BOT-ulism

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.

Surreal indeed.

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.”

time limit on twitter

Your Tweets Are Not Enough

I made a resolution this year to be more active on Twitter, and so far I have managed to lose a lot of time on Twitter without gathering my courage to post anything. More often than not, a terrible event occurs (As-Seen-On-Twitter), and I get caught in a vortex of outrage and helplessness, peering at what looks like Apocalypse Now.

I struggle to identify the right response. Clicking “like” seems inappropriate, especially if an outrage relates to experiences that I sympathize with but may not bear the brunt of, which makes me feel, fairly, like Part of the Problem rather than the Supporting Caring Random Stranger that I hope to be if I click “like” on your Tweet.

I have set a goal to let the professionals handle the Right Response On Twitter. On the other hand, I worry that if I am not posting how I totally AGREE or DISAGREE on some issue, I am not being the ally that I need to be for people confronted with systemic oppression. I take some comfort in the fact that my number of followers is, um, petite, so the odds are good no one is waiting for me to do the right thing as a Twitter influencer.

Yesterday I read what I considered an appropriately outraged tweet telling me: “Your tweets are not enough” in the face of another horror. Since I still haven’t figured out what would be an appropriate tweet, I feel like a double failure, though I remind myself that I have taken actions IRL to stand up for those who are oppressed and to comfort those who are in pain.

It occurs to me that my feelings of guilt and inadequacy are appropriate. Dabbling on social media as a means of sharing thoughts and ideas is not a politically neutral activity. It is an exercise of privilege to engage in any activity without explicitly addressing matters of injustice. It is an exercise of privilege to enjoy a moment of quiet or humor or irony. Add to that the challenge that social media postings rarely reveal the unpolished layers of actual lives.

Here’s what I think for now: I will continue to engage in my own muted and unpredictable ways. In the face of outrages spotlighted on Twitter, I will aim to amplify the voices of those who might not be heard enough as well as those who have read and researched enough to compose appropriate responses. But writing about this topic here has helped me see what I hadn’t acknowledged before: the discomfort must exist. It should not be easy to decide what to say and when. It always matters, even the clicking of a like button. Or the not-clicking. The lurking or the speaking out.

My tweets are not enough. I don’t even have the right to know what actions would be *enough* in order to fight against systems of power that consistently and disproportionately harm our fellow human beings based on, for example, race, LGBTQ+, sex, religion, ability, class… So no, tweets are not enough because this is a battle for human dignity and the promise of democracy.