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The Internet of Beefs (ribbonfarm.com)
513 points by rinze 28 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 317 comments



This is an excellent analysis of the state of the modern internet, though I don't entirely agree with his diagnosis of the cause; I think it's more down to two main things:

1. We are all, at heart, covetous xenophobic apes, and we've been doing the same basic thing (arbitrarily define an in-group and an out-group and proceed to wage total war on the out-group) since before we were even human. This is just the latest iteration of the thing we've always done.

2. For more than a decade now, people have been spending fortunes building platforms and algorithms that rely on ever-increasing user 'engagement', often without really knowing what that is. As it turns out, conflict is the most engaging kind of engagement. Twitter especially is a machine for conflict - it funnels anger-inducing information to the user and makes it trivial to strike back at the source of the anger. I really don't think anybody did this on purpose, but it's what we ended up with.


>conflict is the most engaging kind of engagement

This doesn't feel right. I ask myself, do I go places to look for people to fight with? Emphatically no. Do you? Probably not. I just read this great|hateful book|movie|thing. I want to talk about it with people who have experienced this book|movie|thing, would be great if they saw it the way I did, also great if they disagreed but we could discuss it with a shared language and experience. I feel we are too far apart and too lonesome to go around picking fight, do picking fights form groups? I don't usually engage because 1) strangers on the Internet mean little to me; 2) I think I hold an unpopular opinion; 3) I'm not driven to articulate every thought I have. Conflict drives a good story, I think that's true in a narrative sense, but I don't think it's true we humans go looking for it. I want to believe we are more cooperative creature than a belligerent one. The whole Twitter/Facebook "like" culture is a testament, we want to belong.


>> conflict is the most engaging kind of engagement

> do I go places to look for people to fight with? Emphatically no. Do you? Probably not.

People seem to love information that ridicules and hates on "the other side" (e.g. in politics). They like seeing the other side being put down, and the feeling of superiority they can get from that.


I've noticed this pattern emerge more than ever on the front page of reddit. The vast majority of generally public posts tend to be deeply negative, for example, from right now:

1. Joe Biden calls game developers "little creeps" who make titles that "teach you how to kill" 3. Father tackles son’s opponent after illegal move at high school wrestling match 4. Jaylen Brown murders LeBron 5. Puerto Rico fires two more officials after Hurricane Maria aid found unused ... 6. This is how a grown woman decided to act toward someone peacefully protesting a fur store 8. Joe Biden calls game developers "little creeps" who make titles that "teach you how to kill" 9. Breaktester gets what he deserves (/r/instantkarma) 11. Just another day in Texas (/r/idiotsincars)

More than half of the front page is about the "other side" losing, and this is on one of the most browsed websites on the Internet.


You may not go looking to participate in fights, but as a spectator event, fights certainly draw the largest viewerships, whether it's a fight on the street, or the Super Bowl, or a war.


>> conflict is the most engaging kind of engagement

> This doesn't feel right. I ask myself, do I go places to look for people to fight with? Emphatically no. Do you? Probably not.

Most people are thrust with conflicts on TV. It may not have been their choice to go to, but that’s the fare available from most TV networks (especially the only fare on news and news related debates). World over, the networks know what attracts and addicts more eyeballs (it is conflict and frustration). Social networks also amplify these kinds of conversations. You may visit Twitter to just read some interesting piece of information from someone you admire or like, but the platform is built in a way to distract you over and over again into a deeper rabbit hole of conflict. It’s the same on other “engagement driven” business models too.


I think your post is a good way to split up some of the ideas in the article.

I really think #2 is a good point, but I get frustrated at many arguments for #1. People are emotional beings and will seek out fights, but that doesn't mean all fights are arbitrary. People that talk too long about the Culture War on a meta level, without ever considering specifics and painting it all as pointlessly arbitrary, strike me like "both sides are the same"-type centrists, lacking any interesting positions or even understanding, and are just focused on feeling superior to both sides.

Maybe the issue is I see concerns that we can address bigotry in media and harassment in other environments as the core of the "Culture War", and the worst instances of "cancel culture"[0] as weird outliers to it that can be fixed, but some others think of the worst instances of cancel culture as what the Culture War is about, and the saner conversations are weird unimportant outliers. But as long as we're taking the hundred-foot view of talking vaguely about "Culture War" and treating it as arbitrary arguments, we're not going to realize we're not even talking about the same thing, and it's just posturing around how we already felt about the phrase.

[0] When I refer to the worst instances of cancel culture, I'm not referring to cases of celebrities just not getting renewed after publicly being bigots, but the cases where the backlash gets personal and mismatched for the issue. ContraPoint's video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjMPJVmXxV8 talks about the sort of thing I'm referring to.


Great points. #2 is spot on. I think we ended up here because of the currency of media is attention. Sensationalism,(especially conflict as you noted) draws humans in like moths to a flame.


I agree with your #1 point, humans aren't quite as different from our ancestors as we think.

That said, I don't think the author of the article really supported his points adequately. He seems to have a very strange view of the world and society driven by and centered on his own experience rather than research or any kind of science. This paragraph:

"Online public spaces are now being slowly taken over by beef-only thinkers, as the global culture wars evolve into a stable, endemic, background societal condition of continuous conflict. As the Great Weirding morphs into the Permaweird, the public internet is turning into the Internet of Beefs. "

...Is a good example. I don't think many people would agree that "the global culture wars" are a thing, or that continuous conflict as he sees it is a stable condition or endemic.

I get the impression he's a young person who has bought into the snake oil of the Internet being the Thing That Changes Everything and now that he's tired of waiting for the singularity to occur, he's disillusioned and griping about it.


I don't agree. I think the problem with 'engagement' isn't conflict. It is that engagement in Internet remains virtual, and that's a source of discontent. We need to translate that engagement back to reality


This article resonates with me and my experiences online to a startling degree. Specifically:

“We are not beefing endlessly because we do not desire peace or because we do not know how to engineer peace. We are beefing because we no longer know who we are, each of us individually, and collectively as a species.”

I think we are seeing a genuine lack of strong family, social, and organizational ties among most people, myself (sadly) included. I don’t think I or any of my peers fully grasp what we’re missing and how isolated we truly are. I think we as a cohort had very good reasons for participating in that change, such as me (an LGBT person) leaving the Catholic church I was raised in rather than bury that other part of myself to fit in. The problem is that I replaced it with nothing, and I think the same pattern has repeated across many other people and many other traditions. The temptation is to suggest MeetUps and other things built to connect people, but those suggested replacements don’t come with the same assumption of trust built in like many traditional organizational and family ties do.


The thing is it's not just religion. There's been a commensurate, if not larger, decline in participation in "civic organizations" as well.

Sports leagues, fraternal societies (like the Elks or Masons), parent-teach organizations, volunteer organizations (like the Boy Scouts or Red Cross), and labor unions have all seen their memberships steadily decline for the better part of the last 50 years.[1] Doubly so among the youngest generations.

Beyond that, in general we have much fewer close social ties than we used to. Marriage rates have plummeted[2], which means many fewer people have a spouse. Surveys show that Americans have only about half the number of close friends as they did a generation ago.[3] The sizable majority of Americans don't even know their neighbors.[4] And of course birth rates have plummeted, which means that the number of siblings the average person has, and eventually aunts, uncles and cousins are all decreasing.

In general the central sociological fact of the modern-era is the unprecedented degree of social atomization that most of us now face.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowling_Alone [2] https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/09/14/as-u-s-marr... [3] https://www.barna.com/research/friends-loneliness/ [4] https://www.studyfinds.org/sign-of-the-times-75-of-adults-ar...


Our social connections have been replaced with commercial ones. Where at one point we socialized to relieve boredom and need, now we have never ending entertainment and those that would capitalize on selling it to us over everything else.


And, yet, here you are talking with other people all over the world for free.

Someone older than me, of the hippie generation, once said to me "There were like three TV channels and they went off the air at 10pm. If you were still awake after that, there was nothing to do but sex and drugs."

I strongly suspect the 24/7 availability of free entertainment, live online discussion, etc is a large contributing factor to the trend towards celibacy. I don't think this is a bad thing. And it's being achieved without some preacher putting the fear of God in you and telling you impure thoughts will get you an eternity in hell.


After a significant portion of my life spent online, I have kind of come to the conclusion that typing to other people is, in a lot of ways, a fundamentally different experience than talking to them.

It fills the same emotional needs just enough to make it hard to get up off your ass and put the effort into going out and finding people with common interests and making friends with some of them, but it does not provide anywhere near a full emotional diet.


I agree with you, but I also think it's worth pointing out that I feel like the inverse is also true.

'Typing to people' is different to talking to them, but it has its own very real and rich reward, that I feel is different to but overlaps with talking.

That overlap means that yes, sometimes my need for connection with other people can be sustained entirely by typing, but not forever.

Along the same lines, I do not get exactly the same reward from talking to people as I do typing, and I find that after several days without spending some time thinking and typing to other people, I itch to get back and just have a back and forth about something online.

Usually, I prefer this to be something that I and the person I'm talking to agree on, and we're plumbing the depths of shared experience, but sometimes to much chagrin it definitely is 'beef'.

Sometimes I wonder if this is because the sort of people I type to online are very different to most of the people I talk to offline, but I don't honestly think that explains the whole thing.


I would agree with you, with the caveat that I think that I would much rather live without typing to people online if I had to choose one or the other.

Typing is great, theres a certain density of information and shorthand inherent in how we write and use punctuation (much like how a lot can be said with gestures and facial features) as well as a sort of shared purpose (we all came to this website to have a particular kind of experience, everyone present is in a particular sort of mood)


Oh yeah, it has its good points, I met my SO via typing to them a lot.


Why do you think the celibacy rate has risen sharply in young men over the last decade, but remained constant in young women? They both have access to the same entertainment options.


I suspect it's because women can now be far more selective about the men they sleep with.


In a single word - Tinder.


Because of the blue pill red pill movement and incel culture


I think you've got cause and effect mixed up there. "Incel" stands for "involuntary celibacy". That's not an explanation, that's a description of the thing you're trying to explain.


But that hippie generation forbade all sex & drugs so successive generations have to do something. We have become over domesticated chimps that have been conditioned to think having sex with a lot of people is a bad thing and anything other than alcohol is a no no. Good a more open minded sentiment is starting to develop but let's not blame technology when cultural heritage is sufficient to explain trends.

If everybody had sex today tomorrow would be awesome. I welcome a world where women are not slut shamed and it is normal for a 20 year old girl to brag at the office that she had an amazing fuck Yesterday from a random hit-and-run.


I don't think so. The hippie movement was a reaction to extremely stiff social norms that are not at all applicable today. We have a lot to thank them for their disobedience to that.

Today, outside of your family and maybe some friends nobody really cares about your drug use or sex life. There are some prohibitions by law, but I doubt these are too relevant.

I often ask myself from which cult people have escaped or how old they are if they indict current society of being restrictive or even suppressing in some way. Frankly, I don't see that at all. Maybe it is a wish, since that would mean that society cares at least somehow.

Maybe I am lucky, but I don't really see restrictive norms anywhere. You see a lot of people not caring though. The internet is no reference here. You can save a puppy from its inevitable demise and certainly someone will be deeply offended by your actions.

> If everybody had sex today tomorrow would be awesome [...]

