Into 2024 - Inputs

What has poisoned the well in 2023, and how to clean it up.

Into 2024 - Inputs
Image: DALL-E

I've talked on here in the past about the idea of "going back to the well", of making sure that we have input as well as output. The well brings psychological and cultural refreshment. Unfortunately, it has become more and more apparent over the past few months that the water does not taste as good as it once did. Someone has been shitting in the well.

This is my fault, obviously. We all dig our own wells and I seem to have accidentally dug mine in such a way that it freely intersects with a sewer containing bad news sources and idiotic social media feeds. It's time to abandon this culture-source and seek out a different one.

Fortunately, it's pretty easy to look at the inputs I have and make some adjustments...

The Good

A look across my Inoreader feed (I'm still a fiend for a nice RSS service) shows me that I have some inputs that are really good, but which have been drowned out of late by the bad and the ugly. Messy Nessy Chic is there, as is Spaces, and Colossal, and Creative Boom, the London Review of Books, the New Yorker, Diaries of Note, Ars Technica, The Marginalian... All sources of intelligent information, comment and culture. These are good things. They sit alongside absorbing books and well-crafted movies and, once upon a time, provided a stimulating, inspirational start to the day. I need to bring those sources of information to the fore, not just through the RSS feeds, but as my go-to bookmarks in Arc, when I find myself mindlessly trawling the net.

In case you're interested, a list of some of the most rewarding feeds/sites:

Messy Nessy Chic - Cabinet of Chic Curiosities

London Review of Books

National Geographic

History, Travel, Arts, Science, People, Places Smithsonian Magazine

Nautilus | Science Connected

The Marginalian – Marginalia on our search for meaning.

Ars Technica

Colossal — The best of art, craft, and visual culture since 2010.

Art & Design Magazine for the Creative Industries | Creative Boom

Diaries of Note – On this day in diary entries

The Spaces - Exploring new ways to live and work

Curious and Wondrous Travel Destinations - Atlas Obscura

My new timetable plan, to work in the mornings and leave the afternoons for, essentially, idling, allows for the reading of more books (I'm currently devouring the half-mile of books Robin Hobb has written), the viewing of more TV shows and movies, and might even create time to get into Baldur's Gate again.

The sources of good information, like the sources of good nutrition, have not gone anywhere. Instead, they have been replaced by empty calories, by junk food, by noise, by...

The Bad

Obviously it's good to know what is going on in the world, in a broad sense. But I've become too much of a news junky this year; taking in information that stresses me out on a low level but about which I can do nothing. I don't need twenty think-pieces on Gaza, I don't need to know what Trump is doing (unless whatever it is is causing him actual physical pain), and I don't (I'm looking at you, BBC News) need to know that another arsehole tortured and murdered their baby - it's awful and tragic and horrible but I can do nothing about it save despair for humanity, and I was already doing that anyway.

So standard news sites are being relegated to the bottom of all feeds. If something big happens, I'm sure I'll find out about it. I will be less well "informed" than the news junkies, but I think I'll be better off for that.

The Ugly

The real source of pollution in the well is social media. And it has become more and more toxic over time. What to ditch, what to keep (at arm's length):

TWITTER is a total bin-fire and has been since about 2016. Like a lot of people, I feel loyal to the platform, however stupid it gets, because I started there way back in 2007 and met some of my closest friends on the site. But that was a long time (and several accounts) ago, when just being on Twitter was something to have in common. Now it's just a lot of hype and lies and aggro. What is it for? Twitter isn't even MacDonalds any more, it's a burger van in a lay-by and the dude flipping the burgers hasn't washed his hands... Ever. There is really no argument for continuing to engage in any way with this slurry.

FACEBOOK is also a bin-fire, but of a different stripe. Obviously Zuckerberg, like Musk, is a dreadful cretin. But his platform works on some level as a way to keep in touch with friends and family. Could I live without it? Definitely, I did for many years. Is it harming my concentration to remain there? Probably not - I don't check it all that often and it moves at such a glacial pace that there's really no need to spend a lot of time checking it. It's probably worth keeping, just so as not to abandon people who I would not be in touch with elsewhere.

INSTAGRAM was so much fun when it first started. People were posting interesting pictures of places and things. It was diverting and creative. And then at some point, everyone devolved to taking pictures of themselves. "Here I am in..." Don't care. Get out of the way of the view. I know what you look like. And then the drop-shipping ads arrived. Now the place is shittier than the shittest supermarket magazine. And it is a PURE timesuck, because however awful it is, it's really easy to lose time to scrolling and scrolling. For my sanity, for my free time, for the sake of my phone's battery, Instagram has to go.

THREADS. I don't even know what this is yet. I'm not sure anyone does. It's doing me no harm right now, because it just sits there, unchecked, in a quantum super-state where it could either be useful or awful and no one knows which.

BLUESKY. I'm not sure. Maybe it's pre-2016 Twitter? But I don't know why that would be a good thing any more. The fact that it's sparsely populated is certainly an attraction. But everywhere online is sparsely populated and pleasant until the Nazis and the armchair activists show up. I'm going to give BlueSky a chance. I suspect this makes me an idiot.

So, in summary - the plan for 2024 is to get more interesting feeds from more interesting places (even while writing this I got distracted by this wonderful piece in National Geographic: 2023: The Pictures of the Year), to read more books and watch more movies instead of endlessly doom-scrolling clickbait news, shitty hot-takes and social media feuds.

Twitter (am I supposed to call it X? Fuck you) and Instagram are gone. This is a soft-quit at this stage; I've deleted them from my phone and from my Arc bookmarks but I'm not closing the accounts just yet - I've done that rashly in the past and then realised if I don't promote my latest audio show, no one will. I just won't be posting to the sites or checking the feeds.

If you're after news on upcoming projects (like Aldrich Kemp 3 etc) then here on Cartoon Gravity is probably your best place to look for updates.

Next up, but probably not today; outputs - what's coming up, where you can find out about it, and maybe some ideas for building online communities away from traditional social media...

And breathe...

Image: DALL-E

Fuck it. Send.