Matt Marshall

20 Posts with Tag capitalism (All tags)

Reflections on my Facebook use

It's long been a goal of mine to stop using Facebook for the majority of my social interaction on the web. The seminal blog post Get your loved ones off Facebook explains just some of the nefarious practices of the site, and since I've on a massive data ownership push lately I'm not overly comfortable with the notion of Facebook ad tracking (rant on ads coming soon). Do I also need to mention their dodgy newsfeed experiments?

Other than that, the centralising of the web into a commercial communications service frightens me to death; my socialist (cough communist cough) leanings already mean that the fact Facebook is a large corporation extracting profit from millions of workers who are essentially working for free (see Dmytri Kleiner) makes my skin crawl. On top of that, they're looking to launch their own web platform bundled into Messenger which will allow companies to use their services and develop apps/bots that interact with customers through Messenger. The principle is that if you're a start-up and can't really afford to invest in your own infrastructure, then you can use the service to reach your customer base digitally nontheless. I love the idea of commissioning platforms generally, but the corporate hegemonising of Messenger's app platform is sickening. A better approach to commissioning is (shameless plug for my lab) App Movement but I think even the centralised way that the platform operates doesn't make it a true grassroots approach.

Facebook recently also diversified its 'Like' function into 'Reactions', giving us a slightly less narrow range of ways to express our feelings at a post whilst still providing them with button clicks. This also provides them with an extra dimension of data to sell to advertisers, as people are now increasingly sharing links instead of status updates so the data they receive needs to be enrichened. In fact, the Belgian police force recently advised against using reactions for this reason.

I also feel that there is an obvious problem about a single large corporation owning what is arguably one of the most widely used communications platforms in the world :-/.

So this all adds up to me beginning to pull out of Facebook; or rather saying I will. No matter how much I complain and tell myself to just get out... I find myself browsing the site as consistently as ever. The next part of this post is largely a diary entry reflecting on my Facebook usage and trying to devise ways in which to get out.

What do I use Facebook for?

Upon reflection, I find that the main activity that I use Facebook for is actually semi-mindless browsing of news aggregate. This probably doesn't surprise most people, but it surprised me because I thought that I was a lot more involved than that. I'd say that the majority of my Facebook usage comes from mobile (browser, not app) whilst commuting, idling waiting for people to arrive etc. Of this, I'd say that most of my interactions with Facebook stories consist almost solely of either clicking to read, liking, or sharing. I'm not even sure why I like things tbh -- I don't look back on it. It's largely just a habit formed from liking friends' posts.

I do appreciate my friends' posts. Particularly a few closer friends who post interesting content, and share interesting articles I wouldn't normally read. I sometimes comment on statuses to show support or a more concrete form of appreciation than a Like. I also enjoy Facebook groups, the communities that arise from them, and actually I enjoy Page content quite a lot (again -- news for the most part).

I rarely post statuses. I'd argue that over the last year (and certainly over the last six months) the content I've submitted to Facebook has consisted by-and-large of sharing articles/news that makes me angry / happy / sad, and also posting images that form humble-brags of what I'm up to or have produced (like my sweet-ass Sushi plates) in attempt to validate my activities. I'm also tagged in quite a few photos from when I've visited others that I enjoy seeing

The messaging service is another one that I use a fair amount. There are those who I speak to largely through Messenger, and would miss out on conversations with them otherwise. They're relatively few and far between though, and the thing I'd miss out on is actually the group chats. I'd also probably miss out on random people contacting me, which is always fun.

So what do I do?

I think I can tackle the mindless browsing fairly simply. I've already begun the process of adding an RSS reader to my site, which will allow me to browse news aggregate here rather than visiting Facebook. I should actually start making a log of what I like to click on / find interesting in order to get a good map of what to start bringing in. Content discovery (ie new feeds / sources etc) might be tricky, since I won't be pulling in Facebook posts such as shares from friends. I might actually go back to using StumbleUpon, and then adding feeds as I discover them.

Friends' posts present a problem, although this forms a relatively small part of my Facebook interaction. I won't be pulling in Facebook content here, I'll need to keep up with them some other way (or sign into Facebook to see them specifically).

