A number of years ago, I made a conscious decision, based around privacy concerns and ad trackers, to minimize my time spent on Facebook and Instagram. It wasn’t especially hard; I deleted the Facebook app on my phone and diverted my attention elsewhere, and that was that. A little bit of righteous indignation goes a long way.
I have largely stuck to my decision and I’m no worse off for it. I’m not a Meta heathen; my accounts are active, and every now and again (a couple of times a month, I’d guess) I look through my feeds. I occasionally post to one or the other, when the moment is right. (And I use WhatsApp, because every group chat that’s not immediate friends now defaults to WhatsApp.)
Mostly, though, I’ve chosen to keep current on the news and chatter of the day, rather than the personal posts of social media. And for a long time, getting the best information of the moment meant hanging out on Twitter.
For the past nine months or so, the once-vibrant Twitter community has watched with concern as its new owner has put the service on a path of self-destruction. Competitors are now rushing to take its place, from grassroots distributed platforms to scrappy startups to, now, Instagram, in the form of Threads. Like many others, I have accounts on all of them.
Perhaps in a few months or years one of these systems will be our collective hangout like Twitter used to be. In the interim, though, it’s all rather overwhelming. I find myself completely at a loss as to which short-form posting platform to open. I’ve been flipping indiscriminately around all day without rhyme or reason. And still in muscle memory is that Twitter search is best for in-the-moment breaking news, so I’m still there, too, quieter but not gone.
What to do? We have so many decision points now. For one, where are my friends? My business colleagues? The interesting journalists and pundits I follow? The push news from the sources I trust? The fantasy baseball content? Darth?
Then: who do I want monetizing my feed? Elon Musk, on a site where he’s pushing extremist views? Or Mark Zuckerberg, whose platforms I so deliberately left not long ago? Or Jack Dorsey, whom most people blame for this situation existing at all? Or no one at all, via Mastodon, but leaving so much behind?
Or maybe—just maybe—I should just let go?
It may be time, at least for me, to stop chasing the conversation. It’s not really a conversation, anyway, not most of the time; you post, I post, they post, once in awhile someone replies, and once in a great while an actual conversation ensues. We’re all so used to this cadence that we don’t realize we don’t need it. But I know I don’t: my time away from FB/IG proves it. I just need to extend that motivation.
Giving up a 15 year short form posting habit would not be easy. I enjoy having an outlet for sharing thoughts in writing (see also) and with social media there’s a built-in audience. But then, audiences are elusive; sometimes my posts get some attention, and oh the dopamine hit that comes from a retweet, but sometimes I float a thought at the wrong time of day, or that the algorithm doesn’t dig, and fewer than 20 people even see it. With the fragmentation of the landscape, it’s all a crapshoot now.
I’ve been carrying around an old copy of “The Power Broker” for a good while. This could be a great time to commit myself to it. And a hundred other things that don’t require a social media feed.