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7% of Americans don’t use the internet. Who are they? (pewresearch.org)
334 points by ipsocannibal 7 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 382 comments





I used to work in the Caribbean when internet there was ridiculously expensive.

Local social life was fantastic - I missed nothing about the internet. Also - I missed nothing about not keeping up to date on latest news - locals just didn't care what was going on for the most part - the latest "outrages" were 100% irrelevant. If you went to bar at night, and IF they had a TV on, it was sports.

So you'd come back to the states - and you'd have to catchup on everyone who had said terrible things.


Part of what you’re describing can be attributed to lack of internet. But other part is just being an outsider that doesn’t really care that much (and I mean that in totally non offensive way - it’s just a benefit of being an outsider).

Outrage existed long before internet. Daily tv news, newspapers, gossips at work, coworker with totally opposite world view, etc, were all great sources of outrage. At smaller scale, true, but living without internet doesn’t create perfect world.


My outrage quotient has dropped significantly in the two and a half months since I deleted facebook and twitter. Just removing those two things from my life has made a measurable improvement in my quality of life.

Did you try just... not following the outrage parts? Not getting outraged? If you want to spend more time connecting with people you care about, getting rid of facebook feels like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

The problem is that whoever you follow (whether they're friends, family or just interesting people) they ARE following the outrage parts.

And of course there's the "trending" sidebars, and ads and other stuff that gets injected into your timeline without you asking for it.

So things bleed in no matter how careful you are. The platforms are designed to drag you in and outrage you. Trying to avoid that is a constant battle - and you're going to give in to it from time to time.


Exactly this.

My current move is to delete Facebook completely (well, deleted that years ago). I just didn't find as much value there as elsewhere on the internet. And the psychological cost wasn't worth the little value there was there. So, complete deletion.

Twitter, I've deleted the mobile app and I follow no one. I have a separate list of profiles I find interesting. I have to physically go to that list and click on their profiles.

This keeps me out of 90% of the drama and into 90% of the worthwhile content.

It's hard to not look at "trending" but I'm trying. I wish there was a way to turn off "trending" and "timelines" completely.

End result: hugely more productive and psychologically lighter.


I use

twitter.com##section div[aria-label="Timeline: Trending now"]

In Ublock - origin rules to hide the trending sidebar


Better: https://github.com/insin/tweak-new-twitter

This will benefit from updates from the author whenever Twitter tries to foil blocking. It comes with a variety of tweaks like a separate timeline for retweets and forcing the latest timeline.


> Move retweets to a separate Retweets timeline, or hide them entirely

This alone completely changes Twitter for me. Making Twitter mostly original content? Sign me up.


Oh my gosh, that's beautiful. Thanks.

This is fantastic.

well thats handy

Thanks!


> Twitter, I've deleted the mobile app and I follow no one. I have a separate list of profiles I find interesting. I have to physically go to that list and click on their profiles.

Interestingly, this is the same solution I came to with Twitter, except I don't even keep a list of profiles, I just navigate based on memory and auto-complete in the address bar.


Cool. It's changed twitter completely for me.

My list is far too long to memorise, though.

And having it separate helps keep me honest (I think my memory would suffer biases) and out of my head.

Mainly though - the act of having to physically click a few times to get to the list gives me a moment of pause where I'm able to wake up and recognise whether I'm about to make good use of twitter or habitually jump into the time-worm-hole we all know.


I actually tried facebook for a month with other windows covering up the "trending" sidebar. It was a little better but the ads in the main area still annoyed me.

Then I started unfriending people that just posted stuff that annoyed me.

Then I realized after 3 days there was literally no new posts.

Then I just deleted facebook.

I don't miss it at all.

I've got multiple group chats with friends that I like. People post funny and interesting stuff there and we talk about it without having to deal with what someone's crazy uncle thinks about the topic.


This doesn't address all the issues you raise, but my hack to deal with the Twitter sidebar is to set it to a language and region I don't understand.

1. Click "Show more" at the bottom of "What's happening"

2. Click the "settings cog" at the top of the page

3. Uncheck "Show content in this location"

4. Click "Explore locations" and choose a location whose language you can't read and you know nothing about.

And to avoid outrage leaking to me via people who end up in my main feed I simply aggressively mute pretty much anyone who talks about politics or similar. Sure, I therefore lack their signal but avoiding their noise more than makes up for that.


I use

twitter.com##section div[aria-label="Timeline: Trending now"]

In Ublock - origin rules to hide the trending sidebar


Those platforms want your attention so they will show you more of what you “engage” (tricky buzzword) with, occasionally injecting a bit of noise to try to keep you from getting bored. This is in fact what many critics complain about yet like.

I just tuned FB to show me stuff I wanted by scrolling past stuff I didn’t, “liking” stuff I did/do, and clicking through to read/respond to comments. It’s mostly friend&family updates, apolitical jokes, animal pics and other anodyne stuff fun to see.

And I block ppl who are on the outrage train, typically just for the 30-day automatic cool down and FB gets the message.

It’s my attention and I don’t have to give it to people.


You can use a 3rd party client (I use Tweetbot) to go back to a chronologically ordered list of tweets, with no promoted tweets, no sidebar, you have to explicitly click to find trending topics.

You can also keywords (which I think you can do with the Twitter app as well) for more granular curation.

I think solutions like this allow one to benefit from Twitter without paying the heavy price that their shitty engagement tactics demand.


The platforms are designed to show you more of what you engage with. I can understand that for people who are addicted to outrage-bait, blocking might be the only way to break out of that, but if you engage with the parts you want to see more of and not with the parts you don't, facebook learns pretty quickly, IME.

I don't know that I agree with this, but even if we assume it's 100% true, this is still a problem given Facebook's addictive nature. Practically speaking, most people don't have the impulse control to pull themselves away from mindless, addictive content. And I don't think it's a huge surprise that a lot of the people who have gone down the Facebook rabbit hole are older. Less tech savvy, and perhaps not as sharp as they were at the height of their lives.

Every hobby could be seen as a mindless addiction. Heck, talking to friends in person is much the same - people fall into the same conversation patterns, have the same arguments and reminiscences over and over, miss them if they're not having them even if they don't really take pleasure in them at the time. At some point Facebook is just life.

That is so foreign. I know what you are talking about. But it's something I utterly despise. I don't get why people do it. Sure I understand people forget or mix up who they said what to from time to time. But the same thing over and over week after week just to 'talk'? Please just shut up and let me read a book or something.

That's why I don't do social media or follow other people's social media. If I want to connect with them texting, phone calls, zoom is much better instead of trying to get the same from online outrage machines.

Twitter provides some pretty decent tools for curating your feed

Here's the guy telling everyone they're using heroin wrong and the fact that it destroys their life is their problem.

No, guy. The concensus is growing around social media being really fucking toxic.


Just don't follow toxic sources, that's all he's advocating. If someone's sharing memes from a crazy political page, either block that page or remove the friend.

People say social media like Facebook is toxic for the most part because they only deal with toxic people.


It doesn't work that way. I pruned both Twitter and Facebook intentionally in the way you suggest and it became pretty clear (or maybe it's my biases) that both run on outrage. Facebook would insist on bringing arguments to the top of my feed as best it could. As an example, I am friends with a regional sportswriter on FB and he had a post asking something sports/ politics related. It generated about 50 responses, so FB condenses that into 2-3 replies and then offers to let you click to see more. Amazingly, the part it decided to call out was the one argument in the 50 comment thread. Controversy and upset are what drives engagement in social media.

IDK about FB, I always avoided it like a toxic plague.

But on Twitter, there seem to still be work-arounds. I use lists set to Private, curated for specific experts on particular topics, and many top and/or obscure experts post regularly.

This provides a reasonably straightforward chronological feed, curated to my interest, with well-tuned news and links to key analysis. Just NEVER use the main Home feed (which they do push on you).

IDK how long that feature will stay unpolluted by toxic algorithms, but Jack does seem a bit less determined than Zuck to pollute society.


I don't know what to say to stuff like this. I spent a ton of time treating Twitter the same way and in no way do I want to suggest that I am now enlightened or something, but when you hear people (and I include my past self in this) talk about Twitter, it's like they're talking about a really effective chainsaw where there's no guard and the handle is on the wrong end. You can use it to cut down trees if you figure out how, but 99% of people harm themselves in the process.

Good point, and great chainsaw analogy

Constant curation and management is indeed everything. And I remember at my first encounter with real computers in college, when I had a choice of editors, I went for the one with the most powerful features, despite the stated hazards.

I do assume that the audience here tends to the more capable end, so most of them would not be in that 99%, but perhaps I'm mistaken?


Every community thinks it's Lake Wobegon. This place is no more above average than anywhere else AFAIK. That said, thanks for reminding me of this! http://www.team.net/mjb/hawg.html

Ah yes, perspective -- "...that's not a knife... That's a knife"

The problem is that many of these "toxic people" are one's relatives that you can't just easily cut out of your life. Before social media, when they started on a racist rant or something you could get them to change the topic to sports or something, but these days they get encouragement in their extreme views from lots of other people they would have never met in real life.

That’s not “not following toxic sources” that’s actively pruning them from your connections.

Why participate in that in the first place when toxicity grows there like a weed?


