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The benefits of staying off social media (durmonski.com)
370 points by ggoo 77 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 302 comments



> A futuristic dystopia. A place where the real world sucks. Where people consider talking to someone a chore. Connection, closeness, ambition are replaced by detachment and dogmatic slumber. Society is satisfied with shallow thoughts and the pursuit of artificially created stimuli in an imaginary world.

Beautifully written top-notch orwellian poetry. Seriously inspiring.

Also as someone who has only ever used social media as a low-level content creator (we used to be called deadbeat artists) I feel like this starts an important conversation about the new problems that develop when you stop consuming and start doing.

In my experience over the last decade there are fewer and fewer ways to find a community and any success as a creator of any kind without getting corralled into social media and furthermore getting corralled into being a daily active user / consumer as to not get shadow banned by any given app.

Doing rather than consuming feels much healthier than doom scrolling, but theres a larger dialogue that has to happen about the problems with creating in the 21st century imho.


> Where people consider talking to someone a chore.

This bit in particular really hit me. I've noticed a rising trend around the Internet (or maybe I was just blind to it before), mostly on Reddit, of people who really do seem to consider any sort of real-life social interaction a chore and an attack.

I forget the exact context, I think the conversation that stood out to me was about someone in a gas station or something, trying to make friendly conversation with another shopper next to them, along the lines of "oh that's a cool hat". And the consensus of the thread was "yeah that's awful, why would you do that, why are you subjecting them to the labor of talking to you" or such.

Guys... we're humans. It isn't a crime to make small talk. It's not a chore to open your mouth. Most of us consider (or used to consider; and I'm not even old) that enjoyable. What happened?


Reddit has a culture that normalizes the symptoms of social anxiety. They call it introversion, but the way its described is 100% social anxiety.

I am sympathetic, I have it too. Hell, ever male in my dad's family line seems to have it.

But its a problem that needs to be treated and not a character trait that needs to be respected. The WORST thing you can do for social anxiety (or any anxiety) is to avoid trigger it. You'll become a depressed shut in.


> The WORST thing you can do for social anxiety (or any anxiety) is to avoid trigger it

No point triggering for the sake of it.

You need to bring the socially anxious person in a very easy enviornment.

A scenario in which they can easily "win" the social setting.

Like a pre-season friendly game against a minor league team. You put 30 runs on them, and of course you'll start the season full of swagger.

It's called the "winner effect"

Social anxiety is essentially triggered by not being in control of social outcomes.

Repeated winning outcomes do lower the need to be in control and thus should reduce anxiety


> No point triggering for the sake of it.

Actually there is, if it's contextualized correctly. It's called Exposure Therapy [0] and it's scientifically proven to help phobias/anxiety/fears. Avoiding the anxiety-provoking situations makes things worse.

[0] https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/patients-and-families/exp...


I don't think people would ever become accustomed to being losers.

It might work for fear of flying or heights

But being in a social setting and trying to penetrate into the "in crowd" and being rejected would only make things worse.

You need a controlled environment to exogenously make the socially anxious person "in" so that they then have enough momentum and confidence to go out in the real world and go through an X amount of rejections on their way to thier first real win.

If they lose confidence before achieving a real win because the X amount of rejections is too high , then you gotta go back to the controlled environment.

It's basically like baseball with Major and Minor leagues.

Minor league aces are way more confident than sluggish Major league players.


why are you equating social anxiety with being a loser?


Social anxiety spurs from not being popular or commanding a presence in a room, not being in the "in" crowd.

In short it spurs from not being a winner.

The socially anxious person maybe knows at the intellectual level that social wins can be achieved by working the numbers game, but they are too apathetic or nihlistic or scared that their first attempt is going to be a loss which will further depress them.

When you immerse the socially anxious person in a controlled environment you make sure that his first attempt is a Win, and the second and the third and the fourth etc.

And you make them win enough times that they maybe venture into hubris, so that they have a full tank to go into the real world and face the natural X amount of rejections and losses which comes before a win.


I don't get what a social win/loss is?


Again success, dominating the room, being at the center of the attention at parties, people being receptive when you go talk to them, after the aforementioned positive reception also showing openess for a second encounter.


But when you get caught in curating the environment that leads to a "win", it would probably hit strongly the other way.

I disagree about the win/loss theory in general though. I think it is really a dissonance about what people expect and value in in or out groups.

Someone afraid to speak up in certain groups might be quite outgoing in another. So there isn't really an absolute level of success. There are also very successful people that are anxious. Expectations towards yourself play a large role though.


> But when you get caught in curating the environment that leads to a "win", it would probably hit strongly the other way.

Everybody curates their environment, people just do so unconsciously and without realizing it. An American movie star might dominate the room in Los Angeles...but they'd find a hard time even speaking to people in Iran, and if they are recognized people would be hostile towards them.


Exposure therapy is not the same as randomly triggering the person. It is not going into situations where you will fail either. It is quite deliberate process where you expose person to dose the the person can handle with some difficulty and then you give them break to recover.


There are many strategies and pacing that exposure therapy can take (the link I provided has several examples); the slow, deliberate process you describe is one of them, as is what's being described upthread.


If you don't do it deliberately, it is not therapy tho.

And there is effect of becoming oversensitive when encountering strong stressor randomly and often. I stead of getting less sensitive people can start reacting more aggressively at smaller threat.


Saying to yourself, "I will respond with 1 line of dialog to the next person who hits me up" is deliberate, although the event itself will come randomly.

Your train of thought here reflects classic avoidant behavior -- it's not therapeutic unless I'm in control of all the variables. Certainly you're correct depending on the type of fear being extinguished -- dropping buckets of spiders randomly on someone afraid of spiders isn't likely to help things at all, nor is dropping someone with GAD in the middle of a crowded concert -- but for the particular phobia (social anxiety) and exposure (small talk with strangers in public) we're talking about in this thread, it's definitely the low-stakes kind of exposure exposure therapy aims to provide.


Being introverted isn't the same as social anxiety. I do agree that it seems that way on parts of reddit though (there are also completely socially oblivious people that perhaps are even unable to suffer social anxiety).

That people suffer from it is no wonder when you go from one purity spiral to the next one but that is certainly something large social media companies reproduce at least involuntarily.


I think /r/jung does a better job with this.


>I forget the exact context, I think the conversation that stood out to me was about someone in a gas station or something, trying to make friendly conversation with another shopper next to them, along the lines of "oh that's a cool hat". And the consensus of the thread was "yeah that's awful, why would you do that, why are you subjecting them to the labor of talking to you" or such.

This is kind of an American way of thinking. Small talk with strangers is weird in many places.

If you're a woman spurning it can get ugly fast (you are not obligated to a reply from a stranger). It's not at all unusual for a woman to ignore small talk from a male stranger and instantly be met with vitriol. I've been in situations where an ignored comment like "smile honey" is instantly met with "bitch". If this is the cost of small talk, it isn't worth it.

There's also the newfound respect for mental health, some people are extremely anxious or agoraphobic, and attempting small talk with strangers in places where people are required to be (grocery, fuel, etc) seems unnecessary. Is complementing someone's hat really worth the potential anxiety? not remotely.

If you're lonely and want to meet people, don't try to do it via small talk with strangers. Join a club, take a class, volunteer. Go to places where interaction is expected, do not foist it upon strangers just trying to go about their daily lives.

If you must small talk, please do not take it personally if someone ignores you.


I hear this all the time I'm these discussions, but I call bunk. Sure, small talk is filler content, but you're not going to jump straight into the more meaningful conversations with people you don't yet know.

The filler small talk content isn't the substance, it's the launching point for those more substantive conversations.

For instance, maybe you got the hat at a concert in Wichita, and this person at the gas station grew up in Wichita. Maybe they spent their career designing hats. Maybe their deceased kid used to love hats and seeing it reminded them of their kid. You don't know what the "actually interesting" topics available are until you actually spend ten seconds talking to someone.

As with almost anything, people are free to ignore you or reject social conventions, that's totally their right. But it's also totally fine to try to start a conversation with someone.

You're right that some people, for one reason another, might not want to carry a conversation. In those cases, they can simply not carry the conversation. One of the joys of being human, though, is commiserating with fellow humans. If the location isn't one where conversation is strictly verboten (e.g. movie theaters, gym machines, library study rooms), I see no reason why people shouldn't (respectfully) see if the other is up for a conversation.


>But it's also totally fine to try to start a conversation with someone.

I would agree (and really wish I could) if most people would recognize disinterest and stop there, but anecdotally I'd say half the time it's met with anger or some form of pointed dissatisfaction. People have outright touched me to get my attention about some off-hand comment I ignored initially. It's frequent enough where I'm conditioned to start looking for an exit when I'm approached by someone in public.

It's incredibly unpleasant to feel obligated to continue small talk because you fear what happens if you don't. I can not support any kind of small talk under the reality of what comes along with it. It's one of those cases where some people ruin it for everyone else.


> I would agree (and really wish I could) if most people would recognize disinterest and stop there,

For all the whinging about anti-social nerds, I've found the people most obtuse when it comes to social niceties to be the overtalkative that don't pick up on subtle cues that the person they are haranguing just wants to be left alone and get on with whatever they were involved in before they were so rudely interrupted.

No one owes anyone attention, particularly undivided.


> I can not support any kind of small talk under the reality of what comes along with it.

Eh, I can understand that, but in my mind this seems like one of the purest instances of not letting the assholes co-opt the thing I like.

Some people can't take no for an answer in loads of contexts. In my mind, the proper response is to call those people out for their misbehavior, stigmatize those bad actions, and let the vast majority of good actors and positive experiences carry on.


Thanks for the understanding, and I totally get that your experience is different from my own.

I just don't feel like I have the physical or mental capacity to call everyone out, though I'm incredibly grateful for those who help out if someone's clearly being bothered in public (especially men calling out other men who are just out there hitting on strangers). Bystanders have gotten me out of a couple very uncomfortable situations in the past.


>The filler small talk content isn't the substance, it's the launching point for those more substantive conversations.

While that's certainly possible, it doesn't need to be a launching point for anything.

It can just be an offhand remark, a chuckle and a reply and off you go. Not every interaction needs to have some sort of agenda or goal associated with it.

At least that's how I see it.


The "launching point" is often the scary part. If I knew that every remark from a stranger was just a remark and I could say thanks and move on with my life I'd feel much better.

Instead it's a tightrope walk. You have to be appreciative but not too appreciative, you need to be disinterested but not too disinterested. Sometimes it doesn't matter and you lose anyway.

