Insights is a weekly series featuring entertainment industry veteran David Bloom. It represents an experiment of sorts in digital-age journalism and audience engagement with a focus on the intersection of entertainment and technology, an area that David has written about and thought about and been part of in various career incarnations for much of the past 25 years. David welcomes your thoughts, perspectives, calumnies, and kudos at email@example.com, or on Twitter @DavidBloom.
This past week, Twitter held a Purge. Unlike the Purges of the Jason Blum horror-movie franchise, this involved plenty of killing, but only of millions of virtual entities, of either the inactive or deeply suspicious sort that have festooned Twitter in recent years.
It was a welcome move, designed in part to demonstrate that Twitter is Getting Very Serious about election hacking this go-around. Thursday’s house-cleaning, not incidentally, comes after Twitter had already vanished another 70 million accounts across May and June. As they say in Twitterland, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.
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The reward for this good deed, of course, was a 1.7% in share prices on Friday, out of a Street concern that overly efficient purging would harm quarter-over-quarter user growth. No doubt left out of Wall Street’s consideration: whether it might be good for Twitter to A) not abet in the destruction of the democracy that makes Wall Street possible and B) have more real users talking about real things and fewer fake ones trying to talk the rest of us into believing them.
If there was any consolation for the idealists among us, even with Friday’s drop, Twitter’s stock is up 127% over the past year as it slowly becomes relevant to investors who finally see it as something other than a briefer, smaller and wholly inadequate Facebook.
But Twitter’s Purge got me thinking about the utility of such an approach elsewhere. Certainly, Facebook and YouTube say they’re hiring fast and laboring mightily to screen crummy content and clear off bad posts and the people/bots who post them. That’s a process on the order of Hercules’ cleaning of the Augean stables. Now if only we had a digital river to divert through this pile of horse poo.
But maybe we all should be thinking about the value of an annual purge of our own personal digital bad actors. What might be on that list? I have a few suggestions:
- Phone notifications. You need your phone. Honest, I get it. I love mine, most of the time, though I’ve had to be firm with it. You too should consider being a little more discriminating about who and what you let it insinuate into your moment-by-moment existence. When apps routinely ask if they can send you notifications, routinely say no. When it comes to the few apps that really should send you notifications, make sure they only come from specific people, like your family. And turn off location services for most apps, most or all of the time. Most of them really don’t deserve to know where you are, most of the time.
- Facebook. This is a big one and, as the outraged and annoyed millions have found over the past 18 months of data-handling scandals, it’s also very hard to do. But maybe you can be more aggressive about who you’re friends with, who gets to post on your feed, and whether you really need to beg for likes with lots of posts of your own. I realize if you’re under 25, Facebook isn’t your problem; it’s probably Instagram or Snapchat. Regardless, hunt for fewer likes, dump those distant or disruptive connections who make your blood bubble, and use the tools the sites give you to narrow the range of other distractions and interruptions they foist on you.
- Cable News Networks. Again, if you’re under the age of 25, this one probably doesn’t apply, but maybe you watch Twitch for five hours a day. And if you’re older (like most people who watch cable news channels), just stop. Particularly in an election year, amid a far-ranging investigation of Russian election meddling, with a pending fight over a Supreme Court nomination, the cable discussions will be all heat, all the time, and provide so little light that you’ll go blind. You can learn more in five minutes of headline scans in a news aggregation app. Plus, you’ll have a richer, more productive and happier life and will notice that fewer people are yelling at you.
- That smug pal who bought Bitcoin four years ago, and won’t stop talking about it. It’s a little bit like the old football coach who told his players not to celebrate after scoring a touchdown: “Act like you’ve been there before.” The one consolation these days: Bitcoin is a third the price it was back in December. But now he’s telling you it’s about to take off again, because all the big boys are getting in, really soon. Invest if you want, but purge him from your eardrums. And don’t talk about your investments with anyone else either. You’ll just be a bigger target for the crypto thieves.
- At least half of all cable TV channels. This slow-motion purge has been going on nationwide for a while, with huge implications for Hollywood. We’ve seen traditional pay TV lose about 20 million subscribers, forcing successful channels to prepare for an Over-The-Top Future, and less-successful channels to prepare for a No Future. Those cord cutters and cord nevers mostly aren’t really gone from TV, BTW (talk about things we can’t quite quit). Instead, they’re purging the hanger-on channels by either getting a skinny/mesomorph bundle of channels delivered over the Internet, or they’re relying on the passwords of parents or pals. But they, like all of us, are downsizing spending on a bunch of channels they don’t care about. That’s a worthy goal for all of us as we head into a new OTT era of television.
You get the idea. And I’m sure you can come up with plenty of suggestions for your own purge-worthy targets. In fact, let me know your favorite candidates. If I get enough good ones, maybe we can make a running list of digital Purge targets.
We also should designate an official Internet Purge Day, similar to what Twitter just did. The day they chose, July 12, actually would be a good day for it, mid-summer when no one’s in school, lots of people are on vacation and we’re all screwing around on social media too much anyway.
Then we can all devote time on that day to cleaning out all the kruft and crummy sites, the fakes, flakes, posers and overposters that we don’t need to have gumming up our digital lives. We’ll all be better for it. Just don’t send me any Facebook posts or iPhone notifications about it.