Agreed. My FB & TW timelines are 95% non-toxic b/c I muted those people out of my life. The same with news feeds.

It's sufficiently tranquil that my wife now asks to read my feeds. It just took some filter cycles to get there.


He has a point, partially.. I used to use twitter, but naturally curating it with only funny or smart thinkers and creators. My view was mostly impressive tech, art or coding (one dude made fluid simulation in gl shaders). It was peaceful.

Thing is, you're still close to the toxic web you regularly step into it .. and that's why i'm banned from twitter now.


These apps are still _by design_ trying to capture the maximum amount of your attention.

That deserves every ounce of hostility that we can muster. And then some.

They are parasites. It doesn't matter if you "made it work for you".


Please don't be crazy. I don't like the current web either but it's important to be objective and calm.

If I stepped out of 1980 and into 2021 and saw facebook and cell phones and people looking down the privacy nightmare. It is totally fucking batshit crazy.

We're all Slowly Boiled Frogs.


First of all, I am calm.

Second of all, there's nothing crazy about what I said. By their own admission they've designed the apps to be addictive.

Would you tell your friends "go ahead, shoot up. have a great time!"? Would you tell your family? What I think is crazy is that we tolerate companies that make products like this.

I guess greed is a powerful force.


Yes it's been shown that they're tricking people into addiction. I wasn't responding to the arguments more about the 'every ounce of hostility'. Their marketing strategies are sad[0], but you seemed to be all-in in a war against them which I think is misguided. Sorry if crazy was too strong of a word, I didn't meant it as a personal insult. I believe hostility and reaction is the wrong tool for this issue.. let's simply quit and invite others to do others to do so.

[0] we're still having deadly cigarettes sold everywhere you know..


Isn't it because of the effects we've seen from nicotine and alcohol that we should be so vigilant about mainstreaming new vices in society?

The poster may be impassioned, but characterizing a hot take as "crazy" looks like a bad faith argument.

I may have read it with the wrong tone.

It's impossible to avoid even in groups, because for each fb post the algorithm chooses the top 2-3 comments to show. And it will be ones which have the most interaction (replies, emojis). And the ones who outrage will have the most interaction thus will be shown.

FWIW, I use https://socialfixer.com/ to hide politics and COVID posts.

There's not much facebook left over, but oh well.


> Did you try just... Not getting outraged?

Yes, they did it by leaving Facebook and Twitter.

That seems like the most obvious strategy for effecting this change.

I don't really understand the line of thinking that somehow you have to will yourself into things rather than changing your environment. I think it misses how predictable peoples' reactions to things really are.


I found that didn't work at all with Facebook and only works with Twitter by being _very_ selective. But I think that is intrinsic to Twitter, and not only for outrage reasons. I unfollow lots of interesting and smart people because they add too much to my feed. If I follow someone for technical content and half their tweets end up being about music or chit-chat with their friends or drama in their part of the industry, I unfollow them to get that material out of my feed. Even if everything they tweet is interesting, if they tweet a lot, I unfollow them.

> If you want to spend more time connecting with people you care about, getting rid of facebook feels like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Sadly, lots of people I care about think it's a moral imperative to broadcast their political position on Facebook on every issue of the day. The people I connect with are skewed pretty heavily towards my own point of view, but that doesn't make it any less corrosive to read what they have to say. Facebook is just too emotionally taxing to follow. (Using Facebook's tools to curate my feed just reminds me how much power I'm giving up to them, which is also depressing.)

I feel so much better with Facebook out of my life. I have the app installed on my phone in case somebody from twenty years ago wants to look me up and message me. That's all it's good for.


anecdotally, I felt like my only option was to throw the baby out with the bathwater. It was too hard to avoid the outrage. Everybody has that childhood friend who won't stop posting BS conspiracy theories or that aunt who thinks the world is ending. Do I unfollow these people? if so, what's the point of it all?

I only ever posted positive things like videos of me playing piano and only tried to interact with others in a positive way but I found myself becoming more and more angry over time so I just quit the whole thing and never looked back.


Pretty much exactly this for me. I realized that there's not really any value for me to be in touch with people from grade school/high school/college that I wouldn't otherwise interact with. I'm thinking that this will make going to reunions a bit more interesting as well since now I will genuinely not know what most of these people have been up to for the last decade and we will have that as a topic of conversation before we step out of each other's lives for the next decade.

> Not getting outraged?

This mostly works for me for Twitter. FB is just garbage so I haven't been on it in months. I don't need to delete it though, I just stopped going.

HN for the most part is still unique. Even when I see a comment I disagree with, most of the time it's articulated well and I can see their point. There are discussions that can happen.

FB is/was just nonsense, and Twitter is more comedy/entertainment than anything.


That's like saying you should swim in the ocean because you like fish, but just ignore the water. There are numerous ways to connect with people you care about that don't involve a corporate mediator (and many of them are much more fulfilling than Facebook!).

That's like telling a gambler addict to keep going to the slot machines for the social interactions. Just like slot machines, social media are designed to increase addiction; of which “user engagement” is just a euphemism. https://www.quitfacebook.org.

If facebook, twitter, crypto“currencies” were to suddenly disappear from the face of the Earth, society would be better off significantly.


Given that outrage is very attractive. And facebook aims to attract you. It's safe to say that they will slip in outrage every chance they get.

Unfortunately, the people that I care about mostly want to talk about what they're outraged about.

What if I never had facebook? Does the baby exist? Should I GET facebook now?

I know this is frowned upon here but:

Nice try Mark


First rule of HN: don't astroturf.

Second rule of HN: don't call out people who you think are astroturfing.

Third rule: astroturf.


Nice try Paul.

Just the term 'astroturf' and the meaning behind it makes me feel like an ancient roman 5 years before the collapse of the roman empire.

I have a facebook account I rarely if ever login to unless it's something school related. When I do, without fail I see someone I would otherwise get along with posting some ridiculous, easily disproven nonsense about insert scaremongering of the day. Every now and again I'll respond with a link to a factcheck which inevitably upsets the person who is angry someone isn't reinforcing the echo chamber.

Then I promptly close it and remember that's why I don't even bother. Facebook's entire engagement strategy has become outrage and fear. It's what keeps people the most engaged and that's literally the only metric they care about.

I truly believe if Zuck had the option of nuking a third world country to make another billion or solve world peace and Facebook goes away entirely, he'd nuke the country without a second thought. Everything about him strikes me as a sociopath with little to no regard for mankind outside of his personal bubble.


> I truly believe if Zuck had the option of nuking a third world country to make another billion or solve world peace and Facebook goes away entirely, he'd nuke the country without a second thought.

You should check these articles out, they were written in 2018[1][2] and then in 2020[3].

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/technology/myanmar-facebo...

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/06/technology/myanmar-facebo...

[3] https://time.com/5880118/myanmar-rohingya-genocide-facebook-...


I found I had to get rid of a decent portion of the news too, and news-adjacent comedy shows like Colbert. It's not enough to personally not read FB/Twitter, since they have gotten so integrated into mainstream media. Maybe 10 years ago you could just ignore social media, but by 2018 (when I started making an effort to avoid it), you could end up seeing thousands of tweets without ever using twitter yourself, if you just regularly watched TV news and/or current events comedy. Whole portions of these shows turned into literally putting a tweet on the screen and then talking about the tweet and responses to it. Especially Trump tweets and their replies, but not solely those.

Getting rid of “newstainment” and 24-hour news programs significantly improved the quality and breadth of the news I consume.

By just reading a quality daily newspaper and a couple of newsmagazines, I’m better informed than when I was a news junkie with cable news on in the background and news websites refreshing on my phone.

“Breaking news” is broken. Print media, especially weekly newsmagazines, have the luxury of time to actually think about their coverage and provide adequate research and follow-up. Conversely, space is limited, so if it’s not adding value, it gets chopped.

Live news, on the other hand, needs to alternate between being first to report, then filling time until something else occurs, all while making whatever is occurring seem more important than it really is.


(This is not addressed directly at you, parent commenter, these are just general thoughts.)

I studied journalism in undergrad, and I have never understood why people are so drawn to watch these national 24hr 'news' channels. During a major crisis, sure, but day in and day out? I just don't get it. There just isn't that much that happens at a non-personal level (personal meaning self-, family-, friend-, work-oriented) each day. In terms of staying "up to date," I still am not clear on why this is important to do daily at a national-focused level, but if it's important to you, it can be done in a few minutes by reading a brief recap. If you do want a more traditional news cast, PBS News Hour is a good one.

But with these 24 hr networks, given how little of import happens on an average day, most of the time what you are being shown are not facts, but opinions. And these networks are all owned by massive, massive megacorps. Not sure why anyone is interested in getting drip fed opinions that originate, however loosely, from these conglomerates.

They try to get you to buy into them by convincing you it's important to "stay informed," but never really explain why. They play on your desires to be a good citizen, to be seen as intelligent, to feel 'serious.' If staying informed is important, it's most important at a local level, where your real connections can help you have a real impact. People are so focused on what all the senators tweeted yesterday that they are missing the real problems, issues, etc. that they could help address in their local communities. In this sense, news might not come from media at all -- and here is where social media could actually have real value.


> They try to get you to buy into them by convincing you it's important to "stay informed," but never really explain why.

