How I’m doing Social Media right now

Like most people, I have a complicated relationship with social media. On the one hand, posting is free labor for multi-billion, growth-at-all-cost megacorporations that have left us drowning in misinformation. On the other, to put it bluntly, it is where the people are. So if you’re trying to build a reputation for a business or anything else, your only other option is a classified ad in the newspaper.

So I’m still taking the marketing course. That means I have to use my social media more often. What does that look like?

It looks like more posting on Twitter. The platform allows me to use automation services like buffer.com, and I can use their analytics to figure out what kind of content spreads. I get more engagement out of Facebook, but it’s more for keeping in touch with people I already know. Same with instagram. Those platforms also don’t allow automated posting, so I’ll be using them less often.

It also means a bit of Spring cleaning. I’ve been on Facebook and Twitter for more than 10 years, and I don’t need anything I said 10 years ago to embarrass me now. I also want to make separate online identities, basically having a public identity for stuff I create, and private accounts for stuff I consume. Not everybody needs to know I subscribe to wikipedia titles that sound like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I also want to stop following accounts that don’t follow me back. I’m trying cut down on the para-social relationships, you know?

Facebook and Twitter both offer options to download and archive your data. On Twitter, you can use tweetdelete.com to delete all of your tweets before a certain date. Deleting Facebook and instagram posts is trickier because they are more nervous about any automated activity on their site. Plus, they want to make removing your data as slow and ponderous as humanly possible.

When it comes to separating your online identities, you’re going to have accounts you’ll want to keep, accounts you’ll want to get rid of, and accounts you’ll want to follow on another account. To make this process easier, there’s a tool called Phantom Buster that will scrape all that data from your Instagram and Twitter and put it in a handy csv spreadsheet. Phantom Buster is capable of much more complex monitoring tasks, but if you just need to scrape a couple of personal accounts, their 14 day free trial is all you need.

It’s hard to believe after all this time we are still figuring out how this internet thing is supposed to work. What to post, where to post, and how to post is still an open question for most of us. I still think we adhere to the pareto principle here. 80% of the content is likely produced by only 20% of the users. So if you are taking the time to post essays, take photos, or anything else on the internet that’s not consuming, you are already part of an exclusive club. I hope I’ve shown you some tools that can help you manage your online identity in a way that makes you feel comfortable. At its best, social media can help people build communities that just aren’t possible in the real world. I hope to be speaking with more of you out there really soon.

Again, if you want to see me write more without the social media companies getting in the way, you can always subscribe to my mailing list. I’ve figured out the mailchimp templates this time, I promise!

I’m in 30×500!

In a world of sweeping societal change, deadly pandemics, and the creeping spectre of climate change, what can a man do to better himself, his loved ones, and civilization itself?

Well, this man took a marketing course on the internet. Sure, there are worse things I could be doing. I could’ve been renovating and flipping houses, for instance. I admit it’s an underwhelming outcome, but when there’s so much uncertainty, you have to invest in the one resource that’s actually in control: yourself.

I picked a course called 30×500. It’s run by Amy Hoy and Alex Hillman, two very prominent people in my industry. They call it 30×500 because if you create a book, a podcast, or software that 500 people will pay $30 a month for, it works out to $15,000 a month, which is not a bad living.

I’m not sure I’ll make that much. In fact I’ll be ecstatic if I make the tuition back. What I’m really excited about is all the structure that I’ll be giving to all these side projects I’ve had over the years. I’m like most creative people. I come up with ideas constantly, but I don’t have a framework to execute it or get the kind of money to keep working on my ideas. The “30×500 approach” involves choosing and studying audiences so I can come up with the kind of ideas that will provide value. So, I can keep looking for shiny new things to work on, but this way I can find ways to justify them.

