An Ani DiFranco song from the ’90s, social media wormholes, and what do we do if Twitter breaks as badly as it might? We all have power. How will we use it to do good?

“Coming Up” by Ani DiFranco:

Notes and transcript:

Recorded 11/18/2022.


I rouse myself at the last possible second, berating myself for staying a little too long in the warm bed, telling myself that all of this Mastodon co-host, exploring, figuring out, is personal, is irrelevant, is not about work, and we have work to do. And then... and then I remember that the reason that we are in this position is because somebody at the top of one of those towers from an Ani DiFranco spoken-word piece from like 1999, did not come down. And did not put change in anyone's cup. And so well, we're trying to figure out how we're coming up.

But meanwhile, meanwhile, we are all scrambling to figure out what will fill the gap. Because we all like to complain about social media. But the fact is that Twitter is where I meet people that I would never otherwise meet. Twitter is where I listen to conversations, where I do not and should not have a place in the room, at the table. Twitter is where I learn things. Twitter is where I bump into the most unexpected, most delightful, sometimes the most terrible, people.

And in this moment, I don't have that. In this moment, that is falling away. The entire place is becoming a long-sung requiem. Whether it actually breaks as badly as it could or not, this is the most unnatural death I've seen in social media. And I have literally seen them all. I have literally seen them all, I'm that old. And this is the most abrupt transition.

Which, of course, of course, is about the loss of Twitter specifically, and the way that it opened doors between people, and wormholes between communities, that were never expected. But that changed lives for the better so often. And also, this is about power. Because it's always about power. Because what else can it be about? Who has the power? With a combination of decisions that I still don't fully understand, a bunch of people with power changed that power around, the power changed hands, the site changed hands, the control changed hands, and the change has been disastrous.

So many years of history, of communication, of community building. It's not that different from being bombed. If that were to happen in a virtual space. And regardless of why it's happening, the question now is how do we not- how do we not allow this to modify the DNA of our social presence, of our internet presence? How do we not incorporate this into our systems in a way that leaves us broken?

Because we know now about epigenetic trauma. And we know now what happens when institutions break and fall. We know now what happens when people don't get what they need over long periods of time. We know now what happens when groups of people get attacked over and over and over again, it gets into their blood and bones and DNA. It gets into our hearts. It gets into the way that we behave with each other, it gets into the way that we interact and the things that we expect and the patterns that we set up. It gets into all of that. All of that.

And so what- what do we do now? What do we do now, in the midst of it? Knowing. The way that we are in the midst of a pandemic. Knowing that this is changing our bones and our blood and our flesh and our DNA, and our sense of safety and our sense of hope and our sense of possibility? What do we do now? And one of the things that we can do now is make sure that our own behavior in our own institutions is not like that. And I don't mean, not like that, because none of us, unless I am much mistaken, have access to forty-four billion dollars. What an unthinkable number. And so, we don't have to worry about that specific thing. But it's too easy to write ourselves out of the entire equation just because that is not us.

All of us have power somewhere. This is the refrain. And I know it's my refrain and I will keep saying it because it's true. All of us have power somewhere. All of us are changing some things. All of us influence someone's behavior. All of us. Every last single one of us. And if that is the case, then all of us can check ourselves: Am I making decisions that are in the best interests of the people touched by my institution? Am I making decisions in the best interest of the people engaged with my institution?

What does it mean to have power? And what does it mean to not? In what ways can I improve the lives of the people who know me? In what ways am I destroying their lives inadvertently? Deliberately? In what ways am I accidentally picking up some old pattern that I brought in from somewhere else and replicating it here? In what ways could I replicate good patterns? When have I had a fantastic experience? How can I embody that, when I sit down at my desk or stand at my counter? Or get on the phone? Who shall I be? I don't have to be a hero. But I want to be good. How? How shall I be good for myself? For my community? And for the world?

Thanks for listening. I'll talk to you soon