A few months ago, I quietly added my blog’s updates to Minds.com, my first real serious foray into alternative tech. I’m still not sure I’ve bought into the general political tone and tenor of the site, but I certainly recognize the need to diversify across platforms. And I’ve made reference at least once to clear evidence of benevolent intervention from The Good Censor—specifically in an article I wrote criticizing land use policy in Mendocino, California, a wealthy distant bedroom community from the San Francisco Bay Area. It was very clear that the powers-that-be in Silicon Valley did not want me criticizing the NIMBYist policies that artificially restricted housing supply in Mendocino, thereby keeping the village tiny, unaffordable, and elitist.
More recently, the interference was milder but still noticeable: Facebook restricted me from boosting a post on controversial swimwear that fails to replicate the American flag. It generated a mildly elevated discourse in which the users themselves chose to withdraw and erase much of their conversation, which might have been what prompted Big Tech to run interference for the article in particular. I’m not necessarily asserting that my blog is a subject in various Silicon Valley boardrooms—I wouldn’t pretend to be that important—but most likely the bots are trained to look for certain keywords and have decided that I use enough of them that my site is, at least on certain occasions, “problematic” in their eyes. Therefore I’ve turned to Minds, which uses as its primary avatar a lightbulb like the one below, which users can now see when they scroll down to the bottom of the American Dirt homepage.
Minds is not a particularly new site. A group of techies founded it in 2011 as a direct response to those who deemed Facebook’s practice of spying and data mining to be intrusive. For at least five years it sat relatively dormant, but has exploded in popularity in the last half decade as Big Tech expands its reach and behaves less like a neutral platform and, to the extent legally permissible, more like like a publisher. I’ve never kept a strong social media presence: I don’t really use Facebook or (more recently) Instagram for anything more than promoting American Dirt, and my presence on Minds serves the exact same purpose. So far, the traffic to my site via Minds has been minimal. But it isn’t contracting. And Minds offers far more opportunities for the deployment of cryptocurrency to finance channels within the site—something I may consider if its influence grows, which I expect will happen. (Also not that I am not promoting this article on Facebook or Instagram.) In due time, I expect to expand my alt-tech reach well beyond Minds, perhaps into one of the alternative publishing sites (Substack, Rokfin). But I will never ever use the ones exclusively devoted to promulgating my passing thoughts for broader public consumption/validation—the sites like Twitter (or its alt-tech counterparts Parler and Gab)—which to me continue to help escalate the moral absolutism and narcissism that so frequently plagues online discourse. Better to keep my footprint small through minimal social media than to get ensnared in that web. In the meantime, feel free to check out my presence on Minds. It’ll probably seem very familiar. Thanks as always for your support!