Social media at the moment are broken (yay, says who). Me! Here's my take on it and why I decided to limit my exposure to social media.
TL;DR - work out your own model. The longer I look at it, the less value is in what we call "social media." I crafted my space in it, and I've decided to abandon some parts of it for good. At this moment, each of us should revisit the way it engages us. Social media are here to suck your attention. Your attention can not be recovered. Make sure you are getting something in return.If you are in it for a status game. Run AWAY!
Social media are not social anymore. We need a new name for it. Attention-based business models were created to extract as much value from their users (not the other way around) with a growing influence on our lives outside of the network. How to call it? At this point, I don't have a good idea. But it is definitely not social.
Social is about interactions and meaning
Social is about interactions with a group. We all need it; the last 12+ months showed it for many of us. Yet, we are not getting it anymore from the thing we call "social media."
This post will not be another outcry for "delete Facebook" (I do think it is one of the best things you can do for yourself at this moment). It will not be another call into a void about privacy (It is a huge problem there). It is a record of my current perspective on Social Media, how I turned it around for an excellent benefit for my time, life, and interactions with people.
I accepted that those companies' networks are needed in some way for my work and are actually, if used right, a great source of knowledge. Some become so annoying and provided less value over time that I decided to drop them. Some I use.
Where things went south?
It started in the right way. Social media, in general, were not a bad idea. Keep in touch with friends and family through a single tool (or few tools). Maintain your social circle of friends and people you share interests with.
Then a newsfeed happened.
News-feed changed a stream of things your social network put for you into a stream of things. The social network decided is interesting for you. It came with optimization for monetization and the entire concept of gaming a system for again.
It wasn't about keeping in touch anymore. It was about how much time you spend on the newsfeed. The things it started for - your friends, interests, people you talk with becoming fuel for a newsfeed. Designed and optimizes to give you a dopamine shot every time you check it.
I get it.
They need to earn money to run those servers and build a product. Why have they not named the price? My opinion - no knowledge or research on it - selling you on newsfeed had far more potential to earn money than any subscription scheme. Simple as that.
Then it was a roller-coaster of dopamine shots, your attention being minted into time on ads and time on ads being minted into currency. You stopped using the product. You become the product.
Social media are now nothing more than a constant advertisement stream, sometimes disguised as a status update.
Good things happen there, don't you think?
It isn't that it is all wrong. I know, I get it. People are still connected with other people. The great things about networks created in social media are that they allow many people to build a different future.
Positive effects I observe in my networks:
- People building audience around their way of life, thinking or skills and building a new (better) lifestyle and future for themselves and families
- People from places with limited opportunities (developing countries) with skills use it to show their skills and get work (same, better future)
- Unlimited potential for reaching out to ANY person and ask a question. You might not get an answer, but finding yourself in discussion with someone with excellent knowledge on a subject and having it on the reach of your keyboard. BRILLIANT!
Those are BRILLIANT things! Especially for those people for whom it is an enabler for better life or change in a lifestyle.
For me, the cost of it vs. the value I was getting is not worth it anymore. I know how to handle it well. For a long time, I had removed the apps from my phone, disabled all notifications, had plugins in a browser to remove feed and likes. The single fact that such tools exist and I had to use them means that something is wrong. I need to protect myself from the harm that those sites and tools are doing to me.
What The Fuck! (sorry for the language)
I need tools to protect me from a site, which was about being "SOCIAL"? Is there something more fucked up than this?
The only way those sites can survive, grow and earn money is to get your attention. One way or another - attention is their currency.
If you are not there, you are not watching, scrolling, and clicking; you have no value for them. Attention is one of two resources (the other is time) to get back and replenish. If you spend it on social media, it means you are not spending it on something else. Those moments of attention spent on the right thing accumulates over time. It is a compounding effect.
Crafted my own space
I moved my social interactions into smaller, direct circles. Talk to people. Have a small, private group for chats with friends to share updates, moments, and laughs. Removed this part of my digital life from platforms completely (OK, still needs to convince a few people to move from WhatsApp :) ).