Always a better tomorrow... but I highly doubt that. Some might crave sex and some might crave intimacy. Anyone bragging in the office about hook ups would be suspected to seeking confirmation. The same is true for males since quite some time. Cultural suppression? I don't think so. Because if you would do that, I think the repercussions would be almost negligible. Some will judge you, but that will happen if you wear the same pants twice. Maybe not a bad choice of fetish, but certainly no fight for more freedom.


The norms haven't changed, but society is more atomized and thus the norms can't exert the pressure that they once did.


> But that hippie generation forbade all sex & drugs

Say what now


I believe they are pointing out that a number of the participants in the Summer of Love, went on to drive political agenda that proscribed similar exploration by their children.


>I welcome a world where women are not slut shamed and it is normal for a 20 year old girl to brag at the office that she had an amazing fuck Yesterday from a random hit-and-run.

No, you don't. I work with a (trans) woman who has absolutely no sense of "slut shame" and listening to her recount tales of her sexual exploits every day makes me dread a job I used to find fun and rewarding.


Since I can find groups of people who share the same beliefs, values, hobbies, and interests as I do online, I don't have to mix with icky people from different backgrounds in real life just because they're all that's available to me in my local area to hang out with.

I can stay in my bubble now. Thanks Internet!


Free but monetized.


Very well monetized such that there are paid moderators.

I'm very much okay with this.


I'm assuming you are talking about HN.

I'd be very happy if this was also the case for other networks. Feels like a competent moderation team (not necessarily paid; forums in the good old days had people competing to be voluntary moderators) would make mainstream social media a lot more enjoyable.


Feels like a competent moderation team (not necessarily paid

Moderation seems to generally be better when it is paid. I've done plenty of moderating in my time. I currently am the moderator or a number of things. I'm generally a good moderator.

I'm also dirt poor and I resent the fact that I do so many things for free for people without it coming back to me and my extreme poverty actively interferes at times with my ability to tend to unpaid obligations while I try to eke out a living doing something else for a bit, etc.

I generally have a pretty good track record of doing things for free that I'm willing to do for free and not dumping on other people about how they aren't paying me to do this, but I have seen plenty of moderators over the years have a snit fit about how the membership is ungrateful and they do this out of the goodness of their heart and You People need to behave better, appreciate us more, and quit being so much drama since it's all free, dagnabbit.

I think if you really, truly value something, you should be okay with people being able to do that work and actually somehow pay their own bills because of it.

Reddit is sort of a weird grey zone where Reddit actually makes money and has paid staff, but most moderation on Reddit is unpaid. And I run a few Reddits and I'm still trying to figure out what I think of that weird beast.

But, generally speaking, as someone who has done tons of volunteer work in my life and has also spent a lot of years very poor where all that "goodness of my heart" crapola didn't do a fucking thing for me when I needed some "goodness" from someone else, I think if you resent the service you use for free somehow making money and actually paying its staff, (trying to think of a more PC way to end this sentence and failing -- suffice it to say, I don't have a high opinion of such people).


I wasn't speaking against paying moderators, just saying that even voluntary moderation would be better than the status quo for a lot of communities (it's insane how much work people will give for free in exchange for some random internet points, see Stack Exchange for an example).

There are a lot of people out there who would be happy to work for free to help their community out; forums used to work like that before being made mostly irrelevant by the social media garbage. If you consider that a problem then it's not for you and that's okay. (I wouldn't do it full time either now that I have a job, but back in my teenage years I had lots of free time that I was happy to donate for free, and indeed my Stack Exchange account's reputation - useless internet points - is a testimony to that.)

Paying people means the company needs to put in a significant amount of resources (technical, legal and staff) to manage that, something companies might not want to invest in (at least not right now). Random internet points is at least a stop-gap solution to let the community manage moderation without much investment nor management from the company, and would definitely be a good upgrade from the status-quo.

As a counterpoint, for people having their community's best interests at heard, being paid might actually be a downgrade. I contributed to Stack Exchange years ago for free because I liked to help people and help the community I was part of. I did so on my own time and terms. Being paid would've meant I now had a duty to do it and I couldn't for example decide that I wasn't in the mood to contribute one evening because it was now a job. The other issue is that being paid means you have the company's best interests at heart instead of the community, and those might not align. It's easy to break rules or "look the other way" for the sake of the community when you're a volunteer, less so when your paycheck depends on it.


Sorry. I think we are mostly talking past each other. It's nearly midnight and I'm getting a bit frayed around the edges at this point.


No worries!


Is religion really that different?


I want to upvote this 10x.


Every generation would always talk about the destructive increase in entertainment in their time. My grandfather said his parents told him he listened to the radio too much when he was a kid.


Your great-grandparents were right, it's just hard to imagine listening to radio with family being "destructive", when today people have less friends than ever and are literally choosing Netflix, video games, and pornography over having a social life.


I think entertainment is a lesser issue to the real problem which is car centric urban design. We all live so far apart that it is very time consuming, expensive and tedious to meet other people. Rather than just stepping outside and walking/cycling to someone you have to own a car, spend 30 minutes driving and then 30 minutes back. Or you could just play a video game with them over the internet in the few minutes it takes to set up.


There are certainly a number of factors, but the prevalence and addictiveness of entertainment technology is without a doubt a major factor.

Plenty of hikikomori in the safe, walkable Tokyo. What's keeping them inside?


>What's keeping them inside?

I would guess they've shut themselves in and away from the shame and rejection by society and have found the tiny inkling of happiness possible in that hole. And as society continues to rejects them further for being in a hole, the hole only gets deeper.

Understandable, since the minute they go outside, everything is stacked against them and even with help, they probably won't be able to compete on the same level as the normal people who didn't fall into the hole. I can't win outside, but I can be happy in my hole. Hole good, outside bad.


I'll admit I know very little of the culture in Japan so there are quite likely other factors. I am just talking from personal experience as a 2x year old in Australia. I would happily meet up with friends regularly but it never happens because they live too far away, most of us do not have cars and because most of us live with parents, meetups tend to be in the city where the only activity is drinking. Video games perhaps allow us to have fun when we might have otherwise forced ourselves to go out but I think the primary factor for me is how difficult it is.


You make it sound like a bad thing. Have you met people? Do you really want to spend more of your time with them? :)


Yes. And yes. I'll do anything to hang out with people, especially the ones I like.

You sound like you're making an excuse for a lack of friends by implying there is no one worth being friends with? Perhaps I've inferred too much, I sure hope so...


To be fair to the poster, virtually anyone you meet in real life will be far less interesting than chatting with someone in a specialized forum like hacker news.


That's such a narrow view on what value people can offer you, it saddens me.


I think some of this is when you're first exposed to a new genre of art/entertainment, you don't really know how to explore it and everything kind of looks or sounds the same.

You see what's unique about the overall style over and over, and you don't yet see what's unique about each work, so the art form seems simplistic and repetitive even if it is no more so than others you already enjoy.


For a philosophical reflexion along these lines please check out Byung-Chul Han « in the swarm ». Written a while ago, translated to English only recently.


>Our social connections have been replaced with commercial ones.

This one phrase combines Marx's notion of alienation and commodity fetishism into one - it's odd how relevant Marx's sociological analysis is today.


Trust is earned. It's not something you can assume.

That "assumption of trust" you speak of included an assumption that either you weren't LGBT or you would bury it your entire life for the comfort of the larger community.

Matthew 10:34-36

34"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35For I have come to turn "'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law- 36a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.'

I would say you did the actual Christian thing by leaving. But I'm not Christian, so I'm sure many will find that assertion offensive.

Community cannot be founded upon an assumption that some people will bury an important part of themselves like that. That's a foundation of sand and will not last.

We are seeing such things dissolve because we have other options these days. In the past, people often grudgingly tolerated it because they had no place to go, not because being part of some larger community was some wonderfully fulfilling experience most of the time.

If the world is seeing a loss of identity, it is because we are being freed from the shackles of our old identity. It's normal for there to be a transition period where no one knows what's what.

That's not a problem. It's just a stage in a process.

It's only a problem if we get stuck here and fail to establish a new identity. Then the great experiment fails, the opportunity to become something better is lost and we likely see things crash and burn so the world can sort of return to it's old ways that kind of worked.


> That "assumption of trust" you speak of included an assumption that either you weren't LGBT or you would bury it your entire life for the comfort of the larger community.

The LGBT community comes with it's own shackles. They assume the only natural thing is for someone to structure their whole identity and lives around what might just be a developmental phase of their youth. I'm certainly glad that type of thinking wasn't promoted when I was growing up.


> The LGBT community comes with it's own shackles. They assume the only natural thing is for someone to structure their whole identity and lives around what might just be a developmental phase of their youth.

People who are able to distinguish themselves through individual achievement seem much less inclined to structure their identities around race, sex and other mostly immutable charactertistics.

There's also no such thing as the LGBT community. There's only a community of LGBT people who hold similar political opinions, and whole lot of LGBT people who disagree with them.


I'm not heterosexual. The LGBT community has made it crystal clear they want nothing whatsoever to do with me.

I don't speak for that community. My remark in no way suggests that their agenda is somehow superior to that of the Catholic Church.


> I'm not heterosexual. The LGBT community has made it crystal clear they want nothing whatsoever to do with me.

Care to expand on your experience?


Nope.


There are a bunch of LGBT communities with varying sizes and standards.


If it's just a phase they can choose to go back. But if people are to structure their life around any kind of community, the best ones seem like they would be the ones that dont seek to harm others, and are inclusive and not judgemental for how people are. So while I may be associated with it, the LGBT community seems like like a much better one then basically any traditional one.


This struck me as too tidy, so in the spirit of debate let me offer a little pushback:

>We are seeing such things dissolve because we have other options these days.

1) Do we have other options? I think we do, but I don't think the saturation is nearly as high as churchgoing or temple-attending was throughout history.

>In the past, people often grudgingly tolerated it because they had no place to go, not because being part of some larger community was some wonderfully fulfilling experience most of the time.

2) Religions grew and spread in every civilization for millenia. Ancestor worship in East Asia. Hinduism in South Asia. Animism among natives everywhere. Christianity in the West. What if religion and religious community grew and took the forms they did, because they met humanity's social and emotional needs?

So I would restate the original comment as asking (i) what problems arise when something everyone depended on so long disappears in a relatively short time, and (ii) how can we handle those problems. Importantly, stating these questions isn't suggesting that everyone needs to return to religion (which wouldn't even be possible without un-discovering science).


It's a comment on a forum, not a PhD thesis.

There are other ways to attend gatherings of people now. You and I are attending one of them right this minute: a forum on the internet.

For my purposes, talking with people on HN is generally superior to most meatspace options.

I have a compromised immune system. No one is going to cough on me on HN.

I'm a woman. This is an overwhelmingly male space. No one here can physically assault me the way they could in meatspace.

I can talk to people all over the world who have taken an intense and serious interest in a variety of subjects, so I can get rich discussion on a variety of topics. This won't happen in most meatspace environments.

In meatspace, it ends up being a great deal more important for people to have a long list of thibgs in common. Smokers tend to congregate together because strict non smokers don't even like being around them. Sexual orientation ends up being a thornier issue, especially in a small community where you are trying to choose a future mate from a small dating pool.

Religion presumably spread because it worked well for that time, or at least was the least worst solution. We have other options now for connecting with people. Those options are incredibly important to how the world works currently and people have flocked to them.

It's how you can argue the point with me at all.


