I saw Tom Critchlow tweet earlier this year about the idea of “rewilding” your attention. That means escaping algorithmic decisions about what you read or view, avoiding both mainstream, popular creators and your own little filter bubble. Instead, you can choose to give your attention to more off-beat and interesting things.
Clive Thompson writes in more depth about why that’s good and what it involves:
“Big-tech recommendation systems have been critiqued lately for their manifold sins – i.e. how their remorseless lust for ‘engagement’ leads them to overpromote hotly emotional posts; how they rile people up; how they feed us clicktastic disinfo; how they facilitate “doomscrolling”. All true.
“But they pose a subtler challenge, too, for our imaginative lives: their remarkably dull conception of what’s ‘interesting’. It’s like intellectual monocropping. You open your algorithmic feed and see rows and rows of neatly planted corn, and nothing else…
“The metaphor suggests precisely what to do: If you want to have wilder, curiouser thoughts, you have to avoid the industrial monocropping of big-tech feeds. You want an intellectual forest, overgrown with mushrooms and towering weeds and a massive dead log where a family of raccoons has taken up residence.”
As someone who writes off-beat things for a tiny audience, I am of course biased, but this is an approach to the internet that I’ve always subscribed to – literally, in the form of a groaning “newsletters” email box and countless RSS feeds.