It is healthier, it is fun, it brought social to the interactions again. There is no fight for attention, there is no posing, bragging, no business models. No interruptions by a feed content which platform think is essential for me. I pick my time, space, and topics.
I also maintain a footprint on few platforms; at the moment, it is:
Twitter is the best source of information and a place where many good discussions happen. It comes down to the list of people you decide to engage and follow. It also is straightforward - I can pick any person and talk to them (or at least try). I did my work on curating my list of connections there. There is almost none of the political content in my feed.
It is also that Twitter is terrible for an advertisement that removed this entire "ads" game. You need to be interesting or have something to say - it works for you like an amplifier to whatever you are doing / selling, etc. It is tough there to be for the sake of a commercial thing.
LinkedIn is also different - it is for business. It is where a lot of business connections happen right now, it is suitable for recruitment. It is also good for professional content; yet, the number of ads and people using selling bots is becoming a bit annoying. Still, the benefits are there, and it is business.
For the rest, I keep it to my spaces. This blog. My newsletter. Recently started a podcast (this one in Polish, but stay tuned). I accept it will not be popular. I will not game the system, use Facebook or Instagram to play it, get followers, and scale.
I decided that places like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and few others are not for me. Too toxic, too much attention needed. If I will be selling something, that is definitely a place to go, no other reason.
It doesn't mean it is not good for you. You need to decide. You should ask yourself one crucial question.
Are you in it for a value, or are you playing a status game with other people?
If you are in a status game - run away and never look back.
While writing this post, I came across the Lex Friedman podcast episode (recommended to listen to it, try it, thoughtful discussions) with Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, and other books.
Cal Newport mentions there a term he coined for one of his books - "Digital minimalism." It is the right term for where I am heading right now.
It is well worth Watching (3 hours, I know, but make it 2X); if you are interested only in social media and attention topics, it happens in the first hour.
Digital minimalism is a way to go for me at the moment.
Put your actions where your words are
You have to put your actions where your words are. At this moment, this blog and other blogs/sites/podcasts I'm running are Google / Facebook free, as much as I can influence it.
What does it mean?
I do not put Google Analytics on the site or other web page.
I do not embed a Facebook pixel or similar tool from their arsenal on my digital assets.
Why I wrote, "as much as I can influence it"? I run those assets on platforms. I try to pick platforms I can control but do not always have time to check them at the moment or alternative to these tools.
I accept that there might be some tracking on the platform side; for example, my newsletter does track if you as a recipient opened it to give an Open Rate. If I find a tool that will do it, I will consider switching. The same goes with the podcast platform (I use Transistor.fm for it), blogging platform (Ghost), and few other places.
My resolution is that I will look for as many tools and avoid using tools that I know are being used to track you as a person.
I stopped using Facebook and Instagram, and I do not have plans to return there. Yes, I still have an account there (for reasons covered a bit further), but I don't have plans to use them in the future to come.
I also deliberately will work over removing those services from my other accounts (logins, integrations, etc.). In this case, convenience is not that important over the long term.
This effort is time well spent. I look at it as a long-haul effort with a compounding effect. Fewer distractions from social media to get a convenient logon (which requires you to be logged on to the platform) means more time spent on something, which might not bring results. On my own terms.
Why I still keep these accounts?
Yes, I still own these accounts. You can find me on social media platforms, which I don't use.
Why not delete them?
It is a part I need to figure out yet or broader we all need to figure it out in technology. I keep these accounts as I don't want someone else to be able to use them. I want to have control over my handle, which I used in the past, and if needed, prove that I am behind it.
Over time, develop some solution to prove that we are or what more critical we are, not the person who stands behind a specific account or profile. In recent posts and newsletters, I mentioned Distributed ID and Verifiable Credentials a couple of times. If those will be accepted, it might present some pieces of a solution.
For now, I will keep them.
That's it. No life-changing advice. This post was needed to summarize my approach at the moment and make you think about yours.
Is what You are getting from your engagement in social media worth your time and attention.
Think about it for yourself.