Appear too appreciative and you're hounded by someone (or worse, I've had friends that have been followed)... look too disinterested and you've earned their ire.

I will note that this is largely a problem of male strangers talking to women (it's not universal of course, I've personally witnessed these issues across all varieties of people).


>The "launching point" is often the scary part. If I knew that every remark from a stranger was just a remark and I could say thanks and move on with my life I'd feel much better.

>Instead it's a tightrope walk. You have to be appreciative but not too appreciative, you need to be disinterested but not too disinterested. Sometimes it doesn't matter and you lose anyway.

You don't have to do anything. A polite nod and walking away isn't bad, but not even that is required.

>Appear too appreciative and you're hounded by someone (or worse, I've had friends that have been followed)... look too disinterested and you've earned their ire.

Well, yes, there are crazies out there, and it's probably best to stay away from them. But IME, those folks are few and far between.

>I will note that this is largely a problem of male strangers talking to women (it's not universal of course, I've personally witnessed these issues across all varieties of people).

Yes. That's definitely a problem. And one that pisses me off a great deal. But that's not a problem with small talk, that's a problem with entitled assholes and the aforementioned crazies.

That's not about small talk though. That's about power and, sadly, that's always been, and likely always will be, a problem.

And women have had to come up with a variety of ways to deal with this. Whether it's to ignore the person and walk away or politely (or not so politely) decline to continue the interaction.

Until every human is well-adjusted and relatively sane (meaning never), that will be an issue.

You appear to be arguing that because a small group of jerks make interaction occasionally uncomfortable, no one should ever interact with anyone. That seems a little extreme to me.

Note that I'm not telling you (or anyone else) what to do or not do.

Edit: clarified my prose.


This exchange is a very good illustration of what happened with the #metoo movement: a woman explains the toll that street harassment has on their life, and a man that has never experienced that brushes it off with a #notallmen.

While I agree that having small talk with strangers once in a while could be very healthy, I also try to remember that a woman has to unwillingly interact tens of times a day with male strangers just by walking in the street, sometimes with very scary outcomes, and being like "yeah but I am different" is not an appropriate response.


I'd also point out that commenting on the quality of the chicken noodle soup while on line at the supermarket (that's small talk) and randomly walking up to someone and tell them how sexy they look and suggest they sit on your face (that's harassment) are wildly different things.

Or do you believe they are exactly the same thing?


I don't, as you put it, "brush it off" at all.

What, exactly, do you suggest I do about it?

That's not a rhetorical question.

I have no control over the "crazies" or the "Entitled assholes."

I only have control over my actions.

So please, do tell. What is it I'm supposed to do other than treat those around me with courtesy and respect?


You say that you don't brush it off at all, but just before you said "But IME, those folks are few and far between.". Your experience does not really matter here if you are not a woman that experiences that type of harassment.

What the person you were replying to was trying to tell you is not that the problem are men who start the conversation with "hey pretty girl, can you sit on my face?", but rather people who start with a polite conversation, and if they feel they are met with a warm reaction think it opens the door to more.

It might be only a small percentage of guys who follow up with inappropriate actions, but when as a woman you get 20+ men a day starting to make small talk with you, you end up with a high probability of having at least some of them being weirdos.

On the other hand if the woman answers coldly to the small talk tentative, some people may take it in a bad way. The line you have to walk to not appear too warm to weirdos and not too cold to easily offended people is very thin.

If you can't understand that under these circumstances some women become anxious at the idea of men starting small talk with them, well that's too bad.

As for what you can do, maybe start with asking women you know how they feel about it. Maybe they are all fine with it. It is also very dependent of where you live. If you live in a dense city women get harassed way more often than in a suburb area, it's kind of a number problem.


You're the worst kind of person.

You assume bad faith and evil from everyone except yourself.

You read what you wanted to read into my comment and ignored anything that contradicted your view that I'm ignorant/oblivious/probably an evil harassing rapist.

I live in the most densely populated city in the US, and was born, raised and have lived here most of my life.

I am acutely aware of the situation and the issue, but you assume you know know better than anyone else. Which is a bunch of entitled (although entitlement of a different kind than I mentioned in the comment to which you responded) bullshit from an entitled, self-righteous asshole. That'd be you, in case there was some confusion about that.

So, as I should have said (which was my initial impression, given your deliberately obtuse and clearly bad faith response to my comment), fuck off jerk.

Which is what most women I know will say to entitled assholes like you.

Edit: It occurs to me that I didn't explain myself clearly enough. As such, I will. And I'll use small words so you'll be sure to understand.

>If you can't understand that under these circumstances some women become anxious at the idea of men starting small talk with them, well that's too bad.

Who said that? Not me. In fact, I said just the opposite.

>As for what you can do, maybe start with asking women you know how they feel about it.

Who says I haven't? I'm sure I've had more conversations about stuff like this than you have. But you seem to be so wrapped up in how sensitive you are to even imagine that someone else could have been there long before you.

>Maybe they are all fine with it. It is also very dependent of where you live. If you live in a dense city women get harassed way more often than in a suburb area, it's kind of a number problem

I am quite aware. But small talk isn't harassment. That you equate them says more about you than it does about the very serious problem of harassment.

Given that you've decided that anyone who doesn't explicitly mirror your talking points, they're obviously idiots, evil or both, shows exactly how disrespectful, self-centered and entitled you are. I definitely wouldn't leave any woman alone with you.


Wow, that was a very measured response to my comment.

From what you wrote it looks obvious to me that you completely missed the point I was trying to make, but I share the responsibility for that at least as much as you do, it is not easy to get points across through HN comments, especially when you have no clue who you are talking to (+ I am not an english native speaker in case that was not obvious yet).

I could try to re-explain things better, but you have shown that you are not in a state to take in anything that I say anymore, so I hope you will eventually find a friend who can explain it to you better than I did (and that you will refrain to insult them just because you feel attacked).


> could try to re-explain things better, but you have shown that you are not in a state to take in anything that I say anymore

Don't. I understood you perfectly well.

It's not that I'm unable or unwilling to "take in" what you say. Nor am I angry or upset. I just don't suffer fools gladly[1].

>I hope you will eventually find a friend who can explain it to you better than I did

I understand the issue just fine, thanks. It's you who didn't understand me. I'll chalk that up to you not being a native English speaker.

>and that you will refrain to insult them just because you feel attacked

I didn't insult you because I felt attacked. I didn't intend to insult you at all.

Rather, I called you out for your nastiness and bad faith. Because you deserved it. And I stand by that assessment.

Your self-righteous[0] tone is unwelcome here (and in most places).

[0] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/self-righteous

[1] https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/does...


I agree completely.

Continuing the conversation, and using it as a launching point for something substantial, is a reasonable reaction.

Stopping the conversation with a friendly dismissal, a "chuckle and a reply and off you go" as you said, is a reasonable reaction.

Reacting rudely and thinking "who are you, why are you subjecting me to the labor and chore of talking to you?" is not a reasonable reaction.


>Stopping the conversation with a friendly dismissal, a as you said, is a reasonable reaction.

To clarify, I didn't mean that "chuckle and a reply and off you go" was the means to extricate oneself from such a situation although, as you said, it's a reasonable thing to do.

I meant that an "offhand remark, a chuckle and a reply and off you go" was the whole point of such an interaction -- not some sort of prelude to something beyond that.


>If you're lonely and want to meet people, don't try to do it via small talk with strangers. Join a club, take a class, volunteer. Go to places where interaction is expected, do not foist it upon strangers just trying to go about their daily lives.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't make small talk to meet other people.

If the moment allows it and I'm in the mood, I enjoy making an offhand comment about something interesting or amusing that's going on around me.

If that's not well received, I just move on. It's no big deal (at least not to me) if others aren't interested.

I will say that, at least for me, 7-8 times out of 10, the interaction is welcomed and comfortable. That said, I do try hard to be personable and polite. That usually makes a big difference.


> This is kind of an American way of thinking. Small talk with strangers is weird in many places.

I agree it depends on where you are, though I'm not sure about the "American" categorization.

I was in Seoul where small talk with strangers was completely weird... then I went to a different city in South Korea, Busan, where people would chat you up all over the place (waiting in line, in a street food stall, at the sauna, etc).

I later learned that Busan was a city of refugees in the Korean War where the entire country was pushed into a single city - people had to learn to live closely packed together and cooperate, and the culture stuck.

I'm an introvert and prefer to not have small talk, but as a tourist in Busan, it wasn't that bad (fun, actually) to randomly hear about a stranger's daughter's upcoming wedding, completely unprompted.


Thank you to share you insights about Seoul vs Busan! I never knew about the history of Busan. I have heard similar things about Tokyo vs Osaka, where people in Tokyo are comparatively less open (to random, public interactions) and more personally reserved.


Yeah I'm with you on this one. I consider small talk sometimes but honestly, the emotional/social effort it takes + the risks of engaging with stranger men (as a gal myself) aren't worth it. I'll do my grocery shopping in silence, because with how stressed I am right now, I don't have extra bandwidth for entertaining chatty strangers.


> Is complementing someone's hat really worth the potential anxiety?

I still remember the compliments one of my jackets got me 1, 4 and 6 years ago. That probably helped making it my favorite jacket, especially since those are the only non-family compliments I got in the past 10 years.

When you like something about someone, please make their year and compliment them on it.


I think it's an over-correction around the introversion/extroversion divide.

It's true that sometimes I just don't want to be bothered while I'm running errands, but I wouldn't consider someone making small talk, cracking a joke in the elevator, etc. to be some sort of social transgression. As an introvert, chatting or small talk isn't really a chore, and I waste enough of my own time on my own time, so what's a few words with a stranger?

That said, it should be considered perfectly acceptable to signal that you don't want to stay engaged in a conversation if it's someone trying to explain their theory on building a perpetual motion machine. That actually happened. I did not want to stay in that conversation. But even extroverts don't like dealing with crazy.

It only becomes a chore when the talking itself is the work, such as dealing with Comcast charging you for a modem you totally did return, or dealing with the hospital when they incorrectly billed your health insurance and now they're trying to make you pay for the difference.


> it should be considered perfectly acceptable to signal that you don't want to stay engaged in a conversation

I learned the perfect trick as a small time person of interest at tech conferences. You say “Okay thanks” and walk away.

At conferences you can even go one better and say “I’m gonna go talk to that other group” and walk away.