>I'm a woman. This is an overwhelmingly male space. No one here can physically assault me the way they could in meatspace.

And yet women managed to exist in outside society and participate in all kinds of actions in the 60s and 70s for example (including protests, acid tests, trips to India, and all kinds of stuff), under much worse conditions (re: average societal sexism, etc), without all today's drama.

It's like how in general violent crime is at an all time low, but people are more scared and panicked about it than in past 20th century decades (when it was 2x-3x as much).


The many articles I've seen in recent years related to the #MeToo movement and similar suggest to me that women are pretty routinely sexually assaulted for simply attending a rather wide variety of events, including simply having a job. (Keep in mind that doesn't mean raped -- it includes more minor offenses, like being felt up.)

I was sexually assaulted as a child. I don't think I have been as an adult. I like keeping it that way.

There are things I attend in meat space. I'm not a shut in. I just enjoy the fact that talking with people online about things that interest me simplifies certain elements for me.

I might feel differently if I could find better intellectual engagement in meat space than online. If the entire internet were vapid memes, I might be all "Book club here I come!" (or whatever)

But I get more of what I really want here with less potential downside. It's a win-win in my book.


I certainly understand the attraction of a simplification of engagement and for decades I thought that was the true potential of the Internet (via usenet, IRC, later web forums, social networks, etc etc). I'm no longer convinced.

The reason I'm no longer convinced is that such simplification carries with it a component of convenience that makes it awfully easy to isolate ourselves from those who may differ from our thinking and outlook and it seems to be human nature, backed by an awful lot of history, that we prefer to avoid such inconveniences in favor of reinforcing our preferences.

The problem with avoiding the inconvenience of being exposed to different thinking is two-fold: isolation bubbles that allow us to come to beliefs absent any real opposition which leads to intellectually weak conclusions and an exposure to the overwhelming commonality that most people have with each other absent a few contentious beliefs/ideas. The lack of recognition of such commonality allows "othering" based on minor differences in a way that simply did not exist in most Western societies of the last few hundred years.

It may indeed be what we wanted but I'm unconvinced it resulted in what we need.


I certainly understand the attraction of a simplification of engagement

Because of the context of what you are replying to, this comes awfully close to implying that women should politely endure routine sexual assault for some reason.

I assume that wasn't your intent. But I didn't engage with your comment earlier because I have no idea how to take your point seriously and respect your point of view without inadvertently implying myself "Why, you're right! Women shouldn't be so ridiculously picky about their personal welfare with regards to sexual matters!"


A greater point might be not to put too much stock in what "many articles" say. I'm sure "many articles" talking about homelessness would result in a lot more skepticism about the subject from you.

If you just listened to the media on any subject these days, it would be hard to leave the house, yeah. But that's less because life is so dangerous and more because the media loves to use primal fears to engage people to keep watching.


If that had been my intent, I would have said so.

Your statements "I might feel differently if I could find better intellectual engagement in meat space than online. If the entire internet were vapid memes, I might be all "Book club here I come!" (or whatever)" presumably do not imply that if the internet were more vapid you would politely endure routine sexual assault for better intellectual engagement either.

My reply was specifically about the problems of the internet as a replacement for meatspace intellectual engagement.


presumably do not imply that if the internet were more vapid you would politely endure routine sexual assault for better intellectual engagement either.

I didn't quite know how to say what I wanted to say, but that is, in fact, not too different from what I was implying. Not that I would politely endure routine sexual assault, but I would be much more willing to take my chances if I had no means to get my intellectual needs met without being exposed to such dangers.

I don't think I should have to be exposed to such dangers to get my intellectual needs met, but some comments here seem to suggest that me wanting to both get my intellectual needs met and not be subjected to sexual harassment is some kind of crazy high ridiculous standard.


Yes, we're in agreement that it's not acceptable to trade sexual assault for intellectual engagement... and I'm not sure there's a large advocacy group in favor of such a perverse system to begin with.

My original point, which I still stand behind, is that the internet has not proven itself capable of actually fully meeting people's intellectual needs but instead often provides the illusion of doing so. It is not unlike the difference between doing work (meeting an actual need) vs being busy (the feeling of achievement without actually achieving).


It's also easier to find those we disagree with if you are curious. It's also harder for the incurious to suppress such curiosity. If you have never found and explored deep wells of previously alien thought online, then I doubt you would have been so interested in meatspace either.


The fact that effort is required to find those we disagree with (on the internet) demonstrates the weakness of the internet to meatspace. Merely showing up for work will expose you to those who hold viewpoints with which you disagree and unlike an anonymous internet belief-holder it is much harder to dismiss or entirely define a person purely due to that belief when you are around them for several hours a day. We may disagree with each other deeply about politics but share a love of pho and eat lunch together among a myriad of other commonly shared experiences. It makes it much harder to think of people as caricatures.


I've come to feel pretty much like that about HN.

People are generally courteous, and discussions are often interesting and thought provoking.

After leaving academia, I really missed the "intellectual engagement in meat space". Especially after going rural, and working remotely.


Gentleman farmer types never had it so good. It's the best of both worlds, magnified.

Historically, you only found high levels of intellectual engagement in big cities, at big universities. But thinking deeply requires peace and quiet and control over your schedule. Intellectuals have a long history of trying to get away from it all so they could read, meditate, etc.

Now, you don't have to choose. You can have both, at will.


You... might want to talk to women who lived through that time. Who got to suffer through major assholery during the 60's, where really, a woman's role was to shut the fuck up and provide sex. Who could be excluded from jobs just because they were women until 1968. Who until 1972 just magically couldn't become CEO of a large company. Who until 1974 couldn't get a credit without a man co-signing. Who until 1978 could be fired for being pregnant.

It's almost like some of us still remember, and that's why we bring drama when some people would like to sweep all that under the rug - and ideally wind the clock back while being at it.


> And yet women managed to exist in outside society and participate in all kinds of actions in the 60s and 70s for example (including protests, acid tests, trips to India, and all kinds of stuff), under much worse conditions (re: average societal sexism, etc), without all today's drama.

They were much more effectively silenced or persuaded to put up with it, yes. That's how you avoid drama: find the person with less power in the situation and threaten them into shutting up.

Just recently there was a thread on Asimov pointing out that his harassment of women at SF cons was an open joke. The BBC's re-broadcasting of the popular music programme "Top Of The Pops" has been affected by their decision not to show episodes presented by known sex offenders - this took out a huge chunk of the 70s episodes presented by Jimmy Savile and others.


> And yet women managed to exist in outside society and participate in all kinds of actions in the 60s and 70s for example (including protests, acid tests, trips to India, and all kinds of stuff), under much worse conditions (re: average societal sexism, etc), without all today's drama.

But that doesn't mean that it wasn't there or that there wasn't a problem - just that they were less able to talk about it without more severe consequences to themselves, and we've hardly moved past that now. Dismissing it all as just "drama" sounds like implicitly wishing that the situation would go back to suffering in silence.


I'm sure you can find passages of the Bible to fit your narrative, but those lines are hardly representative of the majority of Christ's teachings. For the most part he was concerned with healing the sick, feeding the poor and showing love to the unloved. If you were going to pick someone from two millennia ago to become a spiritual leader to half the worlds population, you could have done a lot worse.


Does seem like he was probably ok. I wish there was some way to hear his teachings, instead of reading deeply political texts written centuries later by much more sketchy authors.


>If the world is seeing a loss of identity, it is because we are being freed from the shackles of our old identity. It's normal for there to be a transition period where no one knows what's what.

The only problem is that there were other times of such "freedom from the shackles of our old identity" and they didn't end well -- even if centuries later things picked up.

The late Greek city states, the late Roman empire for one, modern Britain and France (second rate global players, politically and culturally, where they used to be first), and so on... US is close...


>If the world is seeing a loss of identity, it is because we are being freed from the shackles of our old identity. It's normal for there to be a transition period where no one knows what's what.

What if this old identity and social structures based on religious texts is essential for human beings and human beings are not capable of forging for themselves a new identity without guidance?


> That's not a problem. It's just a stage in a process. It's only a problem if we get stuck here and fail to establish a new identity.

I think that was exactly what the parent comment was saying, except for pointing out that millions of people have gotten stuck there, and it's been getting worse for decades across the entire developed world. It's even worse in Japan, for example, than in the US, and the collapsing customs and institutions there mostly don't include religion.

Around the world, we're getting out from under religious and secular systems that were pretty good for the majority and quite bad for the minority, but so far we've failed dramatically at replacing them with something that is better for everyone. This is progress, but it's not enough.


This is spot on. I wonder if this exodus has resulted in people trying to make workplaces their "religious community"; but obviously people who happen to be at the same company don't have any reason to agree on important issues. So then the mission becomes trying to make everyone at work care about and agree on <chosen social issue>.


I have spoke to many people who have said that they feel that work has replaced their social life, myself included to a degree. It also means that people don't want to move on in their careers as they get too comfortable with their work family and pass on better opportunities. I have a coworker who passed on a great opportunity just because he really likes working with everyone. A close friend had to be prodded by his wife to apply for better positions in other areas to advance his salary. Another friend's wife refuses to get a better job because she likes her coworkers so much.


> I have a coworker who passed on a great opportunity just because he really likes working with everyone.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but your tone makes me believe you think your coworker made the wrong decision.

I'm actually jealous of your coworker. Currently, if someone offered me a better career opportunity, I'd likely take it without hesitation; but I wish that weren't the case. I don't hate my current position, but I wish I loved it more to the point where leveling up, learning the newest framework, and making more money wasn't the priority.

On top of that, everyone around me seems to be more focused on the trajectory of their life rather than their current situation, so I feel like its hard for me to get out of this rat race mindset.


He did tell me directly that he regretted it later on. Though it didn't keep him up at night.

I think the current tech industry rat race and churn is socially stifling in the sense that you must become nomadic and chase opportunity. By the time you settle in its time to move again. I see people working the same job at the same company with families and homes who although make less than the average tech worker, appear to me much more happy and fulfilled in life.


Alternative proposition.

'Moving on in your career' may be horribly overrated, or at the very least not something everyone prioritises the same way.

Enjoying the work you do, and the people you do it with, and being satisfied by same, may be a sufficiently compelling reason to not engage in high-risk behaviour for the sake of 'advancing your salary'.


I strongly suspect that the cause of isolation is that we don't treat our workplaces as our community anymore.

My parents' community all met their spouses and friends at work, whereas people of my age seem to find something unprofessional about this. And I believe that old-fashioned civic organizations like the Elks were built from a tangle of professional relationships.

And realistically, where are you going to find a stronger community than among the people with whom you spend 40 hours a week?


People replace God with something else I have noticed. Many of the Atheists in the Atheists community in the United States started a new organisation called Atheism+, which alienated a lot of group and those in Atheism+ started added a lot of dogma, which I find as someone who observed the split from the outside in the UK to be somewhat ironic.

I am not religious myself (but I am slowly having a greater appreciation of religion as I get older).


Indeed, as an atheist I long ago recognized the value of religion even if I could not believe in myself.


The problem is that a lot of writing from ancient sources e.g. Bible, Confucius etc. get discounted because of the language used. If you actually think about what they actually meant at the time a lot of the time there is a lot of wisdom in it but because of the language used it is too dense for most modern readers.

