Beautifully written as usual, Rhyd, but I want to push back on the notion that capitalism is the core problem, rather than basic human psychology plus technology. Would not the exact same instragram problem arise under communism? I don't see what would prevent it.

Paul seems to think that the only solution is going back to living in thatched huts and walking on wooden stilts through the mud. Maybe that's the case, but if so, I'm against it.

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Any mass industrial society will try to find a way to re-channel human desire back into the system that sustains it, I think.

The problem here isn't just industrialism, but also the "mass" part of this. One thing I didn't mention in this essay is how the scale on Instagram is itself inhuman. As I explained to a neighbor friend of mine, in village life or even town or city life, "the most beautiful" person of any sort is going to be selected from a smaller scale.

So, for instance, the most "masculine" man in this village is a comparison with only a total of 40 or so men. By this, I mean there are only 40 men here that any man might compare himself to.

On instagram, however, that comparison pool is in the millions, which is a very inhuman and unnatural scale. So you have a teenage boy looking at a guy with 200K followers and comparing himself to that guy, rather than the other men in his neighborhood.

Of course he's going to feel inadequate.

So while I think we should at least de-industrialise parts of our life, what is essential here is re-establishing a more human scale of human interaction, with less abstraction and less alienation.

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Sure, but how? Would it help to replace capitalism with communism, while still maintaining the same level of tech and indvidual freedom of action? My claim is that the answer is "no". This is a problem of human psychology and tech, not economic system.

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I once saw an influencer staging their photos in person; I found it simultaneously fascinating, amusing, irritating, and sad. I was at a famous restaurant in Philadelphia for a celebration. While we were getting our drinks, a table of 6 came into the restaurant (four women dressed to the nines and two men dressed in sweats and baseball caps). There was a bit of a fuss with getting their tables organized. The guys sat in the middle of a long table and fiddled around with their phones while the women were milling about rather than sitting at the table. They apparently ordered two appetizers after quite a while. When the appetizers arrived, there was a flurry of posing and pictures. Then the guys were back to fiddling on their phones and ignoring everyone for another 15 minutes before the entire party left.

I didn't realize just how fake it all was until I saw that in person. The instagram pictures weren't snippets of a life at all; it wasn't the occasional picture I captured of my dog when she's doing something funny or even a few forced photos amidst an otherwise enjoyable event. I can't imagine any of them enjoyed their experience at that restaurant. And, of course, it impacted everyone else's experience negatively. The tables near them were visibly upset. Restaurant staff were going out of their way to accommodate them, though I suspect the tipped staff assigned to that table (and the neighboring angry tables) bore the cost of the spectacle through lost tips. And undoubtedly the final product, once posted, had the self-esteem robbing and jealousy-inspiring impact of so much of social media.

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Ugh! Amazing once you finally see it though, huh?

I was at a gym that offers day passes and an obvious Influencer came in, spritzed his face with water, and barely held a very heavy dumbell above his head while he snapped a photo on a tripod-mounted smartphone.

The rest of us around him laughed, but I'm sure his audience didn't understand how staged it all was.

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Oct 19, 2021Liked by Rhyd Wildermuth

“Walter Benjamin saw machine meaning as a core aspect of fascism, a key tool to make us forget we have the right to make the world ourselves. Such a view runs completely counter to the way liberals and progressives understand fascism, since for them the machine itself liberates humans from the terror of the Real.”

“liberates humans from the terror of the Real.” Is that what’s going on? I’ve been struggling to understand why so many people around me seem happy to be told what to do and think.

When I am in a political discussion with others and a topic comes up that I know nothing about, and neither does the other person really except a talking point or two gleaned from SM or MSM, the only thing I know to say is, “If I were to look into this topic, these are the questions I’d start with.” Then I watch as others argue over that which they know nothing about. A few times people have confessed to me, “Don’t worry about it. I just make it up.”

Is that them exercising their “right to make the world ourselves”? I’d rather admit to myself that I have no idea about pretty much anything (I do enjoy wondering about possibilities and hold onto certain options until eventually their inadequacy becomes apparent) and work to come to some sort of peace that one day I will die.

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Great post.

I transitioned before trans got trendy and it really bothers me to see the fad of young girls deciding they're men or (increasingly commonly) non-binary because they don't want to be quite male thanks to "toxic masculinity" (whatever that even means anymore) but they don't want to be female either. It is causing, and is going to cause, a tremendous backlash against actual non-trender trans people with persistent dysphoria. And I really do blame social media for this.

I deleted Facebook, all my other social media accounts, and even stopped blogging in 2016 and it's done wonders for my mental health. I spend time doing things like reading actual books. Social media is poison and I wish more people had the ability to moderate their Internet consumption.

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And I think that was pretty much the core of the 'truscum' debates years ago, with older trans people pointing to a different kind of transition rather than just the declarative gender one. Their arguments are really valuable, I think, as many of the heavily-reported abuses occurring are by people identifying as trans women who have only just identified as such. That is, without any hormonal treatment or diagnosis, and no physical appearance change.

I know some places require a person to live as the identified gender for at least a year before official recognition. The UK I think also requires a signed statement that you don't intend to go back to your previous gender. Both of those seem reasonable, I think, as they prevent someone from just taking on a legal gender identity without actual reason to do so.

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Yes, that was in fact what I had to do to transition here in the States, I had to live as male for at least two years before given any sort of medical intervention. I don't think that's unreasonable, and I agree it prevents potential abuses which unfortunately, do occur.

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(I might add this was earlier in the tens, I have no idea what the process entails now in 2021. I feel like a dinosaur lol)

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Back in 2014 I was waiting tables a hip, Top-Chef helmed spot here Brooklyn, an epicenter of the anthropocene, where the food didn’t come out in “courses,” but in the order that the kitchen was able to crank ‘em out, and this system worked very well. I spieled a table of four early 20-somethings on this system, who ordered six dishes, and were all on board with the kitchen’s dynamic.

A few minutes later, their first two dishes landed, then a few minutes later two more dishes, yet as I made my rounds noticed that they hadn’t yet touched the previous two. By the time the 5th dish had landed, it had been twenty or so minutes that food had been on the table, none of it touched, all of the sauces grossly congealing, deep-fried items that really were meant to be eaten while piping-hot had cooled down, becoming sodden and gummy.

I approached the table, concerned that something was wrong, “oh hey I noticed that you haven’t touched your food, is everything ok here?” They said “oh ya it’s all good, we’re just waiting for all of the dishes to come out so we can take a photo blah blah blah.” And when the 6th and final dish came out, they went to town on the food and seemed happy, but from my perspective, the peak experience of the moment had lapsed and they were feeding upon a maligned facsimile of olfactory joys that could have been.

They were a kind group, so I chatted ‘em up and learned that none were food/photo pros whatsoever, but were all self-described foodies who felt the need to document the experience on social media.

Previously, I’d been a fine-dining chef for ten years. It’s grueling work that pays shit, but for me there was great meaning knowing that I’d busted my ass to perfectly execute a dish that the guest would then gleefully consume, preferably while it was still peaking in it’s texture and temperature etc.

Man, that feeling of sadness/disorientation/confusion that I felt at that precise moment with this table struck me heavily, still does, and Rhyd your article here has so compellingly put into words what I felt during that moment, and upon so many subsequent others. Thank you so much for your insight!

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