I have been thinking about my experiences online and on social media in the past few years and what has impacted my experiences and participation.  There is a lot of pondering: “Is it just me, or is it the web?”; “Is it the world, or the web?”; “Have ‘things’ changed, or have I?”  Reading articles that touch on similar questions are helpful to sort out my thoughts and help me understand the shifts that may be occurring.  Others research it and articulate it better than I have been able to do.

Doug Peterson recently included a post by Bonnie Stewart in his weekly curation of Ontario Education blog posts and he wrote an additional post of his own in response to it, “Good and Bad“.

Bonnie’s post begins with:  “So. We need to talk about the web.”  It was encouraging to read about her thoughts on networks and the “participatory web”, and her plans to keep pushing change,

To try to counter misinformation, yes. But also to try to push for change, and for a more pro-social and humane digital space through three key ideas: complexity, cooperation, and contribution.”

In Doug’s post, he contrasted two examples of participation online and shared his thoughts on some changes he has experienced and made,

“The Bad” ended up sneaking its way into my circles and I don’t like it. Not liking it typically means getting out of that circle so that I don’t see more of it. It’s easily done. But, it bothers me that I have to do this in the first place.

Have we, as a society, become so hungry for attention that we search for the shock factor to get it?”

Doug’s question reminded me of some articles I had been reading to help answer similar questions.

What is getting rewarded now? What are we letting ourselves be drawn to, thus rewarding what gets posted online?  What influences what?

It is unsettling to me to read about “strategies” used by new performers, musicians, etc., to get the attention of an online audience.  For example, When Bad Behaviour Goes Viral.  A few points made in the article:

Bregoli is an example of what I’ve termed the “memeocracy,” a social media-based system that rewards people for attention-grabbing behavior rather than talent. Bregoli and those who have engineered her rise have hijacked a psychology that favors outrage over hard work.”

and,

These people aren’t good or bad themselves — they are simply a reflection of their time.”

But how sustaining is this approach to a career and/or fame?

It seems there may be an impact on music as well, based on a few studies:

Anger and Sadness Are On the Rise in Popular Music Lyrics

Unsettling if true:

Unfortunately, anger started to skyrocket in song lyrics as the 1980s were winding down and there was more and more anger every year from the 1990s till the end of compiled analytic data in 2016.”

Are we all less happy? Do ‘mean’ and angry sell better?  Is there something “emotional” going on?

This article brought my attention to a book that examined historical trends in views on boredom, self-expression and community, Bored Lonely Angry Stupid.  The article shares a transcript from an interview with the book’s author who is a cultural historian at a university in the U.S.  She refers to a very big, mainstream emotional style emerging.  The whole interview is good, but here are a few points that I found interesting:

  • We also saw people who talked about how they thought there was a connection between narcissism and anger; that people felt eager to get attention on the internet, and that having really strong and sometimes aggressive opinions on social media was one way to bring more business, more traffic to your tweet or to your update.
  • Of course, that’s not the only reason people get angry on the internet. I don’t want to minimize some of the socially momentous and just causes people are pursuing online, where anger is a very legitimate tool for social change.
  • We certainly don’t want to say it’s all due to technology. But there are some devices — whether it’s the 19th-century camera, the telephone, the radio, or the smartphone — that have reshaped Americans’ inner lives. These devices don’t do it alone, though.  Changing religious theologies are reinforcing these patterns. Changes in our capitalist economy are undergirding them, and these devices are both products of that culture and shapers of that culture. So it’s very much a reciprocal process; technology is a driver, but it’s not the only driver.
  • I really do believe emotions change over time, not just because of technology but as a result of a whole set of cultural and economic changes. Yes, we have more tools with which to express ourselves, but we have new feelings to express that are distinctive to our time and place. Emotions don’t just hold steady and get expressed through new devices. Devices transform them — teach us new habits, nurture new expectations, and model new behaviors, too.

So, I don’t know… I used to write a lot on this blog hopeful of more positive outcomes of networks, social media and new communication technologies.  Will it just be a continual adjusting for the “bad and the ugly” in order to focus on the good?  Not that everyone agrees on what is bad and what is good…. it is certainly complicated.

And I am all for some melancholy in the music, but I have my limits there too.

 

 

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