video, intersect the whole debate with copyright and user behavior, the question of verification, media roles and map out the entire geopolitics of Twitter while speaking an arbitrarily chosen language; but yeah, we have Spaces, for example.
Live conversation, that being speech, on the platform — you can just join and listen, if one of the people you follow is hosting one of those. I personally like it, but this was an evolution from a certain kind of response to both a culture of image, a perhaps separate culture of video, and also long reads that nobody could stand anymore. Communication needed to find new ways to improve. And so came the podcasts. But did we forget about videocalls? No, we certainly did not… and then the concept of “literacy” becomes oddly mixed with “experience”, all in a considerably short timeframe.
Thoughts of Dog is a funny page — for some. A lot of people won’t get it; but maybe, eventually they will. That they don’t laugh at the tweet if you show it to them doesn’t mean that 1) they’re stupid; 2) they don’t like dogs; 3) they have something against Twitter, and so on. It just means they couldn’t grasp it at that moment, or maybe that their attention was focused on something else. Maybe they’d think: “wait, someone made an account pretending to be a dog?” — nothing to worry about. But there are many cases where you probably would, as impersonation has been making headlines.
Still, we have a factor to consider: language is organized. Mechanisms we use to convey information, emotion, perception, opinion or any other range of things you may want to classify: these mechanisms are structured. You see an image on the screen, but you also know, hopefully, that there are many kinds of image formats. Some people don’t — or at least they would have a hard time talking about it. In that area, we need to be more careful.
In terms of what language has to offer, we can surely hope for some more laughs. More bonds, more positive connections. But as I pointed out in the beginning, “language” is now a very broad term. And specific areas actually use the word “terminology”. There’s the language of health, the language of finance, the language of music, the language of design, and so on.
English is a language that a great number of people at least attempt to speak well enough. But what happens if you don’t speak it, and you also don’t know what the biggest apps in the world are? Then, what happens when you try to speak, but you’re seemingly unable to make yourself understood? This isn’t about literacy; it’s about empathy. And by correlating concepts that we learned to describe accurately enough, we absolutely can and should make more people participate in civil society effectively and in more meaningful ways — even if they don’t know how to build a platform, or they can’t tell what’s so funny about the dog on freaking Twitter.
I grew up in a time where my grandpa had this sort of safe, a triangular wooden thing with a layer of fabric on top and this upward opening door that produced a particularly memorable high pitched noise. It was brown, maybe pastel, but some people would say it had shades of green; this piece of furniture went well with the beige wall, which is absolutely nothing special, but it was, has always been, will always be my grandparents’ home. The floor is what the architects, designers or whatever call “demolition floor”, consisting of tiles of brownish, reddish rectangles all stacking up and this natural aspect of random patterns of saturation, if you look at it from a more modern perspective. But the rest of the furniture doesn’t matter. The Cross at the wall, the sculpture of Virgin Mary, the big mirror that came later. The border ceiling styled cast. The fact that one day we had a cleaning lady, and decades later, everyone became too pissed off to do a single thing, ending up not doing anything at all. The floor stays dirty, the bathroom is a disgusting mess, with a toilet which used to be perfectly clean, now having these stains at the bottom that we took too long to take out and now look like this crusty dirt patch, but of course it’s not dirt; the objects near the kitchen window, where the washing tank is, next to the gas cylinder and the cleaning products. Ok, nobody needs to know. This isn’t The Sims and I’m pretty sure this home isn’t going to have a user of Oculus Rift. What I wanted to tell you about was that little pastel safe. The newspapers from the entire year were stored there. Grandpa John (his actual name being João, in Portuguese) didn’t buy newspapers every day, but he maybe my dad was the one buying. I honestly don’t remember. I do have some flashes of grandpa trying to hold onto the large pieces and them falling off, because he was not a very delicate man, thick hands worn out and wrinkled, and he was getting even older. He could peel some potatoes, slowly, patiently, singing a song, after going to buy them himself, all that nearing his 80th birthday. He used to work at the port. It was carrying stuff on his back, as we’ve seen on the historical pictures, but also stuff that we don’t really know about. Just that it was at the port. I don’t think anyone would understand that when you fast forward 20 years, or not even that, we have not just all the markets and live analysis of supply and demand, but all media vehicles in the world at the palm of our hand, along with pictures of other people’s homes from different angles, in all kinds of situations, except they’re the protagonists, the main elements in photographic framing. At some point, my dad would buy a subscription of a magazine, and I’d read it carefully. I was actually more interested in reading the gaming reviews, and they had specialized magazines for that. I got every issue. Every time we crossed the newsstand, it was worse than peanut candy at the bakery or popcorn at the movie theater. To be fair, we still share a love of peanuts until this day, and if you make a joke about that I’ll probably giggle and we’ll get along. But have you seen an 8 year old reading magazine reviews and interested in the journalism? Well, because that happened, maybe that’s where we are.
