The view from inside an ice cave, looking out at a starry night sky.

What I appreciate about Drew Austin’s writing is how concisely he can string together important points. Go and read the three long paragraphs of this post, which I’ve summarised out of order below.

My understanding is that Austin is saying that our mental model of social media is out of kilter with the current reality. We’re pretending that the current landscape is in any way similar to that of a decade ago.

[A] 2021 essay, The Brazilianization of the World by Alex Hochuli, describes how “the fate of being modern but not modern enough now seems to be shared by large parts of the world: WhatsApp and favelas, e-commerce and open sewers.” As a small cohort of venal elites separates itself, physically and socially, from the much larger and poorer population in which it’s embedded, it creates an idea of interior and exterior existence. The Twitch streamer with no audience anticipates life on the outside, in the dead public space of a Brazilianized, enclave-gated internet, a ground that shifted under our feet with little warning, turning us into street buskers playing music we didn’t realize no one could hear.


Talking to no one is the near future of social media, the digital equivalent of warming your hands over an oil drum bonfire in an abandoned city—what you do when you missed the last bus out of town and have to loiter as comfortably as possible in the ruins. We may have once imagined that social media would ultimately end by imploding suddenly, releasing us from the last day of school into a summer of the real, but no such catharsis is coming. When institutions die now, they rarely give us the closure of ceasing to exist—they live on in zombie form, and we learn to tolerate the gradually worsening conditions they impose. We stick around Twitter because we need to for professional reasons, we may tell ourselves, but the real job is just scavenging copper wires from the wreckage.

Source: Kneeling Bus

Image: Patrick Busslinger