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OH FUCK. Think I just realized something. So is half the problem with social media that we see people talk, but we can't see them listen?
260 replies and sub-replies as of Aug 30 2017

The inherent nature of social media = you have to rig up active personal, non-hard-coded systems to simulate *listening*. Likes, faves, etc.
So the cues that give us everything good about conversation (bonding, mutuality) don't come back, & so we shout louder because why no cue?
And the forms of discourse slide direct to combat (on a combative topic or not) because WHY ARE THOSE PEOPLE IGNORING US WHY
Oh fffff this is why I feel so much better about everything when I see peeps in person & why talking here gives me no-one's-listening HIVES.
There are no bodies. Bodies tell us abt listening. Bodies lean in or look closer. Bodies smile or frown or glance away. We're just bodies.
It would be just like the weird NA self-concept to design tools that allow people to talk, & utterly neglect the act of being *heard*.
I wonder how much is WM culturally conditioned to assume we're always listened to & worth listening to?
I remember being flabbergasted in the early days of blogging by the number of tech blogs (especially; also academics') w/o comments
(This was before we understood about all the problems with comments)
Like, they took it for granted that there would be an entirely passive listening audience
The lack of understanding that conversation is a mutuality?
Yuuuuup. That the act of speaking is enough. That there isn't an alchemy to being heard, or attention that must be paid.
How much of the loneliness of supposedly having you all in my laptop is that disjunct of presence & the sense that no one's *listening*?
**listens here**
Which I know, intellectually? I know there are people here who care about each other? But the shutoff of that visual datastream, oi.
Yeah. I get you. I just, you know, wanted to give explicit feedback of listening.
even a random "like" is better than being (apparently) ignored
Yah. We're social creatures and we need feedback.
Giving you a random like. I agree more folks are listening than are visible. Good reminder.
On the flip side, my recent silly socialization--trading bad jokes etc.--may be more settling/satisfying because it has clear interactivity.
It doesn't have the depth of writing a thoughtful long post. But it has a lot more sense of actual people present.
This makes sense. My best Twitter these days is TO baseball Twitter, because we're doing something together & goofing around about it.
Ooh, that sounds predictable as to time, too, which random nerdfriend goofing is not.
Yup. We are virtually At A Game Together. There's...a sense of mutuality.
Having a topic to talk about I think does help bring people into conversation.
You would think, but quite often the bigger the topic, the harder to sustain ongoing sense of presence in an online conversation.
So getting the exact right balance of small enough that small/silly contributions are okay but big enough to be sustainable can be hard.
*nodding* Yes, sometimes you’ll get a sudden flurry of conversation on some random, fun, small thing.
And then the ways we're trained to react to plug that hole--interpreting any indication of distress as a call for active soothing--follow.
Because some of us were raised to consider listening a marked state, and some weren't, and thus the conversations around emotional labour.
And the shock-feeling and hurt-feeling when as someone marginalized, one finally gets to raise one's voice to an audience and...crickets?
Not to go all unified field theory, but: Social media's broken. It wasn't built for humans to use. It was built for what we think we are.
let's face it, it was built to make money
Well, basically everything is, but that's probably besides the point.
Hmm, yeah, I'm becoming banal in my old age!
It's the "You'd be so pretty if you smiled more" of technology.
Maybe that's the plant, but I think this is the roots of the plant. The soil it's in. More systemic, and deeper.
I do agree with that. We have a history of not understanding the effect that technology will have on society. 1/2
For example, "time-saving devices" don't actually give you leisure time because the expectation of what you can get done just goes up. 2/2
Yup, like that. :) And I think maybe in this case the UX design on social media exposed, well, a gaping assumption about how talking works.
Perhaps it attempts to model the experience of being famous/having an audience, rather than having a conversation.
And then 99% of the time you hit the failure mode, and that feels *bad*.
This is kind of reminding me of that old Doctor Who story "The Robots of Death." Ever see that one?
Future society wholly dependent on anthropomorphic robots. Some people get what's called "robophobia" b/c while the robots look human enough
They have no human responses: body language, facial expressions, vocal tonality. It's like, the Doctor says, being surrounded by dead people
and this causes a lot of stress in the population, despite attempts to make the tech appear perfectly human-like.
