Our Followers, who art in Hyperspace

It’s funny how much we care about social media and the internet, but social media and the internet care so little about us.

I’ve always loved writing. I recently realized my absolute dream job is to become an essayist. Writing took me through my teenage angst, my formative years in college, and my emerging adulthood. The yearning to write consumes me at some point literally each and every day. But I always put it off, thinking I don’t have enough time to dedicate or there are more important things to do or I can’t do my thoughts/feelings/experiences justice. Or that my musings are simply not important enough for anyone to waste time reading.

When I got engaged 5 years ago, my proposal blog post garnered over 500 views in 3 days. I got over a hundred likes on Instagram and a couple hundred on Facebook. (This was lot for social media then.) At this stage in my life, my peers are getting married, buying houses, having children, making career transitions, and experiencing the death of loved ones. Many people, young and old, are also victims of tragedy and witnessing to some of the most horrendous things to happen in history. These are all life-changing, important things. These momentous events will always occur. History will cycle through them, on scales small and large.

But when someone shows an ounce of their deepest, most profound self online, these social media algorithms will judge their weight before the general public even gets a chance. It’s interesting how the internet will let you peer into these huge moments for acquaintances you barely even know, but withhold the connections you may actually be longing to make. It’s almost as if the system of capital S-M Social Media itself preys on our insecurities, shortcomings, consumerist desires. And then we lean into the game so hard curating our highlight reels and doing it “for the ‘gram.” When we tweet, ‘gram, snap, and update to garner attention, we are really just shouting into the void. [Unless, of course, you’ve got that blue check mark and a decimal point in your number of followers. #PayToPlay or #PaidToPlay.] Have we really created this culture of social media insecurity or has the technology already surpassed our consciousness to shape our lives in ways beyond our comprehension? Is the internet vise grip the antithesis or the mirror of the Creator’s will?

The other day I wrote about a coincidence that occurred when a student left behind a book. This event moved me somewhere so deep that challenged me to write, even though the mishap was a blip on the radar. The post got a total of 4 views on WordPress and 3 likes on Facebook. I try to avoid social media validation and I don’t pretend to understand social media algorithms, but I do know that somehow the World Wide Web deemed my content unimpressive, unimportant, or unsatisfactory. That sucks. It sucks to write through my vulnerability and insecurity only to be (given the chance to) get noticed by the tiny amount of people who have ever taken time to click on my blog.

A few days ago, I listed to an episode of 99% Invisible, which discussed the design behind algorithms. The morsel I clung to was that no matter how unbiased and impartial an algorithm is meant to be, it is created by a human mind. And every human mind will always make mistakes, have blind spots, and succumb to prejudice. For as far as technology will take people, people can only take it so far. [There is an opportunity here to veer off into how much AI scares me, but let me not revisit all the scary smart robots I watched during my Anime + AI seminar in college.]

I’ve witnessed this with Kubo, too. Deep down in my core, I feel that everyone has a story worth sharing and every single person on this planet is interesting in some way, shape, or form. A great many things happened to bring people to where they are and turn them into who they are today. Seriously, that’s fucking interesting. The universe is out here working her magic and giving folks stories to tell. But the articles getting the most views are the ones centered on people and issues who already get attention on the internet. Or posted by accounts that carry weight and viral potential. That’s fine! But when people are brave enough to talk about their experience breaking barriers, being the first, or sharing the truths they live–in hopes someone, somewhere can relate and find solace–the internet, in all of its power and omniscience, does not bat an eye. It’s one thing for Filipin@-Americans to live these lives and put their stories out there, in a media/society/culture/industry/field/lifestyle that’s been impenetrable to us for what feels like forever.  It’s another thing for the one space we actually have–the internet in  all of it’s accessible glory–to be an obstacle in and of itself. Why must we even play this game for a neglible moment of spotlight in such an intangible, nebulous, endless space?

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