Unfortunately a lot of atheists just decided they knew everything once they realised that the Bible wasn't the literal truth. Many Christians wouldn't claim that and Atheists tend to point at the likes of Ken Ham to strawman the rest of the Christianity.

However I do appreciate Christianity in Europe is very different than it is in the USA.


Sadly I think a number of atheists decided that an absence of religion meant that there was also an absence of morality, at least in any universal sense. Oddly that put them in agreement with the theists, even if neither realized it.

One of the benefits of religion as I see it is an establishment of a morality that rises above "that which is popular in the moment." Most people are too busy dealing with the minutiae of day-to-day living to sit back and ponder the philosophy of morality, and while some religions may hold unpalatable beliefs they at least have the virtue of being predictable as opposed to the temporary vagaries of the mob.


It's almost like our social bonds are being broken in the same way chemical bonds get broken when we digest food. Like our capitalist society is a higher-order organism that is extracting energy from our societal bonds.


I think this way of looking at it is interesting and I don’t see why your comment is currently being downvoted.

Sun Tzu wrote about humans acting as a bigger organism when an army work together as one.

And with that in mind, and with your comment on top of that, I wonder:

We generally agree that self-awareness is a sign of general intelligence, right? So if a group of people see them selves as one, in some sense, and act as one in some sense, then could we say that we are witnessing an organism that is built from people and that is elevated over the mind of just each of the individual people?

In the same way that we people are made of what I will very scientifically refer to as “a bunch of smaller stuff” but yet we are more than just the individual bits of stuff we are made of because as a whole each of us have our self-awareness and all that.

That is, something of higher general intelligence than its parts.


> I think this way of looking at it is interesting and I don’t see why your comment is currently being downvoted.

Many HN users seem to have a strong knee-jerk reaction against criticism of capitalism, however gentle or thoughtful.


Well perhaps the issue is that the comment had no justification to attach it to capitalism? Capitalism has been around much longer than the decline of these social bonds.


Has it though? The roman empire was a command economy, but there are obvious vestiges of the empire in our society still


I think that’s spot on and relates with what I understood after reading Pirsig’s “Lila: An inquiry into morals”, where he talks about inorganic, biological, social, and intellectual patterns, when introducing his Metaphysics of Quality[1]. Capitalism would be a social pattern that is made of us, as we’re made of our cells. And just the same, what’s best for the organism as a whole does not have to be the best for a specific individual cell.

[1]: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirsig%27s_Metaphysics_of_Qu...


Not saying capitalism is devoid of fault but it seems like consumerism is more directly to blame


Isn't consumerism caused by capitalism?


No?


Consumerism, at the least, is dependent on capitalism's core feature, generalized commodity production. So far, that seems true - was there any consumerism in pre-capitalist societies? I'd hazard a guess and say no. If consumerism is further driven by advertising, it depends on capitalism even more. This paper[0] persausively argues that consumerism is a consequence of specifically capitalist society, considered in its historical development.

[0] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/978047067059...


[flagged]


News Guidelines:

Please don't comment about the voting on comments. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Commenting on votes will only make you get downvoted more, regardless of how virtuous your comment was.


Perhaps, but does it have to be?


What force will stop it? Things are how they are because of the systems that exist. Changing how things are requires changing one or more things about those systems.


Sure but that doesn't mean entire existing systems need to be thrown out and replaced wholesale by completely different ideology-based systems


While I disagree, I never suggested that with my comment.


But a central tenet of Communism was dismantling all other social structures like religion. Modern technology under capitalism may be destroying these social structures over time, but communism did actively.

This whole comment just reeks of fanciful anti-capitalism with little real substance.


Pretending that the only alternative to modern capitalism is full-on Soviet-style communism does no one any good.


What a fascinating analogy. There's certainly a well-explored conception of Capitalism's benefiting from particularly "alienating social relations," but as I conceive if it, that benefit's not so much about deriving "energy" from breaking social bonds, as it is about lowering the cost of coercion. After all, social bonds can give us the self-confidence to stand up to our bosses orders, and to re-organize our work along lines less profitable to them and more profitable to, e.g. our church, community, family, selves, etc.

Is the Firm energized by alienating one worker from another? Is there, from that event, free energy? I don't think so. In fact, it's energetically costly to dis-organize social bonds, but for the Firm it's an investment in a more alienated--and therefore more vulnerable--future workforce.

If the firm extracted energy from social bonds, it would collect well-bonded groups, and "spend" them. Oh, wait. That's what acquisitions do, isn't it?


It's a commonplace today that people are defined by what they choose to consume; that one asserts their personal identity by what brands they buy and what media they watch. The ones who are selling membership in these "sub-cultures" therefore stand to gain from the destruction of any form of belongingness that they cannot sell as a commodity.


> people are defined by what they choose to consume

And are they not, also, affected by what they do not choose but nonetheless consume?


My theory is that people have replaced religion with politics. They've fallen away from organized religion, but they still need somewhere deep down, the comfort and certainty, (or "faith"), that spiritual belief conferred.

Many have found that comfort and certainty in the ideological tenets of the political groups with which they form affinities. As a bonus, people find a sense of belonging that is fairly similar to what 50 years ago those same people would have found in the various churches or temples.

Again, just a theory, but I think this is why a lot of political arguments have started to resemble almost clashes of religious dogmas. Or what the author has termed, "beefs".


When I went to church as a kid I don't remember being anywhere this much beef between the religious vs non-religious. It's way worse. It's not just politics, it's sports, sexual orientation, gaming, and many more domains.


I grew up a strict southern baptist in Wisconsin of all places. And I can tell you that while there was very little "beef" between the religious and the non religious. There was a metric $#!t Ton of "beef" between religious people.

Between Baptists and Catholics for instance. Or between jews and muslims. Etc etc etc. Clashes of religious dogmas have been raging just about as long religions have been around. If I remember correctly, Ancient Egyptians attempted to strike entire dynasties from the record because this Pharoah believed in One God, or that Pharoah moved the capitol too far from more appropriate lands.

There has been history altering levels of "beef" between religious peoples over the millennia.


This makes me think "beef" is hardwired into us. I read an article somewhere about how Neanderthals were individually stronger in small numbers susceptible to getting taken over by homo sapiens because the former were more independent and the latter had things like religion to rally around which united them and made them stronger as a whole.


People like you who did not created ties to a group like that are quite better and less scary then people who have strong loyal unquestioning ties to groups - whether nationalist, traditionalist or radical Christians (some of Catholics in my country lately tie themselves to extremists).

Membership and trust in these apparently feels great. That feeling is dangerous. That trust is not build on truths being told, it is build on unquestioned authority and aggression.

Reflection from a country where such groups are on the rise and not a side players anymore.


Strong social ties can exist without an overarching authority, or even without any sort of authoritative structure at all- I think the best thing to look at in this regard are modern subcultures (punks, hipsters, hippies, goths, burners, etc) particularly as they exist in decently-sized cities. A bunch of like-minded and like-lifestyled people with an excuse to get together; that’s at least 90% of what the old conservative/religious structures offered.


Everyone is the same amount of religious in my experience. The people who join an established religion gain the quality of being predictable.


I really don't see that one.

There are people willing to drink poison for their cult - I don't see that level of religious fervour from the vast majority of people.

People who join an established religion also vary wildly. Gangsters and pedophiles sit next to soccer mums and librarians at church services.

I don't see the predictability or religious-(ity) being at all normalised.


And notional atheists crusade for political positions with equal fervour. I think what he meant is that there's a probability distribution of religiosity among the populace, and the curves aren't too different within and without churches.


The religion as in believe in supernatural is not the issue that much. Who they cooperate with and support is the issue I have - and of course support is related to who have similar/compatible ideologies in some sense.


Indeed. A lot of the modern internet "beefs" remind me of football "ultras"; the sport is really a pretext for the punchup, or at least the singing of death threats at each other.


I've experienced plenty of that dangerous unquestioning extremist fervor from progressive/LGBT circles too.


It's a little concerning in cultural conditioning is that most people don't consider left extremist groups in that. They can get dangerous pretty quickly. (Other than the usual just shitty to people outside the groups)


Right now I am talking about aligning oneself with party that openly threaten violence and celebrates it and openly talks about abusing power if they win (as if that would be cool thing). And whose leadership is very friendly with dudes who have swastica tatoos. And which have very similar ideological arguments.

"Unquestioning fervor" is not there yet.

They are scary, because their appeal and promis is "I am gon na be tough and violent and anything else is weakness".


> party that openly threaten violence and celebrates it and openly talks about abusing power if they win (as if that would be cool thing)

I read this entire sentence and still wasn't sure which side you were referring to because this applies equally to "the left" in my experience.


Yeah it's possible that fearful people have intentionally made us lonely and isolated so they can feel safer.


Thank you for crystallising this succinctly.

The loss of cultural meeting places, be they churches, or arcades, or malls, is something I consider a huge loss as well. The pendulum might swing the other way yet, however.

If we can reinvest in our community centers and hacker spaces and make them part of the zeitgeist, we might all be rehumanize a bit.


There are many communities out there for people to join and find their tribe, they just aren't easily accessible or indexed centrally. A lot of them filter for like-minded folks -- even the ones that claim to accept anyone.

Focusing on community or hacker spaces is narrow view of one's options. I found mine via attending underground music events, then joining one of the groups and attending festivals with them, which eventually led to strong ties with the burner scene and some of the local artist communities.

I think people are forgetting that to experience these things you need to be present, and do so with some frequency. Open-mindedness and the right vibe will get you far socially. Unfortunately that doesn't really match well with the workoholic atmosphere that many jobs insist on, and so you end up with unfortunate situations like people mistaking their employers for family. I hope that those folks are secure in their employment because it is really easy to be cast out (e.g. laid off) under the guise of, "it's just business". Personally I think feelings of workplace-as-family are just another trap engendered by management to maintain employee retention.


> I found mine via attending underground music events

To find like-minded folks to do things you love with, do the things you love.

Problem is most of the things I love involve isolating myself from others and seeking solitude in my own projects. After work and partner, there’s just no more social battery left.

When I tried 4-day-at-office weeks for a few months I literally became chattier with people at the gym, strangers in the park, etc. it was quite extraordinary


I agree with you, and I too kept thinking "Hmm, that is a really good point." but I found the statement you called out somewhat at odds with the rest of the thesis.

What I understood him to say was that his thesis is that culture wars are not about identity and yet this endless conflict is about a lack of identity. So where does identity really fit in there?

The economic and political incentives of inciting "beefing" were spot on. And there is nothing like amping up the inequality of the distribution of wealth to put energy into the "beef battery" (if such a thing existed).


"And there is nothing like amping up the inequality of the distribution of wealth"

You're adding a little bit of beef flavor to your comment with that one. Inequality of wealth is something that is increasing. That's a fact. The causes and effects of it have pros and cons that should be debated. People "amping it up" is an assertion that tastes somewhat of beef - but it can be made about both sides.


I can see that interpretation, it wasn't my intent. One of the questions that comes from reading the piece is "what drives people to complain?" The article describes the empowering of "mooks" and in my experience complaining is common but it generally dies down if there is a general feeling among the complainers that everyone is in essentially the same situation. Whereas the complaining does not die down, and gets more intense, when there is perceived inequity between one group and another. My observation has been that if the 'haves' group is about the same size as the 'havenot' group then the complaints are constant but relatively stable in intensity, as that ratio shifts with a smaller and smaller 'have' group, it seems the intensity is increased.