I think about that story a lot.
Okay, that definitely goes on my list now. Thank you. :)
It's one of the classics. Altho the costumes are ridiculous. Why ppl in the 70s thought future us would wear tights & head fins ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Makes me think of Twitter bots, and how sometimes it is actually difficult to tell if the person on the other side is real or not. :/
And if there's anything people have kind of always known and not wanted to know, it's that we have no idea what we or our societies *are*.
Yeah, this sounds true. Massive fan-in and fan-out also contribute to the ways social media changes things, and ...
... there's yet another factor that you can't really *avoid* someone on social media in a lasting way
It's as if the whole world is your professional circle, and you'll never really get away from these people even if you have bad history
but what you're saying is something new and is a key piece in addition to the factors we just listed
or at least, new to us What would a system to fix "listening" on social media look like?
Or, what's the success criterion for such a system? Is it that you can have a good sense of how people are feeling about your words?
I sincerely have no idea. I suspect I'd have to know a lot more about UX design, code, etc. to even tackle that one.
This sounds right. From experience, this is why slack feels more intimate. I think the heavy use of reaction emoji's triggers that feeling.
Having a community build up a large corpus of reaction metaphors / ingroup jokes that trigger shared meaning: easier 'show' understanding?
My favorite is the shift of people replying "This" on twitter to use of "☝️" as reaction. For me, easier to "Read" vs facial expressions.
For me these are mostly good. I have trouble signaling listening in real life, and don't get out much. In a way, it levels playing field.
But i agree, I think this observation is important - but also as someone who experiences these troubles IRL, fixing it sounds really hard!
yeah, similarly, being autistic we feel MORE connection in text media than face-to-face. but we felt like that would be a derail :)
we nonetheless understand the point about sense of people listening.
(and we do appreciate body language in person, but only from other autistic people. only really worth it to us w/ romantic partners.)
Ah, reminds me of using Video chats as away to improve my skills. I think worth noting how most of social media convo's aren't realtime.
Twitter gets close, but at same time 'feeling' it's real time seems to make it harder to reason about listening?…
True. But also like how twitter allows for both longdrawn convos tht cld last days or (depending mood) instantaneous hype trains to jump on.
Think realtime factor is why I've always preferred written communication over face to face. Allows for time to control emotional responses.
I think this is spot on. And I've been finding, more and more, that real interactions are what I need. I don't miss this when I'm offline.
I've played with it personally, & the half-life of this stuff seems to be like three days for me. I don't care about Twitter on Day Four.
It's a big part of my job, so it's tough to fully cut the cord, but I still force myself to do it.
I feel you there. It's not the core of my job, but I'm sort of expected to professionally represent, & balancing that is...messy.
This is also a hurdle: experience here is very different if you are just exploring vs here to work/ sell something. What do you like here?
This all rings true, and/but, back in the days of pure text w no avi's/expectations/presumptions, I found strong communities/connections
I think a bigger part of the problem is the gamification - tracking followers, favs, etc. it's all geared for indiv gratification not shared
Of course, the overarching prob is that social media was not designed for us - it is all designed for ad agencies/data-miners etc
The basic model of social media is to use us as free fodder to get $ by watching us & selling that access to others.
Nonetheless, humans find ways to form communities here, even if ephemeral & shifting—& occasionally, as w Harvey helpers, to do great good.
Attention is currency. To control our attention flow we must learn to breathe. How well do we breathe when we tweet?
Same problem arising around blockchain / reputation projects. Code is not culture, but they shape each other for good or ill. Often both.
Respectfully, A) culture exists independently of code. B) The problem is greed, not technology.
When code is aimed at governance, or even just reputation tracking, the culture that might have emerged independently can be hampered.
That's more of a gen'l design problem v coding, specifically. When community is not the focus of design, you get poorly designed community.
That's true whether you are designing a public park, a traffic intersection, a mall or a social media app. IMO.
one of the biggest problems I've found over the years w online community is scaling. Which btw, is also not unique to coded environments ;-)
Whether a retail chain or twitter, scale is mostly an issue when the goal is to dominate a market, vs sustainably serve a need.
Which brings us straight into the rampant problems with fiat currency and financial syst. People think of $ as a thing, not a flow. Current
I must admit my passion is enabling community flow, not $ flow, but I see how similar principles apply.
