THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY HOSTED ON SUBSTACK
Welcome to the Newsletter!
Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoy it and will share it with your friends and family.
My interview with the wonderful Mike Bockoven came out with the Sinister Scoop. Read it here.
My sci-fantasy WIP is with an editor. Unfortunately I’ve had to put my other fiction projects on hold to get some other stuff finished up.
In September I’m giving a special presentation to my local historical society about a local piece of Civil War history. I’ll be sharing a video of that presentation here in October.
I don’t guess I can put off talking about social media any longer, so here we go. I am not an old man, and I am not planning on yelling at any clouds, but that could be how this comes off and I apologize for that. I hate a lot of what social media has done to me as an artist, so if you’re expecting a somewhat balanced discussion of its merits and problems, you won’t find that here.
I need to preface the beginning of this conversation with a note on some of the language I will be using. A lot of my thoughts on social media have to do with attention span, and I want to be clear that this conversation is not meant to be ableist. I am coming at this discussion from a neurotypical viewpoint, as I don’t have any form of ADHD or ADD or any other neurodivergence that would affect my day to day ability to focus. My omission of that aspect of the conversation is not meant to disregard the additional struggles social media might impose on someone who does have a form of neurodivergence. Instead, I don’t feel I am the right person to discuss that topic. So, from this point forward, just know that I am only speaking to my own experience, not what is or should be normal.
What started me down the road of reconsidering my relationship to social media was, perhaps somewhat morbidly, the death of one of my idols: Cormac McCarthy. McCarthy, quite infamously, never owned a computer and absolutely never, ever used any form of social media. There were websites and fan pages, but none that the man operated himself. To say that McCarthy, who died just this year at the age of 89, was from a different era would be a gargantuan understatement. I am not 89. I am not from appalachia. I am not a leading figure in the modern west movement. I have never identified myself in comparison with McCarthy, but his death happened to correspond with a wave of Twitter vitriol that, for a lack of a better turn of phrase, broke me. I have no interest in exploring that vitriol here or anywhere else, that is exactly the kind of thing that social media algorithms feed on, but it did send me into an introspective spiral that forced me to consider the role social media plays in my life and my art.
Twitter, I realized, was, and you’ll excuse my lack of tact here, a withering shit heap of ignorance and false discourse. I made the transition to “updates only,” almost immediately following McCarthy’s death, focusing my efforts on occasional Instagram posts and crossposting to Facebook. I told myself that those efforts would have to be good enough, because I would rather fail to sell my art than let a silicon valley algorithm take a piece of my soul. Social media as a force of nature does something to people that I don’t like. It turns us into content-devouring monsters, hell bent on whip-quick discussions and fiery discourse. That false-discourse is twisted into vitriol, and the algorithm feeds on it. All social media uses its complicated mathematical formulas to control the content we interact with and the things that we see, and it twists it into the thing that will get the most clicks and the most interactions and the most comments. It doesn’t matter if the interaction is positive or hateful, as long as it IS. Within the constant devaluing of nuanced conversation is the constant erosion of our attention spans. People don’t read as much, they don’t focus as acutely, they don’t consider the world they interact with. They just react, sans any context vital to their full and total understanding of a given situation.
When I forced myself out of that ever tightening spiral, a grand Uzumaki of an existential exhaustion, I decided that my relationship with social media would have to change. That I would not sacrifice pieces of myself to a mathematical new god who does not care about me, controlled by faceless demagogues in a state all the way on the other side of the country. My life improved dramatically from the outset. My moods are better, I am reading more, focusing more, my attention span is longer. I am less anxious and less tired. My OCD is the best it has been in a long time. My world is a better place with less social media.
That was where I left things last month, but when Threads entered my field of view, I decided to give it its due consideration. To see if it was another piece of the Twitter pie, or something new. As I’ve gotten to the other side of it, Threads is at the moment something positive in my writing life. Its algorithm is fledgling, and because of that is easily manipulated. My entire feed is all artists and writers and readers. I am meeting new writers and making new professional connections. I am connecting with potential future readers. Because of the general lack of vitriol, Threads also doesn’t feel invasive in my day to day life. I don’t, though, have any naivete that it will stay that way. I am certain that changes will come down the line to turn it into something toxic, as that is the base crab-evolution of all social media. I have, though, decided that when the time does come that Threads cuts me down instead of building me up, that I will delete it without announcement or grandstanding. To people who, understandably, put a lot more value on social media interactions than I do, that might sound cold. Like the connections I’ve made there will be meaningless and easily cast aside. I don’t know. Maybe it is and maybe they are, but I know that I will walk away from anything, Threads or otherwise, that is a pure net negative in my world.
Never again will the algorithmic gods take a piece of my soul.
Thanks for reading.
Thanks for taking the time to read my newsletter.
Check out my website: billyloperhistory.com
Check me out on Facebook at: Billy Don Loper-Fiction
Check me out on Instagram and Threads at: bloperficiton