Re-rethinking social media

I’ve been uneasy with the role that social media has in my life for a long time. One part information, one part connection with friends and colleagues, one part numbing, one part noise and abuse and racism and sexism. I don’t know a healthy way to approach social media. I don’t believe there is one. The concept is attractive – instant connection with people I know and love! Who wouldn’t want THAT? But it comes with so much other toxic garbage that it feels like forcing myself to wade through an endless cesspool in order to catch glimpses of those people who are important to me.

It doesn’t have to be that way. So, I’m going to try going all curmudgeonly and withdraw from social media as much as possible. I’ve realized (and I’m far from alone in this) that social media is based on monolithic corporations and their need to maximize advertising revenue. That colours everything about their platforms – to the point that they have a vested interest in ensuring that racism, sexism, tribalism, echo chambers, and superficiality are pervasive. By remaining active on these platforms, how am I not complicit in that? If social media is a toxic sewage of “news” and “information”, designed to attract attention only long enough to be monetized before the next piece of precision-guided info-munition comes along, why would I continue to expose myself to that?

People. That’s the one thing that keeps (kept?) me coming back to Twitter. Finding occasional gems, like Brian posting photos while golfing with his dad, or Alan tramping across the continent on another adventure, or my nephew posting photos of his amazing kids, or GNA rounding up a batch of hostel kids and keeping them safe. Damn. There has to be a way to keep the good without nuking the whole damned thing.

Most people are pretty awesome. But some people suck. And the suckage on twitter makes it hard to stay put. Being the victim of some pretty insane targeted abuse was an eye-opener. Asymmetrical risk is pretty shitty to live with, when someone is actively trying (and failing) to torpedo my reputation. And that asymmetrical risk is baked into social media.

I won’t delete my twitter account (again) for now. My facebook account is long gone. I honestly don’t know how I’ll handle this. Blog posts are cross-posted to Twitter for now, because another do-no-evil-corp smothered RSS and Twitter is one of the remaining channels of syndication. Photos get cross-posted to Verizon-owned Flickr, for now, because there’s still people there.

Anyway. I have no idea what I’m doing here, but I need to do something.

7 Replies to “Re-rethinking social media”

  1. I’m right there with you D’Arcy. It has been interesting to watch some of my oldest twitter ed-techy friends go through these same feelings. I think I’m still to young to call myself a curmudgeon (maybe?) but I do feel things have changed so much in the 10 years I’ve had my Twitter account. What keeps me going is exactly what you mentioned, the good people still here, but I’m increasingly troubled by my complicity in fueling corporations that are using my data to feed an ad machine. No advice but just a nod to the same feelings.

  2. I left Twitter several months ago (May? Feels like ages ago) and have yet to feel any sense of regret. Perhaps I miss certain trends or gems, but to be honest I feel more connected to you and Alan and so many other people through blogs. That being said it’s a good reminder that my own blog sits in a sad state of disarray which distances me more. That I can fix. I haven’t left Facebook yet but I rarely post anything there, mostly a lurker.

    1. That sense of connection is a strange and wonderful thing, isn’t it? There’s a group of people that I think about nearly every single day. You’re one of them. You’re in my head, regardless of what internet-enabled connections might be out there. I often ask myself “what would Tim say about ___?” (Or Jim, Brian, Alan, Jen, Grant, Clint, Chris, Cole, Jason, or a few others).

      What’s interesting, is the group was largely the same a decade or so ago, and I very rarely get to see any of you in person. Social media should feel like a lifeline, but it’s the blogs that really mean so much to me.

  3. I’ve been in the same mode regarding Twitter for some time – retained the account as a syndication channel for known.networkeffects.ca .. I am planning to migrate known.networkeffects.ca bits over to a category at networkeffects.ca soon and use the IndieWeb plugin to bring about Known-like features in WP. At present I only retain Twitter and Flickr – not sure when if/when I will depart from them, but I feel your rationale and intent on shuttering your Twitter account.

  4. Hey mate – love reading your posts. Twitter helps me get there, so don’t let that one go. As for Facebook, I’m seriously looking at giving it the royal flick.

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