I’m not sure what the 8 year olds are doing. I guess gaming is a phenomenon that we have to approach more seriously, because as an industry it drives billions. I guess we have to talk about children’s shows. I guess we have to talk about the diets. The moderation in language. Someone could probably make up a meme with this or that politician speaking, a child watching them on a flat screen connected to the internet, big Dolby speakers on, and the kid is dressed as a monkey; then the concerned, vigilant mom gently puts the monkey hands over the kid’s ears, so they wouldn’t hear that kind of tone. A wrap up would be the monkey again, this time with emoji-likeness. This would incentivize the use of deaf monkey emojis. Maybe with some brainstorming, you could get the team to work on the mute monkey, this time a lonely boy or girl — and then the team would split in the creative room — sitting in the corner of a couch while a bunch of friends were having drinks, dancing, posing for pictures, talking about people in school. Lonely teen sitting at the corner of the couch. Deaf emoji. “This time we could have something provocative”, the marketing strategist would propose. “Maybe we should explore the positives on this one. We all have people we think are annoying. It’s not about the loneliness, it’s about the choice of being alone. Can you work on that? I’ll leave you to it then.” And so the team would be slightly confused, slightly pressured. The conversation at break would be about how to apply the concept of the monkey with his hands on his mouth to the concept of silencing, but the word was actually “muting”. The feature, soon to be rolled out by the app and website, would allow people to personalize their experience online while still looking as if they were giving each of their follows the same kind of attention. “But then, you’d need to unmute, right? I mean, it’s probably gonna be hard to measure, but if you’re on it; then you wanna focus on something for a while, maybe that could be an entire week. I’ll go newsless for an entire week, focus on my friends, you know? Then you got a tab showing who you’ve muted and you can just unmute when you wanna catch up, maybe show what you’ve missed”. But what about the emoji? This isn’t about the news. This is, indeed, about loneliness. And while some people smoke discussing the features that would be rolled out and how to please consumers and partners, the socially awkward guy is thinking about something else: duct tape, not emoji. If you put duct tape on your mouth, that’s a powerful symbolic concept. But can you imagine people associating it to other related uses? Suddenly, mouth gags, nipple clamps, cock rings. “No, it’s really about the monkey. You can show a kid throwing a banana at the monkey in the zoo, and then the monkey throwing the banana back, and hitting the kid’s eye. The kid starts crying, and the mom is like… it’s okay honey. It’s just a stupid monkey”. Wrapping this up as anecdotal and fictional, not much of a cautionary tale that people seem to think Mad Men was, or The Office was: not everyone is being heard in the media, the social media, and it’s definitely not the case that we’re still reading about what’s happening in the world whenever we read the newspaper. Grandpa wouldn’t be able to handle this; he’s gone, but he has a legacy.
