thoughtwisps One commit at a time

outrage euphoria and other nootropics of the hivemind age

This post was finished on the 28th December, 2019.

There is something about it that, one cannot deny, makes it impossible to look away. After all, 280 characters seems to be almost designed to generate posts that lack the space to deal with subtleties and nuances. We take the grey and make it into black and white. More fire for the outrage machine.

I’m old enough to remember what the web was like before Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr came along. It wasn’t a palace of polished Bootstrapped interfaces, but a bazaar of homemade CSS and HTML. We made websites on Geocities, mostly by studying the source code of good looking websites we found by surfing hyperlinks (do people do this anymore?). It also wasn’t so damn addicting. There was no place I would’ve gladly spent 2+ hours scrolling and clicking. Now, there does not seem to be a shortage of sites that are happy to hijack and monetise the shit out of your attention. It turns out our brains are addicted to novelty, to tiny morcels of low calorie information that we can react to with minimal effort.

I wrote this piece in the aftermath of a massive Twitter pile-on on a famous figure in the US tech scene who wrote an article filled with somewhat controversial advice for women-in-tech. My kneejerk reaction was somewhere betweeen “this engineer is one of those fuck-you-got-mine’s (a phrase that was actively used in the women-in-tech community a few years ago to describe women who seemed to have “made it” in the tech world and were unwilling to throw the ladder back down)” and “this advice actually makes sense in the imperfect world we live in”.

In either case, tech Twitter went into a meltdown of sorts after the publication of this person’s post.

All of a sudden, person after person dunked on the writer and started subtweet threads after subtweet threads. After spending some time looking at the aftermath, I found a disturbing emotion within myself. A part of me was logging into Twitter and scouring the inflammartory threads just to experience a, well, a kind of dopamine rush or outrage euphoria, a kind of personification of the popcorn eating -gif that is sometimes posted when an internet dramageddon is about to go down.

I realised that my lizard brain’s affinity for petty gossip has been amplified by this website. In fact, this website has molded my lizard brain to think in terms of the medium. I find myself frequently daydreaming in tweets these days: a thought comes into my head and suddenly my fingers are itching to tweet it out, my brain frantically shifting around words to make sure it fits into 280 characters. And when there is a dramageddon going down on the website, the lizard brain can’t help but scroll on and on in glee trying to dig up more and more tweets and subtweets piling on the person. Bring out the popcorn, but don’t expect it to satiate you.