Social media isn't social anymore

posted by Jeff | Wednesday, May 3, 2023, 11:18 PM | comments: 0

With Twitter in meltdown, some new media companies going under, and the ad market generally being terrible for anyone who isn't Google or Facebook, there's a lot of reflection about where we are on the so-called social parts of the Internets. That retro is pretty bleak.

Before Facebook, there were a million web forums, and on them, a million little communities formed. It's not an exaggeration to say that a great many Millennials and Gen-X'ers found their people this way, and likely still have relationships with them. At the turn of the century, and for some years after that, blogs started popping up either on platforms like Live Journal or Blogger, often on personal setups, and it was all messily tied together via RSS and trackbacks. Those were fun times.

When Facebook broke out of colleges, I signed up on the first day. Said Millennials were already there, including many who graduated but were able to keep their .edu emails for some period of time. College friends came on over the next year or two. And keep in mind that, at the time, Facebook was a desktop computer affair. When you posted photos, you would often post a ton of them dumped from your digital camera that was not your phone. (Some folks really didn't understand how to edit out the dupes and blurries.) It was fun, maybe even a little addictive, to see what your entire life of acquaintances were up to. I know that a lot of people would do life comparisons, but maybe because I had been doing forums and blogging prior, I knew that whatever you would see online was a subset of a person's life, filtered.

The point though was that what you did, your interaction and experience, it was social. It was just people you know posting photos of their food, from their vacations, and strangely (at the time) their kids. Compare that to today. It's hard to find what your friends are doing, and you're bombarded with ads, videos of completely meaningless and ephemeral crap, brands, celebrities and possibly politicians. People try to make being an "influencer" a thing, and everyone is a "creator" that makes disposable time wasters. Even if you can find the "recent" button, there isn't much to see from your friends because most of them have left. I'll admit, Facebook for me at this point is something I rarely read, I just post to it knowing that I'll be able to see the memories in later years. And that's just until I can figure out a solid way to pull it all out and keep it elsewhere.

Building a social network the way Facebook used to be would not be difficult. There are two huge problems though. First, you need the people you know to be there. Second, you need to pay for the infrastructure, because it's not free. Those are two pretty big hurdles to clear. To be social.


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