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Fighting the right fight...

Julian Simpson:

I've been pondering the role of social media in all this — I know I'm hardly alone in that — and my first instinct has been to come off of all of it permanently. I've seen the Netflix documentary, I've read Jaron Lanier and Cal Newport et al. I know that if the product is free, that means we are the product. I know about the data mining and the undue influence, and I can find no cogent argument for portraying the people that run these services as anything other than venal.

And yet… I’d miss it if I went. I mean, I’m hardly there at the moment, but I do scroll the feeds and I do laugh at the jokes and click the interesting links and I do have my eyes opened to things that might otherwise pass me by. And how to replace that? I could spend an age tweaking my news feeds in the hope of replicating the experience, of finding another route back to the well. But is that time well spent? Or could my time be better spent re-engaging with social media in a way that makes sense to me and does no harm to anyone else? Participation itself would seem to be an act of collusion at the moment, and yet if all the good people bail, what is left? An amplified cesspool with no counter-balance…

I am not proposing to fight the good fight here. I’m not charging in to take on the trolls and the idiots and the white supremacists. But it would be nice to be an ally of the people who post the interesting, the funny, the thought-provoking and the just plain weird.

I've thought about this more than once since I deleted my Facebook profile and stepped away from social media entirely last year. Yes, there was a lot of good stuff on there which I miss. Same goes for Tumblr before the 'Porn-apocalypse' culling of that place in late 2018. And some LinkedIn groups I belonged to, before those got buried. Heck, even Reddit has some nice parts.

The problem, for me, is that the social network was getting in the way of my reaching that good content. Even if I could persuade the news feed to stay in chronological order, I'd have to scroll and scroll most of the time. My time and energy were being harvested by the social network, just so that they could show me more adverts, sponsored posts and other stuff. (Ad-blockers on the desktop got rid of most of that crap, but no such luck on mobile.)

The people I feel really sorry for are those whose only online presence is on the social networks. Yes, they may reach more eyeballs, but at what cost, both to themselves and others? Not just financial, but mental and emotional.

It's not enough for us to get out of the social media silos — we need to build alternatives that serve both users and creators. In many cases, those alternatives already exist, so we should see how we can strengthen and protect them. We need to get out of the mindset that the only way to reach an audience is through Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

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