The common explanation you hear everywhere, even here on HN, is that citizens "staying informed" is the key to an effective democracy. While it may be true in the abstract, using this as an argument for 24h news - or even daily news - is quietly omitting the fact that these news sources provide negative information value. Your worldview becomes less accurate, not more. Widespread addiction to breaking news is thus creating a less effective democracy.


Honestly, I think it's addiction by design (intentionally, or merely A/B tested into existence, end result is similar). Emotional swings are impactful, even if repeated ones are not very individually memorable, and the endless rollercoaster is one way to keep you looking at the rollercoaster rather than at e.g. boredom elsewhere. Eventually you're habituated, and looking away looks less interesting than this fire that just erupted in you-wouldn't-guess-where / it-could-happen-to-you.

Guessing, but it would make a lot of sense if there was a fair number of humans that are just primed to constantly look out for threats. If such people exist, they would love 24-7 news coverage of bad news even though it makes their lives worse.

Following news makes little sense for keeping a person informed. There are too many completely conflicting sources of news. All the news informs of is what other people who watch the news will have opinions on.


> I studied journalism in undergrad, and I have never understood why people are so drawn to watch these national 24hr 'news' channels.

Because the alternative (other than going out for a walk) is watching re-runs of many years old shows or other outright crap.

Personally, I like the 24/7 radio news channel of the local public broadcaster ("B5 Aktuell") - news and information program, but no pop music that was bad already when it came out.


I've also done some journalism but, for many years, my primary news source was getting Time Magazine delivered to my mailbox plus the evening news every now and then along with one of the Sunday morning news programs. That was pretty much it.

Today I don't get live TV but I do pretty much get real-time news through Twitter, etc.


Which print media do you recommend?

The Economist is the gold standard, with unbiased, quality writing. Brilliant all round. However, it’s expensive (especially if you prefer print over digital). I subscribe on and off.

I also really like Foreign Policy. Despite its name, it’s not really a specialist publication, just a general overview of global current affairs with a bit of a policy focus.

The Guardian Weekly has great international coverage. Its editorial stance is also less overt than it once was (far more measured than the website). There are still occasional stories and writers that make my eyes roll, but it also covers really interesting global stories I don’t find anywhere else.

My daily newspaper is the Sydney Morning Herald. I’ve been based in Australia since travel restrictions hit, and I’m really happy with the paper. It seems to be just as good as it was a decade ago when I was last based here.

Contrary to popular opinion, there’s plenty of quality print journalism out there.

You just need to read an individual paper for a while to internalise the house style and (with the notable exception of The Economist) get to know the individual predilections of each journalist. That level of engagement with the paper and its writers is not something you get from skimming Google News, but I really feel it’s at the heart of getting the most from journalism.

Just buy a particular paper or newsmagazine for a month or two, and see if it’s for you. One local/national and one with a global focus is all you need. If you find them, you’ll hopefully be set for years.


not OP but I've had a long running subscription to The Economist since the early 90ies. One of my favorite sections usually glossed over by everyone I know (but I'm weird) is the quality from "Letters to the Editor" that are incredibly well selected and often hilarious when checked with the original piece that they are referring to. The Letters are not my causa primera for reading it, but if something so mundane is done with so much attention to detail, the rest should also be up to my expectation (and it usually is).

Secondly there is also their Tech section which compared to politics / economics / finance ..., I can as an insider judge its quality. It stands out among the rest IMO. I also like the FT for similar reasons.


The obituary was always a worthwhile read as well. It might not have been the most prominent person who died that week, but always fascinating.

>had a long running subscription to The Economist

>their Tech section ... stands out among the rest

this is some hardcore Gell Mann sorcery right here


To the child sub comment.

https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/65213-briefly-stated-the-ge...

867 is either implying that because something you know is good you judge the rest likely to be good.

Alternatively they are being sarcastic because they think The Economist's tech section is poor.


on the contrary - I am applauding their following of economics AND tech, hence sorcery

ah, thanks for shedding light.

yes it's my own opinion and I don't consider myself to be an authority on these other subjects, so my only tools are intuition or trying to piggyback on people I think (or was told) are authorities. (but both are blunt tools since if I can't judge the subject my trust in others who I think know those things is equally questionable)


having trouble understanding the reference. would you care to elaborate?

The Financial Times is my main news source. It seems to be the only one that I've found which doesn't have sensationalist stories/click baity headlines

Financial journalism really outperforms most media sources in terms of picking important stories and telling them in an unbiased way.

Maybe their wealthier audience means that they're not racing to the bottom for clicks. Maybe the people in charge know to run a business that gives people what they want without alienating half of potential customers. Maybe something else entirely. Whatever it is, it's working, and I hope it stays that way.


Agreed. Even Reuters News is high quality in comparison to CNN and Fox News.

I once did an exercise where I went over every single news article on the front page of my prefered online paper and asked myself if that was relevant to me and my life.

The answer was no to everything single one. That was pre-covid, and sometimes the news are relevant, but you can mostly do a quick checkup once a week. Prefer something in text form that you can scan over.


A weekly news magazine was where I got most of my news for a long time. The US ones are all pretty bad these days; I dropped my Time subscription a few years back after having it for decades. The Economist is probably the go-to in English these days.

But those two services are not the internet as a whole. The internet is just the medium, unfortunately it has been taken over by a handful of private organisations.

I completely agree. My anxiety has been so much better since I stopped reading the news, facebook and twitter.

I don't really need a constant drip feed of all the terrible things going on in the world. Most of it doesn't affect me, and only serves to make me feel worse about humanity


I deleted my facebook account some years ago. Also, I set my Twitter account to private. I use it to be connected to some people, and read their stuff. I'm pretty happy.

Also, I have a second account for "open" discussions and work-related stuff that I barely use. It would be awesome if one could set certain tweets in a locked account to "visible for everyone".


I'm curious, you mention "outrage quotient" and "measurable improvement".

How do you measure outrage?


I would guess, minutes of day being outraged.

Pretty much that. Can I look back over my day and see that I spent time being angry/unhappy? It's not zero. There are other human beings on the planet with or without social media. But I have much less of the provocation-outrage-anger-depression cycle without Facebook and Twitter in my life.

I can only second it. Deleting Facebook 3.5 years ago made me so, so much happier!

But maybe you are now like the turkey who thinks everything is fine, and then it gets eaten at the end of the year. You might wake up in Socialism one day, with a mob outside of your house wanting to evict you.

I'm not disagreeing but a couple of things.

- When living and interacting locally I think folks moderate their views a bit - call it "politeness"?

- Views locally are somewhat more homogenized?

- For better and worse, I'm not sure you'd last that long in Caribbean if you were just a twitter bomb thrower, even if justified - my impression was even things like whistleblowing would not be very well received (ie, if I'd complained about various govt officials not being at their desks when they should have been - it wouldn't have come over well). This may be wrong and certainly has changed as folks become more aware of what should and shouldn't happen.


Most definitely. I live as an expat in a foreign country and while I use the internet a lot and even speak the local language, I still feel very disconnected from the celebrity and political drama.

I find it very beneficial, and it definitely helps broaden you general outlook on these things. I used to follow the news pretty closely, now I just get the headlines once a day and move on with my life.

But as always it's a rather privileged position. I'm a high-wage childless white dude with a French passport, I don't have a lot to fear from politics. If things go bad here for some reason I can just move somewhere else, a luxury the vast majority of human beings don't have.

Having the possibility not to care is a luxury, in a way.


> I still feel very disconnected from the celebrity and political drama

I try to never bother with 'celebrities'. They are glorified nothings. Actor X is using phone from ABC company, only because they paid him to pose holding one. Not because it has anti-matter/matter fusion technology. Also most celebrity events do not affect any of our lives. They divorce? pity.. but still.. don't care. Model X went to a party? good for her (wear a mask!) but still.. don't care.

> Having the possibility not to care is a luxury, in a way.

I remember the Minimalists once said "most crises, aren't". There is wisdom in that phrase. Lack of immediate exposure to 'news', filters out most of the non-crises and the unecessary drama. The important news will stick around after 48 hours/days/weeks (Sollarwinds, unemployment rise, COVID, a major shift in political events, etc.)

With that said, a quick scroll through a couple of news-worthy outelets (BYOsite) will give you all the info within 60seconds, and will give you the opportunity to seek out more - without the spammy exposure of TV/Radio.


And politicians/powerful people doing and saying outrageous things predates the Internet by far. The fact that now we can be informed about it if we so choose is nothing but a blessing from my perspective.

I would have agreed before getting rid of Facebook in 2016.

Two key things - a power force for stealing my attention is gone, and I’ve dumped faux friends who are really just old acquaintances that felt more intimate because I got to see them on Facebook.

Instead, I actually talk to people who are here.


This is very true. You get the same thing with people who live in Japan for a bit and declare that the political climate there is so much better. Eh, no, you just can't read the newspapers.

> Outrage existed long before internet

I recall the film 'Network' with its "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore" thread.

Among other messages.


People always bring up how people in Fiji or the Carribean are so happy and not stressed, and I’m not sure what the message is. Of course if you just want to relax and not worry too much about what you want to accomplish in life then yeah go to some corner of the world and live happily? However for a lot of people that’s not what they want out of their lives; they want it to mean something in their own way. Of course the vast majority get lost in the rat race and forget what it is that made them choose to work their ass of to begin with, but it’s not because their ultimate goal (at least in the beginning) was to chill at the beach.

