What If Twitter Is Actually Empty

OK. Hear me out before you reply and do as Twitter says and read the post before commenting. The bottom line is, I don’t believe all the things in the post, but I do find it interesting to think about in the age of the modern web. Throwing around ideas and then debunking them in your own mind is a good exercise for finding truth when people are trying to deceive you — like they are on Twitter.

A couple of days ago I was introduced to a conspiracy theory that at first glance seems pretty out there. As with all of them, you’re never quite sure if people actually believe it or are just messing with others. The basis of the idea is that the internet died five years ago. Most, if not all, of the human created content you see online is populated by artificial intelligence and all the actual humans are gone.

If you search the phrase i hate texting on Twitter and scroll down, you will start to notice a pattern. – Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic

Seems out there doesn’t it. However, how many people on Twitter do you really know? Like in person know, a handful, more? As a percentage of the total people you follow I’ll bet it’s low — well all the others could be AI bots couldn’t they. Sounds bonkers, but when you consider that the PPC estimates that in 2020 at least 37.2% of all internet users were robots, and in 2016 they were responsible for 52% of the web traffic. Suddenly you start looking at the people you follow on Twitter with a side eye.

white robot near brown wall

It wouldn’t take much to fool us. There are already bots pretending to want to date you, pretending to be helpful customer service assistants, and much more besides. It wouldn’t take much artificial intelligence to tweet interesting things often enough for us to follow them.

What about other interaction I hear you all say. What about the blog posts, photos, and perhaps even videos that they also post online? The unwelcome news is that other content is pretty easy to fake too. Remember Tom Cruise playing golf? Ask yourself if that person you follow, interact with, and look up to could be fake and the answer is usually a high possibility.

Of course, this conspiracy theory goes much deeper into talking about the agendas of those that control the bots and the “various corporations that are in cahoots with the government to control our thoughts”. Which at this point I am surprised there isn’t some lizard people involved. However, let’s not forget that operations by organisations have been proven to influence not only election results but also general feelings around sensitive subjects. There isn’t much of a leap to suggest that corporations and more ‘friendly’ governments are using similar tactics.

I think you would be surprised how many bots you interact with daily, and these kinds of topics are interesting to think about. Then again, I could be a bot and this is simply to distract you from what is really going on!

The Death Of A Newsletter

It is with great sadness that I announce the death of a good friend of yours. The Greg Thinks Thing newsletter sadly passed away in its sleep because of neglect. It has a good run, reaching the ripe on age of fifty-two editions, and leaves behind much of its content in the form of blog posts ‘retconned’ into my blog as if it has always been there.

But seriously it’s gone. I tried my best to keep it going but since no more working from home and more blogging going on, I just don’t have the time to write it. Many of the resent things I tried to write specifically for the newsletter felt forced, or rehashes of blog posts so I will leave this excellent platform to those more suiting of sending things straight to your email inbox.

It served a great purpose though. I sailed along at the boom time when everyone and their pet hamster had a newsletter and wrote more during what was a tough time for me and my family due to COVID and national lockdown(s). It gave me something extremely specific to aim for and make sure that despite everything going on around me I published something very personal and got a lot of things off my chest. Sending them to people that really wanted to read them.

Which brings me to a larger point about the purposes of the things that I do. Newsletters started off very personal things, sent straight to us directly without messing about online. Like a direct message from a friend filled with thoughts and ideas. However, this has changed, newsletters are now a massive industry with top notch writing that is only available through email. Often linked to more controversial publishing Substack has also managed to gather up some writers that want to stand on their own and publish exclusive things only to the people that want to read them. Hiding everything away unless you pay for it.

Whereas I want the opposite. I have fallen back in love with writing again and long may it continue to bring my joy. I want people to get my thoughts however they want. Social Media, RSS, reading apps and there are even service out there like Mailbrew that will package it back up to an email if that’s your preferred method. Reading and writing is the most important thing for me, and the small thoughts that maintained more than fifty editions of my newsletter will just be blog posts now.

Thank you to those that read the editions. Or didn’t, you just signed up and that was enough. I enjoyed writing them immensely but it’s time to focus on different things and let those that can write better than I take you money and ping your inbox.

Refill My Glass

How do you write a follow up post? Especially one where you’ve changed your mind just because someone on the internet said you should have stuck it out? Or do you avoid writing it at all and just hide away in blissful ignorance. Those are questions for other days, but today I will write it because I did change my mind and return to using Glass and I am glad I did.

I did the same thing with Hey — the now divisive email app — and flip flopped around before diving in for a year. Glass is different though, I don’t really know what to do with it but I can’t leave it because it just looks so good. I missed looking at the awesome photographs in one of the best designed apps I have used for a long time. It was simply the lack of being able to find such an enjoyable experience anywhere else that lead me to begrudgingly stump up the £25 entrance fee and post a photo.