Some people are more focused on visuals than others. Despite the fact, unknown the many, that reading can foster a creative mind that allows you to “see the world” when you’re reading a text, that spanning to decades before, and experiencing it through image, whether it’s an art installation or a painting (unless they’re splattered with tomato sauce, but I’m sure you could get a copy in the public domain), the consumption of video has made all of us expect something else from our internet experience. TV didn’t wanna die. And so it strived but it didn’t, but their influence is even bigger than you’d imagine. Think for a second: you want to go live on Instagram, but you realize you only have your microphone from the earbud set. When you went on Twitter, you had a highlighted trend which was the presidential debate being exhibited live. They weren’t doing it from their phones. They had professional cameras, audio quality and everything just as if they were on TV, but even better. A better signal, a better coverage, since their time wasn’t restricted to the schedule of the network, but the topic instead, which could in turn be explored in the conversations people were having about it as of right now; a better view on the themes for anyone who was interested. But then you look at independent journalism. They’ve learned to Zoom, and to broadcast showing diverse sets of media pieces, which in fact meant not a lot more than displaying different tabs on the screen. It seems very simple, until you realize maybe it’s not — and until you try to do it yourself, especially if you’re thinking, like me, that Substack will be your source of income. Will you keep doing it, after the bad reviews? This is one aspect, for every writer. Another is the undeniable appeal that certain hosts of images and videos have. Instagram is sexy, but nobody’s supposed to talk about it — and in fact, that came with time, and personally, I’m convinced that was a particularly tense atmosphere for the people who wanted to be viewed as ethical rocks, and who would always have the data to show that they’re the ones who invested the most in research, and that their research was the most relevant, given the userbase and what they knew about them. But that, in itself, is an ethical problem, and of course we’ve heard the nutrition whistle and we’re all still acting like the big dogs do. Putting this one platform aside, and taking a step back before approaching the new trend of algorithm-fed quick videos on demand from multiple people who you’re dying to meet and we’re going to introduce to you (an offer you can’t refuse), we have the word sexy. Nobody starts a conversation with “hey, sexy”. They should go to prison if they do. Well, of course not, but they might wanna know that’s pretty lame. I just think there’s a weird fluctuation, or rather, a volatile environment of digital trade, when it comes to the sexy categories. Because if you cut the “why”, you’re left with raw material. Some people have no idea what to do with it. You could tell someone that everything you need to know about any given subject is on Wikipedia; they might get lazy, and close their eyes on it. You might tell someone at school: “guess what, I found her OF”. The monkey emoji, closing his eyes, would slightly move its fingers to the sides in order to see, but pretend not to care — or in fact, to pretend that not to be looking. But we know that the “raw material” can be a lot different than what the emoji represents.
We’re not thinking about marketing for kids. Some “kids” are actually doing the thinking for us. Whenever a conversation ends too suddenly, we’re faced with the question: “what did I say?” — but that comes after a number of interactions, and you’re still trying to get it right. Practice makes perfect. But don’t you wanna focus on something else? And who said that this perfect model would be scaled up, and applied to everyone, involving masses of people in contact with your displays of emotion? In contact with your rawness, which includes a spectrum of things which you can’t label or categorize, describe, begin to talk about. But since practice makes perfect, they’re quick to say: “you look like an actor from Stranger Things”. And so we start to think: how big is streaming for younger audiences? But we’re suddenly stopped on our tracks, inevitably, out of someone else’s greed, out of someone else’s desire to know everything about anything, and win the argument at all times: “What do you mean with ‘younger audiences’? I’m old enough”. Labelling is interesting because it involves a lot of linguistic knowledge, when it’s done properly. For example, a fruit like a banana, before it’s ready to be consumed, is called “green”; when it’s already easy to peel, not yet smelling, which should mean you’re supposed to eat them before they rot, and just good to put in your mouth, you call it “mature”. Now consider the difference between “mature content” and “adult content”. For example, this blog contains mature content, but not adult content — despite some slight references to this world, which is not represented here at all, and that’s obvious to anyone who knows what adult content looks like, sounds like, and what it feels like to watch it one time, then