Posting statuses and sharing articles won't be a problem. Sometime in the future I might POSSE to Facebook (with an explicit request of course, unlike Twitter) when I want to share links to people. Posting photos also probably won't be an issue. It's on the books to integrate images and gallery functionality into Brimstone, and if I'm absolutely desperate for people to see my humble-brags then I can just POSSE a link to Facebook as a post. Tagging will just have to bugger off for now.

Messenger provides a trickier problem, as I do value the group chats and relatively random encounters a lot. Individuals that I'm serious about talking to, for the most part, are usually willing to contact me via Telegram. I might consider hooking up a notification over here to notify me of a message, or a new conversation but that is a lot of effort. For now I'd be satisfied just using messenger.com and avoiding the main Facebook site.

If you've read this, thanks for reading to the end. As mentioned this was largely a diary entry for reflection on my use of Facebook and the cognitive dissonance that I experience when browsing it.

diary facebook privacy capitalism

I've been listening to a lot less podcasts and reading a lot more books recently. I figure it's due to the increased presence of advertising in Podcasts; like I actually have an ethical problem with adverts.

Dystopian future: books / stories are centralised via Amazon who will interrupt your reading every x pages or y minutes to show you an ad.

capitalism books media podcasts audio ads advertising amazon

I'm sure this has been said a million times but is anyone else concerned that Jeff Bezos looks a lot like Lex Luthor from comic books and has enough money to set up supervillain lairs?

capitalism amazon

"So the social order is protected not by preventing “self-expression” and identity formation but encouraging it as a way of forcing people to limit and discipline themselves — to take responsibility for building and cleaning their own cage" - Rob Horning

Wow. This hit hard.

capitalism liberalism social media

Routine is a tool, not the point

I seem to have given off the impression that my routine is the most important thing in the world to me and while this is partially true on the surface; it is for wholly different reasons than most people think. I think folks might view me as having this rigid, highly-disciplined, approach to constructing my day. And that deviation from it causes me severe distress. From my perspective, I've developed routines as a tool to ensure that I manage to fit in the things which are important to me.

Contrary to what neoliberal "self-help" books say to you, we don't each have the same 24 hours a day. The ruling classes have staff and people they pay to do labour. Beyoncé has a staff to deal with mundane things so she can focus on what's important to her either personally or professionally. This means that within a given rotation of the planet some people have several hundred hours of other people's time feeding into their lives, and 24h to do what they want. Some of us (probably most of us) don't even necessarily have a full 24h or even 18h to ourselves (18h presumes only a 6h sleep by the way). We work (notably for others), we have responsibilities of care, to feed ourselves, to provide for a family (whatever shape your family has).

Not all of this work is drudgery, and is an essential part of being human. The work that we enjoy naturally energises us and the work we hate naturally exhausts us. I'd also argue that sometimes it's more complicated than that and something we hate doing under certain combinations of circumstance becomes something we look forward to doing under different conditions. For example; I thoroughly enjoy cooking for myself and others but if I've had to work late I often dislike the fact that now I need to spend some of my previous evening time just feeding myself to be able to work the next day.

Often it's little things that can keep us going. Small moments to take for ourselves to feed our wellbeing. We're told this all the time through the class-war that is self-help, and even through well-meaning interactions with others (usually Liberals).

What is not often talked about is the stress that comes about when you've done the reflecting and have arrived at a bunch of things that you know make you feel better; but you've been unable to fit them in because of X or Y. You then get to experience the underlying problem of not having the space for feeding your well-being (which was the problem in the first place) but now you've got an additional level of stress caused by the fact that you now know you could've felt better and what you could've done to achieve this if only things were a little different.

In my experience something about knowing this makes it feel worse; you can now imagine how you could've felt just a little better as you deal with the next round of things-you-have-to-do. Does eating spicy pizza once a fortnight/week/month make you feel good? Does meditation, running, or strength training? Maybe you like to go to the pub for a quiet drink at the end of week, or a local gig. Good on you for knowing this (seriously) but now you also know you haven't been able to do these things. Ignorance wasn't bliss, but this now feels a little sad and you can feel yourself fraying at the edges.