The article discusses this effect a bit in that the size of one's army defines the amount of energy that can be thrown into the fight. I would not be surprised if there was a correlation between group sizes of groups that identify as "havenots" and the intensity of their beefing.

That suggests to me a hypothesis that wealth inequality ratios would correlate strongly with the energy of the conflict. There are some famous conflicts, the French Revolution comes to mind, which, as I understand it, were driven by this sort of energy.

If that hypothesis turned out to be true, then it would suggest one course of action to reduce the 'beefyness' of the conversations.


Hello fellow LGBT person! We actually have it a lot better than many marginalized groups -- if you want community, you can find it. You just have to put yourself out there in an offline sense and disabuse yourself of any ideas that you are somehow better than anyone else in the community. Go on a bunch of coffee dates and you'll make plenty of friends.

It's not organized per se, but in many cities the queer people all know each other. I live in a big city with a big queer scene, and I can't tell you how many times I show up by myself somewhere only to see 3 or 4 people I already know there. Or find out that the new person I'm dating is besties with another friend. We all have pretty similar politics, but we also never talk politics or current events (that shit is depressing). Conversation is largely about our own lives and relationships, which IMO is how it should be. The focus is on making space for and supporting eachother, not winning an argument.

If you're struggling to break in to the community, just set up a dating profile (Grindr if you're a gay man, OkCupid if you're not) with something along the lines of "baby queer here, I need friends". People will reach out to you because we've all been you. I have found people in the LGBT community to be incredibly caring and willing to invest in people they barely know, simply because they remember what it's like to be alone in the wilderness. Community is how we heal, and intentional family built one relationship at a time is stronger than relying on circumstances to provide you with social ties.

Much love, get out there and get involved, let yourself be vulnerable, and you will find your people <3


I appreciate your comment, but my experience has sadly been the opposite of what you describe. Perhaps I've just been unlucky, or maybe I just come off as an asshole, but people in Bay Area LGBT circles have been quicker to find disagreement and ghost me from their lives than any other group of people I've ever met. After the third or fourth time losing what I thought was a close friend over what felt like a petty disagreement I have become very disillusioned with the entire concept of "queer community". I feel like I've grown more as a person through my friendships with the handful of self-described religious people I've met here by accepting and being able to discuss issues where we disagree.


Some of the bigger communities are sadly like that, intolerance of non-conforming opinions seems to correlate with gaining critical mass.

If (big if) that’s true, then San Fran would be at the extreme in terms of having a queer community so large it can ‘afford’ to ruthlessly exclude as you experienced.

Likewise with diminishing religious groups becoming more tolerant and welcoming.

Then again, some of the teeniest subcultures are notorious for elitism, maybe it’s a bell curve.


Anecdotally, it seems like the Bay Area LGBT community has lower overall cohesion than the communities in other urban areas I've lived in (Denver, Chicago areas). Maybe the communities differ within the Bay Area too; it seems like there is less of an LGBT community in silicon valley than there would be in San Francisco or the East Bay.


I'm also LGBT and I have to guess that

>in many cities the queer people all know each other

is massively untrue based on my own anecdatum. Where I'm from, there is certainly a group who all know each other, who hang out at the gay bars, and who seem to have dated many others in the same group at some point. I have seen this by snooping on instagram or facebook - the same set of faces shows up at any gay event, and they do all seem to know each other.

I assume you're in that kind of community in your city. I'm glad for you. I'm certainly not within my city, although I've had "encounters" with people in that group. Given the significant percentage (3.5% according to google) of LGBT people in the population, I have to believe the vast majority of LGBT people are on the outside of any such group you're describing. Our social life is probably drawn from much more average sources (work, college friends, possibly church) than what you describe.


I think the quality of your experience with dating apps for any given dating app will depend on 1) where you live (are you in an area with a high or low LGBT population density) 2) who you are looking for (very hard to find people if you are, for example, a trans or non-binary person looking for other trans or non-binary friends) and 3) how much time you invest (it can take hours just to get conversations started, and more time before you get to actually meet people). This applies whether you are looking for friends or something else.


I wholeheartedly agree but also don't know how to fill those gaps. I'd love a church-like institution. I think about going to church almost every sunday just to experience being together with people in that way.

I remember it fondly from being a child even though I no longer believe in it.


There are civic organizations that meet regularly, do work within a community, and either minimize or are avoid religious affiliation.


if you're in the US, see if there's a UU congregation in your area; it might be just what you're looking for. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unitarian_Universalism


This is the sad truth about fast and rapidly changing social norms. this lack of identity and community.


What rapid changes have we seen lately? The change in that person's comment has been in the making for over a hundred years. The first thing I personally can think of (in the context of America, as one of the last Western countries to accept GLBT people, not in the context of the wider world, which has been accepting for much longer than America) is American GLBT communes in the 1780s.

Given where we are in GLBT acceptance, it seems like, if anything, this was one of the slowest-changing social norms of all, and one that more than a few generations were pushing for before the ones that are currently here.


I think the gutting of middle America is a big part of it. The most talented people are forced to leave for the coasts to make the most of their capabilities. This hurts both the leavers (like me) who have to built roots from scratch in their new home and hurts the remaining population due to the resulting brain drain. The us-versus-them attitude is then worsened by classist attitudes toward those entire areas based on the population who remain by my fellow “progressives” who will endlessly mock “flyover states” and anybody in them.


Albeit I didn't know about those communes, but I think LGBT acceptance was extremely rapid. The only other change I'm ready to compare it to was slavery and black civil rights: consider that the first state to legalize same sex marriage was Massachusetts in 2004. Over the next 11 years, we reached 37/50 states total, and then in 2015 with the supreme court decision we reach all 50/50.

For civil rights: we had slavery since the arrival in 1619 (which is the date I hear); we get the emancipation proclamation in 1863 ending slavery; but there are still Jim Crow laws until the civil rights and voting rights acts in 1964 and 1965.

To me that makes the road to LGBT acceptance sound extremely rapid, but someone with more awareness of historical trends in the US should put these into context. In particular when might we say various struggles began seriously, or entered the public consciousness.


That's framing things from a legal perspective, but even then there are some key legal steps you're missing (and this isn't conclusive at all):

Beating someone based on sexual orientation was recognized as a hate crime first in 1984 at the state level. 1995 and 1998 were when Clinton banned discriminating against gays at the Federal level via Executive Order.

1996 was when Clinton signed DOMA, which is the reason legislation stopped for so many years. Though lately he's tried to conceal that, it prevented GLB rights from advancing for many years. It was in response to states legalizing same-sex marriage.

1993 was when GLB people were first allowed to serve in the military.

1993 was also when Hawaii found bans on GLB marriage unconstitutional (at the state level).

1992 Colorado passed Amendment 2 which specifically forbade Colorado state, county or municipal governments from recognizing homosexuals as a protected class.

1998 Oregon makes GLB people a protected class, preventing people from discriminating against them on the basis of sexual orientation.

1984's National Gay Task Force v. Board of Education partially gutted a law that allowed schools to fire teachers on the basis of sexuality. (NGTF was founded in 1972.)

1977: GLB allowed to work for the IRS and foreign service, GLB activists for the first time invited to the White House.

1960s-1970s: Gerald Ford, for all of his faults, being the first 1900s President to really be pro-GLB.

1970 featured my favorite Nixon quote: "I can't go that far; that's the year 2000! Negroes [and whites], okay. But that's too far!" By 2000, as you can see, things were not much better.

1950s, 1960s & 1970s saw it come into general awareness; lots of protests, including Stonewall.

1901 saw DC make it harsh again; no felony, but a lot larger a fine, no imprisonment.

1892 basically decriminalized it in DC; you get a fine and you pay bail.

1807 saw Indiana make legislation to lessen the punishment for it (although it was the first to be for both genders); 4 years max, a fine, and a felony.

1801 had Maryland making perhaps the laxest law on sodomy ever: <7 years of punishment, the act of cleaning one's town, no imprisonment.

Jefferson failed in 1779 to liberalize his state's punishment for sodomy, but that's probably the first act of legislation trying to go easier on homosexuals. Virginia later passed (I think before 1800) a law that limited the punishment to 10 years.

George Washington brought in a general who was being persecuted in Germany for being homosexual shortly after we won the Revolutionary War, he was never punished, got pension, etc.


No states legally recognized same-sex marriage before 1996. Same-sex marriage was a relatively new controversy at the time, but one major reason for that was because Republicans were able to use the issue to motivate their base by trying to preemptively curtail it. Furthermore, DOMA was passed with a broad enough majority that any veto would have been overridden anyway. Picking a fight on DOMA would have only further motivated efforts at the time to prohibit same-sex marriage with an amendment to the US Constitution.

The 1993 ruling in Baehr v. Lewin simply remanded the case to a different count; it did not "find bans on GLB marriage unconstitutional". In fact, by the time the final ruling happened (as Baehr v. Miike), the Hawaii constitution had been amended anyway.


1992 Colorado passed Amendment 2 which specifically forbade Colorado state, county or municipal governments from recognizing homosexuals as a protected class. The amendment explicitly allowed the government of Colorado to be used to discriminate against gay people.

That's my only quibble with your list, other than Bill Clinton also signed Don't Ask Don't Tell.


Oh shoot, yeah, I guess I accidentally mixed up Colorado and Oregon there. Can't edit it now, though, unfortunately.


Fixed!


Reduced religiousity, and reduced family formation. Church membership was stable from 1938-1998. But from when Google was founded to today, it dropped from 70% to 50%. https://images.app.goo.gl/4b5wG27yprR4bfZg6

Median age at marriage has increased from 23 to 29 for men in my parents’ lifetime: https://images.app.goo.gl/A3SinK2HNqjM9s139

Also, it’s probably not accurate to say that America is one of the last western countries to accept LGBT people. Same sex marriage was legalized nationally around the same time in the US as in Germany and the UK. A number of western countries still don’t allow it, including Italy, Greece, Switzerland, Czech Republic, and Poland.


Poland and the Czech Republic aren't Western, they're Slavic. The USSR wasn't Western, nor are the offshoots of the USSR.

East Germany stopped prosecuting against GLB in 1957, and homosexual activity was officially decriminalized in 1968. 1980s Berlin literally had state-owned (again, East German) locations that were explicitly for GLB activity.

Took a bit longer for West Germany, but acceptance happened in the 1980s and in 1990 West Germany allowed GLB to join the military.

Same-sex couples have had (most of) the same legal rights as married couples since 2001 in the combined nation, I'm pretty sure, though I could be off a year. They were also allowed to adopt pre-2010, but I can't remember when.

Acceptance isn't just marriage.


It wasn’t not really much different in the US. You just have to remember it’s a state-by-state issue for the most part. Same sex intercourse was decriminalized in Illinois in 1962. Through most of the NE, Midwest, and west coast by 1970-1980.


> What rapid changes have we seen lately?

Well change in support/recognition of transgender issues has been very rapid over the past 5-10 years.

"More than six in ten (62%) Americans say they have become more supportive toward transgender rights compared to their views five years ago."

Source: https://www.prri.org/research/americas-growing-support-for-t...


The word "rapid" is doing a lot of work in both yours and GP post. The fact is that a hundred years is a very short amount of time if you really think about it. My grandfather was born in 1913, and if Thoreau had lived a long life–and had been connected to my family–he could have looked at my grandfather's eyes as he held him in his arms.