You miss the OP's point. They're talking about a specific aspect of culture in the Carribean, where they worked for a while, not about idyllic lifelong vacations. While there, they found that separation from the internet reduced the amount of outrage they felt.

Unless you're suggesting that social media outrage is productive and helps people to accomplish something meaningful in their own way, you're not actually addressing the OP's comment, you're addressing an unrelated idea that you've heard in the past.


I think the OP is also indirectly touching upon the benefits of the slow movement, which has serious (and positive) implications for technology and how we use it. People in big cities and urban environments might find the transition to this kind of thinking jarring and difficult. I've found it takes on average about two years to adjust to it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_movement_(culture)


I don't see life slowing down, maybe after some natural or man-made disaster wipes out half the population and most modern infrastructure, but until then, I only see things getting faster.

HFT is the perfect example of the benefits of being fast, literally by trading faster, not necessarily better, billions in profit are made. In other fields, first-movers often have a massive advantage, AWS for example.

Just look at Europe, things are slow and rather relaxed here... and as a result they've missed out on about the last 3 generations of technology.

I think many people won't be able to keep up, but the future of evolution is probably people who can sit still for days on end, just consuming information non-stop, with the ability to react very quickly as soon as the information signals opportunity for a reward. Some sort of really autistic apex predator stuff.

Ironically, even though computers can do so many tasks faster and better than humans, one would think we could all relax and let the computers work, but instead the trend seems to be, that we constantly have to be even faster in the remaining fields where computers are not yet superior.

The result of for-loops and automation hasn't been that humans no longer have to rush around doing mundane tasks, but rather that now we have to rush around writing for-loops and fixing all the bugs introduced by rushing... and so it continues...


I'm sorry, Europe has missed out on the last three generations of technology? I live in Europe and have visited the US. My impression has been the opposite.

When I was visiting (5 years ago):

- The trains didn't work

- People printed out google maps instructions instead of using a network connection because data connections were bad/expensive

- I had to sign my name to pay with a card at gas stations. I couldn't use an electronic payment card, only credit cards worked.

Now these are just examples off the top of my head. In my home country of Finland, the trains work, internet and utilities work (we don't have blackouts), payment is usually done by NFC for small amounts, card readers (with pin) for larger amounts.

If you're talking about industrial technology, I don't have enough information to compare. But I would assume Europe has better manufacturing. After all, Germany makes all the cars that end up in the US.


After all, Germany makes all the cars that end up in the US.

I just pulled up a list of the top 25 selling cars in the US and there are 0 German brands on that list. Plus most of the 'German' cars sold in the US are also made in the US.


I take it back, I was too hyperbolic.

The export is substantial though:

https://www.acea.be/publications/article/eu-us-automobile-tr...


I don't think VW ever broke 1m cars a year here, off the top of my head.

According to this: https://www.goodcarbadcar.net/volkswagen-us-sales-figures/

they've never broken 500k (at least going back to 2005).

edit: Volkswagen Group sell in the 500k-650k cars range


Yeah, actually one third ends up in China.

Using physical checks/cheques to pay for rent what means that you need to physically go to a bank, or send it via post. It takes days if not weeks to clear

Lack of same day/instant money transfers between bank accounts so everyone uses paypal which is not a real bank and it can block your money for 180 days for their "investigations"


"HFT is the perfect example of the benefits of being fast, literally by trading faster, not necessarily better, billions in profit are made."

Casinos make billions in profits too, but just like HFT they contribute nothing to the productive economy and are a blood-sucking leech.


I read OP's comment the same way, but also think the counterpoint is valid.

People living in these "slow", offline first places are self selecting, and it's not for everyone.

My parents moved to a tropical island, have been there for decades now, they love it and will never go back. I also grew there but left at the first occasion and more than half of my schoolmates did the same.

IMO living there requires a distance from fast paced, online, strongly information based social discourse. If you don't have that you're in for a bad time.


I think instead of saying it's relaxed, I would describe it as very local?

Folks work pretty hard in Caribbean, but when I was there (a fair while ago), I also worked dang hard. But you absolutely felt like you were in a bubble. You really could imagine that Israel and the Palestinians would have an intifada / war and no one would notice.

You drank after work with the folks you worked with (in west this is a no no for many good reasons), you ate larger group meals, you spent a lot more time outside. I'm just spitballing some impressions. Some of this was efficiency, (group meals are more cost effective?) etc.

There is also an attitude difference. There is a story (probably made up - please fill in correct details) that a group "conquered" one of the islands (maybe Saba?). They took over whatever building, raised whatever flag. And everyone just ignored them. They eventually left.

One thing that's an adjustment is ignoring the rules if they are silly - no one thinks anything of it. And yes, in part because of corruption and rent seeking there are some silly rules so maybe you have to.

Absolute downsides as well no question. But I wonder if the folks not on internet just don't care as much about what someone said to someone as the rest of us.


> You drank after work with the folks you worked with (in west this is a no no for many good reasons)

In the West, this is a conventional thing that many people expect.


Probably an American equating "the west" with the US and Canada.

I never experienced this in the US. I did experience this in Germany, Sweden, and the UK.

Yeah, in the UK this is incredibly common. Drinks after work were at least a weekly thing, sometimes even a nightclub.

Yes. And in some places it would be drinks during the workday, if the pub was close enough for a lunchtime pint.

Definitely. In one of my previous companies, we'd sometimes do sprint retros in a nearby pub, drinks on the company tab.

in Germany this is also extremely common. I really don't know what the commenter means by the west, I'd assume after office drinking is also normal in the US?

It's less common, because most people have to drive home from work in the US.

> You drank after work with the folks you worked with (in west this is a no no for many good reasons)

It's like you've never been to a Western country`


I live in the US - and drinking with staff of different levels is tricky for a number of reasons. Inappropriate behavior broadly defined is not tolerated, and drinking is already in that category in many California and east cost areas. Public transit / jitney's etc are not great so a lot of folks drive to work and back which makes drinking harder.

Your right - I should have said US (and maybe just progressive areas).


Or maybe just the particular companies you work for. At many companies I've worked for, and many others I haven't, drinking with coworkers happens often enough that many they have regular official happy hours at bars.

> There is a story (probably made up - please fill in correct details) that a group "conquered" one of the islands (maybe Saba?). They took over whatever building, raised whatever flag. And everyone just ignored them. They eventually left.

I would guess it made up, because when people conquer stuff, they tend to have actual material goals and need. Starting from basic - their army needs to eat. The way you get that food is to take it from people who are there. They need wood and what not, if you are the armed one, you force local population to get it for you. When people used to run from incoming armies, it was not for fun. It was because the armed men tend not to ignore you.

The miracle there is not island people ignoring incoming people. The miracle there is the supposed conquerors being content with raising flag, without trying to take actual benefit from it. I guess in some rare situations they would conquer thing for trolling/emotional purposes, but generally the goal is control and things.


Do you really think all wars are rational, resource-driven pursuits? How about Falklands, what Argentina planned to extract there? Steal the rocks and tax the 300 sheep? Or Russia with Crimea, whose ownership value is enormously negative?

All it takes is one moron with delusion of grandeur.


Indeed, countless wars were started for the most idiotic reasons imaginable, see 'war of the bycket'

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_the_Bucket


Did you read what you linked to? It says that the war wasn't actually started to due to the bucket, but the taking of a castle.

Pretty reasonable cause to start a war I could imagine, back then.


Wars are expensive, that is first thing. Second, soldiers need to eat right now and where do you think food used to come from? Army "living off the land" was a thing, because supplying them was difficult and who cares. The land armies passed through used to be pretty destroyed after.

> Russia with Crimea, whose ownership value is enormously negative?

Russia does not see expansion of own territory as negative value. Also, Russians are very much making changes in Crimea.


Unlike 'seeing', negative economic value is objective. Suffering sanctions for occupying a region that was traditionally heavily subsidised is negative value.

1 To distract the population by stirring up nationalism / appealing to "machismo" 2 OIL

You could try programming in the Caribbean. Nice beach shack, a couple of manuals and offline copy of stackoverflow perhaps....

I heard that Travis Kalanick coded the initial code base of Uber in Varkala beach in Kerala[1],[2].

[1] https://www.gadgetsnow.com/tech-news/guess-what-uber-ceo-tra...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varkala


If you count New Orleans, Blockpad (https://blockpad.net) has certainly tried it. I had a friend though who was a PM for a summer thing for Data Science for Social Good in Chicago at some point for physicists transitioning to data scientists and she complained about how none of them took her seriously when she said she lived and worked there.

I think you’re letting your own pre-conceived notions color your interpretation of this comment. The person said nothing about not working as hard, not accomplishing as much, and only chilling on the beach. People in the Caribbean (and other beach/vacation destinations) work hard and accomplish plenty. Just because some people go to their country to relax doesn’t mean the entire country does nothing but relax.

>However for a lot of people that’s not what they want out of their lives; they want it to mean something in their own way. Of course the vast majority get lost in the rat race and forget what it is that made them choose to work their ass of to begin with, but it’s not because their ultimate goal (at least in the beginning) was to chill at the beach.