Both are value flows. Transactional +beyond. People make same mistake with electricity, as if it's all barrels of oil units,not a flow of e.
This is embarrassingly old (publ 2004, paleolithic in internet time) & of-its-time, but might interest you:…
(I'm self-educated, no degree, so it's not an academic paper, was publ in 2004 compendium of essays about open source)
People think of scaling up: unicorns. I like to think of scaling across. Fractals. Human scale nodes exchanging supporting and competing.
Yes! That was my model when I was working w nonprofits. That's also the most resilient model.
Awareness of Dunbar numbers is crucial (as well as diffs online vs in physical space & in synchronous vs asynchronous comms)
Also the cypher punk culture from which code came had, by many accounts, relatively low emphasis on EQ vs IQ
definitely true - however, the earliest online communities pretty much just enabled many-to-many comms & got out of the way, so 1/2
2/2 more by accident than intent, didn't particularly inhibit human connections. The more complex the system, the more dangerous the design.
A small village can manage w a traffic cop. A small town needs synced traffic lights. A city needs to manage a whole network of spaghetti.
Complex systems cannot be designed. Only 'disturbed'. Probed. I think lots of problems come from not knowing where to draw the line.
I think the way we use it, is borked. If we want people to listen online, chats are better.
I still remember all the /me on irc that indicates you do something. Somehow that trend stopped but it made everything more personal.
/me is listening, agreeing and nodding but she has no idea how to solve this. 🤷‍♀️
Amen to all this. You know what I ALWAYS DO when a conversation might get brittle? Move to DM. MAGIC, we're actually talking.
Great thread. Also, on FB my experience is that usually my posts get a dozen or so likes from people I know, so I feel they're listening.
This is really interesting. There's been some work on the idea of co-presence in social media that might be helpful
Oh hey, interesting! I'll go digging for that.
Oh, awesome -- thank you so much. :)
That's one thing about Second Life, a sense of presence even if you're talking to a cartoon teddy bear who occasionally shouts WAFFLES!
This is why I prefer Slack (and previously IRC) to Twitter. Smaller, known audience means that more people listen.
... closer to human convo among friends than shouting into a void that maybe contains a few dozen people but sometimes is surprisingly 1000s
plus on slack having a variety of reactji allows for "I'm listening, but may not have enough words for a verbal response" which I appreciate
For union organizing we have this conversation but never straight out. We say one-on-one in person is the only way, supported by online.
Okay, that is *interesting* -- there's an advanced conversation on the efficacy of organizing online versus offline?
I wouldn't say advanced, but it is universally awknowleged. SEIU might have raw numbers on card signers. I have had good luck myself with >1
>2 using online tools, facebook/action network, for internal organizing. Improving transparency between officers and rank and file, but >
>3 also giving members a way to learn more about unions and to participate/talk back.
The AFL-CIO organizing training is all about how to have a good conversation and does focus on listening and asking open questions.
There is also the fact that online organizing efforts have been successful when workers are on odd shifts or live far away. It gives a way >
> to support those workers when you might not be physically able to see them. Online polls have been helpful in contract negotiations too
Agree with what you've said. There's also a dimension of capitalism/profit-motive distorting the evolution of the medium & its use.
Everything's steeped in that same air of profit motive, though?
Well, if you're comparing to face-to-face interaction, I hope not. (Even if we do mostly talk face-to-face when I'm buying books <g>).
Hee. Right, good point, okay.
I suspect I'm being overly careful in dodging that resigned sigh of "Oh, well, people did it to make money everyone's terrible."
Even early interactive media (local BBSes through Usenet) and modernish forums/blogs often operated without strong commercial motive.
Maybe part of the unified theory is that we've ended up with a small set of mass media tools that are broadcast-focused for $$ reasons.
I often really enjoy Twitter, but I do miss <old>the hey day of things like the SFRT on GEnie</old> or even the pre-2009 SF blog/LJ world.
Is it rather too cynical if I point out scene points, reputation economies, & how people import social commercial motive? >.>
Certainly not. That stuff is definitely a driver in human interaction, both online & F2F. Basic status-comparison stuff's built in, I think.
