The article Covid Pandemic Pushed Social Media to Become Increasingly Tribal by a researcher at Concordia University in Montreal points to a phenomenon that the forced stay-at-home aspect of the current pandemic has allowed to evolve - as we have a lot more time and opportunity without oversight to peer at whatever we wish on our screens, we have been enabled to more accurately define just to whom and what we wish to pay attention.
While we may 'belong' to quite a number of social media platforms and subscribe to a panoply of news sources we have had both the time and opportunity to refine just what information we take away from online sources. Indeed many of these sources have themselves come up with ways we can refine our viewing. A multiplicity of online subject newsletters and podcasts have emerged from news outlets, allowing us to better align our reading and listening with our enthusiasms and concerns. Aggregators like Feedly and Pocket allow us to save and view only what interests us. Special interest groups are formed and grow within the major social media platforms. I myself no longer follow any individuals on Facebook but do belong to (and even have in a couple of cases managed) a range of Facebook SIGs.
The days when intellectuals aka thinking people could legitimately scorn social media in their entirety as a toxic stew of ignorance and lamentable prejudice are almost over. Although online provider AIs are fighting a strong rearguard action to present us with source options they derive from our digital behaviour, just as rapidly app tools are being developed to help us filter out the ignorant and unwanted. With some diligent research we can, in my experience, find ways of screening out much of what we did not ask to be presented with onscreen.
For the avidly curious like myself serious self-discipline is needed to manage time spent onscreen. This is made worse by the luxury of my retirement from work, allowing me each and every day to roam through the world's digital knowledge trove - this being largely without the interruptions of visitations and recreational travel during our ever-extending pandemic.
While there is legitimate criticism of the fact that we these days can all too easily avoid being exposed to alternate points of view, the onscreen assault of pictures and text that accompanies each power-on of any digital device demands we refine our sources to a manageable number. What the web has facilitated is a greatly enhanced ability to source the 'long tail', data on specialised, even esoteric, interests shared by few or none in our personal communities. We can now belong to many 'tribes' with no obvious connection to each other and located far beyond our immediate neighbourhood. Nothing like this has existed in history. Russia's crimes in the Ukraine are exposed to the world in real-time.
Current disenchantment with and moves to slow increasing globalisation do not preclude us being eager to find out what others afar are doing and thinking. It is possible to be tribal in one's interests and yet internationalist in one's outlook. Today's internet facilitates that. I can be a Settler history buff and Gaelic heritage enthusiast while still remaining connected across the globe.
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