lose count — and also lose touch with yourself, sometimes. Once, I was around 10 and I was playing a videogame where the narrative is some really fucked up dystopia or futuristic, while being mixed up with a tribal, origin of civilization period, and you have to save the world, basically. It’s called Turok. I didn’t play the first game, which is all about a Native-American hunting dinosaurs; I played the second one, which had this weird, kind of terrifying iguana’s red eye staring at you at the cover, with the tagline: “seeds of evil”. You’d get lost in some kind of narrative where these organized groups of other species were taking control of everything good, putting kids in cages and all. Dystopian narratives tend to get something right, but I could totally be talking about Star Fox and my comments would all be about how sexual the conversation between pilots are. “Incoming enemy from the rear. Drop altitude”: of course the horny rabbit is telling you to bend over cause there’s a machine behind you (and what do you know, people take it literally these days! “Your father helped me like that too”: like what? Did you guys, uh… But back to Turok, one of your final missions would be to “purify the river of souls”, all the while shooting plasma bullets at the center of some alien’s big belly, and it was particularly explicit — but there was, in their defense, an option to make the red blood look green. But there’s an interesting part of the story I don’t wanna miss. Back here, over 20 years ago, I was very entertained and actually thrilled to be figuring out what I had to do in the game all by myself, without the help of the magazine “walkthrough” — but it was time for lunch. My grandpa called me once, twice, and then I went to the living room, slightly pissed off, I suppose, and said I was playing a game and it was important, but they were bothering me with something less worthy of attention, absolutely meaningless. “I’m here trying to save the world from all these scary monsters and you want me to go eat spaghetti, are you out of your minds?” I’m not sure what words I said, and this was obviously not the actual conversation, but when I refused to obey and come to the lunch table at the time I was called, my grandpa reacted grabbing me by the neck, looking straight at me and I think he slightly pressed it even though I was just a 10 year old. My grandma told him to stop. I think I went back to the game, but cried about it.
Now, back to the real world of right now, always and forever: the metaverse is a billionaire investment. So is Twitter, though it’s a little less. Nobody will stop talking about Twitter, and I’m trying to figure out why, exactly. The new policy is “freedom of speech, not freedom of reach”. That means, as briefly explained by the buyer, that you can write what you want, but that will always go through moderation, and they’ll keep track of everything and rank your participation. That means to say we can totally start a conspiracy theory that the Japanese are all shamelessly horny, and another person will suggest they’re horny, yeah, but always filled with shame (I personally believe this profoundly, but in the one opportunity I had to say this to my American coworker who’s not here anymore, I kept my mouth shut). We can show an image and put a hashtag on it, but how much do you think people search for hashtags? You can try to make a new hashtag on your own. But do you even have a following? That won’t work. You can try to say what’s on your mind (see what Mastodon did?) and have people react to it, but will they, ever? You can build on and on, and it’ll be torn down. You don’t know the right words, you don’t have the right tone, you don’t even know what the fuck you’re talking about, and you’re ugly, and you’re lame, and you smell. Look at where you live. It’s a fucking demolition floor, filled with crusts of dirt in the living room. And I’ll never go into that bathroom, I’m pretty sure that’s where the pandemic started. You’ll have to do something about the drains, all that spit that somehow goes brown on the sink won’t be cleaning itself and you have to take out the hairs. I won’t touch it. Look at your ridiculous beige wall. At least if you had a black wall, you’d be cool. Then you could take pictures in front of the mirror, but not showing your hideous face. From the rear, babe. At least the bedroom’s fine. But you know we could cut the electricity any time, right? One neighbor monitors for the Church, another monitors trade, this guy monitors the power, this other one monitors the drugs. It’s a beautiful community effort. You see… that’s what’s up, and you’re all thinking “oh no, icons are disappearing from my favorite social media platform! It’s the end of the world!” Nobody talks about fireworks resembling gun shots. Nobody talks about sex workers being invisible to society, but the most sought for at a specific time of someone’s day — and man, there’s always someone. They can’t talk about work, and they can’t talk about sex — imagine sex work? Actually, Twitter and Meta became exactly that: places where you can’t talk about sex and you can’t talk about work. People are dead because of shit policy. Twitter wants you to believe your ideas are brilliant, while they exploit you in real time. Meta wants you to see everyone’s brilliance, while they all want to see you get abused, which is in their power to do and to organize for. Maybe it’s all the same. Maybe it’s not the sex. Maybe it’s not the emoji. Maybe we’re supposed to sleep: not to see, not to hear, not to speak. No freedom of reach, except for my big dick built by Space X. “Sorry, wrong name. You’re not supposed to talk about your dick on Spaces? Okay, my bad”. And we believe in the free market…