Even when users of a tool know what they are / what they want to some degree, that takes second place to what can be monetized.
There is an inherent " lost in translation" factor between users. Ive always felt i missed cues many times.
Well, and you throw the regional/in-group nature of cues in on top of that, and no wonder we all suck at this. >.>
I just take it as a price to be paid for meeting interesting people. But it does get ....sad i dunno alienating maybe
Following. Incredibly hot take. I need your mind in my life.
Helpful analysis! I am so glad you posted this. (SM relying on performance also inhibits "O I C" replies like this one .....
....replies like this one, which encourages you but bores other readers.
I am very glad to hear it's of use. Thank you very much for saying. :)
I really really like this insight.
As perhaps is visible, I've been thinking about that really good convo we all had last month a whole lot. So, um. Thank you.
<3 <3 <3 Me too. It was so beautiful. (Was it only a month ago? Dear gods it was in July, wasn't it! Belongs to a gentle dreamtime)
No kidding. Long summer, this one.
I'm listening. Wait that came out way more Frasier Crane than I intended.
Which makes it smoooooth
There’s too much here. Only about 5 people outside my family look for my tweets & I actively look for, oh, maybe 20 ppl’s tweets? (1/)
The rest is just catch as catch can. And yeah, ppl generally *aren’t* listening. (2/2)
I wonder, now. How much of that is people not listening and how much of this is, to be perfectly wanky, a UX problem.
User Experience Design!
I think that's why I miss LJ (and the critical mass we had there). Algorithmicay curated feeds and timelines add to the problem.
...and the lack of instant interaction probably triggered a different mode of discourse. LJ was letter-writing, right? Not conversation?
*sometimes* it could be pretty instant, but yes: in general it was more like letter writing.
Indeed. You might miss a letter now and then, but if you did, you could find it easily enough too
Or whatever word I and my swype would like to mutually destroy meaning "related to algorithms"
Eh, I speak typo. *g*
LOL, a piece of jargon I didn’t know!
Fairly newish thing. I have three design/coding/etc. friends who have recertified and moved into it, so.
I do find I give up with a constant stream, like Twitter is. I **can’t** give constant attention to a thing (no one can)
I do remember having to learn to dip in and dip out and let things go if they weren't in front of me, and, well, miss things.
Had convo with friends years ago about Internet as communication tool, but someone made point that there's no faces, so understanding hard.
Yes yes. I don't know why we so deeply underrate the amount of information we draw from people's faces & bodies.
Harder to record/capture/explain than words? Even with audiovisual media text's still weightier & language not designed to fill gaps.
Related: people talk louder on cell phones because, unlike landlines, they don't feed back some of the mic to the speaker.
...huh. So we do. o.o
Yes, plus 140 char limit tends to strip softening words, qualifiers and diplomatic phrasing that helps us avoid misunderstanding and insult.
And those are very binary. Like going YAY EXACTLY YES or nothing at all. When sometimes I just want to lean in half an inch, not a foot.
YES. I want the "goooo oooonnn?" and the soft glance away that says maybe it's time to not go farther down this road and and.
The wrinkled brow of "I'm not sure I'm getting this so can you back up half a step and give me more context"....sigh. Yes.
Sometimes I do want to give my friends a bear hug. But sometimes I want the tiny nod. I want middle ground of engagement.
I used to fear saying generic yay/sadface statements for fear of seeming trite or disingenuous, but actually that all that's needed.
Yup. Just the pingback! It's why I fave/like almost every reply that comes in on social media. It's my acknowledgment: "I heard you."
Yeah. As someone who has a fair share of long-distance relationships, seeing someone's facial reaction is critical to avoiding arguments.
Yes yes yes. Even the tone of voice. When I did long-distance all fights resolved almost instantly if we just got on the phone.
Seeing the other's facial expr is crucial to feeling truly & viscerally despised. You can't fake that online.
Now why are you using social media again?
yes, I think you may be right. :)
This is one reason why I think people need to actively make "I statements" if they want to constructively engage with others on SM.
There are ways to indicate listening with text only, but they take some training and practice to fill in all the missing body language cues.
And there's a certain proactive mindfulness at work there. When people consider listening an unmarked state they don't do those things.
