Should I share my posts on reddit?

I have a conflicted relationship with reddit.

My current most immediate thoughts of reddit is that it’s a toxic, addictive and mostly unhealthy internet subculture/habit.

But, there are some really cool subreddits – /r/highqualitygifs is perhaps my favourite, producing such beauties as this:

I’ve also written before about /r/wholesomememes.

 

There’s other cool creative subreddits like /r/photoshopbattles or /r/writingprompts.

There’s good quality image subreddits like /r/historyporn.

Reddit is also a good first place for location based information, eg. /r/newzealand.

 

I have just created a new reddit account – where I actively filter a lot of the popular subreddits – /r/the_donald, /r/politics, etc.

And maybe I shouldn’t be browsing reddit at all – but I have different question.

 

It would be good for the visibility of my blog and other projects to be posting links to sites like reddit. There are plenty of subreddits where my posts would be relevant. /r/theoryofreddit perhaps.

However, I feel conflicted because do I really want my content circulating amongst a toxic culture?

Self promotion seems icky somehow. Lets consider the approach that we’re all really vying for is people’s attention. You could suggest that to improve the quality (the signal!) of what people are consuming, would be a good thing, and so that sharing your material would be a good thing.

 

I hope Wholesome Memes are the start of a new paradigm.

2016 has seen a new genre of internet memes gain prominence – ‘Wholesome Memes’.

trnd

I first noticed them on the /r/wholesomememes subreddit, and have since taken to following the Best of Wholesome Memes Facebook page.

These image macros are intended to be genuinely positive and happy. Here’s a few good ones

1e6

drz-t0amivjbfdgo6ddwma9ykk80savy_9m8olrkvnc

ghf5of2es6im2fldc1tumwgmrpuwqwukyhx5yuqivoi

hxztsuk2miblkc2crmxbmcq2mxfxpivigkxxw3ykpkm

yjdqtgonkdhrnqdsqgbiozmosmgjct3lu0bt2z0ckq4

What can be considered a ‘wholesome meme’ isn’t just restricted to image macros. For example I disovered this song on my Spotify which follows the same theme.

There is also nice Facebook pages like Genuinely Stoked Goats.

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The internet and social media is a very new phenomena, and trends develop. From rick rolling, to crowdfunding, to parties that get a million attendees, to fake news and clickbait, and online shaming.

A notable example is the Justine Sacco case – where a woman made an arguably tasteless joke on Twitter before boarding a plane, and the internet relished in causing as much trouble for her as possible before she landed and was back in touch with the internet. (This Ted Talk here gives a very good rundown of the phenomena).

It’s apparent that the internet thrives on attention. The content that will be successful- whether for good for bad, is content that engages internet users.

This why negative content can be so prevalent. Clickbait and fake news work by packing something interesting into a single sentence. Outrage and online shaming works by inflaming the emotion of anger – giving users a rush of adrenaline.

A ‘users are addicted to the internet’ model helps explain the phenomena. Imagine internet users collectively as a group of brain dead zombies looking for their rush or adrenaline or endorphins. They’re going to be seeking out content that triggers that reaction, and sharing content that will get likes, likes also providing validation and simulation.

The result is – all of this negative content can make us cynical and frustrated about the state of the world. And that can lead to a ‘just want to watch the world’ burn kind of attitude, that gets Donald Trump elected, or gets someone to go on a mass shooting.

But – content that makes us smile also creates engagement and causes a flood of endorphins. The answer seems pretty simple; even if people are addicted to the internet – is it a problem if what they’re sharing is happy pictures and gifs that make them smile or laugh? Is that not a kind of utopia?

My Facebook feed has pretty good recently. It’s mostly pictures of goats, puns, trippy gifs, and wholesome memes. If you subscribe to a ‘you are what you consume’ philosophy, this is a pretty healthy diet.

My hope is that this a continuing trend – that people are going to be more deliberate about the content they share and create, with intention of flooding the internet with happy, positive content.

The future is meta news.