You can find out more about this course at stackingthebricks.com. Of course, I’m not just telling you about this because you’re all smart people and I like you. This is course work! I need to tell my audience (that’s you) about all of these new projects that I’m doing if I ever expect them to launch. That’s why I’ve now got a mailing list. I will need you to head to www.james-strocel.com and enter your e-mail into the sidebar. That way my blog posts will head to your mail box no matter what the algorithms on your social media have to say about it. Thanks in advance!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

The Day After, Once Again.

We’re not getting any time to process this. The American government is still in place, but the damage is done, the insult complete. The assault on the Capitol building in Washington D.C. didn’t even get the dignity of having barbarians at the gate. It was carried out by people cosplaying as barbarians. Now it’s coming out that many of the rioters used their statuses as police officers and military veterans to get past the barricades.

It’s so difficult to figure out what I’m looking at here. Yes, there was a riot in the US Capitol. Yes, the rioters were disgruntled Trump supporters. They deserved to fail and get all the consequences this current system of government will afford them. Still, I feel like I’m playing this children’s story of what society is in my head, over and over again. It’s failing to explain all of this.

Is this a worker’s revolt? It doesn’t seem like it, the rioters were based out of the Hilton and flew in on their own dime. The body armor they wore doesn’t come cheap either. Is this the system trying to re-establish itself? If so, why did it fail so spectacularly? Where is this all leading?

There are lots of historical precedents for this. Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, Mussolini’s march on Rome, even the Wilmington Massacre of 1898, which was a turning point in establishing segregation in the American South. The coups in Wilmington and Rome succeeded, and the Beer Hall Putsch led to the prison sentence where Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf”.

The facts are still coming in, but I think one thing is clear: Our ignorance is catching up to us. I didn’t know about the Wilmington Massacre until this week, and I’ve only recently started reading books about white supremacy like “Policing Black Lives” by Robin Maynard or “So you want to talk about Race” by Ijeoma Oluo. If we acknowledged how our societies are built on taking land, labor, and rights away from people we deemed “uncivilized”, we would have had a stronger sense of why Donald Trump’s rioters were wrong and how Black Lives Matter is trying to make our society safer. If we had a better grasp on society as it is, rather than what we wished it was, none of this would have happened.

I want to make a special shout out to everyone who said something like this would happen and were written off as anxious. I for one thought this would end in a comedy chase scene across the Mar-a-lago golf course, but the reality is more unsettling. It’s as if irony is not only dead, but has been re-animated in some kind of uncanny facsimile. It takes more than just anxiety to make these predictions. It also takes imagination and curiosity, qualities we’ll need a lot more of to get us through this.

Year One

So here it is, another 2020 year in review post. Sure, everyone’s doing them, and for good reasons. When you see so many lies fall apart in one year, your only option is to speak your truth.

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. My family is healthy. My friends who got Covid recovered. I never had to stop working. If anything I feel like I got a dress rehearsal for this year in 2019. A tree fell on my in-laws house at the beginning of the year, and a pipe burst in my house flooding my family room at the end of it. We only just cleared out the clutter in our storage area from when we had to scramble posessions in and out of both houses in time for the new year. By the time the pandemic hit, it felt like it was just the latest in the series of crises. This was before the riots and the forest fires, of course.

I’m still crushed and exhausted by this year, but I think I might have underestimated my capacity a little. I don’t think stress is a true binary, like newtons of force or the seconds of time. You can maintain a holding pattern during a crisis, but suddenly you take on more work willingly and find more resiliency. Is it because you’re choosing your own ordered pain over the chaos of the world? Maybe. There are probably some really good studies about it that I don’t have in front of me right now.

It’s easy to focus on the negative. Our ancestors who only focused on the positive didn’t live to tell the tale. That tiger’s not going to care how many blessings you’ve counted if you don’t stay alert in the underbrush. There’s so much danger now, and not all of it clear and present, that we have to triage in ways that only Homo Sapiens can. 2020 wrecked us in ways that our ancestors couldn’t comprehend. How could we have foreseen that we would know exactly what to do to keep everyone alive, but not do it because our power structures wouldn’t allow it? We are used to thinking that our leaders are accountable, but the fact is during an emergency we are kind of held hostage by their incomplete decision making. Competing for control over those power structures isn’t going to help. This crisis was created by the concentrations of power we already have. To replicate those systems is to repeat our own mistakes.

