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I am getting really tired of the presidential election commentary on social media. Perhaps there's a silver lining, in that I have less motivation to use social media as a distraction tool? I recognize that it's important to be at least somewhat aware of what's going on in the political sphere, but there are limits to how much vitriol I can handle before I get too negative.

I did vote in the California primary election, by mail. Our county, Contra Costa, has these drop-off boxes called "CoCo Vote-N-Go," but I went the old-fashioned route with stamps. CoCo Vote-N-Go is the best part of the primary so far. There were some crazy candidates for the US Senator primary - 34 in total. A swift reading of the candidate statements quickly revealed that it would be pretty easy to pare down the choices to just a couple of individuals. I personally feel that Senators and Congresspeople are more important to choose wisely than figureheads.


I managed to get up and go rowing this morning. It was windy. I was only able to convince myself to put in 2 laps (6k). Better than nothing.


This piece on "What I Learned About Writing By Not" has gotten me thinking about the second point: "Figure out how you want the writing experience to feel." The leafcutter manuscript has been routinely sending me on a crazy and unnecessary emotional rollercoaster. The thing I struggle with the most is how to put all the pieces together into a coherent story. That makes me grateful for everything I've learned and experienced when working with my cricket collaborators. The crickets are just much more straightforward than the ants because I don't need to know things about leaves, ants, fungi, social evolution, or ecological vs. animal approaches to studying nutrient limitation to write about the crickets. I just have to write about nutrient limitation in animals and life-history trade-offs in wing-dimorphic insects.

Actually, I think the complexity in many social insect systems leads to a lot of incoherent writing in general.


( 3 remarks — Remark )
May. 20th, 2016 02:56 am (UTC)

In better times, we had strict ownership limits on media to fight the well-understood effects of centralized ownership by special interests. We lack that now. Social media broke the narrative and got Obama elected. It's hard to make a case for a candidate -- and get people's attention -- without mentioning flaws. The sad thing is that you're already getting a highly sanitized view. So, there's the problem of not circuiting information at all versus annoying people. I've probably not been walking this line well. On the other hand, it's increasingly hard for me to engage in aspects of tech that seem to exist solely for ego... but I may be bitter about being sidelined from the fun with VB an QuickBooks.

The primaries will be over soon and people will shut up until the general election.
May. 20th, 2016 04:49 pm (UTC)
I am very sympathetic. There is far less quality analysis being generated by professional journalists because of the internet and social media, although the diminished amount is better circulated. (In a related development, the absolutely terrible job market in journalism makes people such as myself leave journalism and cease contributing to the public sphere in an easily accessible way.) There are all kinds of bad incentives at work in journalism right now aimed at making things easy or tempting to recirculate on social media--you can see it in the way headlines are written, the use of information-impoverished stock photos to illustrate even articles that need no illustration, the outraged tone cultivated by certain publications and sections of other publications (my favorite example being Washington PostEverything), and the emphasis on quantity and newness over longform investigative journalism that is resource intensive and not easily consumed at work.

The very structures of the most common venues for social media have their own toxic effects. It's very difficult to lodge subtle or detailed critiques against superficial analysis on Twitter, first because Twitter is restricted to 140 characters, second because retweeting and favoriting make it easy to "sic" your followers against anyone who speaks against you, and third because (perhaps as a result of the above features) many smart people on Twitter become touchy and defensive after multiple negative encounters with trolls.

I don't think the internet is inherently bad, but as to Scott's point above, I think Obama could have won without social media (he just would have chosen different strategies) while Trump could not have won the Republican nomination without Twitter. Take from that what you will.

[edited to be more fair to what Scott was actually saying. I get worked up about this stuff]

Edited at 2016-05-20 04:58 pm (UTC)
May. 20th, 2016 10:00 pm (UTC)
I got really depressed so I liked both "Mitt Romney" and "Howard Dean" on FB since I figured Trupp probably hates both of them.

( 3 remarks — Remark )

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