I don’t want to write about Instagram again, because all those words have been said. Yet the lack of every other existing service is the very reason I was pushed again to Glass. As much as the lack of interaction on my photos was annoying, and the same appearance of the photos I saw is still true using a different service with different aims takes a change in mindset.

I don’t want Glass to be another social media service where I follow everyone that I know (obviously I will do) I want it to be something different. I just want to look at nice photos that people are proud off and at the moment Glass is chocked full of them.

As everyone posts their best photos from their highlights and no doubt catches up with all the great photos, they have taken over the years I am impressed by the standard of shots. In fact, I am almost embarrassed to post some of mine, because they don’t feel up to the excellent standard of those I am scrolling past.

I have deleted so many photos that I thought were great at the time, and fine on Instagram – but now I am playing photographer I am not so sure!

Minimalism And Big Phones

Try as I might to be a good minimalist, I get lost along the way every now and again. I am never sure if I am doing this right, not spending too much time on taking instruction or being aware of how others deal with things. Yet there is one thing that I see constantly around those that title themselves minimalists and that is their aversion to technology and particularly phones with big screens.

I don’t use minimalism as a destination. I am not as crazed as some people that visit the sub Reddit and constantly worry about ridding themselves of more stuff, I just like having less things. What I do have, and what I do, gets some thought put into it and I only purchase what I really need in my life.

When it comes to tech, I love new things. I can’t help it, it’s my one weakness, and at this point I have given up fighting it. I spend quite a lot of my life online for my job and enjoy using my phone more than most minimalists would let themselves and I am perfectly happy with that. To me, my life is about making informed choices, being aware when those are being taken away from me and being willing to take a step back when needed. Which brings me to my feelings towards using big phones.

Hey look, you do you, but I used to give myself a tough time whenever I used one (that doesn’t sound like me at all does it). Sure, a smaller phone in general makes me much happier, but when you put thought into a purchase and having something bigger adds value to you, these feelings shouldn’t exist.

I constantly think about the people that worry themselves silly because they feel that minimalism means they must have less and less at the detriment of themselves. These is no end point, or goal to achieve, simply some rough things for you to think about whenever you think about bringing new things into your life. Being mindful of the things that you do, and the things that you buy to ensure you get the most amount of value possible. If a bigger screen on a phone does that for you, or I, then that’s great.

I have flaws in the way I approach tech in lots of ways. I am mindful of the way it can manipulate me, but also open to new way of looking at things. I like having a bigger phone because it is one of the devices, I use the most. I communicate on it for my job, my personal life and I write much of my blog on it. Couple this with the fact my eyesight isn’t what it was, and a bigger phone just gives me more value and I am sure it would do for others too.

I wrote many of these thoughts as a process for myself to understand why I am thinking about getting a max when then new iPhones come around but feel free to use these as your own excuse to not feel bad.

Writing Consistently

It’s hard work writing all the time. Some people seem to find it impressively easy and set off my imposter syndrome constantly. Yet for the most of us having the inspiration and then sitting down and actually writing the thing can become a mammoth task. Even more so when you do it constantly as there are so many things in life that can get in the way. When a friend of mine asked recently how I write so much, I looked bemused because I don’t write that much really. Not much that sees the light of day anyway, but perhaps my targets are much more than others.

There is no easy fix for publishing. A lot of the time you simply have to get out of your own way, and stop trying to fulfil demands you can’t meet. Everyone has big ideas, and can promise themselves, and others, to meet a level that they think they need to. However life always has a habit of getting in the way, and being present in the day to day things is more important that staring at your computer urging yourself to write something.

My writing comes and goes. At the moment I am publishing more regularly, but I am not worried when at points I don’t have much time to sit down and write something to publish. I don’t put pressure on myself to achieve certain levels, Mainly because I don’t make any money from my blog despite a few adverts and despite the fact that I like people on the web, my personal life is much more important to me.

I make loads of mistakes. Typos galore, and my grammar is never up to some many peoples standard (I have been turned down for so many writing positions it’s crazy) but that’s OK. Despite my imposer syndrome I have gotten used to just hitting publish and not worrying about it.

Sitting In The Chair is my most important, and most read, bit of advice to date. Simply writing stuff is the key to publishing more online. Much of what I write day to day is for me, formulating thoughts, recording things and linking ideas together. This could be journalling, putting things into Day One, or making daily notes, the most important thing is that you (and I) are writing things out.

It might sound like a meaningless tautology, but the reason I write so much is because I write so much — and you should too.

