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Musing XIV: Acta Sine Twitter

The worst thing I have found is to just lie in bed, eyes wide on the darkness of the ceiling. Better distract the mind, get a cup of tea and hit the gym or the office before the first hint of dawn. Or, gaze into a glowing laptop screen and lose yourself in an exploration of all the wonders of the internet. This particular night, I had a conversation with my friend and former work colleague, Phil, fresh on my mind. He’s got a DaVinci-like breadth of interests, from battery tech to quantum computing to cinematography. I had asked him where he goes exploring on the web. I was a little surprised when he mentioned social feeds, because in my experience they were becoming saturated with the same old ideas, just like Craigslist has become saturated with apartment hunters with everyone having access to the same information. Naturally when thinking about saturated markets composed of a few outliers and Purple Cows, the sex work industry comes to mind. I do believe that polished forms of crowdsourcing definitely have its advantages, and one of my suitors (a very accomplished lawyer turned Professor) recently made the argument that looking at the Twitter page of a lady one might be interested in seeing could help gage the degree of substance beyond the photo gallery – whether it's a faux representation or not, that's for the man to discern. I respect him like I respect Phil, so I contemplated the idea of social media being used by highly intelligent individuals as an important tool for various objectives. I decided to devote a little time to gather some intel and do my own research using the provider industry as a case study. A quick click on the Twitter links of a select few on Eros, the barrage of terms like “artist”, “muse”, “hedonist”, “globetrotter” caught my eyes. It strikes me that these labels were part of the cookie-cutter standard, and attempts to reduce a vast complexity into uniform yet ambiguous categories with the lossiest of compression algorithms – perhaps so that prospective clients might only put forth a binary effort in their response: “book” versus “not book”. But at the core of it all, our internet personas (not just what we present in true form) are commodities so I get why many women incorporate this into their advertising tactics. It's a market and we're trying to attract buyers. As an experienced data miner, I understand the need to utilize the metrics to one's advantage. But as a human being with an inordinate thirst for authenticity, I find my aversion to social media has intensified over the years. Perhaps also because so much of my professional life revolves around immersion in tech that I crave a bit of simplicity and detachment from it.

The rise of the internet gave hope of a way out of the homogeneity and banality of mass media. The internet promised to enable anyone to author and distribute unique and diverse perspectives at scale in a way that was never before possible. But critics of the bastardized uses of the internet (including, and in particular, social media platforms) often echo my critique: the obsession with image refuses experience by favoring a highly edited ‘hyperreality’ over reality. Rather than portraying their actual lives, people project the ideal versions of themselves on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Perhaps nowhere is it more clear than in the realm of social media that, as companions, we crave an interactive audience. And like fisherwomen, the hope is that the casting of a wide net via "look at me!" posts will draw a prized catch. It was a little harder though to deduce the intent of photos solely showcasing opulent gifts. I can only assume that by virtually portraying a lifestyle of hyperbolic extravagance, the goal is to attract more patrons willing to sponsor it. But there's also a more generous interpretation of the hyperreality of these online platforms: social media is no more fictional than the social reality and identity we each construct in the physical world – both are creative acts, assertions by actors authoring the stories they’re telling the audience they encounter (or hope to encounter) in life. Sometimes it feels that in the age of the image-obsessed, the casual game, and the infinite stream of pull-to-refresh media, long-form narrative is outdated because no one has the attention span for it anymore. We live in an era of unprecedented information abundance, and a 900 page novel or even a 2hr film present a significant cost and investment compared to scrolling through photos for 30 seconds at a time. The typical man looking for a basic-level companion are likely less inclined to read through my blog posts, but rather look for the lady who posts a daily 'selfie' in her underwear. I have a tendency to attract a certain elite level of men who seek an elevated form of both physical and mental stimulation. Suum cuique, superior cognitive effort and psychological requirement is intrinsically owned by every single one of my suitors.

When I see all of this pandering for attention by "Tweeters" and thoughtless consumption by their audience, I think we can stop debating when the singularity will happen. The algorithms have already taken over in the form of markets. The singularity happened with the invention of money, the API for people, and it has just become more pervasive with the rise of the dopamine-hacking attention economy. Though it might sound as if this is a form of bemoaning and my tone nearing hostile, au contraire! I, like any reasonably intelligent person, can understand and still appreciate the hegemonic significance of social media. It may often act as an emblematic 'toilet' of society by undermining real interactions and displacing value to virtual ones, it also undoubtedly increases connectivity and forges an improvement in transparency via instant dissemination. Historically for sex workers in particular, the almighty World Wide Web brought about the democratization of the industry, enabling women to independently control their marketing, dictate their price points and the quality of their clientele. This was a type of empowerment that wasn’t readily accessible before to the full gamut of participants. So utilizing internet sovereignty is absolutely a good thing, especially if it buoys marginalized and stigmatized groups.

At the very least, social media has given us access to masturbation material gratis, and who doesn't love freebies? You won't get that option with me, however. I abide by the Roman maxim "panem et circenses" – insofar as you must give me bread in order to enjoy my circus :).

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