This is why 2021 is the year we find our friends. No matter what form our society takes in the coming year, it will be made from the same thing: people. We need to find where we stand within our communities. We’re not out of the pandemic yet, so this is going to be tricky. The major social networks make this difficult, because they are about “engagement” and not communication. If you’ve ever taken a week off Facebook, you’ll notice how your notification bell howls in anguish at your absence. If you have connections you value on Facebook or Twitter, see if you can talk to them on some place smaller, like through a text message or a phone call. If you are able to, set up your own website to host your content. Put a link to your stuff in the comments wherever you are reading this. Put out more art, put out more thoughts, do not be a passive consumer to fate. We are still creating the future here.

A True Struggle

If the past is a different country, we are all a long way from home. All of our vacations, concerts and conventions have been cancelled. Millions are out of work. Hundreds of thousands are dead. The United States has been in constant civil unrest since George Floyd was murdered by police on May 25th. For comparison, the 1968 riots following Martin Luther King’s assassination only lasted 4 days.

What’s really infuriating is all the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, chances people in power got to make things right. So many peaceful protests, so much patience. Now all that goodwill has run out, and rightly so. The protesters who burned down that Minneapolis precinct enacted more change in a single week than most organizers can manage in decades. It’s got people worried that things are moving too fast, but we already know the consequences of moving too slowly. We’re living in them right now.

What’s more, I just feel betrayed when friends, teachers, and older relatives sound off on social media about “the rioters” and “the looters”. Like all those lives ruined by the police are acceptable casualties of a just society. Like they don’t matter. Especially sickening is this open letter published Harper’s magazine signed by intellectual magnates such as Malcolm Gladwell and Margaret Atwood. The letter defends the idea of having a “good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences”.

It’s one of those lovely liberal screeds that sounds perfectly reasonable if you remove it from the context of this universe. People don’t have equal access to free speech. There is a difference between an article in Harper’s magazine and a twitter account. The editor they mentioned that was “fired for running controversial pieces” ran an op-ed about how the US government should use military force against civilian protesters. One of the letter’s signatories, J.K. Rowling, has wrote several articles against the very existence of transgendered people, using the same logic that gets them regularly fired, de-homed, and murdered.

It is a chilling love letter to objectivity and the “marketplace of ideas”. People are now dying in the streets because of this so-called civility. People like Diaz Summer, who was killed on the same stretch of road where I used to drive my family on vacation. There have been 66 incidents of protesters being run over since George Floyd was murdered on May 25th. Do you think those drivers are swayed by “exposure, argument, and persuasion”? There is no debating with people like that. Certainly not the police who share memes like “all lives splatter”. Debate is something that takes place between parties who respect each other as equals, not between wannabe murderers and their potential victims. This is a letter is a call to treat real people’s pain like it’s an abstract thought experiment. It’s repulsive.

This is not to say that debating is useless, or that violence is inevitable. We can accept that there will be conflict in this day and age. We can accept that we have limited time and energy, and we don’t have to spend it on people who are going to be willfully ignorant. We focus so much on our relatives who share conservative memes and articles because of something called a Negativity bias. It is a real psychological phenomenon that causes us to focus on unpleasant things like your favourite children’s author going full TERF. I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading this, for every high-school classmate who loudly proclaims they won’t take a COVID vaccine, you have at least 10 friends who are sharing protest news, bail fund donations, and links to social justice petitions. Message them, empower them, like, comment, and subscribe to what they’re sharing. We cannot depend on our leaders, we cannot depend on our elders, and we absolutely cannot depend on so-called liberal intellectuals who can’t stomach a mean comment on twitter. What can depend on, dear readers, is each other.