Signal intent, leave. Works like a charm.


cracking a joke in the elevator

I disagree with this. What people consider funny varies a lot from person to person, and a stranger trying to joke with me comes across as rude. A friendly nod, saying hello, that's fine. Approaching me and immediately assuming that we have enough in common to enjoy the same humor? Sorry, but that's creepy.


>a stranger trying to joke with me comes across as rude

This is such a miserable perspective.

Yes, in theory, humour varies significantly amongst different groups. But if we're in the elevator together and I mistakenly press the Door Open instead of Door Close and I jokingly apologize for the delay and that we'll be taking off shortly, the idea of you being offended or "creeped out" by such a harmless joke is ridiculous to me.


Except if the joke is straight up offensive or aims at mocking or stereotyping a certain type of people (whether you're part of this group or not), I fail to see how it can feel "creepy." Even doing a bad pun or joke related to the context has nothing creepy in it. At worst, it's cringey.


I enjoy creepy people. Far better than some over-serious princesses. Well, if the "joke" is farting in the elevator...


Internet people are usually a lot angrier than real world people. Hard to explain but they always seem a bundle of neuroticism and mental pathologies. HN is no exception.

I find that when I participate I also start mimicking this behavior and insulation is required.

Fortunately, nothing happened to small talk. I’m a talkative fellow and people still react cheerfully and converse with me. One can only suppose that everyone who hates this went online.


> Internet people are usually a lot angrier than real world people.

Out of 100 people who read a comment, 99 of them move on even if they found it provocative. So the 1 that bothered to reply is the angriest of the bunch.

Yeah, I realize that I post too much on HN, but I don't feel that angry. More like a know-it-all motormouth who types fast enough to pollute a pretty big swath of the 'net in a short time. But I do think that the effort to participate online filters for motivated people, and frequently that's going to be some form of anger. "Wait a second, be right there, someone on the Internet is WRONG!" (paraphrased from an ancient comic)


I am concerned that long term commenting has negatively shifted my real life behavior towards being slightly more aggressive. Given enough time it feels like a behavioral shift can happen to people who are online way too much.


> Guys... we're humans. It isn't a crime to make small talk. It's not a chore to open your mouth. Most of us consider (or used to consider; and I'm not even old) that enjoyable. What happened?

We are humans, but we are also ambitious. Most people have, in their mind, a clear idea of the profile and type of person they want to be having a conversation with.

Inevitably the person making the small talk is never that type and profile of person.

So there is the double whammy of the disappointment with one's social status and a feeling of missing out on something else (or in this case someone else) which kicks in .

And with all this psychological shit going on in the mind of the person on the receiving end of the small talk....no wonder that a conversation doesn't organically ensue.


And, to wrap around to the original topic, I think social media can really enforce a particular vision of what that ideal conversational partner “”should”” be like, making the disappointment stronger.


Oh for sure, but social media doesn't enforce anything, it just shows rare shit that has always been there. Point is it was hidden or not as visible.

It's a very rare thing for Victoria Secret's models to be the ones start making small talk, and yet Brad Pitt or Leonardo di Caprio are on the receiving end of that.

That would happen regardless of social media, but somehow a paparazzi or a photographer is there to immortalize the moment and then the content gets on the platform which again makes money showing very rare shit to the public.

The combination of rare shit being thrown in the public's face and the unprecedented amount of free time that the public has on their hands to absorb the aforementioned rare shit causes unhappiness with the not so rare shit happening during the mundane daily life of the populace, like Joe Average complimenting your hat at the gas station.


Wow, this is such an eye opening post. Thank you. You specifically point out "rareness". I never considered how much of a draw is rareness to human beings. I admit that rareness is like catnip for my discovery-addicted science mind. ("How is that possible? What are the chances? etc.")

On YouTube, there is a whole category of silly (but fun) videos that are nothing more than incredibly rare events (some funny, some scary) being caught on film. Example: Freak waves

A more thoughtful version of this would be a "supercut" which was quite popular about 10 years ago. Someone with a LOT of free time would find a particular actor/actress or view or pose in 25 to 100 different films, then curate a very short, but impressive video.

Wider: Many of the posts you have made here today are very thoughtful. Keep up the good work! :)


> Wider: Many of the posts you have made here today are very thoughtful. Keep up the good work! :)

Hey Thanks :)


> Guys... we're humans. It isn't a crime to make small talk. It's not a chore to open your mouth.

That's not uncommon in many parts of Europe, Germany for example. People in Germany are commonly rude (compared to American standards) in response to attempts at small talk (by strangers). Some cultures plainly frown upon small talk with strangers and in those cultures people find it uncomfortable at best.


That is a complete wrong stereotype in my opinion. While there are such people, there are as many that talk your ear off if you don't stop them. Perhaps I belong to the former group and perceive it this way, but it certainly isn't seen as rude or anything.


> Most of us consider (or used to consider; and I'm not even old) that enjoyable.

Eh, I’m 50 years old and don’t really use social media (certainly not Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, twitter, etc.). I don’t even really text other people. But, I don’t agree with your sentiment. I’ve never understood people who want to have small talk with strangers. It is the opposite of enjoyable.


Someone complimented my hat in the subway today. I mentioned I got it back in Toronto, and we chatted about how disappointed we are in the Leafs.

What is so unenjoyable about that? How can one spend 50 years on this earth and find human conversation, something we literally evolved to do, so uninviting? I just don't understand.


I can literally go weeks without speaking a word (I have), and I am totally comfortable with that. I would have made a great monk with a vow of silence. I am very comfortable in my own skin and don't need interaction with other people to maintain good and positive mental health.


Ah. Very interesting. I really appreciate you sharing this, makes me ponder how people can have very different preferences. I would become incredibly restless after 3-4 days of not speaking to anyone. Different strokes for different folks I guess!


That's very interesting - we really are all different


That is completely fair. And I agree it doesn't have to be enjoyable, nor do we all have to specifically seek it out, or even engage in it when offered. But to call it "labor" or "a chore" or (I've even seen this once) an "attack" just seems... excessive, and indicative of an unhealthy mindset.


Heck, I'm not even a fan of small talk. It's not as though I have an aversion to talking. Discussing things of mutual interest is fine. Listening to people who have interesting stories, or even need to get something off their chest, is fine. But small talk has always struck me as the means by which people fill silence. You don't really learn anything about each other.


Small talk can certainly be a vacuous attempt to fill the silence. It also seems to act as a social lubricant, moving with easy questions and accelerating into something more meaningful.


To each their own. To me it can definitely be enjoyable. Yes, I’m an extrovert (most of the time).


>Where people consider talking to someone a chore.

It is definitely chore to me. I'm however not claiming to be normal. I'm a hardcore misanthropist and overall pessimist. I have never in my 32 years of life enjoyed talking to people, and I have never been active on social media either (other than posting an extremely rare comment like this).


Think of it like this. I enjoy community clean up days. But if I had to do it every week it’d feel like a chore.

Communicating is the same. It’s fun in small doses. But then by the time the evening or weekend rolls around the last thing I want is to talk with more people. Which is sad, because I’d really like to have a non-work, real-world social network.

For sure talking in real life is not an attack (exempting folks with mental disabilities). But it’s something to think about. Especially as remote work makes our work relationships even more superficial.


Not a fan of small talk, especially while working (I differentiate conversation and small talk). But some people really go to extremes. Perhaps social media is the cause here because people are finally so afraid of each other that having to answer something feels like a terrorist attack.

I do prefer the polite gesture of small talk to not saying anything in some cases and can understand that people generally think so as well. And in some instances you really meet a new friend. Unlikely in business environments and yes there are some people that do too much small talk. But that isn't really an imposition.


I grew up in Midwest USA and lived for an extended period of time in NYC. "Small talk" is almost non-existent in NYC where it is very normal to stop on the street in the Midwest and converse with complete strangers.

Just an anecdote for thought.


>I grew up in Midwest USA and lived for an extended period of time in NYC. "Small talk" is almost non-existent in NYC where it is very normal to stop on the street in the Midwest and converse with complete strangers.

I grew up in NYC and have lived in a variety of places around the US.

To a certain extent, your observation about NYC is valid. But only to a point.

In NYC, if you're walking down the (very crowded) streets or on the subway, since there's so little personal space, it's considered rude to just stop and start talking to someone.

That said, if there's a reason to interact, most NYers are polite, pleasant, kind and helpful.

What's more, if you're in a situation that calls for it, you can have wonderful conversations with New Yorkers. I do it all the time. I just try not to invade the limited personal space of other people.

It's not that "small talk" doesn't exist in NYC, it's just that where and when such conversations happen differs from other places.

I've lived a a bunch of different places around the US, and there are significant differences as to the etiquette surrounding interactions with strangers.

It is a bit of culture shock though. I went to college in the midwest (Cleveland) and for the first month or so was quite taken aback by all the strangers who'd say hello as I walked by. I got used to it after a while.

I think it's more about introverts vs. extroverts.

As an extrovert, I'll pretty much talk to anyone, anytime. In fact, I pretty much never shut up.

OTOH, a goodly number of those who spend a lot of time online are introverted or just misanthropic.

As such, if you ask a lot of folks who are online, you're more likely to get responses like "Why would you want to talk to someone else?" because the folks who actually like interacting with other humans in person are doing that instead.

That's more anecdotal experience and reasoning to consider.

Edit: As tomjen3 pointed out[0], it's not just introverts and misanthropes who are uncomfortable talking to people IRL. Folks with social anxiety disorder and other issues are also in the mix too. Thanks for bringing that up, tomjen3!

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29151887


> As such, if you ask a lot of folks who are online, you're more likely to get responses like "Why would you want to talk to someone else?" because the folks who actually like interacting with other humans in person are doing that instead.

I think this is hugely important to remember. Many regular people don't spend much time on social media. Of the ones that do, maybe 1 in 100 (or less!) actually ever post anything. It is an extremely biased source of data.


I learned this the hard way when I found out that all these leftist AOC type primaries were failing left and right back in 2018, 2019, and 2020. I spent so much time volunteering for them and online they seemed like winners. However reality is that in real life, the numbers of volunteers and voters is a small percentage of the internet support. Its as if half of the internet is all fake AI bots. I wouldn't be surprised if that were the case.


I think there's something a little more complicated than that going on. I remember even when I was a college student who rode public transit in Saratoga Springs (small city in up state New York), it was normal to start a conversation with random people on the bus, or with the bus driver. Sometimes I would initiate it, often others would.

That just doesn't happen in New York. Maybe that's due to space constraints, but it's not like I'm blocking the flow of traffic more or less when I talk to someone on a bus.

