News of the Tweet: Doom, Gloom and Absurdity as Tincture

When the world falls apart, retreat to solid ground


By Seb Kemp

If you haven’t seen it already then I urge you to go out and buy the 20th anniversary issue of Wired. The entire issue is devoted to the people, thinkers, companies, ideas and inventions that have shaped the past two decades, not just in technology but in how modern society is formed and held together.

One of my favorite reads so far has been a very short interview with Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker. In the exchange he is asked by the Wired journalist, “What on the web gets your goat the most?” He replies, “The biggest bullshit is the hijacking of social media – the effort to encourage interaction whether or not it has any meaning. What did you have for lunch today? Did your cat puke? Those kind of idiotic empty questions absolutely remind me of the worst of local television news.”

You can read the full interview here.

Today, when I opened my Twitter profile and scanned through the digital ticker tape that grows and fades in equal portions as it scrolls down the glow of my laptop screen, there was very little in the way of banal, vapid, trivial, “idiotic empty questions”. Instead it was all very fatalistic, bleak and woebegone.

So sad. All of it. This is the tidal wave of misery, despair and wretchedness that my happy Twitter feed fed me. Why can’t there be anything happy to share?

Perhaps the lovely loony @hejsonya (Need a reminder of who Ms. Sweden is?), despite the surface layer of eccentricity, actually has a pretty solid grasp of the world today.

A true thinker of the modern condition perhaps? Absurdism as the most lucid belief system?

Anyway, let’s loop back to the beginning. Nick Denton was asked, “How does that trend [idiotic empty questions hijacking social media] affect journalism?” Denton answers:

“Everything is a case in hyperbole: the first ever, most moving, most dramatic. The idea of harnessing the intelligence of the readership has been lost in the quest for Facebook likes. For many, readers have become synonymous with hateful commentators. It’s time for a renewed push to realize some of the original dreams of the web.”

Has the web become ratings driven? Focused by SEO and analytics, and aimed at the lowest-common-denominator rather than thoughtful discourse mechanism? Has the money motive and the demands of advertising on a free-for-the-user media distorted the freedom of web content providers so much that now there is no sense to it all, other than the logic of search engine algorithms?

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