Something that’s been increasingly notable over the past week or so is not a thing, but the absence of a thing.
When I’m getting some work done in the evening, I find myself every hour or so going to check social media, FaceBook and Twitter primarily. It struck me tonight how little I’m seeing posted, particularly on Twitter.
FaceBook’s algorithm tends to give you the same number of posts no matter what, preferring things “ripped from the headlines,” but lacking that you’ll get something from a friend of a friend talking about how their cat stole a waffle off their plate. But Twitter is a firehose – for those who you’re following, you’ll see pretty much everything they’ve posted in your feed.
The difference I’m seeing manifests itself two ways, depending on how you slice the time axis. I don’t have the time to spend hours and hours and hours on Twitter, so I tend to open it up and work backwards through the current batch of tweets, with the app putting a break in after some more or less fixed amount. 100? 200? I don’t know, but after X number of tweets you get a “Show more Tweets” prompt, which is generally where I bail.
During the crazy times when the GOQ was in charge in Washington, that X number of tweets would take me back ten or fifteen minutes and give me a snapshot of what was going on. These days it takes me back almost two hours, or more.
Conversely, if after going back through a batch of X tweets I hit the “See new Tweets” prompt, after spending fifteen minutes or so going through that first batch, I would get hundreds of new tweets, sometimes (January 6th, anyone?) thousands. These days, I get maybe a dozen. Sometimes less.
It’s not that I’m following fewer people, and I was never following any bots or trolls that might have gotten booted from the platform. It’s got to be that people are posting far fewer tweets these days than they were last month and in 2020.
Why? Well, isn’t it obvious? We’re not all being drowned in lunacy and bullshit, awash in a tidal wave of outright insanity and trying to keep in touch with each other and figure out what was going on and how we could survive. We don’t seem to need to do that nearly as much these days.
I’m sure we’ll get back to picking up the pace with tweets about hobbies, families, sports, and once COVID’s behind us, travel, and get togethers with friends. But for now, we’re all just taking a breath and a break.
Meanwhile, my checking in every hour or so seems to be a symptom of PTSD or some other condition, similar to those found in soldiers returning from combat, where they’re hyper vigilant all of the time. Mentally, the threats and chaos of the last four years have left us all with a bit of a “thousand yard stare,” and it will take some time to decompress and stop checking social media repeatedly, waiting for the next existential threat to pop up.