I like New York a lot, but this sort of small talk with strangers is absolutely something I miss.


>That just doesn't happen in New York. Maybe that's due to space constraints, but it's not like I'm blocking the flow of traffic more or less when I talk to someone on a bus.

>I like New York a lot, but this sort of small talk with strangers is absolutely something I miss.

It's not about blocking the flow of traffic. It's about not invading the (already small) personal space of others. I think the appropriate term is "etiquette."

As I said, there are absolutely appropriate situations in NYC to engage with others. It's just that those situations are different from those that are appropriate in other places.

As someone who was born and raised in NYC (and who lives here again), that's normal to me.

As someone who's lived in a dozen other places all over the US, those situations are different in many places.

In a walkable small town, it's normal to (at a minimum) nod in acknowledgement of those you pass by on the street. In NYC, when you pass by a couple hundred people in the space of a couple blocks, if you tried to do that you'd end up with whiplash.

In places where everyone is in their car unless they're at the place they wish to go, it's not unusual to interact with folks at those places. But you certainly wouldn't roll down your window and say hello every time you encountered another car.


I don't live in NY, I live is small town comparatively. Talking to strangers on the bus would come across as weird odd behavior here.

No one does that, except occasional heavily drunk person.


Yeah I never met to disparage or imply people who live in or are from NYC aren't anything less than amazing.

I love NYC and New Yorkers, consider myself one. New Yorkers are deeply misunderstood and it's usually taken for rudeness when it's just the nature of living in such a big and bustling city.


>Yeah I never met to disparage or imply people who live in or are from NYC aren't anything less than amazing.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I certainly didn't feel you were disparaging anyone.

If my comment gave that impression, my apologies.


I love talking to strangers. I am just exceedingly anxious about initiating conversation. I’m always worried they’ll take offense or something (‘why is this fat dude talking to me’ kind of stuff)...

Someone asks me something at a bar? I’m a total chatterbox, but I can’t recall a time where I ever started the conversation. The problem is, people don’t usually start conversations with me. I’m 6’4, huge, and a dude. I’ve non-ironically thought about getting a shirt made saying "ask me anything" and wearing it in a public setting.

One of the most fun things I can recall doing in recent memory was going on a pub crawl in Japan in spring 2019 (feels like a lifetime ago). I was vacationing alone after a business trip, and I just decided to sign up for a foreigner-aimed outing. An "all pretenses dropped, you’re coming here to meet and chat with other people" kind of trip. I had an absolute blast. The mix of people was like 60% foreigners and 40% locals. Didn’t really meet anyone I continued further communication with after the event, but it’s a fond memory. Didn’t manage to work up the courage to do a US based one when I got home, and the pandemic started 8 months later.

It really boils down to in my mind, where do I meet people around my age? All my current friends are people I knew in college and we all do a nearly-every-night discord meetup where we talk about life and play games. It certainly doesn’t provide the same happy brain chemicals that doing literally the same thing but in person did when we were all in college, buts it’s kept me sane for the last 5 years.

College was such a different social experience. I wasn’t top of my class grades wise, but I always got top marks in computer science and computer engineering courses. I also had a healthy amount of personal projects on the side. I ended up with this reputation on campus for being able to help with any of the computing classes, and I was always a firm believer in ‘master through teaching". I considered helping other people as part of my own learning process. For anyone who seriously wanted help, you could always reach out to me. I even gave supplemental talks for particularly rough classes during our ACM weekly "coffee and code" meetings.

Needless to say, this made me fairly popular on campus. I knew a lot of people and counted many of them as friends. The group was fairly diverse, both ethnically/culturally and by gender. We ate dinner together, met up and played games, built things, etc. it was a fantastic time of life. But there was one underlying thread - I had never actually initiated a random conversation. Every person I count as a friend today had either looked over my shoulder and was curious about what I was working on, was someone who asked for help in a class, was introduced by a mutual friend, etc.

That period ended 5 and a half years ago when I graduated and started working for a tech company you’ve definitely heard of. Things have been rough since then. I moved to SoCal because of the office I was working in. Only two of the people I knew from college went to SoCal, some moved out of state, the others moved to the Bay Area. I’m about to lose the people in SoCal, as they’re moving out of state to further their careers elsewhere. Now I'm weighing whether or not I should quit a job I actually like in exchange for moving closer to the people I know and a job that's an unknown.


Are there any activities you might like to do, such as hiking? Nothing too strenuous, but it would help you to join a local club that is not involved in tech.

At first it'll be cliquey but over time you'll start to initiate conversation and get to know new people. Everyone is there to get to know others.


It is perhaps not a chore to you, but if you have social anxiety it can be a big deal.

Social Anxiety isn't the same as being an introvert. For an introvert it can still be a great experience, it is just that it drains him of energy.


My whole issue, however, is the glorification of social anxiety and the conflation of social anxiety with introversion - exactly as you said yourself, they are not the same thing.

An introvert would probably avoid small talk and would quickly tire of it, yes. I'm definitely not the biggest chatterbox myself. But to see the simplest form of small talk as a "chore" or "labor" - like it's some kind of hostile attack - feels far more like social anxiety than introversion. And social anxiety is not a good thing. We shouldn't be glorifying it. It leads to unhappiness, and life problems, and is considered to fall under the umbrella of mental health for a good reason.

As this thread implies, it's mostly social media, particularly the Reddit crowd, that is hell-bent on glorifying harmful social anxiety and making it out to be just as benevolent as simple introversion.


We all became Finnish?


It is a chore to open your mouth. A person shouldn't be subject to being prepared to engage in a 100 different conversations for the crime of walking outside their house. It also doesn't help that the vast majority of interactions are negative (pan handling, cat calling, sales pitches, political affiliations, religious evangelism, scams, asking for favors / free stuff, bullying, snooping, etc.)


Doesn't this track with human existence? Most of my inbox is spam, even if I fight to control it. That doesn't mean I turn my email off or never use it. All of the activities you noted suck, but there's a lot more humans looking for something other than that. I ride my bike around town a lot and end up meeting a lot of strange people because of that. Some people think it's weird and obviously straight up other me if I say, "hi" -- but who would I be if I didn't? When I lived in San Diego a good number of these interactions ended up in me being able to get someone homeless water (fun fact, not all homeless people look what one might think is homeless.)

One time, I ran across a guy who was clearly struggling with a very messy divorce and struggling to get back on his feet. I sat down and just listened for the better part of an hour. I shared my own story of struggle and loss, and at the end he seemed like a large weight had been lifted from his shoulders. Sometimes, all people need is a bit of connection to get through life. Someone to acknowledge their existence in a world that otherwise doesn't care about them or their story. I'm by no means a priest or hippie, just an average dude who rides a bike and likes to say, "hi".


No it doesn't track with human existence. In the past such things lead to wars and large schisms in societies, it is completely abnormal for the vast majority of anything to be negative and the prevailing wisdom be just grin and bear it.

The USA was founded on the idea of negative rights and an opt in culture, instead today we increasingly see a shift to people demanding positive rights and putting the burden on the individual to opt out. In the future I could totally see a market to have a robot buddy follow you around and have responses ready for all the things people want to pester you with.


> In the past such things lead to wars and large schisms in societies

Can you be specific?

> it is completely abnormal for the vast majority of anything to be negative and the prevailing wisdom be just grin and bear it.

Tangentially, my life has been mostly negative until adulthood. From what I've learned of others, this is pretty common, just not commonly spoke on.


Imo, this does not marches history of any place. It involved plenty of negativity.


I think it's because reddits user base has significantly decreased in age. I have been using it since late 2012, which even then I felt like a late adopter. The content on Reddit back then was like a more ”normie" version of HN and slashdot. It had good articles consistently with maybe 1 or 2 default meme subreddits. Then Reddit started cutting down content it didn't like and now it's just a leftwing cesspool of antisocial, antiwork rhetoric. It's not even worth posting or commenting because if your comment veers slightly off course, instant downvotes. Not to mention the monetizing of posts with stickers. It's just turned into out of touch people who glorify mental illness imo.


Have you considered the target age hasn't changed, but you're just a decade older now?


Kids these days are such radicals ;-)


Yes and no. Reddit is nothing what it once was. I do wholly recognize that reddit has typically had a younger audience. But it was not as "we need a socialist revolution, hyper-progressive moderatism, 1 letter top comment"-y as it used to be.

On a post about a guy who ran a company and sued himself, I couldn't find the TL;DR until like 15 comments in. All the preceding comments were like "genius!" or "It's perfectly legal so he's smart!"

It feels like Reddit is actively hostile toward actual contributors. They just want eyeballs and clicks. They could care less about the rest. It's just as bad as facebook nowadays.


Real Question / Zero Trolling: What forums do you like these days? I have been reading HN for a few years now. I am still consistently impressed once a day by comments I read here. The community works pretty hard to self-correct. An imperfect social science, but they try. (<hat tip> @dang)


I once asked here about how you would start an online business without interacting with Google, and I think that somewhat echoes the problem you've mentioned. While totally possible to do these things without social media, there is a challenge posed by the fact that the big platforms have captured the audiences you might have engaged with if they weren't already occupied.

If it weren't for those big platforms, many people would be happy to check out videos on your own website. But when YouTube is as easy as it is to consume, they're over there doing that instead. Same with photography, why would anyone go look at a photographers website when they've got endless photography to see on Instagram.

For me, I feel like the answer to running a software company without online advertising is to go local, grass roots, focus on niche problems for a handful of real world in-the-flesh clients, rather than trying to be everything to thousands of people I'll never meet.

For content creators I think the same might be applicable, say for a musician to focus on their local music scene, or an artist to find local projects to contribute to or pieces of work they can do for their community. It has the upside of building your life in the real world as well, which is hopefully more tangible and fulfilling than building up your life in an ephemeral platform that may not be here tomorrow.


We desperately need new companies emerging and taking over FAANGs. It’s been too long. I think about big tech same as what we thought of HP, Oracle and IBM 20 years ago. Time to conquer them and make them obsolete. If we don't, we're guaranteeing absolute stagnation of the society in many insiduous ways. Always watching, always controlling Big Tech dystopia.


Unfortunately this won't happen unless something or someone takes actions. If governments is not going to bother to do the enforcement of the laws, then nothing changed until they do it.

If there is a new player in the field, what or who is going to stop FAANGs from buying the competitors (even it violated the antitrust law)? Sure we do have Sherman Antitrust Act for this... but no one bothering to do the enforcement and the companies are not going to stop for the goodness of their hearts.

