Is surge of Signal, triggered by paranoia or cynicism?

Chat apps with encryption sound like an idea whose time has come. Or rather, an idea whose time came, did a quiet exit, and after some tangle with Twitter, did an U-turn and returned as ‘Signal’.

signalSignal has powerful encryption, and has supposedly grown by 400 percent since the US election. Indeed, most people are passionate about keeping their communication away from prying eyes of governments. Or is this paranoia, knowing what we know about email being easily hacked or compromised? Even Signal has been subpoenaed by the govt! No coincidence that journalists now use encrypted chat apps more than ever.

Which explains why Chat apps like WhatsApp, Line, SnapChat and FB Messenger have quietly changed how we communicate. Hike, the SnapChat clone in India lets users chat in eight languages!

To be sure, as I said (in the last chapter of my book, Chat Republic) ordinary citizens, not just journalists, who become wary of the status quo, would refine these modes of chat in ways that we never imagined. That was in 2013.

And we the ____________ people (insertcynical,’ ‘paranoid,’ etc) are probably taking that path too.

Farewell To Always-On!

Noise. We hear a lot of it. Sometimes in the form of amplified sound. Other times in a lot of useless chatter.

In the past few weeks, since I gave up my Blackberry and YES, downgraded to a regular phone, I’ve rediscovered what it means to face a day minus the noise that streams into our lives.

But there is another type of noise that’s ramping up as the US election season moves into gear. The noise of politicians trying to get  all ears tuned to their agenda.

This image tells us something about how the hoi polloi could sometimes wrestle control and ask the noise-makers to listen, for a change.

What’s the context here? The lady, supposedly, someone named Virginia Vollmer, used the bullhorn (at a rally in Tennessee)  to ‘talk back’ to the anti-healthcare reform person on the right.

There are many means to change the ‘signal-to-noise’ ratio, which refers to how much of the original signal has been drowned or corrupted by the noise.  Sometimes it means turning out the stuff you don’t need to hear or watch. At other times –and I’m not saying this is for everyone –it might mean getting rid of the amplification devices entirely.

In a great post by Josip Petrusa, he notes that we have all become willing accomplices in this noise-making, in the senseless amplification of the good, the bad and the useless information.

The resulting impact of this has glorified, popularized and hyped events, actions and individuals that were ordinary, everyday and commonplace pre-social media into something beyond wild expectations and possibility. I

…Social media itself has fallen victim and benefactor to the cruelty and kindness of this effect. 

For me, suddenly there’s a lot more time for reading, for conversations across a table or in a parking lot.  After many years of being always-on, it’s refreshing to be able to sometimes-on, and focus on what I really care about, at my own pace.