When purchasing an item — a pizza, a pillow, or a phone plan — from a corporation that doesn’t share our ethical stamina, it can feel like willfully supporting the opposition. But we often don’t look that deeply into the vile whims of a brand’s owners or, if we are aware, can justify the quick pang of guilt by the low amount of investment. Regrettably, I feel that whenever I order from Amazon.
Many of us try our best to consciously steer toward products and companies that align with our values, and it’s easier than ever to mine information to guide us. We’re all trying our best in this space — I know I’m doing a lot better than I was a few years ago — but it’s impossible to be perfect.
Social media platforms are a bit different. They’re free, for the most part, so it doesn’t feel like we’re handing over money that’ll end up used for nefarious purposes. But, from another point of view, social media is worse. By participating, we risk adding value to that platform. That multi-paragraph reminiscence posted on Facebook adds value to Facebook. Jazzy cooking tips uploaded to TikTok add value to TikTok. And, I’m embarrassed to say, those snappy one-liners and threads I post on Twitter create some value for Twitter. Not that my one-liners are any good, but many folks post their best stuff on social media and only social media. The value these folks get is negligible, but, in aggregate, the value earned by the platforms is enormous.
My thoughts today are consumed by my always twisty relationship with social media. I’ve been conflicted since the Friendster days. Still, I have always participated, only mildly aware of the value I added to the succession of platforms I frequented. Like you, I used social media to keep in touch with old friends, make new friends, ask questions, share recommendations, and vent. I also used these platforms to promote my music, show what I’m working on professionally, find gigs in faraway cities, and get subscribers to my email newsletter. It always felt like more take than give — social media served me, not the other way around. But I was wrong. Only in the past several years have I realized this deception is embedded in social media’s design. My participation creates value, a notch on a chart at a shareholders’ meeting.
I want that ‘take’ aspect, though. I want to bring people to my blog, email newsletter, and music projects. Social media has its uses, despite the formidable downsides. I’m now examining this question: how can I use social media with the intention of adding as little value to the platforms as possible?
As an experiment, I’m going to step away from Twitter. That doesn’t mean I’m going silent or deleting my account. Instead, I’ll become intentional in what I bring to my feed. Ideally, posts will always contain a link away from Twitter. Most of the time, this link will send you to 8sided.blog. In other words, my feed becomes a signpost to find my blog and other projects. I don’t know yet how much I’ll engage on Twitter — I have many ‘Twitter friends,’ after all — but I’m hopeful I can steer conversations to my blog comment section or email exchanges.
A few years ago, I stopped posting on my Facebook personal page, though I still update the 8D Industries ‘fan page’ with release news. In the spirit of this experiment, I’ll start using Facebook the same way I’ll use Twitter: blog links, project news, and prompts to move any discussion to my blog. I have no idea how that will go — I worry the post comments will tempt me to start monitoring Facebook, and I don’t want to get into that. But, as with Twitter, anything I post will contain a link that goes to a site I own.
Even this little bit still adds a smidgen of value to these platforms. Does the potential of redirecting users to my blog deliver a greater value for me? