The Tyranny of Contrast



Dichotomies rule our attention. We have become so accustomed to a binary paradigm of thinking, that it is almost impossible that you are reading this without dependencies on simple input and output operations. Much of our corresponding function as people has been altered to anticipate this paradigm, without realising it.

Intelligence, understanding, wisdom — these all fall outside of what can be delineated in a binary paradigm. They are multi-faceted, modular, complex and fractal, and present with context-bound variables and applications, that simply preclude their reduction into something sensible. Though sometimes, we must attempt to find a concise rendition, it should be the exception.

As referenced in the previous article, Twitter is a social network unlike any other. Facebook encourages a ‘real’ profile, as much as can be said to be true. Instagram is contingent on visuals; even the most artifice-laden profile needs to depict something. However, Twitter, well that can be simply an idea marketplace, a concept pipeline.

Therefore, no requirement exists on Twitter to behave as a person — the entire notion can be discarded, whereby being “anon” hardly seems like an apt description. You can fashion a long-dead allusion for a name, or not even use one. You can identify as a statement or even a symbol; there is an unbound conceptual freedom.

Thus the parsing and dissemination of information is ripe for transformation (or devolution depending on your perspective), and is subject to hacks and exploits which can foster audience dependencies on a certain type of organised data. This started to happen long ago, and is the inevitable process of a paradigmatic approach to social media, with smartphones that you continually use to perform switch processes.

This binary modality of operation eventually codified a form of nascent emotional expression as certain corners of the internet, particularly logic-dominated (men’s spaces), sought to express repressed tendencies. The first instance of this expression I described as “divide and conquer” tweeting, which was the first salvo in the crossfire of contrasts. The open warfare of scraping attention.

The divide and conquer tweet is a frame grab, without remorse. It seeks to impose a standard with its immediate statement, often comparing to something undesirable, and then meet two aims: a.) create an in-group that this standard protects and reinforces and b.) perform an unconscious, tribalistic rejection of all who do not meet this thinly logically-orchestrated standard.

Such a form of expression might single out men that are disloyal, by casting aspersions on all those who are fond of drama. The standard would be applied here to compare them to having feminine attributes, and then this would be reinforced by stating the preferred standard. This is a tyrannical form of control, in the unhealthy extreme of expression. Something you can get away with online.

This style of tweet became less emotionally-charged as the validation, likes and retweets poured in. The motivation changed to reinforcing the source of that validation, and so cheap semantic tricks would be included, pertaining still to tribal affiliation and in-group/out-group dynamics. The some people/most people template is a good example of this.

This is a standard that is adopted not to single out people in particular, as that is far too brazen for those looking for validation. The aim here, is to create a small pocket of individuals that can project themselves onto meeting a higher standard, while rejoicing in the fact they are not among the unworthy masses. This is an extremely common tactic. We are all guilty of it now and then, but some are serial abusers.

Once this became popular, engagement became a game. There are even people that have sought to profit from depriving people of attentional focus, and creating more dopamine-dependent information junkies all for the sake of bigger numbers. This is a sin all to itself, but it speaks volumes about the landscape of the information marketplace. It is always reduced, by those who seek to exploit it.

It does not end there, either. This was only the first wave of using a logical standard to devise a contrast. The second wave is promulgated by the ideational contingent, those that worship at the altar of habits, iteration and thread like their lives depended on it (though I rather think threading is now old-hat since Twitter formalised it).

This new band of tweeters, still armed with the same redundant binary brain methodologies, are perhaps even worse than the agitators of divide and conquer, because to actually infringe upon people you have to make a point in truth. The tribal signallers have no requirement to actually be logical, it can be deferred as long as the message ‘reads the room’.

The scalar problem faced here is that the larger a tribal insight generator’s audience, the more diffuse the reasoning becomes as it must be cast to a greater amount of people. The logic is reduced to its basic definitional primacy and approaches stating the obvious (‘don’t spend time on something that won’t help’), because it is all for the people consuming it.

The presentation of the logic in these generated half-baked insights is often not even a true contrast, but a proposed contrast. A thought designed to appear like it excludes something, but is actually constructed in such a manner that people can project onto it however they like. Therefore, their words service no aim, articulate no point, which is the farthest thing from wisdom.

Subsequently — these forms of expression attract people that are the same; a pseudo-competitive clique forms, where people try to remix and adapt the same tweet in a slightly different way. The whole collection of ideas becomes iterative noise. The same meaningless data is repeated again and again, and fans attempt to one-up these ‘insights’, but they have been reworked so much, like Chinese whispers, they are nothing but an echo.

Motivations differ, but the information exploitation of Twitter rumbles on, like a crawling Panzer, waiting for a moment to unload on what is left of true insight and genuine wisdom. Yet there is a marked hypocrisy in all of these tweets. Those who talk of standards of behaviour, often malign people unconsciously. Those that constantly remix under their ‘brand’, never attach an original idea to it.

I foresee it getting worse, because in these times, fear is everywhere and people seek to rush and claim their pot of gold as fast as possible, as if there isn’t enough for everyone. We live among scarcity, and the chief perpetrators are those hiding under replies of popular tweeters espousing the virtues of abundance.

The tyranny of contrast will do that to you.

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