The evolution of media is hard to track. Video on demand? YouTube “pivoted”, but so did Netflix, and then Amazon, Disney, Apple, among cable and services like Hulu. Then, maybe after observing engagement with video consumption on Twitter and Tumblr, the latter more spicy then the former (which everyone thought was a problem, until they realized they pretty much broke the internet), TikTok came to be the equivalent of McDonalds for media, expect coming from China. The real story is we have Critical Literacy goals to be met in the Educational Common Core established across countries, and while these involve creation of relevant media themes, they’re failing to show how that’s really done, and so the arbiters live in one bubble while the creators, or aspiring creators, live in another. That last point alone could lead to intense debate: “why is that content getting attention while mine is not?” Money, silly. And now think about the policy again. The platform is definitely not a source for good; it’s a source for income through the exploration of your personal information, which you chose to disclose and, believe it or not, their legal argument is a tick box that you clicked on. So much for Semiotics. A click is not approval; it can mean many things. And now we’re facing a “depolarization effort”. This will ultimately result in user growth, but another round of public scrutiny that will most likely exhaust the already exhausted, who will in turn show scorn and bitterness, along with a complete (but carefully veiled) disregard for your social condition and your efforts, let alone empathy transformed in support that is concrete. we’ll hear the talk, but never see a path to be walked, only tall buildings where things are happening and cars going somewhere we’re fucking not. It’s not about video, and it’s not about Discourse Analysis: it’s about human relationships, Social Work and Psychology. Education plays a role, but the educator who doesn’t even talk to his or her students to learn what they’re dealing with is never going to even scratch the surface of their many layers of protection against invasion of privacy. But we shouldn’t be paranoid and assume they know everything — they do not. There needs to be guidance, and the role of the current media is absolutely bridging generational gaps; but when you’re getting an opinion from 70 year olds about how the world should work, maybe it’s time you realize you don’t like your grandpa’s opinions — let alone being grabbed in the throat because you wanted to enjoy yourself. Politicians need to stop playing with personal narratives immediately. They say they represent us, but they don’t even talk to us. They can’t possibly be the solution for media policy when they’re not choosing personal storytelling in order to reach those people who are desperate to see that these people running for office are maybe just like us, but they happen to have a plan to fix stuff. And if you choose to go along the way, you’ll meet the media industry: profiting from falsehoods, producing to preserve their reach and relevance, and seldom hinting at something good happening in the sphere of public debate, but never mentioning names except of those who are controlling the whole process. That needs to change. Musk is a fraction of so called internet debate. Zuckerberg is a lunatic — nobody can ever explain how investing in augmented reality with billions of dollars was the chosen path when you had a row of social initiatives to fund, about the real world and real struggles. Not even a feature. And the people who actually run things, the investors and venture capitalists, along with institutions and universities, will ask for better performance while stopping you at your tiniest attempt to think for yourself, then later making a sarcastic comment that they think you won’t be able to respond — and if you are, they’ll hunt you down and crush you with a story about something completely irrelevant that they’ll try to convince you is the new thing, without a fucking apology, let alone a payment for moral damage — while they retain the data now and in the future. It’s time to defund big tech. The knowledge is built with existing tools. If you want better wages, you’ll have to be content with working less hours while they hire more people, because that’s what diversification means. And when people think together about how to fund the creators, it’s gonna be too late: financial markets will dominate discussions, just because we inputted our information, again — this time, our banking, not our contact. And who says we even got a call in the first place?
Repensando a Comunicação em Inglês e a Tecnologia, numa perspectiva brasileira.
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