I haven’t shared much online during the last years. Part of that is probably Ze German Zing about privacy and anonymity, a bigger part of it my lack of fun when using social media. Criticism of social media amounts, much of it focusing on broad societal issues around fake news and how it deals with truth. On a purely personal level, I have a much bigger problem with how it deals with beauty. There is something deeply unaesthetic about Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and the like – not so much with regard to their user interfaces (which too are often clunky and overloaded), but the more general way of how they make me feel and behave, their mixing and breaking of contexts, their implicit values and the emotivism stemming from that, and the way they steer attention, the pure ugliness of ads.
The most important reason for me to not share much has to do with attention. We quite literally are our attention, and we become – more practical – what we attend to. I was hence very careful to hook myself into the dopamine-fuelled loops of timelines and recommendations. (To the degree that I continue to fail I know how vulnerable I am.) Even more so, my hesitancy was probably not just about my own attention. Imagining my comments, images, and stories on your timelines wrapped up as “content” between ads was not only aesthetically appalling, it also felt wrong, as if organising drinks and choosing a gambling distributor as a sponsor, putting his gaming machine next to the fridge. (This idea inspired the poem Dessert.)
My stance on this has changed a bit, lately. I think blaming social media for our societal or personal problems (populism and inactivity, inactivity and distraction) is too easy and a bit dishonest towards our own preferences and the potential of these technologies. Pragmatically speaking: The internet and social media ain’t go away and would probably be much better if the good gals and guys also showed up. (We are all lurking around anyway.) I have made my peace with Twitter (of all places!) as I learned how to make certain parts of it work and work well for me. (It’s the intellectuals’ social network, after all…)
And yet, putting ideological arguments against these platforms aside and trying to use them in a self-serving way shows where they lack as products. They are neither good ways to stay connected with friends, nor places to share our stories any more. While shitposting on Twitter and envyscrolling through The Gram is entertaining for a few scattered hours or minutes a week, it’s just not a fun way for telling stories or sorting my thoughts.
Thus, I took the time to act on my desire to build my own place to share how and what I want to share. Next to building this website in the old way of Web 1.0 – as a curious place for strangers and would-be-friends to stumble around and get to know me, for friends to dwell and reconnect – I will experiment with a newsletter-series, a purely personal enterprise to share thoughts, stories, ideas, and recommendations for the fun of it. I like the idea of asking for your attention explicitly and being able to take it for granted when writing. I like to have my own space, free of ads, abs, anons, and selfie-galore. I really like to have a way to stay connected, share my time as a gift while allowing you to find your whether and way to respond.
I spent some time thinking about language. My mother tongue is German and there are probably only few people among my initial readers who don’t understand me in it. Yet, some of these people are dear friends and I am living in a country where talking German is a quite exotic endeavour. Similarly, most of my German friends speak excellent English, which again leaves only few struggling. In the end, writing in English feels more authentic, even more so with regard to my ambition of reaching out to new people. I am grateful about the open world we live in, and I am grateful to be able to consider myself European as much as German. (Assuming these labels have any importance to begin with.) Building bridges is more important than building walls (houses on the other hand…), and English is the better invitation for not only those I already know but also those I still want to meet. As a working solution, a link to Google Translate will have to do.
With all that out of the way, let’s continue with logistics, German-style: I have set up Benerkenswert (the newsletter) on substack for now – it seemed more straightforward, keeps this side simpler, and I want to test to which degree substack works as a slow social network that creates visibility. (I might move it over if the hassle seems too big.)
It is a monthly update through which I want to share what’s bemerkenswert/remarkable in my life and provide a way to stay connected. (Especially with those of you who follow and miss me on social media 😘) You you find it all here and can subscribe on benerkenswert.substack.com to receive new issues via email.
I will have to figure out the most fun way for all of us and will experiment quite a bit. Please join, and let me know what you like/want more of!