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After an almost 4 year break, I’m back doin’ the dirty.

Why? Good question. I don’t know… I guess X feels like the most efficient and rational way to connect with new readers. In practice, I don’t think social media ever helped grow my reader base – but I’ve also never put any real effort into it. My personal account was always the last to be updated, and by the time I got around to it, I just didn’t care anymore.

Story time: I’ve been “doing” social media since social media was created. Well over 25 years now. Before Friendster it was DeadJournal (alt to LiveJournal) and AIM. My own GeoCities website. Of course MySpace and I had Facebook account when it was only open to college students. I jumped on Twitter early in 2007.

Eventually, social media became a big part of my job. When I worked for Sony Music, at least 1/3 of my time was being a psy-op foot solider posting guerrilla “grass roots” ads in forums and across certain networks to promote new albums. It was kind of slimy. You’d pose as a fan and try to increase engagement and views of whatever product Sony wanted us to push.

As my career carried on, I then managed the social media accounts for bands, brands, and other businesses. Everyday I’d have to manufacture bullshit content in an effort to remain relevant and drum up activity within their followers. I hated it because, ultimately, it was extremely inauthentic. No one cared. It never meant anything. It never lead to anything. It was the highest form of busy work for the most meaningless online endeavors.

Then, social media became corrupt. Manipulated. Contrived. Exploitative. Sensationalized. Overall, social media has become incredibly toxic. It’s absolutely awful for your mental health and wellbeing. But, it also doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

I earnestly got off of social at the height of COVID-19. At the beginning, I really went down the rabbit hole. I was glued to it, trying to get any shred of truthful information about what was going on. Then, stupidly, I began engaging with comments. Wow… So, early that summer — right after George Floyd – I deleted every social media app from my phone.

At first you get the shakes. You don’t know what to do with your fingers. You’re uncomfortable standing in a line or sitting in a waiting room without scrolling. But, after about 2 weeks, a major transformation happens. You begin to appreciate the details of the real world again. You become comfortable with your own thoughts again. You actually begin to look forward to these moments of quiet.

After about a year without using social media, I became militant on excommunicating it from my life. I deleted profiles, gutted accounts, and quit jobs that still required me to manage their presence. There was also a bunch of really big stuff going on in my life and I no longer wanted everyone to know what I was doing – nor did I want to be reminded of what they were doing. I knew I was weird, an outcast and a minority – especially for my age – to have given up and abandon social media. But, life was a lot better. Less drama. Less inadequacy. More serenity.

Shortly after Elon Musk purchased Twitter, I installed the app back on my phone and lurked. I was a lurker for a long time. Again, I had gutted my friends and followers, so I basically was only getting the algorithm in my feed. It was good for news and current events, but I hated how every instance of how I use the app is being tracked. Everything I liked. Everything I clicked on. Everything I said. It tracks your eyes and how long you look at a particular image. Everything you post remains forever and will, knowingly or not, one day be used against you. Sometimes as sinister as to ruin your life, other times simply to manipulate you into buying something or sway your political attitude. Nothing you do on these apps is for your own benefit — every interaction is all more information and data points that technologists and advisors use to make their products more addicting and convincing.

So, I teetered. I was (and am) always on the verge of getting rid of all of my technology. Just going full hermit off of the gird. I could easily trash my smart phone, computers, and streaming. The crux is that these devices are tools and they weren’t helping me achieve anything. They had become parasites.

On the flip side, I still loved my website. I still loved my stories. I still liked working on this stuff. I can somewhat competently navigate a suite of software to accomplish pretty cool things. Further, with the readily available access to AI, I can now do so much more. I’m on the brink of being able to create the worlds and ideas that have been bouncing around in my head for decades.

Like anything and everything, there’s good and bad that comes technology. My primary objective now is to navigate this world with eyes wide open, and keep myself and my content on the good. Understand and identify when I’m being manipulated. Understand the consequences of the structure and operate the best I can within it.

So, as of yesterday – January 1, 2024 I’m back in earnest on X. The plan is to be authentic, accessible, and document the development of my storytelling and how I’m using AI within my projects. I’d like to demonstrate what’s possible with this technology in regard to writing, website development, and user experiences. I hope these efforts will expose more people to Stevie Pearl and The Final Book and give them a rich experience when they begin exploring them.

Now, if I can just remain consistent enough in medium that I’m highly skeptical of… Keep me on track, @SWHammond.