Routine is the way I manage to actually fit a few of my favourite things in. I'm not inflexible at all and in fact, given the appropriate space, will fall into more of a natural rhythm than anything resembling a routine. I know that exercise is one of the foundation stones to making myself feel well. I get up at an early hour and don't stay up late because that's what's necessary to being able to fit it in consistently and in a way that makes me happy. I know that spending some time alone during the week reading or watching a movie on my laptop is essential to keeping me sane, so that's why I've drawn a line around some of my evenings.

It can come across as rigid, as if the routine itself is what keeps me going - but it's the activities within it that I care about. The routine is the tool, not the point. In order to do what I love and feel non-alienated from certain elements of my life I need to feed my soul. In order to feed my soul I need to create the time to do so. Except we cannot create time. So I draw a line in the sand based on my needs.

For some things it's not even about time but just scheduling things on certain days to ensure I get around to them. I have a bunch of favourite foods and while I enjoy most things, there are certain things that transcend culinary pleasure into a joy. Sometimes it's pizza, or sometimes it's sushi. You get the point. I seem to have a rough schedule of eating these things on particular nights to the point where it seems quite funny to outsiders. Friday, for example, is spicy-veggie-bbq pizza night. Sunday lunchtime is veggie-sausage-wraps. Every second Thursday I give up my evening to do activism, so I buy in some sushi. It's not that I need to have these things on those exact days - it's just roughly the best time I've chosen to fit them in and ensure I get around to eating my favourite foods. Is it weird to make sure you eat your favourite foods? I hope not. I enjoy most food and actually only eat things I like; but certain foods just make me feel warm and fuzzy inside and I kinda like feeling warm and fuzzy.

All of these things serve to put fuel in the tank. If I have enough fuel in my tank it means I can enjoy very spontaneous things or have energy to work really hard in a given direction for a while. If I'm enjoying myself and I've built up a good foundation, it doesn't matter to me that I skip a single workout or don't get to eat pizza for a few weeks. But every time I don't, I lose a little bit of what I know makes me serene and happy in a particular way I need. It's not that I don't enjoy heading out to the Philippines for work, or staying up late at a pub quiz with friends -- I just need the energy to do it. To get that energy I need to make time for things that put the fuel in the tank.

So yeah - my routine is my tool, not my point. I kinda just want to keep doing things I enjoy and in a world where I own less than 100% of my time I'm going to need to schedule them in. Thank you to everyone who's patient with me when I say I can't come out to play because I want to stay in and eat pizza before getting up for a 0600 strength training session in the park.

capitalism life work alienation Labour self care mental health routine

The Simple Peace of Mending Socks

This piece was originally going to be about bone carving and my love/hate relationship with the material. When I wrote it out, it seemed forced. I waxed poetical about the porous nature of bone allowing it to keep a smooth finish and be perfect for needles, etc whilst absorbing oils from skin and getting a natural patina over time. I whined about how it's an awkward sod since it can be quite hard (hard in material terms), and how my lack of experience and proper tools (mainly experience) is resulting in difficulty forming even basic shapes for stuff like naalbinding needles.

It seemed forced, and I think it was just on my mind at the time due to frustrations. What I really want to do with this piece, is write about socks. Specifically, socks with holes in them. Throughout my upbringing, I absorbed through cultural osmosis the trope that 'men' often wore socks with holes in them, and that their partners (in my preteen head this was usually equated to ciswomen) often berated them for it. I never really thought about it. When I moved out of home to go to Uni, I had acquired an abundance of socks and I threw many away for being threadbare or basically tubes. Many remained, or were replaced over the next few years. Often, they would develop holes.

It wasn't until a serious relationship in 2013 that this came up as an issue. My partner at the time (let's call her V) found it absolutely deplorable that I had holes in my socks, and I remember walking into the bedroom one day to find her sorting through my socks and discarding the ones that she found particularly offensive. I seem to remember being shocked, but fairly amused and I trivialised the matter; laughing it off, letting her get on, and moving on.

