Hollywood’s Flexible Morality: A Conversation with The Distributist

The distributist made a very interesting video on the sex abuse scandal in Hollywood:

Towards the end he brought up a very interesting point about Hollywood’s current anything-goes morality being replaced by a more strict feminist morality, and touched upon the idea that this might be self-defeating because a puritanical morality dominating would result in Hollywood ceasing to make the sort of movies from which it derives its power.

But this also brought up another very interesting point: if you leave aside the particulars of feminism, a sleazeball has a very strong interest in aligning himself with vocal proponents of morality because it gives him cover for his misdeeds. If the vocal proponents of morality (in this case, feminism) ceased to give the cover, the powerful sleazeballs would cease to have a reason to support the vocal proponents of that morality.  Or in short, it’s possible that the only reason Hollywood supports feminism as it does is as a cover for its sins and if feminism were to cease to provide that cover, Hollywood would cease to support feminism. It’s an interesting idea, and I invited the Distributist onto my channel to talk about it. I think it was an interesting conversation. You can also watch it on YouTube, if you prefer:

Staying Sane on Social Media

This is sort-of a followup to Social Media is Doomed. If we take as given that social media is in the phase where its push-based notification system is creaking under the weight of its large userbase and stressing users as a result, if one does not simply abandon all social media, how is one to deal with this and stay sane?

I am not at present giving a definitive answer for two reasons:

  1. I do not have sufficient time
  2. I’m not completely sure yet

But I would like to sketch out some techniques I’ve found to work. They’re not rules, just heuristics.

Be Very Picky about Who you Follow

This is probably the most important thing. If people post too many things which would require you to come to terms with them in order to get along, don’t follow them. On social media where being friends and seeing updates are not the same thing, then by all means be friends with anyone you know but be careful to turn off status updates (or whatever the push notifications are called) as soon as you can tell that they’re not thinking of their status updates as public. It’s way better than losing friends.

Turn Off Phone Notifications

Everyone’s social media app loves to buzz you every time you have the slightest interaction with anyone, since they desperately want your eyes looking at the advertisements they show you. Just turn off the notifications for everything but direct messages and check on occasion. The number of times anything bad will happen because you didn’t catch somebody’s status update in a timely manner can be counted on no hands, for most people.

Don’t Use the Default Interface

The default interface of most social media is designed with one goal in mind: to get you to watch as much advertising as the social media company can manipulate you into watching. There are probably some exceptions, but however it is that the social media company makes money off of you, that’s what they want to trick you into doing, as often as they can. And they may not even realize that they’re training you through stress reactions and pavlovian training to do what they want; they probably only measure their success at making money, not what effect these things have on you. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether they mean well. You can do just as much damage by not realizing how to measure how much damage you’re doing. Protect yourself from everyone, not merely intentional villains. Most every social media platform has some alternative way of interacting with it that doesn’t get nearly as much attention. Tweetdeck for Twitter is the obvious example, but there are others. Maybe read Facebook via email that automatically goes into a folder. Whatever the platform offers that isn’t the standard, use that if at all possible.

Social Media is Doomed

That’s a slightly click-baity title, so let me clarify: I mean social media not in the sense of all ways of talking with people on the internet of any kind, but rather the giant platforms people typically mean when they say “social media”: Facebook, Twitter, etc. And when I say doomed, I mean, in their current form. I strongly suspect that there will be a Facebook corporation (or whatever it’s called) in 50 years time.

Social media is currently organized around a push-model of media delivery. Basically, it uses notifications for when people say things to you. And it does this regardless of whether you know them or not. This is not long-term viable for human beings. Conflict is deeply stressful to us, and we’re reasonably good at settling into mutually acceptable patterns with people we regularly come into contact with—especially family members. Though even there, plenty of people aren’t good at it and these relationships don’t all last. push-based social media forces us into contact with people in a relatively intimate setting with whom we haven’t developed the patterns of interaction which let us be comfortable with each other. And that just doesn’t work.

People not wanting to argue with random strangers in an intimate way is often ridiculed as “wanting to seal oneself in an echo chamber” but it’s basic human nature: people don’t have the energy to accommodate themselves to a large number of people, and worse social media contacts are often quite temporary in nature. Developing a mutually accommodating relationship to a person is often a waste of energy because they disappear from one’s life in 6 months.

For this and other reasons, social media where you interact in an intimate way with people you should be interacting with in a formal way is a disaster. It is simply against human nature.

Of course when social networks are relatively young this doesn’t cause as many problems because the members of the network are self-selected and most people just don’t run into that many people. Thus the network gains a lot of strength of this not-long-term-viable approach in terms of early growth. But eventually the downsides emerge; Facebook, for example, has become an excellent way to hate your family, friends, and neighbors. It’s also, apparently, an excellent tool for kids to bully each other with, and especially for girls to bully other girls with. I won’t use facebook for basically any amount of money, but its addictive properties do keep many bound to it.

The result is very likely going to be the platform’s gradual shift away from push-notifications to pull-notifications. Push notifications for private direct messages, since that’s the same thing as mail, email, SMS messages, etc. But pull notifications for other things, like status updates. The other thing is that on more personal networks like Facebook, people are likely to generally adopt rules of politeness very similar to teatime rules—do not under any circumstance discuss contentious issues.

The problem from Facebook’s perspective, of course, is that this reduction in engagement is bad for their bank account. For at least a fair time they were experimenting with showing you the things other people liked, in addition to showing you what other people shared. That’s really what eventually drove me off of Facebook, actually. And I notice that Twitter is doing it too. In fact the twitter phone app as become basically unusuable because of it. Between that and their constantly showing me the “in case you missed it” tweets, the phone app has become dysfunctional. Sure, it’s serving twitter’s ends and not mine, but I’m getting close to uninstalling it, in which case it will serve no one’s ends. I’m a little odd in that I analyze this sort of thing, but I’m not odd in my reaction—people burn out all the time.

So when you put all this together, it’s an inherent problem social media faces—growth and maximum engagement are achieved only by running hard against human nature. And you can only do that for so long before human nature revolts. As I said, I don’t expect that Facebook and Twitter will all go out of business—heck, there’s still a MySpace for crying out loud—but I do think we’re going to see big changes.

Blogging, by the way, is far more in accord with human nature because it is a pull-type medium. You go to a blog and read it, or read it in your RSS reader (I use newsblur).  It is convenient to take or leave as you find interesting and useful. It does not, therefore, introduce demands that you accommodate yourself to someone who probably won’t be around in six months anyway.