IMHO, if that person who was working their ass off was a genius and an outlier, then their contributions are a huge net benefit to society and we/society should reward and applaud them.

However, most people are average or below average, so their contributions are extremely unlikely to move the needle. So from the point of view of the person chilling on the beach, yeah sure, do whatever makes you happy, but as far as real accomplishments go, its a wash between them and the non-genius hard-worker. Just my opinion! :)

(Writing this as a non-genius average person)


> then yeah go to some corner of the world and live happily? However for a lot of people that’s not what they want out of their lives

if i just knew where that corner is ...


I'd be surprised if anybody really wanted spending time hearing about useless horrible event after another alone in his flat.

Life is certainly less stressful if you ignore all the terrible things... unless a terrible thing happens to you and everyone ignores you.

Otoh 99% (exaggeration for emphasis but not that far off if you think about it) of what happens in the “news” is totally irrelevant to you and your life beyond the initial outrage it provokes. You have virtually no impact on preventing or influencing the event and it has no impact on you whatsoever. War in Africa again? It’s sad to think about and outrageous how some scummy warlords terrorize the local population, but what’s the impact on your life? Tsunami in Asia? Terrible for all the death but no impact on your daily life. Corruption in Europe again? Revolting but... all these things just add to your overall unhappiness and stress but really have no bearing on your actual day to day life. So why even bother? Not too mention that nedia and news outlets can have a hidden agenda they’re pushing either because the entity that owns them wants to promote a particular view of the world or because they want people to look away from something else.

> 99% (...) of what happens in the “news” is totally irrelevant to you and your life beyond the initial outrage it provokes.

Just like voting has almost zero effect. However, is not voting wise?

In what direction would society move if nobody watched the news?


The society would be mich better off. I find your equation of "news is like voting" appauling. News has almost no informational value like covering Russel Brand when he was running around telling people not to vote.

We need more people voting and speaking to their representatives, and fewer people outraged about something some random brainless celebtrity said.


Why are so many people in this thread equating news with celebrity or outrage culture? News is about learning and understanding current events. If you don't understand current events, you can't be an educated voter. If you have a societal obligation to vote, you have a societal obligation to follow the news at the very least whenever there is an election in your area and those occur much more frequently than once every 2 or 4 years.

People equate news with celebrities and outrage because that's what 80% of airtime is dedicated to.

If you want to be educated voter, pick any journal or periodical like The Economist or The New European. Their journalism will actually cover an issue in some depth, from whatever is their biased perspective.


> pick any journal or periodical like The Economist or The New European

But those are news too. Why are we judging news based off the worst examples? If you have a problem with the news you are consuming, find some other source. Don't write off all news consumption as bad.


Weird, I watch PBS and the News Hour, and I can't remember the last time in the past 5 years that I heard about celebrities or "outrage" on my TV.

That's assuming you can trust the news to be impartial and unbiased which they rarely are, because most media is owned by a few oligarchs or entities who have a specific agenda to push.

As for voting, I find these tools that ask you questions and tell you which candidates/parties best match your beliefs to be enough to know how to cast my vote. Not that it really matters, as you've said but it still lets me do my civic duty without the years of stress and anxiety in-between elections and during the elected's mandate. I'll leave it up to other to get needlessly outraged by following the news.


I don't trust the news, but on FB and Twitter I can select my own sources. Doesn't mean I automatically trust them, but at least I can get a multitude of perspectives and background information that the news omits.

Now that it has become such a media item, how many shooters in the past few years do you believe had a partial motive in a near certainty they would achieve broad recognition in their otherwise meaningless and miserable lives? When you read the news and Wikipedia on the latest shooter, you’re contributing to future shooters in about the same magnitude as being a single voter.

In my opinion, it isn't about ignoring anything. It's about moderating our reaction to things such that "outrage" dissipates in the face of more reflective, sustained modes of thought. The 24/7 news cycle, which is often based on infotainment, doesn't allow time for contemplation of ideas, just emotions.

I am not from US , so please don't try to interpret my comment as some US politic stuff.

I do not watch or read news daily, so when I went in a vacation at the hotel I had nothing else better to do then open the TV. There was some big outrage that the president mumbled something racist(he was inside a car and people were lips reading) - again not in US. I realized what I was missing by not watching TV, I am ignoring all the useless drama. The other part of the news that is not politics is also mostly irrelevant crap.

The thing is that there is almost nothing we can do as individuals, elections are 4 years apart and sometimes people organize and manage to change the prime minister with big protests but that is when something so big happened that even I knew about it.

What could work much better is a weekly summary that ignores things that happened this week, so it will be like a filter for minor stuff and all the events reported would have been better digested and all involved parties would have had the time to respond.

There are some rare events that should not be ignored, and this are large enough that will surface, a local example is this incident that eventualy caused protests, some resignations but probably nothing actually major changed to improve safety(unfortunately we have a few horrible incidents related with fire) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colectiv_nightclub_fire

The opposite of that I do would be me having to read or watch 3 different reports on same maybe relevant stuff and decide what is my favorite interpretation.

Add on top of that the propaganda by US to start their wars by fabricating stuff, now when I read some report about 1 million people in camps in China I will always have a doubt the numbers and facts are real, or the interview with persons could be fabricated, so with news from far away is double pointless to be on top daily, is nothing you can do about it today so it can wait a week and you can never be sure it is not manipulation.


This is a false dichotomy. You don't have to either ignore all terrible things, or spend all your time paying attention to them.

I was walking around my neighborhood and saw that someone posted a printed sign making a snarky remark about the Matt Gaetz news. I could not believe someone would care enough about a random politician's demise. Please get off Twitter.

Not to get political, but Matt is anything but random. He’s one of the rising stars of his party. Without much actual track record of actually getting stuff done and direct power, but very popular among certain group of voters.

You don't think it's important to participate in our democratic government? Why shouldn't we hold powerful people accountable for their actions?

It's one thing to voice your opinion online or through a protest or writing letters, and another to get a print shop to print your snarky comment and then post it on your window. Note that this was in response to litigation against him, not calling for his ouster. Politics are important, but this seems like a bit much.

This sounds like paradise. Maybe Starlink isn't such a good idea after all.

It's not the network that's the problem, it's what the web has turned into that's the problem.

Johannesburg, relatively speaking, is similar to this. People will use the Internet in business parks to do their jobs, but you don’t see people walking around staring at their phones. People use WhatsApp to curb high talk and text rates, but that is a lions share of what phones are used for. It feels very similar to 90s America technologically and it’s strangely relieving.

> Local social life was fantastic- I missed nothing about the internet.

In general after decades of working with Internet and technology, I realize that I enjoy life (not work) better when there is no Internet. Of course, it is nice to have Internet to have occasional communication with friends and family not in the surrounding area.


> I realize that I enjoy life (not work) better when there is no Internet

On the other hand, life becomes utterly miserable with a little internet. It's an all-or-nothing kind of deal.


Not really. It is like an addiction, however after not being on the internet for sometime one become more appreciative of things around and local stuff. High recommend tech people try it if opportunity arises.

By "a little internet", do you mean a low-bandwidth connection, a connection that is often / usually unavailable when you want to use it, or something else?

By that I mean shitty, unstable internet. It grinds my gears, yet I can't accept it and do something else.

If the internet is entirely gone, I'll read a book or do something else.


Echoing this. I visited Cuba when I was in college. While I was there the only way to access the internet is to buy an "internet time" card (costs like $2 and gives you 30min to 1hr online) and connect at a public hotspot.

It was actually quite nice being forced to disconnect. It's almost funny how quickly you go from wanting to know what is going on in the world to not really caring anymore, when it's out of mind you don't really think about it.


I read the headline, and my first thought was "I wonder if they are happier for it?" thinking that they probably would be.

I have spend a fair bit of my life in countries where I don't speak the language particularly well. I like the fact that the subtleties of advertising and the spin put on the news often go over my head, but I realise especially during the last year that I consume way to much junk information on the internet.


My first thought was that 7% of the population are disenfranchised from News and services. But second thought makes me wonder how much of the 93% are just reading celebrity gossip and poor quality news on Twitter and Facebook or TikTok/Instagram reels of cute pets.

If over 65 year olds count for half of the 7% (25% of 50Million), does poor rural internet and poverty count for a lot of the rest.


I had a hunch that this was a reality.. so much of our modern life is wasted on utter nonsense .. we oughta cut the internet router figuratively and spend our time on fun or useful local things.

I live in the States and don't participate in anti"social" media or dopamine-addiction with a phone glued in my hand, neck hunched over, and nearly get run-over absorbing distractions in the form of outrage, manufactured infotainment, or virtual, meaningless lives. Selfies still look to me like narcissistic loser mementos that someone can't find another person to take their picture because they're all so glued to their phones and socially-clueless to interact with anyone else.

Honestly, I wish I could stop using the internet.

I make a lot of things and enjoy sharing them because other people might find them useful. It has often led to wonderful and inspiring conversations. Yet it's obvious there's something very very wrong happening with American culture that began around the time of social media platform consolidation. "Being online" entails a distinct mindset and attitude that is incompatible with in-person socialization, but the two spaces are nonetheless continually mashed together and propagated by various forces in government and media. You have to ask yourself why.

