sabin.blog

Signal to noise.

There's always so much noise.

I mean, of course there is. When you're on an application that exists to facilitate interaction -- regardless of what kind of interaction it facilitates -- it makes sense that there would be a ton of noise. What's galling about it is how little signal there is.

The term signal-to-noise ratio is scientific in origin. It refers to the relationship between the power of the desired sound ("signal") and the power of the unwanted "noise" in a recording. If the signal-to-noise ratio is greater than 1:1, then the sound is useful. Otherwise, it is not. I first encountered this term on Usenet, back when humans accessed the Internet through dial-up modems and Facebook was still a sociopathic gleam in Mark Zuckerberg's glassy, robot eye. Communities where there was interesting conversation had a good signal-to-noise ratio. Communities that did not, well, they were just crap.

These days, I don't even think of Facebook as having signal at all. I mean, sure, there are the times when someone posts a cute picture of an animal, but they're vastly outnumbered by attempts to crack your security questions and advertisements for multi-level marketing schemes. While Twitter seems less prone to the invasive, manipulative advertisements that have become Facebook's entire business model, the sheer volume of shitgibbonry on Twitter is enough to give a headache to even the most grizzled Internet veteran. The whole purpose of these sites is advertising. Everyone's a product. You gotta cultivate your brand. Level up your side hustle.

I'm at the point where it's too much. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all of it. Infinite grabs at one's eyeballs and the bare minimum return on investment. I don't think it helps. I don't think I know anybody who feels good about the amount of time they spend on social media. I know I don't.