In the wake of the Donald Trump presidency, there’s been a sudden new ‘fake news’ narrative appearing in social and media discourse.

The discourse arising tends to point at two things:

  • Individual people exist in echo chambers, and seek to consume and share content that fits their worldview, without regard for truth.
  • At the same time – there is also a general distrust in mainstream outlets, and the fake news dog whistle is actually used to criticise the mainstream media – by suggesting that it’s the mainstream media that is reporting things wrong.
    One only needs to look at the responses to @WashingtonPost’s Twitter account to see examples of this.
    fake news.PNG
    Caveat: It’s hard to tell if accounts like this aren’t troll bot accounts.

While I don’t think that the mainstream media is out and out producing lies or fully factually incorrect content, I think it is fair to say that the media has a vested interest in producing certain kinds of content, and it does seem that a lot of what we see on the media now is more opinion or ‘analysis’ – which isn’t something that needs to withstand basic fact checking.

Recently, I’ve taken an interest in watching RT (Russia Today – a Russian state run media outlet). It’s interesting to see the difference in what RT says about particular issues, as opposed to say Fox News.

For example, let’s look at Allepo:

Fox News

alepo fooooox.PNG
The Fox News narrative mentions deaths caused by rebels and government forces.

RT

syria rt.PNG
The RT article  mentions ‘liberation’ and no mention of civilian casualties by government forces.

So we have two problems:

  • People are just going to share whatever suits them.
  • The media have their own agendas which influences the content they produce.

Now we have a problem – how do we decide what content to consume?

Also – we’re not just concerned about the actual truth of the matter – but we also need to know what other people are thinking or reading.

The answer: meta-news. 

Instead of reading news from your favourite news site, whether that’s RT, Fox News, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The Washington Post – you read a factual, algorithmic aggregate of all news websites.

How this would work, is that some kind of web crawler will read and view news content as it released, and analyse the frequency of certain words, the general meaning etc. It then presents that story  with a breakdown of the various narratives being presented, who’s presenting them etc. For example, on the subject of Aleppo, as well as giving the facts of what happened (and who’s reporting what facts), it would report which outlets are using the term ‘liberate’ and which are focused on civilian deaths by government forces etc.

The tool could be also be used to report sentiment on social media. For example, as the story breaks, it can report ‘users on twitter are saying …’. Further investigation can show that ‘Users that say this about x subject, are saying such and such about y subject’.

This tool isn’t a solution to finding the actual truth about a matter, that still depends on journalists publishing the truth. It does however, reveal a different kind of truth, and is reliable at that (if you trust the algorithm) – the what the world is saying about certain subjects. Perhaps that’s a way of breaking free of our echo chambers.

The direction of this blog.

In this post I discuss the tone of this blog, and whether I want to publish articles that may have negative social consequences for myself.

Recently I published a post, that, at the time I was aware that it might not be popular.

I wrote:

I think there is a social convention to not acknowledge this kind of exchange, at least not publicly.

  • It’s not good for me socially because it reveals that in some of interactions people don’t like me. This serves as an example of negative social proof and influences other people to adopt a similar attitude towards me.
  • It seems vindictive, which could make a bad social impression. The blog post could be interpreted as a calculated attempt to embarrass or vilify this particular person. Even though their details have been anonymised, so they won’t likely be publicly embarrassed, she could read it a still feel embarrassed or humiliated.

What I forgot to include when addressing the reasons why I shouldn’t post the post, was the reason I chose to publish the post in the end.

The reason was, having ummed and ahhed about it over a week, the post was just ready to come out on to paper. I didn’t want to curtail my creative expression because of social backlash. The Mark Twain quote springs to mind:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain might have never said that by the way.

When I decided to publish the post, I did so thinking ‘I can always take it down’.

As it happens, there was a bit of social criticism. (To be fair to the participants of Facebook thread, they did take care to mitigate any hurt feelings when expressing disapproval).

There was two points of criticism. The first was pointing out that that someone might be offended at being labelled; I’d shown my awareness of that in the post.