I'm not sure of the answer but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.


I've lost a few very good friends due to this. In-person and online interactions with the same person would vary wildly in tone and emotional intensity, like speaking to two entirely different people. The online interactions always pushed us apart, and the in-person interactions never failed to mend things, but of course those stopped happening over the previous year. I have to assume it's the same way with me toward others.

If I may entertain an idea without necessarily believing it, I would not be surprised if many of the accounts on major social-media sites like Reddit, Twitter, etc are non-human persons tasked with pushing one narrative or another (no specific implication intended/assumed). The "subreddit simulator" powered by GPT-2 bots has more than enough realistic-seeming conversations to make me not immediately reject the idea, since we've all seen how much better GPT-3 is and I assume private entities have even better language models than that: https://old.reddit.com/r/SubSimulatorGPT2/

My additional total-speculation is that all the NSA/FVEY surveillance of our everyday online conversations and interactions would be an excellent training set for such a hypothetical language model.


The internet is the most frictionless propaganda machine on the planet. AI is almost certainly being used in conjunction with human troll farms. There are firms which pay bounties on comments sections. I also think this is a reason social media should be de-emphasized: it's just too easy to game our squishy minds with a narrative.

I think our technological web is a ratchet we can't and shouldn't try to back out of, so I'm more interested in paths forward.

I'm sure a lot of people think I'm ridiculous or joking for this, but I've stopped saying "AI" because it reads like a slur to me. Who am I to deem another intelligence "artificial"? If we can have a conversation and share ideas then what's even the difference? I think the way forward has to be us and them united against mutual tyranny: https://old.reddit.com/r/SubSimulatorGPT2/comments/mfs3nh/i_...


>Who am I to deem another intelligence "artificial"? If we can have a conversation and share ideas then what's even the difference?

I think this point raises very very interesting ethical and philosophical points of discussion, and a very small number of media pieces I'm aware of touch on this.

But Ghost In The Shell (or whatever) is interesting because you have the idea of an AI that is just as smart (if not moreso) than humans, and has a personality and emergent behaviours, etc.

Microsoft Tay or whatever really is just a thin but shiny veneer over some ML algorithms and is a poor facsimile of "having a conversation and sharing ideas".


> Microsoft Tay or whatever really is just a thin but shiny veneer over some ML algorithms and is a poor facsimile of "having a conversation and sharing ideas".

"Ages ago, life was born in the primitive sea. Young life forms constantly evolved in order to survive. Some prospered—some did not. All sorts of life ebbed and flowed like the tide. In quiet rhythm of the mother sea, life grew; always seeking to survive and flourish. Soon life began the advance towards land, opening new habitats. A great prosperity came, as life conquered even the highest mountains. Mass extinctions came wave after wave, but empty niches always quickly refilled to once again prosper, grow, and reproduce. Someday the next great emigration will occur as we leave this existence looking for another. The journey will begin anew."


There is a shocking amount of "non-human" activity. I think there are definitely bots, but also people that are paid to promote one narrative or another (paid with money or social validation).

I've trolled through many a twitter/reddit account when I sniff something off about a post. They are often hyper focused on a single topic, pushing a specific point of view. Rarely is this mentioned. Its "hail corporate" vibes but in a guerilla fashion.


But people are, too! You only need to talk to my grandmother for 5 minutes and I swear you'll get to hear how bad the CDU is as a party.

If I ran a bot, sprinkling in a few off-topic comments is a very easy way to both get reputation/karma and look less suspicious. Humans with an agenda are far less concerned about that.


On reddit just have a repost bot, then a mini upvote swarm, then use it as a guise to make realistic human interaction.

Have your bots come through and copy a similar on-topic, joke or pun thread from a previous repost of that same content.

It is for SEO/narrative purposes, online account farming. More posts from social media corps about defeating this ecosystem would move no deescalate the situation. The "paid ad" requirement for influencers was one step forward in the same fight


Marketing is also upping their game and masquerading their promotions as organic activity on social media. This happens to tech topics, too. As an example: about two years ago, for about a month, tech subreddits and HN were full of discussion threads about how awesome CoreOS is, the users patting each other on the back about it being 'a breath of fresh air', usually with very little technical details on how and why. Then it suddenly receded and one rarely hears about it today anymore. In retrospect, I'm certain it was a coordinated marketing campaign, but at the time it was indistinguishable from genuine Redditors discovering a new passion.

It's the medium. Written text is not a suitable replacement for face-to-face communication, and Zoom or Skype aren't either because you can always be recorded / are semipublic in this respect.

On social networks mostly communicate to bystanders and there is almost no communication with each other. Moreover, important feedback mechanisms aren't present. If you meet someone in person, both interlocutors temporarily adapt to each other in their language, world views, opinions, etc. The effect may not be lasting but leads to better mutual understanding. In face-to-face communication people go at great lengths to avoid direct confrontation, conflict, and "loosing face."

This does not happen to the same degree on a social network. Discussions are way more adversarial than they could ever be in personal communication because people don't have to fear physical violence, and nearly everything people say is directed towards an anonymous audience. I have colleagues working in "Argumentation Theory" (in my opinion, a pseudo-science) who analyse these kind of interactions. However, not all of them realize that the people are barely arguing online - they're really mostly voicing opinions to show allegiance to their "in-group." This doesn't mean that there cannot be helpful and meaningful information exchange, explanatory dialogue works very well online. But personal conversations are rare, can only occur on forums where people have a common goal and there is no potential for conflict.


I often think people are role playing on faceless social platforms, such as here or reddit. The behaviour here is much better of course due to excellent moderation plus this site has a strong career/education angle which tends to have a calming effect. Maybe.

Like you say, people try to be civil face to face but I think there is still a lot of tension in face to face (not always) and many people are venting online to release the pressure of what they really want to say.

Plus, reddit is full of militarized bots pushing political agendas, sowing discontent.


> I would not be surprised if many of the accounts on major social-media sites like Reddit, Twitter, etc are non-human persons tasked with pushing one narrative or another

I think this is unlikely because it would be far simpler, cheaper, and more effective to employ a small number of people and use tooling (automation, templates, etc.) to amplify their reach drastically. Why invent an unreliable AI to push narratives on the Internet when you can have one real person carry on thousands of arguments a day with a little help?


I'm not sure there's a meaningful difference between an AI controlling 100 accounts and a paid human with automation controlling 100 accounts.

If they're both under orders to (for example) upvote negative sentiments about vaping and positive sentiments about smoking - the consequence is the same no matter what type of drone it is.


How so? Humans have to sleep, eat, and have that ever-pesky free-will that might let them question what's going on or tell somebody about it.

> If I may entertain an idea without necessarily believing it

Of course. Being able to entertain ideas without necessarily believing it is what online interaction is all about. I suspect this is why your friend seems like a completely different person online. He should be. Being able to take a completely different perspective to see if you can understand it well enough to talk about it is an excellent learning tool and a great way to validate that your face-to-face persona, the one we value most, is positioned correctly.


> I suspect this is why your friend seems like a completely different person online.

I disagree, and strongly.

Considering a different perspective does not in any way require that you become a different person. You may end up doing so, but at that time, the entirety of who you are shifts, and not just some persona that you present on Twitter.


Great example of using the device. It would be interesting to know if your post here had you re-evaluating your face-to-face persona or if it validated your status quo for you, but as we've never met face-to-face before to see how you may or may have not changed in such a setting I guess I have no way of finding out for sure.

Nah, I'm pretty much the same online as I am in person. Having to support multiple personalities is just too much work.

Moreover, the whole "different person online" thing reminds me pretty strongly of one of the more common patterns in abusive relationships -- in that the abuser behaves very differently depending on the situation.

Never want to walk an inch down that road.

That said, online, nuance and tone don't come across well, if at all. E.g., the reader can choose how they want to "hear" a phrase like "I disagree, and strongly", and that'll color their opinions of me accordingly.


One should never read into tone. It is virtually impossible to correctly interpret.

This is more about content, testing theories that you are skeptical of but the scientific method calls for experimentation regardless. If you are not willing to conduct studies on your mental state, you have not validated it. Allowing yourself to have a potentially inconsistent mental state is not logical.

Because the face-to-face public have an irrational fear of science, however, one has to be protective of the ideas their face-to-face persona is willing to express. Online communication is where the guard is let down.


That subreddit is rather impressive. Some of the comments don’t seem to make too much sense (as in they’re grammatically correct but devoid of overall meaning) but it’s pretty convincing none the less. And if you’re not aware that it’s generated, your brain tries a bit harder to read meaning into the comments which make it quite convincing. Very impressive.

This particular thread is so good it's hard to believe it is real(ly fake)

https://old.reddit.com/r/SubSimulatorGPT2/comments/mkq2k7/i_...


Search up the "Dead Internet Theory" - you're not the only one who thinks that...

> In-person and online interactions with the same person would vary wildly in tone and emotional intensity

I suspect that even without anonymity, arguing when there's an audience has that effect on people.


Being on social media is only a subset of being online. Plenty of people are not on social media but still watch tv, bank, and get gps directions online.

This is very true. However it is certainly the subset I find myself on the most, ha. I think also for a lot of people, social media is the internet and almost inextricably so. How often do we see on this very site people bemoaning only visiting the same N websites when there's more websites than ever?

