Tragedy of the global meeting places

I keep getting these fliers about a cleaning service that blow off our porch and I need to pick up in order to recycle. It reminded me of the people who hoard newspapers in their homes and, when I was a Boy Scout, arranged to give them away to be recycled.[1] And I imagined the modern equivalent person saving junk mail and flyers. Would that person eventually call the number on the flyer to get their house cleaned of Tidy flyers?

A few years ago I’d likely have posted this “amusing anecdote” to Twitter or Facebook. But that time is passing. I’d rather write on my blog[2] and maybe post a link on social media. For me the reason is that social media has addictive qualities that lead me to waste considerable time that could (and should) be used for . . . almost anything else.

It’s a bit of a shame because my writing will only ever be seen by a few hundred people (if I’m lucky) whereas there’s a chance (however slim) of a post going viral and reaching tens of thousands of people. Indeed, this plays into the addictive nature of the platforms. With a potentially global audience, there’s no telling what the reaction might be, so people keep trying to get larger and larger reactions.

It’s pretty clear where that dynamic landed us: more anger, more hyperbole, more polarization and more judgmentalism. Almost nobody wants these things, but that’s what you can expect if provocative content gets rewarded with more visibility. It’s not a coincidence that my snarky Tweet found a bigger audience than my usual content.

  1. This was for a very brief moment when organizations could raise money by recycling. ↩︎

  2. Or one of two Discourse servers I operate. ↩︎