On Social Media

The iguana Jabberwocky laying in a small hammock, looking seemingly downcast as she rests.

Same, Jabbers. Same.

I’ve been wanting to blog for the last while (beyond my posts about what I’ve been learning in the computer realm), but I haven’t had a good idea of what to write about. I’m still not sure I do, but I figure this topic can’t hurt.

My social media presence lately has been…sporadic. At least on my usual haunts. I’ve been half-disappeared from Twitter, and even more so from Facebook. It’s been a mixed blessing, to say the least. I’ve found some good alternatives in the meantime, but first I want to talk about why I’ve noped out of each one (more or less).

What I’ve Been Leaving(ish)

Facebook

Facebook is something of a trash fire from a usability perspective. There will always be something or me to look at on the main feed, but that something is often not particularly interest or relevant. I really miss the simple chronological feed, and I miss the (very) early era of Facebook where sharing to it (and sharing a post on it) was not such an easy process; back when it was personal updates and text snippets, much like Twitter often is now. Instead it’s just a barrage of noise. The only reason I’ve stayed on Facebook at all is because I have several dear friends where that’s our only contact channel, and because lots of very valuable organizations (such as the Pacific Northwest Herpetological Society) conduct much of their activity there.

I’m still debating how much it’s worth staying, though. It’s a privacy nightmare. I don’t get much out of the content expressed on nit. I really dislike how Facebook behaves as a company (not as much as Amazon, but still). There’s a button that lets me download everything I ever uploaded, so I could still have copies of some old photos even if I quit. I should probably make an effort to provide everyone there with my e-mail and just be done with it.

Has anyone else ever quit Facebook? What was it like, for you? Did people you mostly knew through there still keep in touch through alternative channels, if you provided any?

Twitter

While the possibility of leaving Facebook doesn’t particularly distress me, it breaks my heart that Twitter’s become so hard for me to use. I have a pair of lists that I keep up in Tweetdeck, limited to about 100 people total, which helps keep the noise down. My full timeline has just gotten to be too much for me to follow. (I still need to unfollow the people no on those lists.)

But the busy isn’t the only reason I’ve been thinking of leaving Twitter. Anytime I go on Twitter, there’s a 98% chance that something’s going to happen to spike my anxiety. People will be yelling about politics, and expecting me to yell with them. This can be hard even when I’m on the same side as them! I’ve run out of energy to keep up with every new travesty that is done by our current administration, or the Senate, or Congress. Protesting those things is still deeply important to me, but I can’t handle it being the only thing people talk about for days on end. If I had a nickel for every time that “this new revelation is the smoking gun that will take down the Trump administration by next week!” I’d have enough nickels to go nickelboarding. That’s way too many nickels.

The UX has gotten pretty bad, too. It feels like I see almost as many posts that the people I follow “liked” as I do actual posts of theirs.

One of the other things that bugs me about Twitter is that we’re all so willing to pile on and just utterly destroy somebody. Don’t get me wrong, #metoo is a powerful movement, and sexual harassers and Nazis should be hung out to dry. But there’s times that people just make mistakes, or get called out for the first time on a pattern of bad behavior, and they’re never given a chance to correct, learn, and grow. Someone on Twitter said recently that we’d destroy the reputation of waffles if we logged on and that’s what our corner of the Twitterverse was telling us to do, and I agree. I’m not sure there’s a right answer here. We should hold people accountable for their actions, and we shouldn’t let them continue patterns of abusive behavior without protest. But people make mistakes, and there should be a way to let them do that that allows them to be chastised, learn, and grow without us destroying their reputation forever.

Of course, there’s all the very valid points about how abuse is rampant on Twitter. About how little it does to curtail dangerous use of it. About how it benefits from these abusive actors (sockpuppets make the account #s go up! Controversy draws more activity!). About how it, too, is a privacy-invading ad factory.

At the same time, I realize that not everyone can afford to quit Twitter. It’s where many people get their job leads. Hell, I only discovered the anthology I’ve been published in because of Twitter. When I’m off Twitter, I definitely feel like I’m missing out on anthologies, calls for subs, etc. Plus any ability I’d have to find new work that fits my fledgling freelancer skillset.