We cannot expect the small/newcomer companies to try to compete against FAANGs and hoping thing changes. The only way we can get the enforcement seriously is the Congress itself. Frankly, the Congress prefers to listen to their corporate masters over their constituents.


> Frankly, the Congress prefers to listen to their corporate masters over their constituents.

There's the crux of it all. We know firsthand that our addiction to companies like Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon are unhealthy, but the only thing stopping us from keeping them in check is our government. I've been saying this for a while now, but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the SEC cuts deals to FAANG companies in exchange for NIST compliance or unwarranted data requests.


>but the only thing stopping us from keeping them in check is our government.

Lots and lots and lots of people in the "us" group find using Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon convenient (and cheap). Otherwise, there is zero friction for people to type in a different address in the browser and use Libreoffice or Pinephone or Mastodon or whatever competing alternative with open standards there is.


Everyone hates these companies but there's enormous disagreement about the "why".

Josh Hawley, Bernie Sanders, Mitt Romney, and Nancy Pelosi all hate big tech. Their reasons and suggested interventions are about as far apart as you can get.

There's also an enormous amount of cross-ideology jealousy about the amount of money FAANG nerds are making.


What prevented Oracle, IBM et al to buy out Google, Facebook and Twitter ?

Yahoo refused to buy Google.


Nothing more than complacency, maybe? A mistake I think the newer batch of Big Tech is eager not to make.


And just there's the rub: everyone's eager not to be complacent... until they're not - at least historically speaking.


AFAIK, Zuckerberg was systematically refusing ton sell. He wanted to keep the company.


Then new entrepreneurs can also refuse to sell to faangs. Parent asked who is going to stop faangs to buy competitors.


Zuckerberg is outlier.


This seems like a hard to substantiate claim, IBM, HP and Oracle didn't become "also rans" due to government intervention. I'd like to hear the pitch for why FAANG is "different".


Microsoft arguably did.

The anti-trust action against them did not cost them a lot of cash directly, but it did lead to heightened scrutiny on further anti-competitive practices. And it wasn't too long after that the FAANGs came to displace Microsoft as the dominant technology companies.

Could be a coincidence, but I personally feel like there was a connection.


You'd have to think that if Microsoft hadn't been hit with the anti-trust baton, that they would have never tolerated a program like Firefox becoming as popular as it did, let alone Chrome, and that they would have been much more successful at keeping the web neutered or at least highly captive to whatever they let Internet Explorer define, and at that point how do you get things like Facebook and Google coming about and becoming as big as they did?

Imagine a world where IE6 never has to compete against Firefox because every version of Firefox is mysteriously "broken" by the latest windows update. "DOS ain't done till Lotus won't run" for the late 90's early 2000s. I think that its a very realistic thing to think that anti-trust played a huge part in allowing the open web to flourish as it, even with MS fighting as hard as it could to stall it out with IE stagnation.


I think a large part of Googles initial success was that is had many users viciously defending them. I was not a super fan but did too when I was younger, configured hundreds of devices to use Google search and people stayed with it.

They became victim to the same corporate diseases that plague all public companies after a while.


We don't need new companies, we need open protocols to become A Thing again. For open protocols to develop and succeed, we need to modify the business environment so capturing users isn't the #1 goal of online megacorps. That probably means passing really, really strong privacy laws, and the death of mass individually-targeted advertising.

I don't think we'll do that, but it's what it would take. Replacing the companies won't help, except maybe very briefly.


Technology companies were really the ones to drive new protocols, and beat the proprietary protocols in the open market.

There were a lot of proprietary "information superhighway" projects by various companies, that were all made irrelevant by the success of the web.


Sure, and new companies will arise to develop and use open protocols if that's incentivized, but as long as not just attention or eyeballs, but capturing as much user activity and generated content as possible, is monetizable pretty directly (customize ads; feed your ML models to gain competitive advantage over those without the same reach into users' lives, and sell your ML capabilities), I think we're in for more of the same, even if we shuffle the chairs around.


Why do we even lump together FAANGS and compare them to tech companies of that era? Sure, some of them have products (devices, applications, and operating systems) but many are primarily service providers who mostly need tech to function. To my eye, the social stagnation will come from the part of those conglomerates which is more in line with the big media, marketing, and info brokers of the same era. Do most of us even know who those companies were?


Agreed on all counts. Responses like this are why I continue to find HN an inspiring community.

I wonder sometimes why there arent more grassroots non-toxic (?) social platforms for more localized communities.

For instance what is preventing there from being a community-funded simple instagram-like app for individual arts communities in non LA/NY cities given that its never been easier / cheaper to build this kind of platform?

The answer my be that it still isnt easy to build reliable / scalable apps that people actually want to use. But sometimes I wonder if theres not something more sinister going on...


>The answer my be that it still isnt easy to build reliable / scalable apps that people actually want to use. But sometimes I wonder if theres not something more sinister going on...

Why would there be anything more sinister? It obviously takes a ton of work and money to operate a service like Instagram. And if 99.9% of people are happy using Instagram in exchange for being tracked and/or giving another entity the power banish them from the network, then the community funded app is going to have problems competing.


HP, IBM, and Oracle ruled for decades though. It will take at least another generation of new ideas, and the existing companies need to fundamentally "miss" those new ideas.

People forget that there was a time when mobile was considered an existential threat to Facebook. But they navigated it well.


>In my experience over the last decade there are fewer and fewer ways to find a community and any success as a creator of any kind without getting corralled into social media and furthermore getting corralled into being a daily active user / consumer as to not get shadow banned by any given app.

Haha, my first thought after reading this comment was that I could've written it myself. I miss internet forums.

Also, I'm much more creative when I own the content I make. Doomscrolling is one thing, feeling like you're wasting your life by getting sucked into the dopamine/reward loop, another.

Reaching people is hard, because social is the main channel, but I'm experimenting with:

1) helping people (everyone) to reach me directly:

https://sonnet.io/posts/hi/

So far, I've met so, so many fascinating people this way and the depth of conversations I've (or just feedback) doesn't even compare to anything I could ever do on, say, Twitter.

2) content syndication This one's a bit harder as there's a certain amount of bureaucracy involved (https://mxb.dev/blog/syndicating-content-to-twitter-with-net...)

I found a perfect solution to Twitter blocking my account for whatever reason the might have:

1. go to https://www.potato.horse/shhh 2. scroll to the bottom of the page 3. roll over the Twitter button

If you're on mobile, here's the video: https://twitter.com/rafalpast/status/1457702588787433473?s=2...


I feel like the challenge for creators is less the "social media Orwellian dystopian hellscape etc" and more that virtually everything you can contribute has been done better by someone else before you.


Vonnegut wrote about this a few times. It seems to have been something that bugged him. The short version of his complaint is that mass media, generally, have wiped out the social value of all kinds of moderate artistic talent—for example, fewer people may learn to plink out some holiday tunes on the family upright for everyone to sing along with, because you can just put on the radio, or Spotify. Live storytelling, or being good at dramatically reading from books (yes, people used to sit around and do that for entertainment)? Small, local theater? All replaced by radio plays and TV. And so on.

Basically, recording and mass broadcast means moderate talents lose nearly everything (as far as social, or even monetary, value of their skills) and discourage people from developing those talents in the first place, because those technologies place them in competition with people who are at the top edge of human achievement in those areas—including dead ones. It's broadened how many people get to experience those top-tier talents, and how often, but practically obliterated a formerly-major component of how people related to one another, socially.

The Internet has changed this a bit. Some folks have responded to the problem by digging hard into a niche and taking their act online, because you can succeed in an really tiny niche while being only pretty-good at something, since there are so many people that a niche with nearly-zero audience can still reach a lot of people, considered over the entire globe—think filk, or steampunk-themed music, or doing furry art on commission, or something like that. But in person value among their actual social circle, and among family, remains low, because Spotify and TV and Netflix et c. exist.


> Some folks have responded to the problem by digging hard into a niche

Earlier today we had https://www.gwern.net/The-Melancholy-of-Subculture-Society , which I think ties into what you're saying here. And I think yours is a good observation. Day-to-day small scale entertainment has been reduced to zero or even negative value.


Yes, exactly that. Though the niches don't fully solve the problem of people being unable to fulfill any in-built need—assuming there is such—to express themselves artistically and be socially rewarded for that, because there still aren't enough "slots" near the tops of these various niches to let even 5% of the total population be fulfilled that way. Probably not even 1%.


Furry art in particular might be an exception since the larger events were pushing toward 10-15k pre-covid[0], and they had rooms full of people taking and sometimes doing commissions right there with you. It's always been a hybrid online/offline community, so the internet and social media were amplifiers for the offline experience rather than a detriment. Conventions exploded in growth and number with the rise of social media. People increasingly open it up to non-furry friends and family, so it's reached a point where even famous people (or people who worked on famous things) show up to conventions.

How to take lessons from that exception and bring it to other lived experiences is uncertain. Most other niches don't have the fluffy animal aspect to smooth over the difficulty of getting friends/family interested in what you're doing.

[0] https://en.wikifur.com/wiki/List_of_conventions_by_attendanc...


This resonates with me a lot as someone who gave up music and university for programming in my early 20s.

And yet, mediocre content abounds in the media. How should that be explained?


This is usually not because the artists involved are bad at what they do, but one or both of: deliberately catering to "bad" taste that is nonetheless popular, or making work worse than it could be to make the cost/demand curve line up better by saving some money on aspects that won't make more money if they're better (see: the MCU, which I actually like but which definitely avoids risks that might improve their films, and cuts corners in ways that don't matter much for the bottom line); or, organizational/managerial failure on projects that require large organizations to attempt in the first place (film is especially prone to this).


I think it’s because content by definition is mediocre, otherwise it would be called art.


Excellent point / mic drop : )

But one thought this thread is provoking is related to this well-intentioned but self-destructive (imho) 20th century cultural narrative that talent as a prerequisite for art creates a tyranny where certain people are allowed to express themselves with dignity while the vast majority are not.

Sometimes I like this narrative, sometimes I hate it. But regardless it undeniably had the effect of leveling the playing field while retaining the same old gilded-age toxic celebrity hierarchy, which simply seems to have had the effect of letting the wealthy and powerful silently dominate cultural / artistic production, which this thread already started to touch on a bit.

Ie, the now fairly ubiquitous experience of walking into an art museum, seeing a blank canvas propped on the floor next to a neon light. Thinking "Anyone could make that so whys this person rich and famous for it?" Shrugging, leaving and not going back to an art museum for another decade.