Skip forward a few years, and I'm in another serious relationship where my current partner (B) has taken issue with socks that have developed holes. I've laughed it off and wiggled toes at her. And generally after a stare or glare we move onto finishing getting dressed and getting on with our day. This Christmas, I was sitting in a café in Madrid with V and the issue of the socks came up. This time, she framed it as an issue of male privilege. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't quite get it at first. I quickly and recursively ran through my head why I didn't feel the need to dispose of the socks, and justified it to myself that I hated waste, and that purchasing new socks when some only had small holes in them was wasteful and offensive to the labourers who made them as well as environmental concerns for the planet and the water involved in producing cotton socks.

All of this, on the surface, is true. I do hate waste, and I would find it grating in my red-blooded veins if I saw people trivialising sweatshop labour by essentially viewing clothing as disposable. However, that wasn't my way of thinking at the time. In fact I simply hadn't thought at all about the socks. When I realised that the privilege alarm bells started ringing. In my current framework, not having to worry about something is tantamount to privilege. After that, all it took was a quick two or three minute explanation by V to see the "socks with holes" trope as a product of patriarchy. Women, in general, are held to a ridiculous standard of personal hygiene and appearance under patriarchy; and in addition to this they're expected to worry about not only their own appearance, but that of others as well. I think we can all agree on that. I'd never before realised that this extended to socks, but it totally makes sense. In a perfect world, all people across the world could enjoy their holey socks. In this world, I'd have to up my game to be subject to the same pressures as my women comrades and try to lessen the places where they may feel stress due to my actions or inactions regarding these issues.

Next problem. If I hate waste, and can't have holes in my socks, what the hell do I do? Obvious answer: fix my gorram socks.

I'm lucky in that my parents were each brought up in proper working class families during the 60s and 70s. Whilst they climbed a rung on the class ladder and afforded me some economic privilege growing up that they'd not enjoyed; our money situation was such that they didn't just replace things willy nilly when it could be fixed. To that end, I have strong memories of my mother busting out the sewing kit once or twice a year for my school trousers when they'd get holes in the crotch. And every few weeks for loose shirt buttons etc. My point is, I'm lucky to have parents who managed to impart to me that attitude of "If it is broke, try to fix it first" when it came to bits and pieces. Eventually, around the age of 14, I managed to pick up some rudimentary sewing skills from my mother and the bits of the Web. Enough to sew my own gorram trouser crotch closed! This is a practice I've kept up to this day. Whenever my work trousers get a hole, I sew it shut. My skills are not perfect, but it beats dropping £20 on new trousers when 98% of the fabric on a current pair is intact.

Why I've never thought about fixing socks before now, I'll never know. Anyway, starting after my return from Madrid I began to sew the holes in my socks shut whenever I saw them. I did throw out a whole bunch of socks that were beyond saving. What has this got to do with an inner peace, albeit a simple one? I could wax poetical again about carrying on a tradition in my family of fixing stuff rather than buying new ones. I could probably talk about the rhythmic motion of sewing thread, and how I can sit outside and listen to the sounds of the suburbs as I fix my socks. All of this is true. What I think about when I'm fixing my socks, however, is trying to do my small bit to lessen waste, and fight against my own privilege. I feel that every stitch is a small step towards an apology to those whose socks I've never given a second thought to even though they're under pressure to be perfect, and who've wrongly felt responsible for the holes in my own socks.

Mostly, I like mending things. I like mending things about the same as I like trying to create new things. When I'm carving, I look at everyone else's projects and compare my efforts to theirs (I don't come out looking too good). When I'm mending socks, there's no real pressure to make it look a particular way. I'm pretty much just restoring its function. I can happily work with my hands, and make a hole disappear, and it's not designed to be a beautiful piece of work. The pressure is off, even though others will be able to fix socks faster/better than I can; they're not going to have access to my socks. I invert the sock, I sew the hole, I invert it again, and find a slight scar from where the material is bound but that's it.

I like that a lot.

capitalism feminism privilege diy socks mending