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The Internet Means Send AND Receive | 2240

Here’s my hot take: If you only download, only consume the Internet and never upload. You’re doing it wrong.

Full Show Notes: https://www.thejaymo.net/2022/11/12/301-2240-the-internet-send-and-receive/

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The Internet Means Send and Receive

My two recent ‘10 tips episodes’ have seemed to have inspired some people.

Both episodes are works of encouragement to do something more ambitious. Spend time doing literally anything else other than scrolling social media. 

At some point in nearly every conversation I’ve had this week, Twitter has come up. Part of the vibe shift that I’m detecting is that there’s finally a reassessment of social media in general going on.

What is it for and how to use it?  

If you create something and put it online, your attention is bent towards the creative act. If you only consume online, your attention is steered towards things that other people have made.

Here’s my hot take. The Internet TCP/IP is a send and receive protocol.

If you only download, only consume the Internet and never upload. You’re doing it wrong.

If you spend hours on TikTok every single day, but have never posted a video. You’re doing it wrong. What’s social about consumption?

It’s called social media, sure. But for most, it wasn’t very social. 92 percent of all Tweets are sent by just 10% of Twitter users.

For those 10% of twitter users who are social, they are by design playing a toxic game. Ladders and leaderboards. So with Twitter’s Twilight approaching, a crisis is brewing. What is social media for? Tiktok, Youtube, Substack, Twitter, whatever. And how should these platforms be used? 

My friends (IE the content class) tell me, it’s all very well for me to say “Have a little more ambition”. “Make and create things and share them with others on the internet”. But it doesn’t help with the two central questions of the brewing crisis: What to make, and for what audience?

The thing about building an audience on social media, any online platform really is that there isn’t a capital A audience. In real life if you get up onstage in front of a theatre full of people, you get the measure of the room. It’s vibe, it’s tone. On the Internet the only feedback you get are statistics. Number goes up, number goes down. Sometimes you get a missive. Usually sent by the most motivated of people, who are also usually the most negative. 

I recently read George Orwell’s 1945 essay: Poetry and the Microphone. It’s about his experiences pioneering radio propaganda for the BBC’s Eastern Service. Here’s Orwell on platforms and audience:

“Your audience is conjectural, (…) an audience of one. Millions may be listening, but each is listening alone, or as a member of a small group, and each has (or ought to have) the feeling that you are speaking to him individually. 
More than this, it is reasonable to assume that your audience is sympathetic, or at least interested, for anyone who is bored can promptly switch you off by turning a knob. 

But though presumably sympathetic, the audience has no power over you. 

It is just here that a broadcast differs from a speech or a lecture. On the platform (…) it is almost impossible not to take your tone from the audience.”

Poetry and the Microphone – Orwell

“The audience has no power over you” an important statement about platforms. 

Back in Episode 20-16 I said that you don’t need to ask for anyone’s approval to make creative work and put it online. The last place you should seek approval from is the audience. Or rather the statistics that social media transmutes real people into. Every single number on the list is a real person who for one reason or another, has chosen to pay you some attention. 

But what to make? What to create?

What must be avoided is more clear cut. Do not try and make something because you think it might be a banger. Do not steer your own creative work towards things you think your statistics might like. This is a slippery funnel that you might not be able to climb back out of.

I’ve made over 200 episodes of this show. Of course I’ve fallen for that temptation. But more often than not. Once you’ve hit upload on something you think will be a banger, it doesn’t do any better or worse than any other thing. The inverse is also true. The things you’re most pleased with, most proud of, creatively all seem to perform the most poorly. This is definitely something I’ve experienced. The things that I care deeply about, it turns out, are things that no one else cares about. 

This is some unwritten law of publishing media to the Internet. 

But stats aren’t the audience, nor are the trolls. On the internet you can you never really know who the public are. If the only tone one can take from the audience is statistics and you then decided to ignore them?

What then?

I’ve been very lucky with this show. I say up front that its a personal podcast. The only thing that stays the same from week to week is that I write, record and edit the show I want to make. Make the show I want to listen to. Which is the exact opposite of “pick a niche and stick to it” advice for Web2 success. 

I am of course grateful that so many of you are listening to a show.

Made by an audience of one – me.
For an audience of one – you.

So as folks move away from Twitter, the advice is the same as it’s always been.

Make art for you, and maybe others will like it too.

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The script above is the original script written for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the edit.

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About Author

Jay Springett is a Solarpunk, and consultant strategist, currently specialising in the distributed web, metaverse, and world running. He is currently writing his first public book: Land as Platform.

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