I have more electronic computing devices than I probably need: A couple of desktops*, several laptops, and really good phone and a janky one for backup. I don’t have any tablets, and there’s a reason for that. While I have a specific use for each of the other devices, I can’t see how a tablet fits any requirements I have. A tablet would sit between the phone and a laptop, but not improve on either one, or, at least, not enough so to justify adding one to my constellation.
I bring this up because I’m starting to think of social media in a similar way. Each platform should fill a specific need or want; otherwise, why am I wasting my time with it? What am I using the various platforms for, what am I getting from them, and what else is there that can answer the needs that aren’t being met. Here’s the current state of play:
Facebook: The only reason I’m on Facebook is that everyone is on Facebook, which means it’s the easiest way to keep in touch with, well, everyone. The fact that it is easily and routinely accessed by current and prospective employers limits the amount of candor one can (or at least should) indulge in. Similarly, the fact that everyone is there encourages you to keep the depth of interactions fair light for fear of the wrong thing reaching the wrong audience. Oh, and Facebook’s interface is painful**, it’s algorithms make it impossible to know what you’ll see when, and they are really, really fucking evil. Facebook is not a lot of fun.
Twitter: Twitter, on the other hand, is tremendously fun. Brevity works to Twitter’s advantages, and the pace of it makes its memory fairly short. The depth of interactions is limited by the character limit, but it makes up for it by providing a meaningful way to interact conversationally with people of all walks of life. But…they absolutely suck at providing decent tools to deal with harassment and don’t seem to recognize the problem. Nazis like Twitter and that’s not a good thing.
Instagram: Owned by Facebook, so they are just as evil according to the transitive property of evil companies. I’m a pretty light user of Instagram. I usually just post weird photos without explanation (visual vaguebooking?) and the level of interaction is minimal. It’s fine for what it is, but it’s not essential to me.
Those are the only ones I’m currently using. I’ve poked around Ello, Diaspora, Mastodon, and Snapchat, but…well, honestly, they might have worked out to some degree if my attention hadn’t been so thoroughly dominated by the others. I didn’t have any urge to add another social media platform and then replicate what I was doing on the others. There’s already a ton of duplicate content: If I follow the same people on more than one platform, I get the same posts over and over (he says knowing full well he’s going to post this on Twitter and Facebook when he’s done writing this piece).
Which is all a long way of getting to the question: What do I want from social media, and where can I get it? I love being able to keep in touch with geographically distant friends and family, but Facebook is a terrible way to do it; the signal to noise is just way too high. I wish I could just follow their posts via an RSS reader. I could probably cobble something together with Zapier or ITTT and it might be worth it. It’d be a lot easier to avoid checking FB constantly if I knew I was getting the feeds I really wanted over RSS.
In truth, I could probably force FB and/or Twitter to do what I want and interact more deeply with a pretty tight group of people. Both platforms discourage that kind of usage by making it a royal pain in the ass to set that up, but it’s doable. Of course, ideally, you wouldn’t have to jump through hoops to make it do what you want it to do, would you?
So…no answers tonight. I’m still just trying to figure out. If anyone has any suggestions for networks with really good privacy controls, good text handling (as opposed to being optimized for images/videos), and that isn’t a graveyard, I’m all ears. Even if it’s something I’ve looked at in the past, I’m willing to give platforms another shot…once I figure out what I want.
* Laptops get a lot of grief for being misnamed, but when is the last time you saw a desktop computer sitting on a desk?
** Would it kill them to have a way to find what you were just looking at before you reload the page or it scrolls down or you click on a link and then try to use the back button, only to find yourself looking at completely different stories? The unpredictability of the interface’s behavior is inexcusable this late in the game.