a pet peeve about social media

Whenever you enter a new social media space, there’s usually someone who will explain to you the ways in which the tools are used by convention, in their small experience of the space, in a way that is contrary to intent, contrary to common sense, and apparently absolutely essential to their experience. This weird casual attempt to control my experience is usually met with derision. I try to rein that in: after all, sometimes it’s a desperate attempt to contrive a valuable function from existing bits, like building a racism defender out of Lego. Sometimes it’s a genuine attempt to protect themselves and that bears listening to.

But all too often it’s just an attempt to control, to imprint a culture on you, and usually it’s a culture that the person does not realize is local, tiny, and not what most people experience.

This is very often an attempt to control content. That is, a way to prevent you from being a whole person and only show the side of you that the other party is interested in. This takes the form of demanding “spoiler tags” around material that’s not about role-playing games or content warnings around posts about floral arrangement. It’s an attempt to force a space to be about a topic instead of being full of whole, real people with varied interests.

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This is my neighbour’s dog, Ben. He is not a role-playing game. He is not a life-changing disorder. But I like dogs. I also like cats. There’s a lot in me after 53 years of accumulation.

Honestly, if you’re not interested in the totality of the Brad experience, in all the things that I think are worth expressing, then it’s best if you don’t follow me at all. I’m not going to write only about games. I’m not going to write only about multiple sclerosis. I’m not going to write only about industrial control system security. I’m going to write about all these things and more: you follow Brad Murray not Brad Murray’s Musings About Whatever He Guesses Is Interesting To You And Definitely Not The Things You Don’t Want To Hear About.

That’s true everywhere I am. I present as a whole person and not as Your Favourite Topic.

You should too. If I read material you write, it’s because I’m interested in you. Not just your views on OSR game design or Kickstarter strategies, but also all the things in your life that got you to those opinions. All your pressures, all your desires, all these things inform all the other things. You should be a whole person to me. Whole people are harder to categorize, to lionize, to demonize. People that display their complexity and their uncertainty, their errors as well as their passions, those are people you connect with as human. I’m not here to entertain you. I’m here to be seen.

So please don’t tell people how to use Twitter or Mastodon or G+¬† (RIP) or whatever. I mean, sure, let them know you hate spiders and it would be swell if they hid those spider pics, but don’t tell them to stop talking about things they are passionate about just because you aren’t. Social media should be things you cope with and you carve your space out of, not opportunities to force other peoples behaviour into a shape you prefer.

Most of these software packages give you tools to control your own experience. Concentrate on that. If you need me to change my behaviour to protect yourself, that’s a conversation we can have and I will almost certainly be open to it because I do care about you (really, it’s a pathology of mine, uncontrolled empathy). But I think I’m a decent human being whose general behaviour does not need to be restrained. And so if you feel you need to restrain me, it’s probably better if you just don’t read what I write. You’re not going to like it.

This all relates rather obviously back to my old post about community¬†from way back when I started this as well as to my thoughts about OSR and not OSR. All the way back to October! These things, these Facebooks and Tumblrs, these are not actually communities. Their topical subdivisions are not communities. They are tools in which we broadcast and hope to reach receptive individuals. I want to be seen but as a whole individual. I want to see you whole as well. Because when the light is on it’s obvious that I am really sitting here, alone, in front of my computer.