Unsocial media

I’ve been online writing a lot today and I made the mistake of checking in to NextDoor after months of ignoring it. Big mistake.

A year ago the site was burning up in Trump “patriots” vs liberal socialist posts and COVID-denier posts. Both were maddening so I quit reading or commenting.

Today the site is overrun with anti-vaxxers and a remnant of the Trumpists, those who still maintain that hydroxychloroquine is a COVID cure that is being blocked somehow in a huge conspiracy.

Hard to understand this, but here are some factors that I think come into play:

  • People in general, including me, have too much free time on their hands.
  • Most of the country is not strong in science, math and logic.
  • Confirmation bias keeps people reading the same propaganda over and over – beliefs, proven true or proven false, get reinforced.
  • There’s a lot of fear and helplessness out in the world, and it comes across as aggression.
  • We’ve never had a connected world in the way the Internet connects us, and we don’t have good checks and balances for what it does to us psychologically.
  • Assuming a constant rate of 0.5% purely bad people (a wild ass guess (WAG) estimate), with small populations that’s just a few bad eggs spread around. With 350 million people, that’s 1.75 million sociopaths, criminals, creeps and jerks. Social media gives them a place to shine.

These are all reasons to stay off social media. So goodbye again, NextDoor.

Who the hell is Jordan?

Amazon just announced that “The Wheel of TIme” series will be released this November! That’s big news for SF&F fans – it’s been a long time coming. Like, 40 years long. My introduction to TWOT is an interesting story combining my love of reading SF&F and using computers..

The year was 1994. The Internet was unknown to most people, and new even to technical types like me. I was playing around with the first web browser ever released (in 1993), NCSA Mosaic, and browsing through one of the early “social media” networks, Usenet. Usenet was a series of subject-based chatrooms where you could find a few enthusiasts posting messages to each other about…almost anything.

I forget how I stumbled upon the Robert Jordan Usenet group, but it was rec.arts.sf.written.robert-jordan and it was filled with thousands of messages. Thousands. They were all talking about characters from something called The Wheel of Time. How could I not know about this, being a diehard science fiction/fantasy fan?

I read a bit and then dove in with a message titled “Who the hell is Jordan?”. I quickly received dozens of replies, ranging from enthusiastic explanations to “fuck off, newbie”. Trolls have been a part of the Internet forever, it seems. But with that simple question I got turned on to Robert Jordan’s book and TWOT, and have been a fan ever since.

I bought all the books, read them at least twice (there are 14 books comprising over 11,000 pages and 4 million words!), and still have them in my library. I met Jordan once at a signing event in CO, and he was kind of a dark, weird guy. Unkempt. Turns out I met him only a few years before he died of a rare blood disease, so no wonder he wasn’t brimming with energy.

So I’ve got a long history with Jordan and his work. The Amazon series has a lot of fans to satisfy, and I hope they’re up to the task. Casting Rosamund Pike as Moraine is a fine start.