The more controversial point was that I’d mentioned being premenstrual as a possible reason someone might be acting grumpy.

I wrote:

Here, it seems timely to bring up the first obvious caveat, the person might just be having a bad day. Perhaps they slept in and were late for work. Perhaps the kids were playing up at the moment. Perhaps they’re premenstrual. Perhaps there was no coffee in the house.

The point of the criticism is that suggesting that someone’s grumpyness might be due to being premenstrual is dismissive, and offensive.

Meta: At this point I need to discuss the social appropriateness of screencapping conversations. It would be easier for the purposes of this post, to simply screencap the Facebook thread that discussed the post. It’s fairly public, it’s on my Facebook wall, so people posting on the thread in some sense are OK with other people seeing their opinions. That said, they might feel betrayed if I were to screencap it post it up here (where it’s 100% public, and not restricted to just my Facebook wall) , even if I did black out the names and profile pictures (which I always do).

The problem is, I wasn’t, and I’m not convinced that, in an attempt to empathise with someone, you shouldn’t consider that they might be premenstrual amongst several other things.

It’s entirely plausible due to the way that I’d written it, it was interpreted as either a hostile attack against the person, or a way of trivialising the persons feelings on the mater. The opposite is the case – in considering PMS, you imagine what their emotional state might be.

So then… I was in a state of considering writing a post ‘Is mentioning menstruation offensive?’. I was considering for it, doing some research on what PMS is, what causes it, and just whether it does in fact cause some women to act grumpy.

The problem is, this is likely to be another antagonistic post, which might upset or offend people.

So this brings me to the subject of this post:

What is the purpose of this blog? 

Well – let’s start with what this blog isn’t intended to be:

  • A forum for airing my online disagreements.
  • A troll blog. The purpose is not wind people up for the sole intention of winding people up.
  • An ‘edgy’ blog that exposes uncomfortable, thought arguably rational viewpoints.
  • A social justice warrior/anti-social justice warrior blog. I think discussing social justice issues with social justice warriors, is a game where the only winning move is to not play.
  • A blog to discuss the social rightness of other people’s actions. As an agnostic atheist I don’t believe there is any objective blueprint for the correct way to live your life. An attempt to evaluate the rightness of other people’s actions is really an attempt to find a reason to hate them and is simply not constructive.

Leaving that – what’s left remaining for this blog to be?

My purpose here is to simply be a creative outlet for writing, that I find interesting and enjoyable to write, and hopefully it provides some value to the people who read it.

Why is this relevant? 

Because I’m considering a career in writing, and I would show this blog to potential employers. The reaction I got to the rude messages post suggests that potential employers might find it unsavoury too, in which case it might be the smarter move to remove both this post, and the rude messages one.

What are you going to do?

I’m going to leave them up for now.

What about socially controversial posts? 

Good question! I don’t know. Being socially controversial is an interesting subject in itself:

  • Some people make a career out being socially controversial. eg. attack bloggers.
  • On the other hand, some people make a career out of get along with everybody they meet. eg. good managers.
  • Some people are successful regardless of the social controversy they cause. eg. Eminem.
  • Some people’s careers are built on generally not being controversial, but pushing the envelope a little. eg. conventional popstars.
  • Some people’s ideas were once socially controversial, and now are regarded as heroic. eg. Women’s suffrage activists, Martin Luther King.

There’s an interesting dilemma here. The social feedback I got does make consider removing some posts and censoring myself.

However, I think there’s a dangerous precedent, I think social cultural improvement happens, in part, because people resist and put up with negative social feedback to the socially controversial ideas they’re expressing.

It’s also worth mentioning that you can’t take everything criticism seriously. Some criticism might occur, again because someone said something without thinking, or because they’re a hateful person.

And then of course, there’s the implicit assumption I’m making here that any socially controversial posts do have some kind of legitimate value, and aren’t me actually just being an (unwitting) asshole.

Conclusion

The posts are staying for now. For next couple of weeks the material you’ll see probably won’t be that controversial, I don’t have anything more controversial to say at this point anyway.