You're mentioning a specific example, but really think about it. In the span of three, maybe four generations, society has changed abruptly. The invention of trains and cars, the remaking of cities and countries, the internet. Before the industrial revolution, generations of families could live and die in the same place, following the same customs and traditions.

Nowadays, we, influenced by the internet in part, can barely imagine a future because the situation looks so unstable. We don't have the comfort of knowing what even the next decade is going to look like.


If you or anyone else is interested in this topic I strongly suggest the book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger.

That book really made me think pretty hard about this stuff. It's also a short 180 pages.


I just ordered a copy and am looking forward to it. Thanks for the recommendation.


>The problem is that I replaced it with nothing, and I think the same pattern has repeated across many other people and many other traditions. The temptation is to suggest MeetUps and other things built to connect people, but those suggested replacements don’t come with the same assumption of trust built in like many traditional organizational and family ties do.

That's how I see it as well. I find all those "organized" attempts fake (and commercialized ones even more so). I include anything, from AAA meetings, to "meditation" schools in 21st century West countries (where you go do your Zen study, and then go on to your otherwise unaltered 21st century life in late capitalism), to the meetups you've mentioned, and so on.

They can't replace organically grown over the decades (or millennia) traditional institutions and mechanisms, the same way canned laugher can't replace actual audience laughter. They're like a 3D printed sculpture of an animal compared to an actual animal, warts and all.

That's not to say the old organic versions are not damaged and unable to sustain themselves.


I think the lack of strong social ties was also the norm through most of the 20th century (in the US at least) but people didn't have the opportunity to connect with focused interest groups as they do now. Prior to that social ties were enforced through religion and that created it's own problems.


I think you're seriously underestimating the decline of participation in organized religion in the US both during the second half of the 20th century and in the twenty years since. Here are just a few numbers to chew on from Gallop's long-running polls[1]:

* The number of religious "Nones" - people identifying themselves with no religion - was right around 1% through the 1950s. In the 1970s it increased from 3-7%, and stayed below 10% through the end of the century. It's now over 20%. In the 1950's, ~70% of people were Protestant Christians. Now it's half that amount.

* In the year 2000, 12% of Americans reported that religion was "not very important" in their lives. Now it's double that amount.

* In the year 2000, 13% of Americans reported that they "never" attend religious services. Now 29% never attend.

[1] https://news.gallup.com/poll/1690/religion.aspx


If we're talking about social ties, you should probably be looking at the number of people who attend church weekly. I don't think there's a big social ties difference between going to church twice a year and not going at all, and it looks like your link only goes back to the '90s for 'goes to religious observance nearly every week' and 'has been in the last seven days'

For that matter, I know a handful of people (my grandparents age) who aren't really religious but that go to church most weeks 'cause it's a nice social thing.


In the past 20 years the number of people who go to church every week has declined by 30%. That sounds significant to me.


I’m not sure, I read In Cold Blood, which was as much about the family as the killers and was most struck by how full and vibrant and prosperous life in 1950s small midwest farm community was. It seemed like everyone from teenagers to adults had a huge range of social ties and activities even apart from religion. I’ve lived in small town middle America and nowadays its mostly a dump between meth, opiates and Walmart jobs. Reading that I felt like I understood for the first time why people my grandparents age really feel something has been lost.


I read this article a few days ago and said almost exactly the same thing. The mook stuff is fun, but the line you quoted:

>“We are not beefing endlessly because we do not desire peace or because we do not know how to engineer peace. We are beefing because we no longer know who we are, each of us individually, and collectively as a species.”

is the important part of the piece for me, and I'm happy to see you and others singling it out. I really relate to what Rao is saying here. It's a sensation not unlike boredom. Like we're all waiting for something, anything to happen.

A weird example: In 2016, I flew home to PA from Boston specifically to vote against Trump in a place that mattered. I stayed with my parents for the night, and when I came back from the voting booths, the TV was on and it suddenly became clear that the unthinkable was happening - Trump was winning. I vividly remember the sensation that came over me wasn't disappointment. It was excited anticipation, like the way you feel right before you leave for a big vacation. It was like "ok, here's something actually _happening_ that I'm a part of." It's kind of fucked up, but that emotion that washed over me felt "truer" than any principled argument that this guy could do real damage, etc. It felt like suddenly I was living -in- history, rather than beside it.


>Like we're all waiting for something, anything to happen.

I’ve noticed this trait in myself, beginning with hurricane Katrina. Half the world away, I immersed myself in New Orleans local live news streams, radio, webcams, blogs and forum threads from on-the-ground folks. I had a period of about three days solid obsessively scanning for new information.

There have been several other events that I responded to in similar ways, including the last US election and that airliner that got shot down over Ukraine a few years back.

The guilty enthusiasm you mention was present each time. The event is almost always something disastrous, yet the ‘rush’ to dig for information and get a sense that you’re witnessing unfolding major events is compelling.

I once got drunk with a German friend and, lacking all tact, lamented that the world hadn’t been very exciting since the end of WW2 and that it felt like we were overdue for something similar. I don’t think the point I intended to express was the one that registered with him, understandably.

Do you do the thing where worrying global stuff unfolding (e.g. North Korea’s periodic Sabre rattling) triggers you into obsessing about prepper SHTF stuff for a while? I feel like there’s a connection between the behaviours, but my sample size is only 1 currently.


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The "if" is key. The parent post does not indicate that their voting residence is in Massachusetts - they could have maintained a voting residence in Pennsylvania instead of switching to MA.

Voting residency requirements are weird because they differ from state to state, and can be very vague when it comes to maintaining residency. As far as I can tell, Pennsylvania's 30-day residence requirement only applies when registering to vote; as long as you maintain a voting residence in Pennsylvania, you can vote in subsequent elections as you do not need to register again between elections. According to Article VII of Pennsylvania's election code (qualifications of electors), however, you lose your residence if you move to another state AND do not intend to return to Pennsylvania OR you move to another state AND intend to make it your permanent residence. So it depends on the parent poster's intentions of whether they view MA as their permanent residence or they don't plan to return to PA.


The post is worded like they were in college at the time. College students can register to vote in either their home state or the state they attend school in, just not both.


There is nothing on their post that implies age or student status, unless you think staying with your parents is something that only college students do and is not possible after graduation.


There also isn't anything in their post to say that they're not. But you're assuming it was illegal, based on... what? Why assume the worst rather than the more charitable assumption?


and you're assuming it was legal, based on... what? Why assume the best rather than the more realistic assumption?


Right, so you’re taking the least generous interpretation of the OPs statements and concluding they broke the law.

Please don’t that, it’s bad faith and needlessly divisive.


Are you a student? Most states don't automatically consider you a resident in that case. You won't change your driver's license, and you probably won't pay state taxes to that state.

Are you a contractor, and for how long? Again, you probably don't automatically change residency until you pass some magic number of days.

Many of the state laws are often a bit vague about the corner cases like students or contractors. The general principle seems to be "As long as you only vote once, in one place, you probably are within the bounds of most laws.

As always, YMMV, IANAL, etc.


There are places that exhibit this - they’re just not well advertised. Community organizations like the elks lodge and the masons were good examples but not very modern. Eventually these sorts of things will pop up to fill the need.


Chesterton's fence. You removed it, and now it's up to you to prove that you knew what your were doing.


May I offer you two suggestions? There are other interesting religions that don’t care about sexual orientation so no need to give up on having a spiritual community. Also, you can find local groups on meetup.com for tech, blockchain, art, etc. to augment family ties that you get (for instance) by always calling at least one family member each day.

Really, nothing is as important as being with friends and family.


This framework helps me understand why prominent thinkers on Twitter get so much content-free hate in their replies. Most replies aren't even disagreements with the thing they're replying to. They're missiles in a beef war, against some perceived elite group. So it's not necessary to understand the claim and make a detailed refutation. They can just reply with a generic personal attack, and that keeps the culture war going. And generic personal attacks get multiplied by the crowd more than specific nuanced ones, because they're easy to imitate.

Also:

> You can only predict it by trying to understand it as the deliberate perpetuation of a culture of conflict by those with an interest in keeping it alive.

ie, the warriors are playing an infinite game that they enjoy. You can't win by out-arguing them. The only way to win is not to play.


"missiles in a beef war" I love this phrase.


Maybe I used to follow the wrong people, but a lot of these prominent thinkers didn't really invite discussions, they just made constant statements, where if you didn't agree, the only thing you could do was write a short statement as to why.


>ie, the warriors are playing an infinite game that they enjoy. You can't win by out-arguing them. The only way to win is not to play.

Joshua: "A strange game. The only winning move is not to play"


It is impossible to really express any prominent thinking on Twitter. Wrong medium.


I've always thought anonymous imageboards were excellent training grounds for how to deal with all of this. When there's no upvoting or ability to filter people by name, you have to learn how to deal with people who often truly are only posting to make you mad. There are two good responses, both of which are extremely difficult if you have no practice: ignoring it; engaging sincerely and with the assumption that the other person is doing the same. If you persist with the first they'll eventually go and bother someone else, but this is doubly hard because it requires everyone to ignore them, and that only really happens when the bait has grown stale. The second often results in them switching from the troll persona to actual sincerity, but it requires several back and forths of responding with goodwill to bile, and I think it's even harder to accomplish in forums where people have tied their name to their opinions.


It's a good training ground to learn to control yourself for sure. But as soon as there's filtering and up- / down-voting, you'll quickly learn that none of that matters.

I tried to engage in some Reddit discussions regarding politics in my country, and as soon as you don't follow the general sentiment, you get downvoted and eventually banned. Even if you're absolutely sincere and have good arguments as to why you think like this, you'll just get labelled a troll for disagreeing with something. While it's very frustrating, it's also truly scary, they just end up creating their own echo chambers, only allowing people who agree with them to post or comment. Eventually this moves on to the real world where they'll assume everyone has the same opinion because they've been living in an echo chamber.


It's an odd world where 4chan back in its worst days had a better community than fb, Twitter or reddit do today. And that's with the gore and other unmentionables.


Well it is part of anti-fragile thinking really.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antifragile

I run several discords and forums and I allow a certain amount of hazing to go on. This has a positive effect in some ways obviously has some negatives.

It filters out at lot of "normies". I don't want people who are easily offended on my forum, if you want a mod to protect you, you can go elsewhere. It also immediately filters out the morality police instantly.


HN is pretty good at moderating discussions. Which is the main reason I come here. Still, I've seen plenty of beef only thinking here and I too have been guilty at times.

It can be quite frustrating when you make an observation about someone's comment only to have them automatically assume you were in disagreement. It's good to assume a generous interpretation. Since tone is so hard to gauge on the Internet, discussions quickly devolve otherwise.


HN is now my last un-deleted social media account... and even here I end up removing 50% of my posts, and regretting another 30-odd% after realizing they were low-value emotional negative "beef" post.

Why is "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" so hard in practice? Why do I just NEED to throw in my 2 cents?!


The vast majority of people do follow that rule, but there are so many people reading these comments. If even 1% of them have a moment of weakness (or are kinda dickish personalities), they'll drown out the nice comments.


That is also true offline. Does Debbie downer ring a bell, for example?


> if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all

Because pleasantness isn't a virtue in every context? Some unpleasant things need to be done and said sometimes. In fact, saying no in certain contexts is good, though it can often be unpleasant.

