Social media and magic cats

I think at some point in time I had to write something about social media. This is Neocities after all, plenty of people have Opinions on that sort of thing. It's knowing where to begin that's the hard part. I often find myself nodding along to other's critiques of social media and then going "wait, no, not that bit."

I've never been a big social media user. I was a Livejournal holdout for many years and only stopped updating because I needed to take a huge step back from anything social thanks to 2016 being its crap self. I had personal Tumblr and Twitter accounts that I never used because I couldn't think what to do with them. I never signed up for Facebook because the real name policy weirded me out. And so on and so on. I still use some of those platforms for selling art because they're good for it, but using them for personal reasons never clicked with me.

I don't think there's anything inherently bad about social media, clearly it does also lot of good for many people. And I'm not going to be one of the those people who moans about how Facebook issues making us stupid. The ancient Greeks though writing would turn us all into idiots, so screaming about the New Big Scary Thing is a bit old. Personally I don't think people are any stupider, just the stupid bits are more visible. And take it from someone who's spent much of their life travelling by train: no, people didn't chat loads before smartphones. Screens won't kill you. Really. It's OK. (Aside: I wrote this on my phone.)

No, my problems with social media are feeling like they took all the things I got on the internet to get away from and dragged them onto the internet. Imagine you had this nice cosy bar you liked to hang out in, and then all of a sudden some jerk installs a giant TV set stuck on a 24 hour news channel with the volume turned way up. That's about it.

How do I say it without lapsing into bitter old fart territory? I don't think I can. I'm not going to say people were nicer back then, not when I ran into more than my fair share of jerks. But I have written before about the experience of the pre-Facebook internet as entering a different world and one where - the important part - you got to reinvent yourself. You weren't that one weird kid everyone bullied anymore. It was okay to be weird. It was the first time I found other people who made up stories in their head and that was a huge, huge deal.

A common complaint about social media is that it's a poor substitute for 'real' interaction. That it's all fake and shiny. Maybe so. But I never used the internet to talk to people nearby anyway, I was more interested in shared interests than shared location. Funnily enough the ability to connect with people I'm not in close vicinity of is one way Facebook tempts me. I have family at the other end of the country, cousins who have kids I've never met. But Facebook just isn't for me. Mixing online and meatspace identities makes me wince.

Nah, my problem with social media interaction is that it's too much like 'real conversation.' Suddenly the internet felt like a room full of people talking about parties, kids, careers, and worst of all, politics. (Hey, have I been at this long enough for 'eww politics' to be a running joke around here? I'm sure I'll hit that point soon enough if not.) I even feel like I've drifted from a lot of people because nobody's got time for fun weird stuff anymore, it's all jobs and babies and current affairs everywhere.

I once said to someone that you couldn't be weird on Facebook. I don't think they agreed, and I guess there's plenty of weird if you know where to look. For me at least, I feel like I'd be curtailed because I'd be back to the identity I wanted to get so far away from, the Weird Bullied Kid, the Case File, the Problem To Be Solved. Your mum is there, your boss is there, people from school are there and will claim they used to be friends whilst somehow forgetting how they made your life hell because they thought it was funny. On Facebook, everyone knows you're not a dog.

I made Ryll as a deliberate throwback to the sort of small community rabbit holes that I used to be a part of of. I guess everyone has their own thing they look back on, and mine were magical multicoloured superpowered charismatic critters. Yes, they were cheesy, but they were fun, and we'd spend hours over worldbuilding and site design. So I made Ryll because fuck all this cultivating you personal brand stuff, I want to have some fun! It's loads of fun, but I wouldn't post it on Facebook or any other large social media network. It doesn't feel like something you'd talk about in a space where everyone else is going on about what their kids did last night. You open yourself up for judgement too, and that's my other big issue with social media. Everyone knows about stuff. Everyone know what people who draw magic talking animals in their spare time are like. Everyone knows what people who dress a certain way or listen to a certain group are like. It feels like with so much mass talk going on, being weird is less and less okay. So I keep this stuff to the small places. It's not hurting anyone and it's where I'd rather be anyway, but it's one reason why I'd rather not say too much when the world is watching. Not because I have anything to hide, but because stereotypes and memes fly easily there.

But mostly it feels like for a while I had this space where I wasn't someone's case file for once and everything I liked was okay, but then the people who I wanted to get away from moved in. Welcome home, and then it's gone again. Huh. What a depressing way to end that.

Just gimme an internet full of magic cats, okay? Because they're more fun than politics.

(Eww, politics.)