So it’s a hard call. I’ve been drifting away from it naturally due to usability, but there’s so many benefits to it. But I don’t really want to support its business model. AAAAAAAaaaaa *runs off screaming*

Instagram

If Instagram wasn’t owned by Facebook and didn’t have facial recognition shit run all over it, I would totally be on board. But it is. I forgot to install it on my new phone and I honestly am not super driven to do so, because every time I think of it I think of the privacy issues. Which sucks. I love sharing photos of my day to day, and out of the social networks I’ve talked about it definitely has the least toxicity.

Where I’ve Been Going

Slack

I’m a member of a couple slacks, and it’s been a revelation. It covers a lot of the same friendship-building and SFF industry awareness ground that Twitter covers for me. Plus it’s easier to have actual group conversations, instead of everyone just quipping at each other (through everyone does that, too). I’d love it dearly if the groups I’m in would switch to a Free/Open Source Software alternative, or even have an IRC channel, but Slack is slick and easy to understand, so I think it’s good especially for groups with highly variable tech literacy.

Mastodon

Mastodon, for me, has been magical. It’s like Twitter, if Twitter were a generally positive place. It took a while for me to get the hang of it, especially due to the federation part of it, but once I did I fell in love. It’s a lot slower than Twitter, but that makes it easier for me to start conversations with people. Others boosting (sharing/retweeting) your status actually has a chance of getting you new discussion and answers. And there’s all sorts of cool people on it that I’ve actually slowly discovered, instead of them getting buried in the avalanche of activity on Twitter.

Right now Mastodon has become my main place, and I’m super-happy to walk people through getting started on it if that’s what you need to try it out! I’m over at https://wandering.shop/@hummingrain if you want to hang with me. 🙂

Blogging

This is more theoretical than actual at the moment. (I think) I would love a return to the days of everyone having their own blog, and using RSS feeds. That way we all get to own and control our content, instead of forking it over to corporations to ad-algorithm-fuck. Plus, I feel like with blogging we’re given more time to read and digest before we respond about an issue, leading to it being at least slightly less knee-jerk responsive than Twitter. Or at least there’s less yelling. Sometimes.

I want to try to post here more, instead of on social media, and direct people through social media to it. So if Twitter goes away tomorrow, if Mastodon falls to pieces, if Facebook becomes a smoking crater (sweet!), my words will still be around. Your comments will still be around. This weird record into a jagged slice of my existence, and how other people interacted with it, will still be here.

That’s all for now, folks. If anyone has any experiences with leaving social media, or know about other sweet open source networks to try, I’d love to discuss them in the comments. Also you get a cookie made of my gratefulness if you comment on this blog itself instead of on its social media listing!s

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7 Responses to On Social Media

  1. Ros Jackson says:

    That’s very similar to where I am with regard to Facebook and Twitter – I’ve never been on Instagram other than to reserve a username. And I would dearly love blogs to see a revival. There’s something much more satisfying about the longer form and lack of distractions you get on most blogs, and the space for personality and deeper thoughts.

  2. Jennie says:

    I left Facebook in 2011 and have never looked back.
    I do miss out on Facebook exclusive content, but then so do most Facebook users because of the stupid algorithm, so…

    The stupid algorithm has now been imported to Instagram, as well, which has put me right off.

    I’ve been trying to cut back on Twitter and am blogging more and Mastoing more too. It is loads better for my mental health, especially the blogging

    • Ian says:

      Yeah. I think we have a chance to work through and process our thoughts with blogging in a therapeutic way that just doesn’t happen on FB and Twitter. Also, kudos for getting off Facebook! I’m seriously thinking I’ll bail myself after I tie up a few loose ends on the platform.

  3. Brenna says:

    Thanks for this! It’s always reassuring to have a reminder that I’m not alone in feeling resistant to the exploitative side of the big social media platforms. I’m constantly going back and forth about whether or not it’s worth it. As a writer working toward publication I feel pressure to maintain a social media presence about which I often have very conflicted feelings.

  4. Jonathan Hawley-Peters says:

    This is really inspiring, I’ve been having an internal conversation along the lines of what you discuss here, but had no idea that Mastodon existed. Also, blogging is one of the habits I’m planning on leaning into this year and I hadn’t really considered it as an alternative to the time I spend scrolling through FB, et al. Blogging is way more appealing to me after hearing you mention it in this context.

    Thanks Ian!

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