I haven’t spent much time publicly discussing the idea of alternatives to social networks. Luckily, Manton Reece did which served as a great jumping off point for this post. I won’t re-hash too much of Manton’s discussion because it’s entirely worth reading on its own but he did mention a couple things that I feel like is worth mentioning here.
Manton broke down what it would take for us, as a collective to free ourselves from the monolithic nature of our current social network landscape. He’s been on this train for a while and with good reason. Micro.blog, the microblogging community/platform is his doing and exists because at the end of the day, we should spend more time crafting our content using less-specific and more ambitious platforms. To those who travel in the own-your-own-content circles, this is known as POSSE.
That’s not the topic of this post, though he does touch upon that. The biggest takeaway I have from this post is that our social networks should be smaller, not larger. It’s a tough idea to wrap one’s head around when you think about why people end up on the networks the do in the first place and you have a pretty large hurdle.
Looking back on how I joined MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like, there was always some sort of motivation based on a friend or other people I knew. I frankly can’t remember how I came to learn about MySpace, but I know I joined Facebook because people I knew were joining Facebook. There wasn’t anything particularly appealing about the platform at all. What I knew was that my friends were there and that’s where I wanted to be.
A lot of folks do not care about the nuances of social networks and said networks know this all too well.
When we present the idea of smaller social networks (in contrast to the idea of having just a handful of very large ones), this is the challenge to beat them all. Most folks just won’t care. All they’ll find important is if the platform can get them access to their friends.
Conversely, some will ignore this notion. My fiancée doesn’t use Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., even though I’m sure a not insignificant amount of her friends on also available there. She’s found what she needs to stay in contact with the right people on Facebook and that’s that.
If I told her that XYZ was the coolest new social network and she should join because they care about things like privacy, ads, etc., all that would happen is the information would enter her head and disappear. She would fall into the category of desiring function over form.
I land somewhere in the middle. I’m all for more communities of people that mean something, but it’s a very fine line to walk. Twitter and Facebook already become an echo chamber quite easily if you’re not careful. Smaller communities are even more prone to such a concept.
Wisely, though, Manton’s overall focus is on content ownership. If Facebook died tomorrow, I’d probably lose a not insignificant amount of photos, but the ones that matter most are already in other places (iCloud backups, for example). Not everyone is so lucky. There could be years of vacation photos that by one way or another only exist on Facebook.
In his last paragraph, Manton accurately describes a solution to social media frustration is blogging more. I entirely agree. Even if not many people read it, or you only find yourself writing once a week, take the time writing there about topics you care about, instead of retweeting everything you see (guilty!). Turn those re-tweets into posts. Expand your thoughts. If nothing else, it’ll help you form a better opinion about why you like that thing you found.
If you’re keeping a close eye, you’ll notice that this post in itself is exactly the kind of idea Manton is describing. Taking time to write down thoughts and share them with the world on a platform you control and then share them with the world.
Blogging will always be something I enjoy. I’ve had periods of time where I failed to discover anything meaningful I wanted to say–this happens to everyone–but even in down periods, I had topics on the brain. The easy way out is to just write a tweet. The satisfying way out is to blog.