That being said, some people find it pleasant to be unpleasant. Certainly self-censor if you sense that urge arising. Getting drunk on anger or righteousness isn't a good look.


Unpleasant things very rarely need to be done or said, but people (me included) are addicted to doing and saying them. We all feel the need to desperately type the first thing that pops into our head (like the sentence I just typed, and I'd argue the reply you gave). If I wasn't allowed to reply to your response for, say, 24 hours - then I might write something useful and interesting. But the internet of beefs doesn't reward that.

EDIT: FUCK! 20 minutes and I've already failed.

EDIT EDIT: Does anyone have any strategies to cope with this? I generally make sure to log out of HN (and have deleted Reddit/Twitter/Facebook etc), and my passwords are always random key-mashing that I forget so that commenting is pain... but still, if "someone is wrong on the internet" - even if it's low (or zero!) stakes... I'm compelled to type some crap back. Logically I know I shouldn't give a shit - but I do. I'm a mook! Is there an escape?!


IME removing yourself from the original emotional context of your post works wonders. Write the whole thing, sure, but then go do a context switch - go for a walk, read a different article, make some food, whatever - then once that emotional immediacy fades (which can definitely take different amounts of distracting depending on how pissed you are), read the comment out loud to yourself. Probably 90% of the time I've written something shouty I'll just end up closing the tab.

YMMV, of course, though I found the first couple of experiences of feeling like "wow, what kind of ape would draft a comment like that?" when I go for the reread were enough to emotionally incentivize me to trade time for not feeling like a big rube down the line.


Here's a strategy that might help. I mostly read HN logged-out on my lunch break. If I see something I want to comment on, I email it to myself for when I get home. Usually, by then, the urge has passed or I've realised that whatever comment I was going to make was actually dumb.

If that won't help because you can't resist the temptation to log in, I guess you could try "banning" yourself using the noprocrast setting in the HN profile?


You need to learn how to give less fu*ks. Life is too short to be wasted on internet beefs. Get a hobby, go out more. Get real friends.


> Unpleasant things very rarely need to be done or said...

There are teachers out there giving kids deserved bad grades on a regular basis. Hospital workers change bedpans. Veterinarians have to euthanize family pets.

Do you want more examples?

But, yeah, sometimes the adults in the room have to correct a misconception or ask the trolls to leave.

For tips? Consider others as more important than yourself, even when you need to do something unpleasant. You'll find that teachers, hospital staff, and vets all find ways to do that when "nice" isn't possible.


To maintain type safety, function subtypes are contravariant in the input type and covariant in the output type.

"Be liberal in what you accept, and conservative in what you expect others to accept."

Maybe human communications also has to adhere to basic principles to guarantee robustness.


> I've seen plenty of beef only thinking here and I too have been guilty at times.

Most of the beef-related discussions around here involve either Tesla, Apple vs Google (when it comes to their phones/mobile OSs), FAANGs vs the rest of the world, some futuristic AI fields (like self-driving cars) and I think that's about it. There used to be a beef between supporters of static-typing vs dynamic-typing (I personally was in the latter group), but the static-typing supporters mostly won that debate.

Other than that most of the topics on this website are pretty civilised (with a few exceptions that confirm the rule).


At some point people will realize that Twitter doesn't matter. The sooner that happens the better.

For whatever reason, our elites and media are convinced Twitter is very important. Nothing is worse than getting criticized by the peanut gallery. Twitter can end careers, cancel television shows, bring down elected officials.

That power quickly turned from, "complain about lost baggage on Twitter and get an airline ticket voucher for $50" to "I demand anyone I disagree with be exiled to Elba."

The truth is Twitter already doesn't matter, like, at all to almost everyone. Ask your aunt or brother-in-law about what's trending on Twitter and you'll get a blank stare. But journalists and elites continue to be terrified of, and enthralled by Twitter. They've collectively forgotten that "sticks and stones may break my bones..."


Twitter is amazing. I didn't get into it until a couple years ago, I was missing so much. Many of the most influential, intelligent, thoughtful people post what they think or are interested in. In the past, unless they were a journalist, you'd have to wait for someone to write a book, and then buy it. Now you can pick and choose from the most amazing people of the world, and actually interact with them.

I kind of can't get over that this is free and such a high percentage of the people I want to know about are on it, and I worry that it is a temporary situation before everyone gets so afraid of possible negative consequences that they stop sharing. I think it is an added bonus that important people get used to dealing with criticism, as that leads to freer society.

It's up to you to pick the right people to listen to and not get engaged in foolish flame wars. The information I've gleaned from the conversations I've seen and participated in on Twitter over the last two years have saved me a decade or two of my own personal work.


I’m a long-time Twitter “not-getter” but this is well-articulated and has made me reconsider.


Can you recommend 10-20 people to follow?


You can look at the 138 people I follow: https://twitter.com/abdullahkhalids

I have a strict policy of only following people with a high signal to noise ratio (with a few exceptions). I follow only a few friends (and they don't tweet anyway). I unfollow anyone who tweets too much. I use the "don't show retweets" option for anyone who retweets random crap. I also use the "muted words" feature to get rid of political tweets. I myself only tweet things I would want to read 5 years from now.

If there was an easy way, I would write additional filters per person to mute their annoying pet peeves.

My nomination for highest signal to noise ratio is https://twitter.com/michael_nielsen


I can't, I'm in sort a niche area where there are people you've never heard of but are heroes in my field. I think this is the greatest strength of Twitter, it's not the same few celebrities. You find the people who are doing the things you want to know about. What do you do? What do you care about? Look for the leaders in those fields, and search for keywords to find conversations and you'll find other people who have a little community around it.


This 100%. Twitter is utterly irrelevant to 99% of people and organisations on the planet, and the opinions of people on it don't reflect the mainstream in any way whatsoever. It's especially noticeable in election cycles, where the 'extremes' seem to do really well on Twitter but get curbstomped in the actual polls.

But it's also noticeable in many so called examples of cancel culture too, since the whole result of your usual internet backdraft is... nothing much in particular. Everyone I've seen get hammered by negative reactions after saying something controversial online has seen the popularity not change one jot. Logan Paul? Still doing decently. The Nostalgia Critic? Still going strong. The people making these complaints have virtually zero pull as far as actual influence goes, and the angry gnashing of a few hundred/thousand Twitter users is vastly outweighed by a hundred times more people subscribing/following/supporting stars as normal.

For the most part, almost every business is in the same boat. The people on Twitter don't matter. They're not your customers. Most of your real customers don't give a toss what some angry internet 'influencer' thinks or their complaints about your 'offensive' remarks.

When people finally realise that, everything will quiet down and sanity will return.


Of course Twitter is irresistible to the media - they don't need to search lengthy interviews and other texts for quotes that sound bad when taken out of context anymore, now they get the quotes pre-sharpened to a dangerous point and delivered to their doorstep...


This hits the nail on the head. Language is very fuzzy: with a long-form article an idea can be refined to a point where an attentive reader will have no doubt about the author's take. With a >280 characters sound bite, the range of possible interpretations is exponentially greater, making uncharitable takeaways easy to come out with.

Twitter doesn't work in an adversarial context.


The truth is Twitter already doesn't matter, like, at all to almost everyone. Ask your aunt or brother-in-law about what's trending on Twitter and you'll get a blank stare.

Except they might have read an article on CNBC or Fox that was based on a twitter thread. That's where it actually makes a difference, when it spills over into other media and picks up steam. See: Twitter Revolutions [1]

A few years ago I got calls from a friends, who aren't Twitter users, that they saw me on E! and other news outlets because I was getting lit up on Twitter. The Guardian, CNET, DailyDot all picked up the story and ran with it.

So yes, you're right things on Twitter.com by themselves rarely matter. What matters is when they are picked up by other news outlets and gain mainstream momentum.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter_Revolution


> Except they might have read an article on CNBC or Fox that was based on a twitter thread. That's where it actually makes a difference, when it spills over into other media and picks up steam.

Exactly (and what I said in my comment). But it goes further. Take the NYT widely regarded as 'the Paper of Record'. What they say has a great amplifier impact. Ditto for shows like 60 Minutes or even the nightly news in some cases. Most people in media (say in small towns or in less than impressive in any way newspapers) very generally think that is what you aspire to to work for - a major media outlet (in other words some small station person in Idaho is envious of the people who work at the networks like some high school football coach is probably envious of NFL coaches, right?).


I think you're taking for granted how twitter is used as a global cafe by communities that would otherwise be disjointed and isolated. For every controversial tweet or tweet of drama, theres thousands of enriching conversations happening that could otherwise not occur.

I think it's ironic that negative takes on the twitter model tend to be as shallow and polarizing as they claim the platform to be. As for me, I think there's some worth to it that could be taken even further if decentralized analogues become widely popular.


>>For every controversial tweet or tweet of drama, theres thousands of enriching conversations happening that could otherwise not occur.

I don't believe that this actually happens. Definitely not on twitter anyway.


>>For every controversial tweet or tweet of drama, theres thousands of enriching conversations happening that could otherwise not occur.

> I don't believe that this actually happens. Definitely not on twitter anyway.

I believe that the GP has it reversed. I’d rephrase it in the other sense (what I see as reality) as:

“For every enriching conversation happening on Twitter, there are millions of controversial tweets or tweets of drama that occur and would anyway occur.”


It absolutely does; I've had civil conversations on Twitter many times, and I've been introduced to new information because of it. I've met people of similar beliefs, convictions and knowledge on Twitter. Ultimately, however, I left Twitter because of the problem pointed out by GP.


TBH, the 280-character limit (and of course, the attention economy) doesn't really encourage deep and balanced discourse...


Yep, which in turn contributes to this behavior unfortunately... The social media tools are setup perfectly for this - esp twitter.


Fast pace insult flinging matches between famous people has better engagement rates than slow, well thought out debate. People can consume insults faster and it brings about more emotion.


Exactly :)


"Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte."


You could say the same about IRC. GP's point is that not that many people are even on the platform. Twitter has less than 350 million monthly active users. It's about tied with Reddit. MSN had more unique monthly visitors than that in 2004.


Those numbers brought about something I'm surprised I haven't noticed before.

I don't know a single person who actually uses twitter regularly. Where as I know loads of people who use reddit/discord/facebook. And yet twitter is where all of the media attention goes.


Reddit: Lots of users. Mostly pictures of cats. Any insightful comments is... well, in the comments. Any particularly controversial comment is inherently buried by downvotes. Useful if you're combing through communities for information, less useful for grabbing the biggest bit of news.

Discord: You gotta be in the server in the first place. And it's real time. The discussion moves on. Even if anyone had anything interesting to say, it's already gone by the time the news wants to report on it. And they're not on the server anyway.

Facebook: Ugh, old people and essential oils peddlers. Nothing newsworthy happens on Facebook. Just Kevin being racist again.

and then there's twitter: Where most interesting tweets are public, and interacting with a tweet, either insightful or controversial, love it or hate it, just makes it bigger, and more discoverable, inviting more people to pile on or get the boot in, while the media watches on.


> and media are convinced Twitter is very important

> Nothing is worse than getting criticized by the peanut gallery. Twitter can end careers, cancel television shows, bring down elected officials.

Twitter is in a way like a street protest that gets covered on the nightly news. As an example you can have 1000 people (or even less) protesting in NYC (a region with what 20 million people?) and the media will entirely blow the significance out of that protest proportion. Not that there are 19,999,000 people who aren't protesting but that there are 1000 that are.