I enjoy that kind of art in the right context but it clearly has a destructive effect on peoples natural ability to care about art and have a healthy creative practice themselves.


>I think it’s because content by definition is mediocre, otherwise it would be called art.

Even if it's mediocre, it can still be art IMHO.

Rather, I think it's just that Sturgeon's Law[0] applies to most things.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturgeon%27s_law


Which is an example of the "best or why bother" attitude of exceptionalism the internet can breed, which can affect people in some surprising areas. Even something like grass roots motorsport. Everyone's too busy in their garages trying to build the absolute peak performance car, before even doing a single lap, because they think they can't have fun until their car is as good as all the others on Instagram.

There is so much fun to be had in the space between 0% and 100%, and some don't even get started until they're confident they're already at 95% in the comfort of their own home.


Yes. We're going to have to figure out how to manage this side-effect, because the delight of having the best always at our fingertips isn't going to go away.


And you can learn that fact with just a few clicks of some buttons on your magical view screen.


> the pursuit of artificially created stimuli in an imaginary world

A description which could apply to all of art, ever?


I sort of raged on twitter the other day that what we call "community" (while online) is sick. I'll take my example of Astrophotography - the "online community" is soul sucking, competitive and not nice at all - sort of hundreds of assholes all competing to be the biggest asshole... Yet, the astronomy clubs that meet in person that are shrinking in numbers and dwindling over the years (the comet just a little while ago was a saving grace here for sure - hope we get more!) are the nicest, most sincere people but they have other drawbacks..

The in human ones tend to socialize around being social in permanence - always meetup at every start party, volunteer, join the board - help it survive - it's hard to do with our terrible work life balance we have today - stay up all night to look at stars and go to work and volunteer? ouch...

But the online communities? All it is is bragging rights - nothing is ever good enough, fun enough unless you dedicate yourself to being "That asshole" - and it boggles my mind that astrophotography has that concept at all... Those assholes are often depressed jerks with more money to burn than anyone else can burn and the "community" loves it up.

It ends up being all about the insta... all about the reddit points... all about the discord infamy

10 years ago, it was all about "how to buy this web cam and modify it for astrophotography to get fun shots"... today its "dump 50 grand to buy this or your spending money on meme gear lol gtfo you dumbass"

how did we get here?

The irony of raging on twitter is hardly anyone replied because twitter is all about playing to the algo and it feels like everyone on twitter who has a following just uses it to complain about burnout, depression, ADHD and other illnesses that to me - seem to be a symptom of the "twitter community" - which isn't as bad as Facebook, but is still largely biased to suffering


> being social in permanence

That's a really important point. Joining an online community has become much lower effort than joining an in-person one. Just finding a time and place for everyone to meet is more of a chore than even running a small site online. Depending on the type of community you might also need to deal with recruiting speakers, storing/maintaining shared equipment, etc. My family belongs to a ski club, and it's a commitment in both time and money. It's not a full time job or anything, but it's on the same level as a typical four-credit college course. If not for the fact that the underlying shared interest is physical in nature, the online alternative would seem very compelling.

The downside of online is that the conflicts and competition for "internet points" often colors the conversation or even drowns it out. People start to show up who actually don't care as much about the shared interest as they do about having another arena in which to fight. Without the real-world mechanisms that tend to curb the most outrageous behavior, and often with substitutes that encourage it, the need for explicit moderation becomes greater ... but brings its own share of problems. In my thirty years or so of online experience, moderation and moderators have exacerbated conflict and degradation more often than they've helped. Just read the news and you'll see it happening today on all of the big sites.

The solution, IMO, is to pay attention to the actual science of how people coexist, and apply its lessons. What are the empirical effects of upvotes and downvotes and other reactions? Of showing or not showing view counts? Of hierarchical vs. flat conversations? Of content restrictions or moderator behaviors? Unfortunately, that kind of examination will never happen where "soft" sciences are disrespected, which is every place where these decisions actually need to be made. Everyone just flies by the seat of their pants, and most of them fly into mountainsides.


Where did you find an astrophotography community full of assholes? I'm fairly new and haven't seen much problems. Feel like online it's been fairly easy to find info and ask questions


Everywhere... Discord, Reddit & Cloudynights. It seems to be a community that has major GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) and everyone is rushing to one up each other and certain people in the community just get away with dominating the discussions and being assholes.

The people that are good at it and help the community seem to go through massive burnout too, love some of the youtubers but there are times they disappear to get away from it all.

I was not expecting it to be competitive.. was not expecting to find you only made friends if you spent a lot of time and money on something.. it's kind of "suffer with us and you may be accepted"...

they use racist frogs and memes for everything... can't tell what is real and what isn't... most people seem anti-social - makes sense, i am too - but not to the degree as some..

it was just a lousy community compared to in real life astronomy clubs where no one cared if you came with a plastic telescope.

If i was 30 years younger, there were some discords with kids that were fun... i got a laugh out of them - but fun in the sense of lol i can't believe you just said that to him not fun as in "this will be enjoyment"


> Beautifully written top-notch orwellian poetry. Seriously inspiring.

yeah, that paragraph was probably the best one.

all in all i find this text really painful to read.

main issues:

- a lot of sentences feel superfluous, like time-wasting boilerplate

- poor grammar, punctuation and paragraph structure disrupt the reading flow

- there is little logical structure or flow of arguments

- there is far too much repetition


I agree. Good message, but could've used a proofreader/editor to refine it and make corrections.


> furthermore getting corralled into being a daily active user / consumer as to not get shadow banned by any given app.

I call it the paradox of discussions on the internet. When it comes to some topic (eg language learning) everything has already been said somewhere by someone very clever. So in the grand scheme of life the value of my contribution to a conversation is 0. Now, if instead of wasting my (and everyone's) time in a pointless discussion I write an in depth blog post or make some creation of some sort that expresses my thought in a deep way and share it then I become a spammer. Whereas a one liner written by a newb or a comment that is posted everyday with a slightly different wording is a 'contribution'.


> In my experience over the last decade there are fewer and fewer ways to find a community and any success as a creator of any kind without getting corralled into social media and furthermore getting corralled into being a daily active user / consumer as to not get shadow banned by any given app.

I spent a good chunk of my career in platform engineering. I generally worked on internal hosting platforms, but there's enough correlation between those and large online platforms. These platforms must knock out competition, this delivers some benefits to the end user but as an intended byproduct it eliminates choice. If you are anything but someone who wants a boilerplate to build on, say you want to do something custom or special, that will always be out of the question -- because deviation introduces risk of various types.

It's a tradeoff, and for now it's a sufficiently good tradeoff for the public until they become aware of what they bought.


Social media reinforces the idea that artistic success is a single, worldwide, objective hierarchy. It's harder than ever to return to the idea that art should be a pursuit that is social and subjective — one validated by the people that the artist directly cares about.


Maybe we're all living in our dreams...


This may not be terribly popular, and its admittedly just conjecture, but I'm of the opinion that its less about the quantity of social media, and more how one interacts with it and even more so consumes it.

Some platforms are clearly more toxic than others, though I'm increasingly of the opinion that they are all pretty toxic, just different flavors of "world outlooks" to choose from.

I feel that those that actively participate (commenting, posting, responding, reacting) are more affected and more caught in the feedback loop. Those that more or less passively read these platforms, rarely interact, and largely work to keep "perspective" seem to have less of a tough time on it and allow it to impact their outlooks and moods less.

Those that tend to interact more seem to get caught in a sort of feedback loop. measured/Nuanced/Moderate or considerate takes are generally frowned upon on most of the major platforms these days. Outrage and simplistic viewpoints reign supreme, and most will bury the rest, forcing even those with moderate stances to either "consider a side" when continuing or just outright not partake. And all of these seem to be, relatively speaking, vocal minorities.

There are plenty of people that consume stuff and just dont have anything useful to say, or just dont have the energy to say it and defend it etc. Of course this seems to depend on the platform as well, for example I would never post this take on reddit....

With that said, I go agree generally, that these are toxic and create unbalanced viewpoints and world views. As Dave Chappelle said, "twitter isnt real", and to an effect that true. Twitter, reddit, youtube, facebook, dont necessarily pan out to the larger population's opinion as a whole, at least where its measured (such as in politics and polling)


I concur with your view. After taking a long break from social media, it becomes obvious what the issues are. Look at these and suggested posts for people wealthier, fitter, and presumably happier than myself. For some people, incessant exposure to that content is toxic. It makes me feel behind in life, and I feel better without constantly viewing it. When you doomscroll, it absolutely produces a positive feedback cycle and gets worse. And this cycle applies not to just the aforementioned Instafit-type content, it applies to politics, it applies everywhere. I had to stop reading /r/FatFIRE, but /r/financialindependence is fine.


I don't question that social media isn't great, although 1990s me knows I don't need addictive algorithms to fritter away all my time online, so I tend to find those arguments a bit overblown.

But I guess I'm just missing the gene that makes me compare myself to what I see online. Don't get me wrong, I've had my share of envy and jealousy throughout the course of my life. But I don't find that looking at my friends' vacations makes me less happy with my life, I enjoy living vicariously when they go on vacation, and sharing my own when I do the same. I don't compare myself to models. I don't need a picture of some greek god to tell me I'd like to lose those 20lbs again. I've often joked that I'll probably be anxious about ending up broke and destitute right up until the day I retire. (I'm doing well in my career and financial life, it will just always be a worry of mine). But I actively avoid the kind of content where the only goal is to bragpost, and I find it quite easy, because that kind of personality doesn't appeal to me.

Is it because I follow my friends on Facebook and Instagram, rather than "influencers"? I don't really care about Lambo some middle eastern prince just bought this week, or what purses some model owns. Maybe this is why I prefer Facebook to Twitter. I don't like the default-broadcast model of Twitter, I think that's what makes it toxic. On the other hand, the default-private model of Facebook that lets me just enjoy my friends' content also creates stronger echo chambers, I suppose.


Yeah, I'm the same way. When I see my friends doing well, I'm _happy_ for them, not envious.


> This may not be terribly popular, and its admittedly just conjecture, but I'm of the opinion that its less about the quantity of social media, and more how one interacts with it and even more so consumes it.

I feel the same way.

Facebook is a great way to keep up with what friends are doing. When I adopted a kitten, it was the perfect place to show pictures to all my friends.