I often feel completely unseen. I get it.
There is no also no swift ability to course correct when your joke doesn't quite land, quickly soothe hurt feeling. Instead ppl get to stew.
And reread, and read into, and catastrophize.
Oh my yes, all of that.
Also, even if it's not a joke, people can misunderstand, or not 100% agree. In person there's feedback on face and then clarification
That's where understanding/opinion altering comes from... the loop of seeing someone didn't get your point and clarifying...
Not all differences revolved that easily, but at least there's a chance for it.
Which isn't to say there aren't jokes that do cross the line, but injokes are strange things and you can feel among friends on social media.
But like a few days ago I thought it was hilarious to make up joke negative reviews of own book, and that was... not funny to anyone else.
Everyone was very kind/worried I was being anxious (I was, tbf) but it was intended to turn fear into laughter. None of it came across right
Oof. Because no way to catch the look on your face when you did it, and thus projection of what might be the motive?
Is most recent example in my mind of ah this would work in real life as I could read their expressions and give more context, elaborate.
Sort of their expressions as wordless feedback are useful to see what I should say next
Huh. I think you're on to something.
Then the other half is "when people try to listen out loud, unrelated people dump on them for not being 100% right first time" perhaps.
There's probably at least a third half in there, ala "the other 90%", given people are complicated, but still, you're on to something.
Half the problem: Yes. But I think you're onto something, a very simple paradox. Obvious, yet invisible. "How's the water?" asked the fish.
Another huge part is that social media doesn't show bodies so it's easy to depersonalize voices.
Isn't same with ppl in person? Nod,smile.Listen?
Totally, but I think we do some passive listening tells more automatically? Although the difference between them & active listening's huge.
I'm very into this idea.
doesn't a heart represent a "listen"?
I think that depends heavily on people's personal symbologies. It does for me. For others, it's approval or any number of things.
Agreed. I don't think heart = "I heard" but signals approval which is quite different. Slack has a check symbol = read. Gr8 thread btw.
Well now that it's a quasi-retweet, we're all confused : )
Too bad I can't do heart with a wink.
oooo oooo and something about using faves to say "i hear you"
Nope. The full problem is we can see other people talk.
The other half is that the people that do show they're "listening" are people that just agree with them and never challenge them
I dunno. That depends on the type of discourse, who's having it, and what an instance of discourse is for.
I'm sorry, I stopped listening. What were you saying?
I hear you. Thank you for your insight.
I think you have the makings for a great Ph.D. dissertation
Thank you. That's very kind of you to say. :)
and also true, very good findings here. there are ways to gauge user interaction and interest on tweets, but the process is cumbersome
Hi I don't know u but you just put the pieces together for me on how frustrating SM can be for me, not SEEING people listen, the loneliness
I'm really glad to hear that helped, and thank you for saying so.
:-) dont see them talking just their fooprints. Mystery half of the time who they are. Sometms the footprints seem to follow u. Spooky!
We also don't see ppl tlk on social media as well. Basically: we're having a conversation w/o non-verbal cues. Huge problems b/c of this.
Yes! Along with not able to hear tone of voice.
Thank you for putting this in words. I've struggled to articulate it for years. Like... since 1998.
Glad it's at all useful!
The clue is in the quality of the reply
I'm all ears! ;-) Seriously tho: Convincing argument! Luckily strokes of genius like this make us "what we thing we are". Else: we can be.
This is a most thoughtful take!
Oooooh. This is a great thesis!
Read 7:45am central, August 30, 2017
Oh! It was that simple all along. Huh
Yeah, yeah. That's it. Super important. Following you rn.
I'm afraid the really trenchant stuff only comes out once in a while. Usually it's food, writing craft, and baseball goofery.
Nah, sister. That weren't no accidental epiphany. I see you have a gift. ;-) I do same; try to get rid of followers. Don't worry. I'm kind.
Clearly not, because I told you a thing about myself & you said your rando idea of me supersedes that thing. Blocking now. Don't come back.
Not sure if it is exactly "half the problem" but I do agree that the fact that we don't see people "listening" to us can frustrate.
Everything is seen and still no one gives a fuck.. Actions speak louder than words
And in the naked light I saw Ten thousand people, maybe more People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening, Sim & Garf