A Hell of Our Own Making

Social media and the self. Made for each other.

Katie Kadue finds that Twitter - and by extension, social media in general - is little more than a narcissistic hell of our own making (“Suspended Hell,” n+1, July 30, 2021).

She takes as here starting-point a recent Twitter feed comparing a particular music video with Milton’s view of Satan and hell. Her comparison is interesting, but neither Milton nor the video are her point. The extended conversation on versions of hell showed her how “axiomatically hellish” Twitter is - a hell of our own making.

Twitter is hellish: “It’s a place where even the most well-intentioned attempts at intellectually honest conversation inevitably devolve into misunderstanding and mutual contempt, like the fruit that crumbles into ash in the devils’ mouths in book 10 of Paradise Lost. It amplifies our simultaneous interdependency and alienation, the overtaking of meaningful political life by the triviality of the social.” All social media feeds our narcissistic tendencies and feeds on them at the same time, thus creating a hell of mere self-interest, performance, and self-regard. “When we say we “feel seen,” we mean we finally (and repeatedly) see ourselves. The hell of capitalism and climate catastrophe leaves us at the mercy of forces outside our control, but we can choose to live in a hell of our own making for a few minutes or hours a day or week. We keep it hovering in the background, refreshing and repopulating our feed, between emails, between meetings, between Pomodoro sessions. We tell each other, on Twitter, that we need to get off Twitter.”

Katie Kadue has come to believe that Twitter is a hellish waste of time: “Hell is what you do when you’re waiting for something to happen. ‘This website is free,’ goes a popular quote-tweet caption of the purest, most perfectly deranged discourse on offer, even though everyone knows the price we pay with our data, our attention, and our time. For many of us, for those of us who find the “us” of Twitter a meaningful if partial collective identity, Twitter is what we’ve done while waiting for whatever this is—the academic jobs crisis, Covid, capitalism, the world—to end, even if there’s no end to be found.”

 

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