As I dabble with social media as a way to connect with other writers, it is surreal to consider that some of them might be bots or foreign agents. Wow, I just reread that sentence, and it is the stuff of delusions, as if I think I am living in some kind of Tom Clancy or Isaac Asimov novel. And yet it is literally possible that one of the people on Twitter posting rainbows and kittens is just a software program, and another one sharing random comments is actually an agent working in a foreign country somewhere, or a stealth marketer of some sort.
I recently read an article that some people sell their accounts once they have many followers, so an account begun by a real person is taken over by an agent or programmer.
In general, I enjoy reading the posts of writers on Twitter and here on WordPress, many who seem genuine. Since I limit how much time I spend online, I probably don’t interact as much as I’ve read that I should, but when I do, I aim to be encouraging or to chat in a politely friendly manner about our shared desires to write and all that goes with writing. So how odd to think that I might be writing an encouraging note or clicking “like” in what is meant to be an encouraging way to a bot or an agent. I suppose the bot bothers me the most. One day, perhaps artificial intelligence will advance to the point that bots need encouragement, too, but in general, I’d rather share that energy with humans who need it.
As for agents or stealthy marketers or propagandists, I’m not exactly mad that I attempted to encourage someone whose goal is to manipulate me. I mostly pity them because I picture someone with few choices in their lives, stuck in a room in front of a screen, adopting a fictional persona. I wonder what feels real to them after awhile? And if their job is to stir up hate and division as our planet spirals towards climate devastation, what a terrible burden to carry. To know they are pulling the strings for amoral individuals who do not care who gets hurt as long as they gain power.
Will there one day be a revolution among these agents? Will they wake up in time and find clever ways to undermine their efforts? I suspect many have tried, dragging their feet, leaving clues as if through carelessness, expecting the democratic governments around the world to respond appropriately. To which, those of us who are not bots or agents might comment: “Get used to disappointment.”