the private parts

after a few posts and some (negative) feedback from friends, i will attempt to write something about tech.

fear not — my newsletter will still be weird as hell. but part of this process is figuring out what i want it to be. maybe it is work thoughts, maybe random ramblings or memories from childhood. maybe it;s free therapy. the worst writing prompt, for me, is being told i can do anything i want.

right now, im far away from home, out in the sticks of stinson, no other humans in sight. this means i have nothing to distract me from writing, which is my hell.

here, below, is something abstract but less crazy than my ramblings as of late.

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ive been thinking about zuckerbergs announcement from last week. the one about “privacy” and how facebook is gonna be the network of choice for, uh, private things now.

after the first few stories about what facebook is up to started leaking out — linking instagram, whatsapp and messenger, working on cryptocurrency stuff — mark figured out he needed to get ahead of the commentary and plant a flag, saying “this is the direction im taking facebook in the future.” he acknowledged the reality of how people are currently communicating.

little jonny doesnt want an errant twete from his idiotic teen years to surface in the middle of a big job interview in his twenties. would-be politicians or government workers dont want old, unerased Facebook Live videos of themselves hitting a dormroom gravity bong to eventually surface and derail their future runs for office. little sally influencer would hate it if yesterdays youtubes became tomorrows huge embarrassing mistake.

ive long thought snapchat was built as a reaction to the world mark zuckerberg created. evan spiegel, for all his faults, realized what the world would look like as we recorded and posted every moment of our lives for others to view, share — and use against each other. his psychology probably played into it; spiegel is a famously private person. but it was a good thing. as it turns out, some memories were meant to fade, and spiegel figured that out early (and got rich because of it).

fb as it stands wont go away for a long time. its a revenue machine churning out tens of billions of dollars a year and only growing. but as people adapt to what communication looks like in a world shaped by facebook, theyre changing.

zuckerbergs announcement last week acknowledges the spheres of the public and the private, and he wants facebook to own and operate the services that undergird both the public and the private parts of digital interactions.

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i think about my own communications these days, and how theyve shifted. i went from limited, fairly non-threatening sharing models (the aol/prodigy days of dialup) to the high-speed, internet-everywhere days where it’s never been easier to express yourself to the entire world, instantly. (think POTUS and twitter). we enjoyed that, for a time, until we realized it was too much. too much.

so now we revert to private — group chat rooms like slack, groupme, Twitter DMs, IG and wechat private groups, imessage. and we prefer things that go away instead of ones that stick around.

this is at least in part why i started this newsletter. the form is a kind of weird semi-private hybrid — a public newsletter, sent directly to inboxes, which occasionally elicits one-to-one conversations with some of you (that i greatly enjoy). it makes me feel much better than scrolling through twitter and watching performative nastiness.

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anyway ive gone on too long. heres what im listening to:

not obscure, just an old, good “being alone” track that reminds me of 2010, when i was just starting to write about tech and when i commuted to san francisco from my small, moldy apartment in emeryville. i rode the emery-go-round to bart, and i consistently forgot to carry an umbrella. in the winter in the bay area, this eventually became a problem.

(now i have five umbrellas, scattered around different parts of my unmoldy current apartment.)