My buddy The Joseph Grey on social networks ((You should really be reading his blog, the man writes such great essays. I’m glad he’s returned to a site where he can post long-form again.)):
[Facebook] sure did show me a lot of bullshit Marilyn Monroe quotes, and ads for premium underwear, and a lot of old ass posts from five days ago. But the one goddamn thing I really would have wanted to see on my timeline? Not there.
Tell me about the shit my friends are doing that I might be interested in. In real time. Without them having to fucking pay you for it. To me, that is the entire point of a social networking tool. I should be able to look at it, see friends’ updates, and know when they’re doing something I might be interested in doing also. And there was a time when Facebook did that. Unfortunately, now they’ve manipulated the data so completely that you really don’t know what you’re seeing or not seeing anymore.
So it seems like, if that’s the only thing I want to use it for, and they’ve pretty much removed that function… why use it? It’s obsolete. They’ve fucked with the formula so much that it doesn’t serve the original purpose with which it was created; it’s now just a tool to sell me credit cards and clothes that I can’t afford.
It’s television. Facebook has become everything I hate about television. TV shows are just a vehicle to position advertising that makes you feel like you’re not rich enough, young enough, or thin enough while at the same time selling you shit you don’t need to buy, wastes your time, and makes you fat. Years ago, I stopped watching TV for that reason. I own a Roku box and a tv that was made sometime in the mid-90’s, and I only use them maybe once a week. Television makes me unhappy. I don’t want to be unhappy.
I have to agree.
Usually when I upgrade to a new phone, I do a backup of my old phone, set up the new one, and restore from the old backup. My apps and preferences are carried over. However, since upgrading to the iPhone 6, I decided to go with a fresh ((Well, not entirely fresh. I kept my text messages.)) install. I’m being more mindful of what apps I put on my phone, partly because I had so many apps on my old phone that I only used once or twice and forgot about, and partly because I only want apps that will enhance my phone’s use and not cause my phone to be more of a distraction. So far the Facebook app hasn’t made the cut.
I rarely use(d) Facebook. I’d rarely post directly to it, preferring that if I make a post on Twitter to have it crosspost to Facebook. ((I don’t know why people bother crossposting from Facebook to Twitter. At least this way I don’t have to worry about Twitter truncating my Facebook posts if I happen to exceed 140 characters.)) When I’d check the Facebook app while out and about, so much of my feed wasn’t really relevant: a non-current news feed, with inconsequential shared posts, and after their recent experiment who knows what they might be hiding from me that I’d want to know?
But what about Twitter?
Yes, I installed Twitter. At least it’s showing me what I ask to follow. At least I don’t feel like Twitter is hiding anything from me ((For now.)). Don’t get me started on it going above and beyond to show me tweets, favorites, sponsored posts ((Well, I may not like the sponsored posts, but I can understand why they’re there. Posts from people I don’t follow and what people I follow are favoriting are another matter.)), etc. in my feed, though.
So then there came this new social network on the scene: Ello. At first glance it really appealed to me:
Ello doesn’t sell ads. Nor do we sell data about you to third parties.
Virtually every other social network is run by advertisers. Behind the scenes they employ armies of ad salesmen and data miners to record every move you make. Data about you is then auctioned off to advertisers and data brokers. You’re the product that’s being bought and sold.
Ello is completely free to use.
We occasionally offer special features to our users. If we create a special feature that you really like, you may choose to support Ello by paying a very small amount of money to add that feature to your Ello account.
You never have to pay anything, and you can keep using Ello forever, for free. By choosing to buy a feature now and then for a very small amount of money you support our work and help us make Ello better and better.
I don’t care so much about ads (where possible, I use an ad-blocker), or having to pay for features ((If anything, I prefer paying for access to sites where I can get full-text, ad-free content)), but this gave me pause. Something just doesn’t seem right to me.
Candygram for Mongo
On one hand, we have a new social network promising all sorts of sparkly, shiny things (ad free! free to use! not creepy!), but on the other we seem to have the same social network not exactly walking the talk if what that last link said is true about funding.
I’ve got an account set up on Ello now but I’m not sure if I’ll be using it. I watched “Blazing Saddles” last night and right now I feel like Mongo being handed a candygram, except unlike Mongo I have a feeling that this candygram will one day blow up in my face.
Mongo only pawn in game of life
But for the sake of argument let’s say that Ello is what they say they are and that all the shiny goodness is for real. How many people are going to jump ship from Facebook and Twitter? For the time being, Ello is invite-only, and why should I bother using Ello if I’m already posting stuff to Twitter and forwarding it to Facebook? As pointed out on waffle → Making Waves:
But if that’s the case, if Diaspora was meant to work exactly as Facebook and App.net exactly as Twitter, why didn’t they work? Because most people actually were using Facebook and Twitter. Even if they were twice as well implemented, communication is about being able to talk to people. If they aren’t there, it’s not gonna work.
If more people went back to long-form blogging perhaps I might not need Facebook at all. Perhaps I might even be able to drop Twitter! ((Doubtful, unless self-hosted microblogging came along, or if posting microblogs here becomes as easy as it is for me to post to Twitter, and the people I’m interested in following do so. For now, long-form blogging and microblogging on Twitter complement each other.)) Until then, I may use the sites, but that still doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Closing with some good thoughts on this topic from my feed reader from the past few weeks:
The things that will last on the internet are not owned. Plain old websites, blogs, RSS, irc, email.
There is something about the personal blog, yourname.com, where you control everything and get to do whatever the hell pleases you. There is something about linking to one of those blogs and then saying something. It’s like having a conversation in public with each other. This is how blogging was in the early days. And this is how blogging is today, if you want it to be.
Like email, the personal blog’s technology is not owned and controlled by a company. It’s a decentralized technology that goes whenever you go. If you choose to follow a blog, no company like facebook can decide whether or not you can read its posts. So don’t hesitate to blog away. If you think blogs are dying, ask yourself: Are emails going away anytime soon?
Is the web we lost gone forever? Was it a brief golden age before the rise of Facebook and Twitter and The Algorithms of Engagement?
Or is the current period a brief blip in time, where we turned the wrong corner and now we’re getting back on the right road?
I used to think that the very structure of the web meant that it was always inevitable that we’d get back to the great web. I’m no longer that kind of progressive — I realize now that loss is real, and usually permanent, and that good things have to be fought for, not by a handful of heroes but by a bunch of regular people like me and Manton.
What kind of changes could be made to RSS readers to embrace microblogging and make Twitter itself less important? Because once we do that, we get back control of our own short-form content and at the same time encourage open tools that will survive independent of whatever happens with Twitter and Facebook in the future.