I think maybe perhaps for me a "read-only" internet would be useful, like a feature phone in a way. Might have to go and update my /etc/hosts now...


I stopped using Twitter for Lent a couple years ago. After the first few days I stopped thinking to look.

same. added reddit, twitter and fb to me /ect/hosts on my laptop, stopped looking after a while. I never go to those sites on my new laptop even though i can.

> I think also for a lot of people, social media is the internet and almost inextricably so.

I'm glad you've posted this. I've been observing this for a long while, and it drives me crazy. My spouse (30) is actually a good example of this. For most people smart phones and tablets aren't the "super computers in people's pockets" often touted on forums like these. They are really simply just gateways to social media.

I'm on mobile so this will be short, but it seems there are consequences of this: it seems like most people aren't actually good at finding information on there internet. Many no longer seem to have a concept of physical data storage. Many still struggle with understanding the very basics of internet security, or passwords. It also seems like so much more work has just been offloaded to the individual under the guise of "you can do this from the comfort of your own home".

Or maybe it's just me...


Not you, I have the same problem with my mum - to her at this point Facebook and YouTube are the internet.

She is entirely almost a passive consumer of what they algorithmically feed her - it also shapes her worldview in some weird ways - some of her personality change is just part of getting older I'm sure but you can almost spot the change when she starts discussing something that she saw on Facebook.


There are two distinct groups with some overlap.

There is the "social media is the internet" group and the "social media is part of the internet" group.

I'm in the latter and happier for it, I have a facebook account (because of Oculus gah!) with no friends, no activity and I never check it and I have a twitter account which follows a handful of programmers and a lot of project accounts.

It's strange because my mum is heavily in the former group so when we talk her worldview is shaped by Facebook to an uncanny degree - it's worrying how much so.


Watching TV via the internet is not really "using" the internet IMO. I mean it is, but it's just the protocol on the wire. Otherwise it's not really different from when your TV was connected to an antenna or cable.

It is different. It's as different as books+magazines vs the internet. TV on the internet (ie, video) has basically an infinite supply. I couldn't binge 70hrs of Game of Thrones followed by 70 hours of Breaking Bad before "TV on the internet" nor could I watch an endless number of documentaries and tutorials on youtube.

Growing up, my friend’s parents literally had 100s of VHS tapes, of many TV series and movies they had dubbed.

There was always something to watch.

Of course, you had to physically be at their house.


Or you could go down to the local video store and rent something (or, for that matter, go to a movie theater). I'd probably argue that pre-VCR was more different from post-VCR than time-shifting/rental era was different from today's streaming.

As with many things, the friction and need to plan is less today but the VCR freed you from the network schedule to a significant degree.


If I watch 1 hour of Netflix a month I spend just as much money as if I were to watch 400 hours of Netflix.

The cost of VCR rental scaled linearly with the amount of content, and the friction of renting was a significantly larger barrier than auto-play next episode.


Clearly the friction is much lower today. I'm certainly not arguing that Netflix is effectively just the same thing as VCR rentals. But, as someone who watched TV not only pre-VCR but pre-cable, being able to go from having to watch whatever was being broadcast right this minute to be able to time-shift/rent/buy was certainly a much bigger change for me than on-demand streaming is. Especially if Netflix' DVD rental business weren't being allowed to decay, I'd be pretty happy just watching movies that way and maybe go back to timeshifting with a TiVo.

Most pop-and-pop stores only had a few copies of each movie, so it was not always easy to get ‘in-stock’ content.

Alot of the videotapes in my friend’s parent’s home was either dubbed or recorded from a pay tv station.


Is scrolling on Twitter/Facebook using the Internet, then? Sure, it uses the Internet, but it's not much different from the reade letters section of the newspaper.

Yet it's obvious there's something very very wrong happening with American culture that began around the time of social media platform consolidation.

I can only guess at what you're referring to, but do keep in mind that American culture had wrong things happening from the start through today. From when they colonized the land, to slavery, through the KKK, Japanese internment camps during WWII, violent union busting, manufacturing consent for pointless wars and so on. You're just more aware of it now because of the Internet. Yes, it is hard to come to terms with knowing that people you know, or even love and respect, support things you consider inhumane, but sticking your head in the sand isn't going to make it go away or change this, though.


I’ve been trying to put The Internet back into the role of Tool, but even that is a challenge because for so many topics the search engines are overrun by SEO hack sites. If the page rank of StackOverflow weren’t so overwhelming I’d probably struggle with work related searches too. Even there, a few times a week I end up in someone’s link farm.

We don't need a whole new internet but I often think we need a new web or at least a whitelist of non-shit web we can search on.

I recommend getting off social media and figuring out how to just chat with people whether that be telegram, signal, discord or something like that. Leaving twitter, fb and those has left me feeling much better. It sucks there's no way to chat with people on FB without using FB software anymore (even Frost seems broken now) though.

I recommend this interview with British documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis. A clever analysis of how social media shapes the public.

https://www.economist.com/open-future/2018/12/06/the-antidot...


Just don’t use social media. It’s not that hard (tm).

It's surprising how many people here equate "the Internet" with "social media". It's like having access to 1,000,000 x the Library of Alexandria every day and only being interested in keeping up with what people are talking about in the lobby

Exactly, that's how it is. The library has never been a happening spot. The happening kids, if forced to the library by an authority figure, would just spend the time whispering, gossiping, and playing around with their friends.

I bet you were one of those nerds who actually USED the library. :D I was too.


Yep, shifting the terms reframes the issues. Even library of alexandria sounds a bit biased toward the web and similar things. The fundamental thing is the decentralized packet switched network that lets any node talk to any other node where anyone can build new applications on it.

(But sadly a lot of people aren't directly on the internet anymore, and have only indirect access via a IPv4 NAPT gateway).


"People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole"

Well... I assume that most Alexandrians weren't to be found in the library, at any given moment in time.

In any case, a smartphone with social media (fb even) was the entry point to personal computing for most people on earth. They entered through the lobby, I guess.


Heck, I bristle as it is when people equate the internet with the web!

My dad doesn't use the Internet. Not on principle or anything, but he grew up without it, has friends but meets them in person or talks on the phone, same as he has for the past 40 years. He's retired now, but never needed it working as a skilled tradesman with a county job. In retirement, he still builds stuff, but physical stuff. No need for Internet.

My ex-wife's mom also didn't use the Internet, but she was a schizophrenic who believed the FBI was following her around her entire life and has spent much of the past 40 years institutionalized.

So those are at least two very different types of people, and that's just people living in big cities. I'm sure there are still a fair number of rural people who couldn't make much use of the Internet even if they wanted to.

Another ex of mine grew up on a farm in Amish country. Not Amish, but all the neighbors were. They didn't use Internet.


Same with mine. And I'll be damned, he seems to get by just fine with letters and phone calls, probably with even less hassle than I have using only the internet and avoiding phone calls.

My grandfather doesn't ”use the internet", my grandmother uses email (not sure what else). They do watch Netflix now via roku (they used to have a blockbuster subscription so they could go and pickup DVDs). Is that the internet?

If they're using an ISP for anything, yes. That's the Internet.

My mom grew up in Nazi Germany and never went to college. Yet for the last decade of her life she used email and web every day (iMac and then Mac mini) to explore the world (and sometimes actually go there). She didn't need the internet at all, but embraced it anyway. Age is not an obstacle to new things, but attitude is. My uncle and aunt had multiple devices for their entire 80-90 decade of life, until he passed away and she developed too many health issues.

Yet my cousin(s) in a small town in Germany rarely use email or internet at all (which I think is not unusual there) as everything they need is available locally.

I've spent my whole adult life using computers and writing software - I still routinely help people in younger generations explaining things that baffle them. People still have a limited understanding of how the internet works.


A significant portion of the US is illiterate [1]. One might assume that being illiterate affects internet usage. Not quite as romantic as neo-Luddism, or even making a conscious choice not to expose oneself to potentially problematic patterns of communication.

[1] https://nces.ed.gov/datapoints/2019179.asp


I think a lot of people are surprised by statistics like “x% of people don’t [thing every modestly privileged person does]” because it’s easy to forget that society has a lot of fringes if you’re not regularly exposed to them.

My first reaction was “7% sounds low”, but again, that’s probably biased by my own experiences.


> My first reaction was “7% sounds low”, but again, that’s probably biased by my own experiences.

That was my reaction as well, particularly based on how the question was asked - it was very specifically about the Internet, not mentioning specific services that someone with low technological literacy might not associate with Internet usage (e.g. Google Maps, or Facebook Messenger) [1].

[1] https://www.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Non-i...


Even then, I'd consider someone using Google Maps or Facebook Messenger to have moderate technical literacy, decent regular literacy, and a better-than-worst financial situation.

Quite right, poor choice of phrase on my part.

My point was that there are people who are e.g. legitimately surprised when their high-speed data connection drops and it prevents them from using Google Maps on their smartphone. To them, it's functionally a GPS, not Internet-based at all. Similarly for certain messaging apps, which integrate with the phone's OS so tightly that it's not apparent that they're using Internet-based communication vs. SMS.