> Ask your aunt or brother-in-law about what's trending on Twitter and you'll get a blank stare

Exactly true as a general rule.

But better ask anyone what they think is important (and this is the sad part) and they will probably mention something they received from a traditional media source who got what they did from twitter or social media (if not placed by a PR firm etc.)


Of course we all want this to be true, but the fact that individuals and companies are folding to twitter mobs mean there is real power; and why would people with power want to give it up


That goes for a lot of other media as well. Fox News has on average 2.5M viewers. In a country of 327 million (never mind the world), you can round that 0.7% viewership down and say that in practice nobody is watching Fox News. There are more daily viewers on Twitch than that, and far more viewers in total.


Twitter pretty ingeniously gave blue check marks to everyone in the media. It is a little private club where they can direct message most celebrities and politicians. Its media relevance isn’t going anywhere soon, it is like Bloomberg terminals at this point.


True. The media amplifies Twitter to the point of relevance. Its actually used by a very small percentage of the population - with any frequency. But every "news" outlet relies on it for "BREAKING NEWS". Taking what is nothing but a passing comment, and somehow turning it into "news". That is its power and its weakness.


Twitter is interesting because it can bring the unfiltered worst out of politicians and celebrities.

If you wouldn't say it to a bouquet of microphones, you shouldn't tweet it, either, but a lot of people don't seem to get that.


well, talking only of medias, they have reasons to give importance to social medias. if i were constantly reporting risings, protests, riots, movements, etc. that started online, i would give importance to social media too.


It's strange to see someone argue how "Twitter doesn't matter" when it's been a main platform for the world's most powerful man. I use Twitter but don't follow Pres. Trump or find it useful to engage with his tweets, but it's undeniable that he's used it to material effect. [0]

In any case, Twitter is also a very useful platform for the disenfranchised, including those who complain about corporate practices. You come up with a stilted example of "I demand anyone I disagree with be exiled to Elba" and declare that Twitter doesn't already matter, but you're ignoring the many daily situations when companies and organizations actually do respond to tweets, and make explanation or change behavior?

[0]http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/government_says_trump...


Throw in Nadia Eghbal's Tyranny of Ideas (https://nadiaeghbal.com/ideas) and you'll realize it's not humans beefing, but ideas. Posting is praxis, and the internet is a series of tube battlegrounds for the best ideas.

I'm a multitour veteran of the scarred hellscape where modern and historic ideas struggle - 4chan, TEDx conferences, irc, VC conference rooms, local candidate door-knocking campaigns, reddit, and of course twitter. The brawling is better there than in academic journals and library shelves. Today I proudly do my duty fighting off the bad ideas with the Good Ones.

Jokes aside, this is a horribly lame and out of touch take, saying that people's righteous anger is in fact not because of their legit complaints about society, but because they just want to argue. It's a both sides false equivalence, equal to PG implying he's better off being an "accidental centrist", whatever the hell that means.


Sometimes I love arguing just to argue. I wonder how many other people there are like me?


In my own experience:

1. everyone starts out like that

2. some realize that and (sometimes having thought of it for a while) make a decision to persist/stop that

3. some years have passed by since, and now you can't get that reaction out of me, only understanding


Is it though? or is it the disenfranchised finally are able to have their opinion heard? We also get to see the emperors now and we realise they have no clothes - they're just like us.

My hope is this is a brief period of education of everyone to see each others opinions and something better can come of it. As always there are those at work trying to maintain their positions.

For myself I have learnt a lot about the belief systems of other people from the internet. I can only hope others are doing the same, we all have to get along.

Edit: I think of it as the great flattening, to coin a term, previous societies were hierarchical with people in charge handing down dogma. There were some dissenters - they were called antisocial at one stage. Now everyone is at the same level, I've had conversations on forums with people who invented tech, wrote books I've read, I could if I was so inclined seek out other fields - everything is open now. This is bound to cause some 'beefing'. End of beef.


I don't think the posted conception of the culture war as a "holding pattern of conflict" is incompatible with the idea that it's also a legitimate outpouring of the voice of the disenfranchised.

Some might say that we've become stuck in that outpouring, and enamoured with conflict rather than any kind of coherent vision for how to be.


Could be, maybe these conflicts are fundamental to being human and no resolution is possible? This is the new normal?


Anything that indeed has an 'end of beef' to it might be the battle of the ideologically possessed, a battle of ideas in J. Peterson terms. Because this is the end goal, the consumption and annihilation of other doctrines.

But mostly what I gauge out there is indeed IoB. The article is so on-point for me that could just as well have written it myself.


Q: How would one distinguish between IoB culture and a culture in which there is a meaningful conflict between ideas and values?


The resolution of that conflict. The author posits that the IoB tends to maximize conflict and avoid resolution.


Observing what avenues for possible resolution exist seems like a good place to start and a productive line to pursue.

But it seems to me that there are some conflicts with deeper roots than IoB culture that have gone on much longer than the internet has existed: whether or not people should be able to be understood as property, whether sacred texts are meant to be understood in the same way as scientific descriptions when it comes to understanding cosmology, to what extent and where institutions like markets, or states, or churches should shape our lives.

Violence has been employed and even full-fledged war has emerged over questions like those, so apparently better avenues for resolution were unavailable.

Does that mean those things were also based in beef-first thinking? If so, was everyone on each side of those conflicts equally guilty of beef-first thinking, and that's how war happened?


If the architects of these conflicts behave in ways that maximize the duration of the conflicts and minimize the chance of resolution, then that sounds like beef-first thinking.

If it's just two (or n-many) sides caught in an asymmetric struggle where they both want some sort of resolution and neither one has the resources to get there, then I see that as a stalemate.

Most wars to me don't seem to be beef-first because they resolve eventually. Even when they go on for a while, it's usually because one or more faction/s isn't able to end it and the other/s aren't okay with the costs of ending it. If a war could be ended at a reasonable cost to someone, and they decide they would rather have it continue indefinitely, then that's closer to beef-first thinking.


OK, so between this exchange and a revisit of the article, maybe I think I see:

Conflict itself is not the signal of beef-first culture. Pitchforks aren't either, nor being able to pick out Mooks and Knights. All of those things can be done in the service of values.

Beef-first thinking involves personal/tribal status as first above all other values, perhaps even practically driving out all other values.

And personal/tribal status aren't really inherent values, they really only exist in contrast to some Other. Which means they're inherently tied to actively sustaining conflict.


To me, in IoB culture nobody ever gives in. In other cultures where there is meaningful conflict, there are concessions.


Do you have any examples of times when people who genuinely and strongly held opposing ideas both made concessions, and weren't coerced into doing so by some third party? I can't think of many.


The key is some third party. Otherwise, I'd mention http://longbets.org/.


I'm not going to be able to wade through this entire article. If this is at all an accurate characterization of Twitter, that might explain why I have so few followers.

I don't engage in this stuff on Twitter. I've overall had fairly positive experiences on Twitter. I continue to try to figure out how to connect positively on Twitter and on the internet generally.

I don't agree that the only antidote is to go seek out walled gardens and the like. The real solution is to be the change you want to see.

Don't go looking for beefs.

Try to bring solutions, not complaints.

Try to have some empathy for people and assume "They must be having a bad day" or "Wow, they must have a lot of baggage on this topic" and politely decline to get into some shitshow with them.

Remember that having empathy for others (instead of just assuming everyone is simply intentionally being an asshole) doesn't mean being a doormat. Respect yourself. Don't kiss their ass to mollify them or something. Instead, just shut up and quit putting out the fire with gasoline.


> Don't go looking for beefs.

You can't even post a question on StackOverflow without creating a beef (e.g. "Why would you want to do that?")


Venkat is enjoyable as always, but the central conceit of this essay is an insult to crash-only programming.

The crash-only approach to feuding online is to stop responding when someone beefs with you. Don't try to mollify, don't flame back, don't explain yourself, just: close the tab, do something else, and reboot Twitter later, in a known-good state.


I think this article captures the Zeitgeist of this internet era perfectly.

I'm a bit surprised at the hasty conclusion though:

> The conclusion is inescapable: the IoB will shut down, and give way to something better, only when we know who we want to be — individually and collectively — when the beefing stops, and regenerate into that form. Only that will allow history to be rebooted, and time to be restarted.

The IoB is driven by human nature. It's demise would only lead to beefing in some other arena that we cannot postulate yet...


I'm not quite sure what to make of this, but I think I agree with this conclusion:

> We are not beefing endlessly because we do not desire peace or because we do not know how to engineer peace. We are beefing because we no longer know who we are, each of us individually, and collectively as a species. Knight and mook alike are faced with the terrifying possibility that if there is no history in the future, there is nobody in particular to be once the beefing stops.

> And the only way to reboot history is to figure out new beings to be. Because that’s ultimately what beefing is about: a way to avoid being, without allowing time itself to end.

What this era calls for is us to discover new ways of being human. It sounds grandiose, but I think that's where we are.


I have to say that in my own experience nothing foretells me of an end to IoB. Which is just a new conceptualization of "Eternal September", as far as I understand.

Let me contrast my own world-view perturbations with what we see attributed to "meeks and knights" in the article:

I remember my internal world-view and thinking and feeling from about the age of 4. I am 36 now.

So most people don't.

I was either raised to understand or had that built-in that I was bread and born into a world that is set up by multiple interested parties, and I had a place in the machine. Or had to build my own processes that mined the value-system and become a part of that machine.

Most people don't. Many think they're special. Many feel entitled.

I did not easily get on with people at first, but did make an effort to understand what Russian is meant to imply, Jew meant to imply, Boy meant to imply; in terms of where my place is and who my enemies are and what I am supposed to think and do about them.

Most people pick that up from their surroundings (not being ADD like me), take it in as a given, and embody it throughout and henceforth. Which is a point that I needed to research to understand.

"Most people" is ME, at one point in time or another. That is, people change, people react before assessing their position, people get represented by something or someone for the purpose of this fight or that fight. I learned that all the human "evil" and the moral good could be teased out of my own life experience, given enough time and argumentative power. Any action or inaction or inattention can reflect on me, put me in that "most people" category for a moment.

That makes me an individual, and a part of a larger humanity.

But no associations exist in-between. No shared interest that persists. No values that don't change, no long game that plays out this way or that.

I have no permanent in-group, no close associates with a shared vision, not even some permanent foe group that is always opposed to the way I think or am. And I am starting to think that this is exactly how most people are most of the time now. And that this is a marked change from how even my own parents used to be.

I think I am ill-equipped biologically to handle that kind of thing. The shifting of values, the arbitrariness of goals, the loneliness of most people most of the time.

Mayhap, in this constant endeavour to minister the masses and disperse their attention from focusing on the imperial divide of workers and benefactors that resulted in the world that I find myself in, that resulted in me being how I am; humans have finally hit the ball out of the park? Perhaps the game can not continue. Maybe, we are currently lost, all of us, individually.

The way we used to align and declare ourselves, the shared goals and values, the in-group and the out-group used to be larger categories of things. I think today it all has devolved into very petty squabbling.

I live in the land of Israel (or Palestine if you prefer), and it's pretty quiet, if you ignore the news media ruckus. It used to be much bloodier before my time, I understand.

I'm not sure that it was better the way all that has been resolving itself before. But it sure was less lonely.


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