The problem is, "keeping up with your friends" turns into living vicariously through them. This type of social media is just a highlight reel of your friends, and some people have a hard time internalizing that.

Personally, I'm in a great position in my life, so I don't really live through other people's posts.

I don't use Instagram at all. On Twitter, I follow a bunch of people in the InfoSec world and a couple politicians, and I don't read replies to the political posts, half of which are probably bots anyways[0].

I keep my Facebook friends list relatively slim. I deleted and blocked my racist uncle. Everyone one of my friends, I can tell you exactly how I know them. I don't accept random requests. I don't follow political pages. I'm in a few groups, but they're well-moderated.

[0] I wish I could use a regex as a block list. "[A-Za-z]{4,}[0-9]{4,}" would probably block 90% of bots.


> I feel that those that actively participate (commenting, posting, responding, reacting) are more affected and more caught in the feedback loop. Those that more or less passively read these platforms, rarely interact, and largely work to keep "perspective" seem to have less of a tough time on it and allow it to impact their outlooks and moods less.

I agree, and I also think it matters what you read. If you're constantly reading political punditry, vapid clickbait stuff that constantly reminds you that there's somebody richer and more beautiful than you, etc., consumption alone is detrimental.


> This may not be terribly popular, and its admittedly just conjecture, but I'm of the opinion that its less about the quantity of social media, and more how one interacts with it and even more so consumes it.

Yes. I am passionate about a sport. I manly follow that sports' athletes on Instagram. I take a look daily while on the toilet or idle and get tired of it after some minutes. The same goes for Reddit, I just follow a couple of niche subs and enjoy using both platforms. No politics and no "serious" topics.


You can try to meter your exposure, but...

Well, I think one of the real dangers of social media, and its algorithms, is a similar danger to society that gambling represents.

Gambling payouts are precisely timed to dopamine chemistry in the typical human brain. They have tuned it to that level of fundamental biochemical reaction. That's something that is refined/tuned over decades of focused development.

Let's look at sugar sugar everywhere. Foodstuff companies are doing the SAME THING. Decades of refining the precise amount of sugar (which is absolutely addictive) they can slide into foods to expand people's excessive consumption. Decades of precise biochemical studies, A/B studies, etc.

Marketing has for decades tried to refine certain social psychology with varying degrees of effectiveness to prompt irrational consumption of whatever they are pushing. They've been effective, but I'm can't say that the marketing industry has ever found a "silver bullet" of biochemistry.

But I do think that social media has formulated a social psychology addiction silver bullet. And I think this one may be more pernicious than sugar or gambling or opium. This one can be used for propaganda, not just reliable production of subservient consumer/addicts.


I’ve found the exact opposite in the groups I’m a part of. Social media can imbue you with a lot of simple opinions and constant feedback around them. People who are actually arguing are at least actively engaging with an idea (sometimes)


I think the whole underlying theme is virtual is shallow. At least more so than reality. You don't think or feel the same behind a keyboard. Gravity imposes a tax on your brain activity, requires a bit more dirty work, keeps things balanced. You're less jumpy, less entitled about simple principles to get scandalized. I also think the web caught some kind of fever. It feels quite puritanistic around data and science hashtags.


Like all drugs and addictions it is easier to tell people to control their intake than it is to actually control intake.

Especially when the drug dealer (Meta et al) is so good at getting and keeping you hooked.


Another day, another person telling you how to live your life...

Sorry, but even though we know social media has its downsides, it also has advantages: keeping in touch with friends, socializing, a way to stay up to date with your community, new recipe ideas, exercise ideas, time management ideas, maybe even the occasional envy that someone's success triggers more ambition in you to succeed etc.

It's a tool, like any other, and if used properly it can enhance your life.

Don't want to dunk too hard on this article, because the points made in it are valid. But they can be achieved while you're still active on social media.

For example, if used properly, you can get exposed to a lot of novel ideas in 2-minute bite sized clips. You can get motivated to hit any of the points mentioned in the blog.

Saying that, of course the article was written to be a very one-sided view on the topic. Given that, it's obviously going to be shared on social media and garner even more attention / clicks / eyeballs. It's not ... irony per-se, but something close to it.


There does seem to be a rather large "anti-social media" current here on HN and in tech spaces in general. I find it a bit odd how common that sentiment is, since for me it has been relatively easy to tailor social media to my interests in a way that regularly enriches my life.

I use Facebook for finding and registering to IRL events, and Instagram / Tiktok / Twitter almost exclusively for consuming tech, programming, and gaming content. With exes of mine, they seemed to mainly be scrolling through either comedy content or content related to their interests.

I'm sure it's very possible to engage with social media in unhealthy ways, but for the issue of modern life feeling isolated or empty, I wonder if social media has become an easy scapegoat for deeper societal problems. (some possibilities: work that doesn't feel meaningful or rewarding, insufficient leisure time, car-centricity / hostile urban planning)


I wasted my time on BBSes and IRC long before social media. I absolutely agree that optimizing for engagement can have some seriously bad consequences and it might even be good to look at regulating it, but a lot of the anti-social-media stuff feels like hipsterism, or ludditeism, or something.

It's sure interesting to notice a crowd who, no doubt, mocked the "violent video games caused Columbine" go full throttle after social media.


"Drugs, if taken properly, are no harm".

Correct in theory, but we universally agree that illicit drugs can be damaging to your life. -- even in some cases taking them not seriously enough can cause addiction and serious issues stemming from that.

We just need to figure out if Facebook/Twitter/Youtube are paracetamol, codeine, vicodin, cocaine or heroin.


We should also try and figure out why certain, much more damaging drugs than the ones you listed, are permitted while those that you did are not.

>> we universally agree that illicit drugs can be damaging to your life

We absolutely do not.


Always happy to hear other perspectives, but I genuinely don't think I've ever heard someone say "drugs cannot damage your life in any way". I would be pretty surprised if more than 1% of people believe this.


Clearly social media is alcohol: normalised everywhere as the means of socialisation.


We definitely do not universally agree whether cocaine should be illegal. Drugs are a good analogy though because they can be used to improve life or misused with very bad outcomes. Tarring all instances with the same brush, or expecting every user to experience them the same way, are both mistakes that shouldn't be applied to drugs or SM.


> it also has advantages: keeping in touch with friends, socializing, a way to stay up to date with your community, new recipe ideas, exercise ideas, time management ideas, maybe even the occasional envy that someone's success triggers more ambition in you to succeed etc.

In what way are these advantages over not using social media?

They're all things you can do — provably — without social media. In fact, the problem we've identified that leads us to questioning our use of it is that social media is actually a less effective way to stay in touch with friends and socialize.


> They're all things you can do — provably — without social media.

People who hold this opinion, when asked to define what counts as social media, will invariably draw the line based on "what do I like/dislike." Facebook, Snapchat: social media. HN, WhatsApp: not social media.


I'm not making that argument though. What I'm saying is, you can do all of those things (keeping up to date with friends, socializing, finding recipes, etc.) without social media. Indeed, without computers of any kind. The proof is that people did it for thousands of years before social media existed. If the argument is that you can do those things better with social media, my second point was that that hasn't turned out to be the case for many people, particularly when it comes to maintaining meaningful social connections.


> The proof is that people did it for thousands of years before social media existed.

That argument does not make sense. For "thousands years", you lived in small one room cabin with kids, grandparents and maybe even sibling there. You socialized, because there was no way to be alone.

Good luck finding people now willing to live with you that way.

No one will trade letters with you either. They expect you to communicate and socialize at places normal for contemporary society.


Are you using social media, correctly, as you put it.. Or. is social media using you?

I find that even if you go out of your way to sanitize and make SM useful to your needs. You can't do away with the unhealthy incentives around it and possible potential dopamine addiction.


Everybody seems to like to accuse you of secretly being brainwashed if you say you like something they don't. Honestly, what is so different about being on here and being on Reddit, for instance? It's the same thing.


Speaking of myself, I have been on Twitter for ~10 months. I have created a nice bubble for myself by carefully following serious experts in my topics of interest. I unfollow someone at the first sign of them exhibiting troll behavior (which I define myself).

I can confidently say that I have benefited significantly by way of increasing my knowledge in my interest area and gained a good variety of perspective.

I do agree that there’s always a temptation to go for “likes” and get pulled into some heated debate. But after a while it becomes easier.


> Sorry, but even though we know social media has its downsides, it also has advantages: keeping in touch with friends, socializing, a way to stay up to date with your community, new recipe ideas, exercise ideas, time management ideas, maybe even the occasional envy that someone's success triggers more ambition in you to succeed etc.

Alcohol is useful for helping me sleep but it’s not healthy to use alcohol to help get sleep and there are other, less harmful, ways to achieve the same end.


I am now off popular social media (Facebook, Instagram). The void is now replaced with other forms of social media (Reddit, Hacker News).

Reddit, arguably, is more toxic than my version of Facebook - but it is strangers being toxic, and zero FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) which is prevalent on Facebook and Instagram.


If you use Facebook the old fashioned way (an actual network of friends) it's probably very pleasant. If you start joining "Groups" which are similar to subreddits, it's the most toxic thing I've seen. I never really was a real Facebook user with a network in the first place, but one day on a whim I went to the FB site where I still had my account and decided to join some random suggested groups. That's where it becomes toxic. Everything becomes incendiary things about the US president and usually further devolves into trolls saying openly racist things, there's no moderation and it's a real cesspool. And I'm talking about groups dedicated to hobbies and cartoons.


You are clearly have not accepted invitations from high school ex classmates… and you shouldn’t. At least in my case, some of them are the worst kind of strangers: people you would think would grew to be smart, reasonable and/or well intentioned… but they became just the opposite


What nomdep said, but also the friends-of-friends problem. I cut a lot of people out of my life based on who else they associated with.


I don't count HN as modern social media. For me, it's more akin to older phpBB boards and the like. We have no avatars, we come and go on posting, reading. We have only usernames and karma, and no one cares how much karma someone has. There's very little dopamine hit.


If we look at the wikipedia definition of social media, it states: "Social media are interactive technologies that allow the creation or sharing/exchange of information, ideas, interests, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks"

I personally view the old IRC (Efnet!), BBS, chat rooms, ICQ as the earliest form of social media. And just as addictive - I couldn't wait to get home from school and jump into a chat room. I checked it as often as I did Facebook later on.


It seems like that should be true, but my observation is that HN causes similar stress in people.

For example, "I'm so stressed out by all these new frameworks" is a frequent comment on HN. That's FOMO, that's keeping-up-with-the-Jones's, that's a negative reaction to social media.