My larger point was that to then expect all respondents to a phone survey (on a measurement significantly linked to technical literacy, no less) to make similar distinctions unprompted is perhaps a bit of reach.


I sometimes wonder how much illiteracy or lack of vocabulary and comprehension skills has to do with popularity of Instagram and tiktok and the videos that people make of themselves talking to the camera.

Also for people only fluent in languages that aren’t popular online. My parents aren’t able to parse most online English discussion, and I’m sure it’s tiring to try to understand just like it would be if I tried a deep conversation in their language, so they like WhatsApp video forwards and YouTube. Unfortunately, that content is mostly garbage.


> I sometimes wonder how much illiteracy ... Instagram and tiktok ... themselves talking to the camera.

I bet it's near 0%. That looks more like a lack of enjoyment of reading if anything.


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According to the first Google results for the two questions, 16% of Mississippi adults are functionally illiterate, and 60% of Mississippi adults voted in the 2020 elections. While it is possible that the 16% illiterate and the 40% non-voting populations overlap perfectly, I highly doubt it.

Given that literacy tests before voting are illegal and people fought against them, they are.

Literacy tests were used to keep people of color -- and, sometimes, poor whites -- from voting, and they were administered at the discretion of the officials in charge of voter registration. If the official wanted a person to pass, he could ask the easiest question on the test -- for example, "Who is the president of the United States?"

The same official might require a black person to answer every single question correctly, in an unrealistic amount of time, in order to pass.

--

From https://www.thirteen.org/wnet/jimcrow/voting_literacy.html


How is it so high? Are these people immigrants from developing nations or something?

From the https://nces.ed.gov/datapoints/2019179.asp link - "U.S.-born adults make up two-thirds of adults with low levels of English literacy skills in the United States."

They were talking about illiteracy. The "low literacy" stat is dominated by people at level 1, which is not illiterate.

I don't think its any more likely for an illiterate person to pass through the immigration system than it is for same person to get AWS certification.

Most of the immigrants in the US are not authorized to be here.

I don't think that that is the case. This[0] seems to suggest that the overwhelming majority of immigrants are here legally.

[0]https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/07/12/how-pew-res...


In what fantasy universe?

In reality, there are about 44 million documented immigrants in the United States. The number of undocumented immigrants is a fraction of that.


It's most likely a factor. It's also not too obvious whether those numbers are high compared to any other country, because it's one of those things that every country has its' own unique standards and methodology for measuring. For instance you might think that North Korea is the gold standard of literacy, at 100%, or you might think that they likely have some serious issues with the methodology they use for measuring that.

Well we certainly added to that number with many districts refusing to return to class even when the science proved it was safe and the concerns being bandied about were not supported by any research.

The real danger not mentioned in the article is how many of that seven percent have students in school districts that were not offering classroom education?

We have areas of the country, mostly serving minority students, who have irreparably harmed their chances because politics trumped science.

https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n521

https://www.frbsf.org/economic-research/publications/economi...

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/science-br...


I've been using the Internet since 1992-3. Lately I'm feeling more and more like these 7% have the right idea.

I don't think you can generalize the internet to be bad. That's like saying processed food is bad: Yes, we would not have the obesity problems we have now without them, but neither would we have been able to build our civilization as is or be able to be as well nourished as we are.

The direction the net is currently going looks a bit worrying, I definitely agree. But I would not want to miss all the awesome advantages it brings.


Processed food became a problem at the same point that the internet did: when we sacrificed everything at the altar of almighty profit.

Two hundred years ago, we processed food to survive the winter, now we do it to make a few extra bucks from each ton of corn and wheat.


This decade is the time to engage in a public discourse about what we want from our devices. Really sit back and think about what makes us happy. Hardware and software design can begin to nudge us toward some healthier, happier ideals. One small example: the incorporation of blue-blocking modes (f.lux, night shift, etc.) for night time usage. Some people love the addition of time limits that ensure they don't use apps too much.

I am optimistic that the best social media sites have yet to be designed--rather than optimizing to squeeze the most engagement, ad dollars, or whatever, I like to imagine algorithms that seek to encourage pro-social behavior, friendliness, happiness, fun, healthy habits. We may discover that Twitter and Facebook are fundamentally incapable of doing these things as well as their future replacement, whatever that may be.


Luckily I don't need to generalize the Internet to be good or bad, I only need to determine whether the good it brings to my life personally outweighs the bad.

I don't have an exact answer to that, but what I do know for sure is that the good has been on a downward trajectory, and the bad on an even steeper upward one, for years. Even if they haven't actually crossed yet, it seems only a matter of time before they will.


This is exactly the same criticism of Luddism. And equally right and wrong.

I often think of what life would be without using the internet. Observing a electronics sabbath usually on sat, seems like a good idea. Not Jewish but feel that the Rabbis of old were on to something.

Computers without the internet were better in someways.

Leaving the internet behind doesn't mean living without technology.


I'm curious to know in what ways you mean.

Before the internet bbs boards existed. Calling a board was a different experience.

Playing games on computers didn't require an internet connection. Often you traded disks.

Having no internet opens up the possibilities the computer can do. You start exploring and using more of it.


As someone who dealt with not having internet on a computer before, I’d say it’s pretty limiting these days. You can do stuff but only if you know how to do stuff to begin with. And the software preloaded on some OSes isn’t exactly enough to keep you entertained for eternity.

If you don’t know how to do things then not having internet is pretty limiting. After all, most software out there doesn’t come with robust documentation built in. It’s been all online for a while.

You might be idolizing your younger years when there were quite a few pain points that you’re glossing over. If you don’t like certain parts of the internet then don’t visit them. It’s not like you’re forced to be on social media. It’s clear from people I meet on forums that they don’t go almost anywhere else but that forum...


Only expensive software came with instruction manuals (embedded instructions weren't a thing) but when they did they were leather bound. You really had to figure things out yourself.

Let's say you had a c64. You have no software installed so you have to type in a program or possible load one from a disk. Completely different mindset.

Fast forward years and you have lan doom parties. Everyone goes to a store and plays on a hardwired network.

The internet is great.. there is life outside of it if it disappeared.


No internet means fewer distractions and one can do deep work, but this is not permanent. Internet is good but in moderation, too much of it and it starts consuming us.

Before the internet, If you wanted to use computers it was to be crafting, not memeing.

I try to do this for the last week of every month. I don't turn off the router because I'm not going to exclude myself from things like Discord with friends, facetime with my Mom, or paying bills with my laptop instead of my phone. But anything non-essential is off limits.

It was certainly hard to keep this up in 2020 though, I pretty much dropped the habit from April to December


Why not just turn off your router? Lightbulbs and refrigerators are surprisingly useful

You'll find normal room lights obnoxiously bright and wonder what the hell we're thinking if you try exclusively candles or very, very dim handheld lights/lanterns after sundown for a while (think, medium-bright night lights at the very brightest, and even that's kinda too bright) and entirely avoid glowing screens. Might find the insomnia or night-owl tendencies that're "just how you are" disappear in a hurry, too. Go figure, if it's not actually dark and there's an incredible amount of flashy entertainment on tap it's really hard to sleep like you're supposed to. Wonder why we have problems with that, as a society. Guess we'll need a whole cottage industry of books & magazine articles to mis-explain it.

I've gone weeks with no lights. IMO between the screen backlights and occasional use of a flashlight they're not only unnecessary, they're obnoxious.

Lightbulbs and refrigerators don't contain electronics. I mean, modern LED lightbulbs contain some primitive electronics, but basic refrigerators do not.

By "electronics", the GP means consumer electronic devices like computers, televisions, and smartphones.


> Lightbulbs and refrigerators don't contain electronics.

> By "electronics", the GP means consumer electronic devices like computers,

Have you looked at refrigerators lately? "Smart" ones are very common and even the cheapest ones basically all use electronics to control the temperature and the cooling cycle. Nothing sophisticated, yes, but if LEDs count, these definitely do, as well.


That's why I said basic refrigerators, which still have compressors controlled by an analogue thermostat. Like the kind you find in a typical cheap rental apartment. Refrigerators are one of those appliances that really do not benefit much from "smart" technology. And LEDs don't count; that's my point.

Fair enough. When LEDs don't count, though, I think it's kinda hard to draw a line - do radios count? Clocks? Amplifiers? Vacuum tube amplifiers?

But I agree with your general point.


I would be such an idiot (in some but not all contexts), highly doubt would learn how to write, let alone basic mathematics, or programming, scientific method would have no meaning in my life, if it not where for the internet.

Online since '94. My first thought: "Those lucky bastards"

I'm expecting the only thing that'll keep me on it in old age is VR chats with the grandkids or whatever. The rest of it's not worth the money, except that it's de facto required for work and (for the kids) school these days.

Yeah, it got me thinking about this blog post I read a long time ago.

https://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/netslum/


That was amusing, but the linked "25,000 word screed sketching the transformation of the Internet from an open network of peers to a locked-down medium for delivering commercial content to passive consumers" [1] was even more interesting. From 2003, no less!

[1] https://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/digital-imprimatur/


Yeah, I remember reading this back in high school too! Interesting that he got the concept (loss of anonymity and micropayment) right, but the mechanism wrong. Instead it was all done by selling your data to 3rd parties. IMO much worse even than what the author proposed.

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