Stop reading this. You are wasting your time. Go outside. Talk to someone. Poke them. They’re fucking real. This screen is not real. Stop reading this.
You wake up. You pick up your phone. Your iPad. Sit on the loo? Social checkup. What happened while I was sleeping? What did I miss? You’re on the toilet for Jobs’s sake — give it a rest. What is it we’re all looking at? An abyss. A deep, swirling abyss of half-truths. Jonathan Harris is a Brooklyn-based internet artist who knows what’s going on. He studies humans and technology and, along with Greg Hochmuth (who has worked as a product manager, engineer, and data analyst at Google, Instagram, and Facebook), has created Network Effect — an overwhelming website/artwork/portal-to-your-time-sapping-otherworld.
Harris proffers that many of the social networks you and I waste our time with ‘have been carefully designed to addict and distract’ and, like with the hard stuff, we need to detox. “We need time and space and silence to remember who we are, who we once were, and who we can become. There is a way, and every one of us contains the potential to find it.”
Network Effect begins with 100 behaviours, Amazon Mechanical Turk workers tasked with finding 100 two-second video examples of each. 10,000 videos. Twitter’s API was then used to pull out sentences that mention each of the 100 behaviours, the results then sent off to those Turks to speak out aloud. 10,000 spoken Tweets. Tons more clever tech bits were then written to pull in all sorts of data from Google News and Twitter (over 4 million data points in total), and the whole lot is blasted together in an experience that’s a little like looking over the edge of contemporary civilisation; into a future of confusion.
Depending on where you live, your location’s average lifespan will be converted into minutes, and that’s how long you get inside the duo’s vortex. It’s long enough. The limited time only serving to add to the dizzying realisation that you will never get to the bottom of their digital gyre. You’ll already be crying out to come up for air.
Step inside their world. Then you’ll realise, this is all just a waste of time. And you’ll go out and buy a stranger a drink. Then you’ll go home. Wake up. And reach out for Twitter.