During yesterday’s walk I found that I could read The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen as an audiobook so I listened to a few minutes. It took me back in time to 2006 when people worried about the detrimental effect that bloggers that were not accountable would have on information, disinformation, reliability and accountability. At the time people worried that bloggers and certain social networks would spread inaccurate information and manipulate people.
Fast forward today and you see that the fear we had, that blogs would be unreliable and unaccountable was wrong. We see that with Fox News, GB News, Russia Today, Facebook, Twitter and other sources of information the threat did not come from blogs, but rather it came from the people who bought media companies to control what was said and covered, and by social media networks like Facebook, which was used to gain big data in order to manipulate voters when Trump was elected, and Brexit. Read Mindf*ck for context.
Musk recently bought Twitter, so Twitter has gone from being a great source for quick news and updates to an unreliable resource used by the Far Right to manipulate the less astute into thinking along their chosen lines.
It turns out that misleading people, through blogging is time consuming. First you need people to write content, and then you need others to read it. It requires a lot of time and effort. In 2023 you don’t need much time and effort. A tweet can be read in a second or two, and troll armies can shape a conversation, and algorithms can skew what you see towards one way of thinking rather than the other.
When I was walking I thought “If he wrote an update to this book it would be called “The Religion of the Amateur” because user generated content has become ruler. Look at TikTok, Clickbait YouTube, Instagram and even Twitter, under Musk.
Years ago social media was measured in friendships, conference attended and collaborations. Today it is measured by sheep herding, rather than personal connections. People are looking for a mass audience, rather than a social network. Someone said “I’m followed by 8000 people and my tweets have been viewed 3 million times.” I see such a tweet and I see that social media has lost one of its unique characteristics. Human level personal connections.
The Cult has become a religion, and manipulation and disinformation is worse than ever. I need to finish the book to give a proper evaluation but it’s interesting to read the book with the advantage of hindsight.
That’s it for today.