My Glass Half Full

The two week free trial I had in place for Glass comes up for renewal today and I am really conflicted. To the point where I think I might sit and wait for a bit before jumping in. Granted the cost is only £26 for a year currently, so what I stand to loose is minimal — but what I stand to gain isn’t exactly much either.

I stand by much of the thoughts I had originally in that I do really like the way it works. The founders of the company really seem to want to make something great for photographers, and I trust them to stay stead fast on their founding aim to avoid all of the social trappings spoken about when pitching the app. However my worry is I just want anything but Instagram and this is just the latest in a long line of attempts to replace it.

These thoughts on getting into yet another social platform do not happen in a vacuum either. Since diving back into taking pictures I have been thinking about what kind of pictures I like to take and also why I enjoying taking pictures in the first place. Worry isn’t the right word to use, but I certainly think about who I take photos for and why I share them. The words I use to describe it can have lots of delusions of grandeur. Using words like “artistic” and “self expression” when in reality they could simply be to try and make me look cool on the internet.

A Bit Of Validation

I havn’t quite found my ‘thing’ yet and as such take very varied photos, and the reality is I want other people to like them. They are taken as much for me as they are other people and I do worry constantly about making them good enough to share because they are important to me. James Popsys talked about making his photos about something, not just of something. Which really speaks to me when I start to think about capturing a split second of a scene and try to tell the story of why I took that image. Composing a story in one split second when the world around is constantly changing is like meditation to me.

But with all this fluffiness going on, turns out I like my images being validated and Glass doesn’t do that for me. I know this is the whole reason the platform was built, and I agree with its goal but maybe I just don’t need that at this point in my journey. I have a sinking feeling that my photos are not good enough when compared with the smaller number but higher percentage of actual photographers on Glass and they just disappear into the app.

When I scroll through the app, the people I follow are also very minimal. Many of those that flocked to the app have fallen off already, with many more to follow once the end of their two weeks trial arrives. In which case I may be left with a ghost town of dead accounts and photos that all seem to look the same.

Although they are improving things slowly the discovery is not where I want it to be, and the resultant people to follow list features loads of people that take the same kind of pictures and offer me very little in return. Invites are specificity being shared with a more diverse pool of photographers currently but even that doesn’t seem to have moved the needle yet. It doesn’t have much to do with diversity, but everything to do with an iPhone only, invite only barrier to entry — which could be intentional.

I knew this newness would wear off, and I knew that I had reservations right from the start. Don’t mistake this post for a full on trashing as I still think that in the long run apps like this are needed – I just don’t think it is for me currently. Turns out I quite like getting a few likes.

Update: Follow up here where I changed my mind and went back!

Filtering Out The Noise

In case you’ve switched off, or reading my blog for the first time, you will have noticed that I am struggling to use social media in all of its forms – but particularly Twitter. The constant moving nature of the service, coupled with its instance on surfacing the very worst of that constantly flowing information, leaves me feeling exhausted and upset at the world. Sometimes it feels impossible to keep up with all that is going on and that’s because I simply don’t need to.

Social media puts millions of people in front of our face every minute of everyday. Meaning that you can easily communicate with more people than ever before in human history. The bad news is, they can also communicate with you, and the noise can become too much very quickly. Filtering out the noise and getting to the important things easily is one of the most useful skills to learn if you want to live on the web, and lets be honest in this day and age you have to.

What may seem interesting and important now may be completely irrelevant and uninteresting in a few days. – Christian Bager Bach Houmann

The millions of people in front of you can lure you into a false sense of what is important. If 1% of Twitter gets upset at something that’s million of people, but if 1% of your fiends did it wouldn’t be important at all. Without constant mindful thought, the large scale of social media can dangerously push you down rabbit holes to taking in information that simply doesn’t matter. It has a habit of portraying a false senses of importance and urgency towards topics that in very short order become unimportant. However it is only you that can decide what is really important to you.

I find that saving things to read later helps a lot, allowing me to delete articles that no longer interest me when I get around to catching up. Leaving some space between discovery and reaction often dulls the urgency felt to topics and also allows me to get a much fuller picture of what actually goes on. Only then will I try and formulate my thoughts on topics that matter, often in the form of a new note in Obsidian.

Writing about the things that matter and the things that I learn is huge. This doesn’t have to be blogging, although that would be great, but just writing something down is key. mUch like having a second brain for tasks — journaling, making notes in a system, or starting a full on knowledge tree will help to filter noise and has the added benefit of helping to retain much more important information.

The constant need to publish all of our half baked thoughts to anyone that will listen is not a new idea. It has existed almost as long as humans have existed. The only things that has changed is the scope of communication and the availability of the platforms. The internet is not to blame for the pressure we all feel, but some simple things do help with cutting down the noise. Being clear about the things that really matter and being aware when you are being sold something different is key.