I've been an active member of a particular, very popular, and long-running boating forum. It's been around years before facebook and twitter. FOMO, envy, and keeping-up are just as much a thing in the marine communities as they are on any social media platform, but the one key difference is consumption of info - that forum is compartmentalized. Subscription emails are a thing, but they're throttled. The format of the forums makes for slow, introspective consumption. I've been a member since 2005, but I only visit once a month.

I just think it's night and day different from the firehose that are modern social media.


Hacker news and reddit FIRE subs and wallstreetbets is way more fomo-inducing than instagram or twitter, i have found. Most people live very mundane, unaccomplished lives, compared to people in tech. Average people are not involved in FAANG. "I have $3 million by 30 what do I do?" or "genius scientist discovers new particle" are not posts you typically see on Instagram, Facebook,or Twitter.


I played around with different methods of interacting with these websites and found one that works for me. With Reddit, I deleted my account and simply visit the site on the mobile browser. I just have the subreddits I like bookmarked. Eventually, a little screen pops up and says "get the app or get off", and that's usually about the time I should get off Reddit anyway. It's a shame, I used to be an active contributor to subreddits like /datascience and /<my hometown>, but I noticed on multiple separate instances that I was talking to / arguing with a troll karma farming account. On my home town subreddit. I feel a lot better now that I am simply incapable of arguing on that website anymore.

I also deleted my accounts with all of my other social media sites. I think HN is the only social media site I still have an account with.


I also used to have a Reddit account but, like Facebook, more often than not, when I left it I would feel worse than when I logged in. Once that starts happening with a site, I stop going and delete my account. I'm not exactly sure when it happened with Reddit, but it's been about a year and a half to two years since I've logged on, now. The site just got angrier and angrier, regardless of the subreddit. I tended to stick to the more technical subreddits, and even there squabbles were breaking out and the moderators were not reigning it in =[


Reddit is uniquely toxic, even (sometimes especially) in small communities. Whenever I bring this up, I almost always get a few people telling me to "stick to small communities", but those can be even worse since you can't really 'hide in the crowd'.

There's a lot of alarming behaviors there that are considered normal. There's also real-world stalking, doxing, and violence that happens on Reddit. I've seen people get followed across alt accounts by folks who have a bone to pick with them. Some of the stuff I've seen happen, and have experienced, on that platform is frightening.


Why not stay off of social media entirely? If you think that Reddit is even more toxic than Facebook (which I agree with), then why visit the site?


Because it's entertaining. I don't feel the toxicity there is harmful to me, personally. I stopped using Facebook because I did feel that the FOMO-feelings I got were harmful to me.

I do a lot of things that are unhealthy, in moderation. Certain TV shows I watch are toxic to some extent, but I still watch them.


I'm of the opinion Reddit is the most toxic and hateful website on the internet. It's also the most influential.


Why do you find it the most toxic? Just curious, I personally find Twitter way more toxic, maybe it's because of the subs I'm subscribed to


I would agree that in some areas, Reddit is toxic and hateful, but I think pretty much every other major social media platform suffers from this as well, and most suffer worse than Reddit. There will always be a corner of hatred.


I bet that depends on the sub. The few that I'm active in are helpful and informative - nothing short of awesome. I'm sure some are awful.


I agree with smaller communities being helpful. Because of Reddit's massive userbase and breadth of topics I frequently append 'site:reddit.com' to my searches because I have much more confidence in a dedicated subreddit answering my question than some random blog or webpage that usually ends up being some SEO scheme.

That said, these communities don't represent Reddit as a whole. Looking at r/all, and in theory seeing the most trafficked pages on Reddit, gives an entirely different view than my niche group of subreddits. I think the biggest reason for this is that the thing that get promoted on r/all are the most engaging post of the most engaging subreddits. Sometimes that's something apolitical like a post from r/eyebleach, where people generally agree that cute things are nice. Other posts are things like this one [0] which are meant to inflame you regardless of your side in the matter. If the post's score is anything to go by, this one post gets more engagement then some of the subreddits I visit do in a month.

When someone says Reddit is toxic I usually assume they mean r/all. The platform itself isn't inherently toxic, but it's desire to funnel everyone into the same threads is.

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/facepalm/comments/qpcaeh/just_your_...


Not to dispute anything the article says, but a reminder: Hacker News is social media too.

Which is fine! But I often see comments on here (typically under any article about Facebook) where the poster says they’ve deleted all social media and their life is much better for it, etc etc. No you haven’t because you’re still on here. No problem with that as long as you’re getting value from the time you spend here, but it should perhaps give you pause when prescribing what others do with their time: others may decide some other form of social media is a worthy use of their time and their choice is not necessarily more or less valid than yours.


Thank you for mentioning that. I was just about to say that I quit all social media EXCEPT for HN.

And sometimes I am faced with the same negative effects as I was on larger platforms. For example posts or comments about salary or revenue will make me worry about my own financial future. Or technical posts will scratch on my self esteem when a lot of expertise is involved.

I think what makes HN feel different to its community is the fact that it is well moderated niche community that can look like heaven at first.


I guess HN is social media, but I don't think it's the kind of social media the article is talking about. There's no social network involved in HN, no identity or personal branding (outside of dang) and the user-generated content is mostly comments on articles generated outside the site. I'm not arguing that it isn't social media, but then I guess the comments section of a blog is also social media by the same definition, and both of those things seem qualitatively different than, say, Facebook or Twitter. It may just be that the category of 'social media' is too broad to use about different things, some of which are more problematic than others.


I wish people would stop thinking it’s such a clever take. HN has chosen to leave out almost every engagement driving feature that modern social media is IMO defined by much more than just upvoting and commenting.

It’s social media in the same way my monthly pathetic run is professional sports.


It's not social media. It can be used as social media.

Strong difference. The same way Minecraft is not social media, but it definitely can be used as social media.

Kind of annoying seeing people calling anything with an input box as "social media".


> Hacker News is social media too.

Had to remind people of the same thing on a popular blog with a (hyper)active comment section recently. Social media is like cooking: everyone thinks their own tastes better than anyone else's. (Yes, I know the other analogy. Gross.) Or maybe it's like driving: everyone thinks they're above average. Too many people relentlessly bash social media they don't like, while ignoring any flaws in the social media they're using to do it. Maybe it would be more productive to look at how they're different, and how to accentuate or replicate the good parts.


>Hacker News is social media too.

Nope. Not even close.

Video games aren't social media either. These places can be used as a form of social media, but that requires quite a bit of work and a lot of profile browsing, setting up, etc.

In no form are they social media by default though.


We are stuck in the twilight zone. I have never seen a serious defense of the dystopic status quo of current tech. I would have loved to. If you read an honest, intelligent argument (that comes from a recognizably human psyche, not a lawyer, or a cynical, amoral capital accumulator) it can "open your eyes". It can convince you that your view is missing an important angle. That can be liberating, exhilarating even as it enlarges the "universe".

Alas there is no such position because the status quo is essentially... evil. Deceit, greed, exploitation is baked in so deeply in the dominant business models it is impossible to square with what one might term "common morality". There is no other legal industry that is predicated on so much ignorance and impotence of its peculiar class of "users-consumers-products". Tacitly the actual argument is: "the world sucks and you can do nothing about it. Wear those goggles and joint our happy metaverse or live as a poor and socially awkward pariah".

Countless people have sketched what "good tech" looks like. It is as distant today (Aaron Swartz memory day) as it was in 2013. But I will never accept that this distorted reality is somehow our natural or deserved state.


Calling it "evil" is too simplistic.

I prefer to think of current tech much like genetic diversity on a highly accelerated scale. The evolution of what survives has little intelligent design.

What works; works. What starves or causes damage to attract gov't regulation; dies or mutates.

What we are seeing is the chaos before an equilibrium is formed. We see the complex interaction of governments, corporations, cryptos, social media, AI, and humans - and as stable power structures form that can survive the tumult endure, so they evolve and become more "fit" than other elements in the ecosystem.

Think of it like a jungle, not a religious quest.


I actually don't see chaos, or mixing or any real competition between alternative DNA pools. What I see is a very orderly exponential expansion (into a regulatory vacuum) of a viral tech mode that successfully short-circuited many parts of the old "system" to finance its growth and in the process renormalized and redefined what is moral business (or actually any business) in the digital age.

It is possible that countervailing forces will eventually show up. But I am not holding my breath. The new pattern is now entirely systemic. There are some loose ends here and there as people must "adjust their expectations" around e.g., financial and medical privacy, but you'd be surprised what innovative types of smoke and mirrors you can cook up when you are swimming in a fresh multi-billion wave every per quarter.


I think the sense of doom (which I’m no stranger to myself) comes from thinking of the existing Big Social advertiser-oriented products as ends in themselves of sorts, and from bundling all their users into one big group of Big-Social-enthusiasts. In reality, the “ends” here are diverse communities, subcultures, networks of individuals that keep in touch. They become the product because they use whatever works, not because they necessarily endorse or approve those platforms for their own sake.

The first arrival of the Web and waves of network effects and excitement fueled the big platforms of today, but after all that hype those smaller islands-communities are becoming more pronounced among the general disillusionment (domestic cozy and all that). And, luckily, the smaller a community or subculture, the easier it is for it to switch to a self-hosted or more honest alternative.

Undoubtedly, ad-driven platforms will try to retain those islands by providing features or side-products communities might find convenient. However, as independent alternatives become mature and reliable, I hope the savvier and more conscious communities will[0] be resisting feeding the Big Social’s troll-driven data-mining oligopoly (or whichever next shady fad) and stay out, except for an odd visit to publish something intended for a wider audience or watch the dumpster fire burn out of morbid curiosity.

I think raising and maintaining awareness of the grossness of shady business models and their consequences, as well as vetting and suggesting alternatives, is best we can do.

[0] Most likely many already do, but naturally I wouldn’t hear about it unless I’m part of one. (Notably, as a result of this migration, many communities might become more closed, which is a bit sad to consider—and yes, Big Social is very much not without blame here again.)


Well we tried this whole “open your eyes” thing in a different way. We tried, and still do to some degree, to highlight who is in charge of these companies, what their backgrounds tend to be in the great majority of cases. To look for patterns and agendas. How is it orchestrated, these sorts of things. But then we get deplatformed and ostracized.

The end result of which is that some people, having been burned, who once would have defended a better internet than the one we have now, are perfectly fine with watching it burn.


The internet expands; it’s our young people who will keep the score.


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