I’ve referred in the past to the phenomenon of “affinity posting”. The idea of affinity posting is you post not to spread information or start a discussion, but to demonstrate your membership in certain affinity groups. You’re a fan of Doctor Who or Twilight. You’re a beer drinker. You’re a teacher who believes the lecture is dead. You’re a pacifist. A libertarian. A skeptic. An ally.
I do a lot of affinity posting. So do you. If I retweet a John Oliver rant about the minimum wage, it’s probably not because there’s something particularly useful in the rant. It’s largely to show hey, I’m in this group too. You like this, I like this, and that’s a communion of sorts.
There’s nothing wrong with affinity posting, and lots of times it serves a good purpose. People have some pretty advanced ideas about what I believe and like and support before they meet me, and that’s nice. And it can be pleasant in a world where one feels like they struggle alone for a cause to see an internet full of others supporting this or that.
I won’t go into it too deeply, but I think affinity posting as an interaction model is lousy and keeps the web in an infantile state.
I’ve been thinking about an alternate way of thinking about re-posting the things of others: the metaphor of a personal library... In a library if we found books by nobody but post-structuralists, we’d think “This is a narrow thinker,” not “Thank God there is nothing I disagree with on these shelves!”
When I look at someone’s library, I don’t ask “Is this book correct?” or “Do you really agree with this person?!?” Instead, I ask “Is this worth reading? Why?”
- Mike Caulfield, Hapgood