Other Peoples Trash Can

I am sure I will keep going on about it, and also spam my Instragram now, but having a camera back is a great feeling. I am no Peter McKinnon but to try and build my skills as much as possible I have been watching loads of YouTube, and one point in particular has struck a cord with me and applies to so much of life.

James Popsys discuses some tips for beginner photographers, not the usual shutter speed and ISO stuff, but actual practice advice on getting better. You see, in photography it’s pretty hard to judge how well your progression is coming on. The easy thing to do is compare your images to ones shared by your favorite photographers and get down beat about it. While it’s important to remember their skill level is something to aim for, what we don’t see is their trash can.

For every stunning image shared there are hundreds, if not thousands, of images in the bin. All we see is the polished end result curated to share online, and that goes for almost everything in life. For every runner that jogs past your flat out sprint. Or every writer pushing out amazingly written concise posts. We don’t see the whole story. No one is present for the painful miles of hard work, the deleted drafts and indeed everything else that goes on behind the scenes.

This could be said for all social media too, comparing your insides to others outsides can be completely demotivating when you are trying to learn a skill or just get better at something. What is worse is that we all know it with ourselves, we pick the best of everything to showcase, but forget when consuming others work. However keeping in mind other peoples trash can is exactly the same as yours can be vitally important.

I am a big proponent of marginal gains, and improving steadily and consistently over time in whatever it is we choose to do. Spending time to make sure we are working towards a goal at all times and only using others to motivate us in the correct way. No matter how good the end product may be, we all have a trash can full of rubbish that never sees the light of day.

Having A Camera

It was a very quick thought that flowed through one day when writing out edition 33 of my newsletter. A fleeting emotion that struck me when I was thinking about what had happened that week. A week where I had mourned not having a camera around, and not been able to do what I enjoyed. It was strange how not having one thing in my possession pulled on my strings that I ever anticipated, and felt somewhat embarrassing to admit to publicly.

In April this year I chose to sell my A7iii camera due to lack of use, and wanting to slim down my possessions to a level that I was happy with. I am a minimalist, but sometimes I forget and tend to have to go through a purge every now and again to calm things down. I felt a huge pang when delivering it to its new owner, but due to seeing no end in sight of the pandemic knew I couldn’t leave it gathering dust much longer. Since then I didn’t think much of it, until two weeks ago.

Our progression out of periodic lockdowns has progressed dramatically over the last couple of months. Now things are opening back up, I have more opportunity to get out and about. Had I known things would go this fast I perhaps would not have chosen to sell so soon, but I digress. This thought of not having a camera, made me feel quite sad. It is silly to get emotional over a possession, but this one in particular signified an important part of my personality and for that I mourned more than a little.

For fear of repeating myself, there is just something about holding and using a camera that means a lot to me. As good as lenses and sensors get in smartphones (and I have used loads of them) they just can’t compete in my eyes. Are there loads of people more talented than me? Sure, but in my head I am a photographer (my editing sucks a bit though) but not having a camera made me not feel like one anymore. Even more so saying it out load.

I am glad to say that my wife got fed up of me talking about it, thinking about it, and of course procrastinating, and bought me an A7c (my reasoning for not buying another A7iii is too long to go into) and I can’t wait to get it. I’m planning on shooting more street things and documenting my increased traveling so this compact FF shooter should be perfect. I also feel like I have a bit of myself back — I am never doing this again.

Want to contribute towards a new lens 😆

Be Happy It Happened

Recently myself and my wife were talking about death. Nothing happened, it’s just the weird way our minds work and we often end up walking down strange conversational paths, and this one was no different. We both have very different view points on passing on, and although I have no ability to affect the way others feel or what they do after I go, I know one thing for sure — no sadness.

My words were along the lines of “if any of you lot wear black to my funeral I will haunt you”. Which is my tongue in cheek way of making my point that although I am sure you are sad I am gone, please celebrate the time I was here. I’m not egotistical enough to claim everyone should feel blessed I was in their lives, but please be happy of the legacy I leave behind. Even if it is dad jokes and bad blog posts. Be happy you had something and not sad it’s gone.

Then it suddenly hit me. This is exactly the opposite of what I have been doing about working from home. I have been moping around and morning the loss of WFH instead of being happy that I had the opportunity to experience it for more than a year. I had no right to work from home, but had an excellent experience that I was lucky to have. An experience, during a pandemic, that many did not have and their lives have changed for the worse because of it.

Like a marriage break up or a loss, I am happy that I managed to have this experience. I really enjoyed it, I am more than open to returning to something like it in the future and in actual fact I will strive to achieve it. However I realise that I am not entitled to work from home, there are many benefits to being in a more social environment. Although I do need lots of down time to recharge my batteries, I like being able to work collectively in person as it suits me well.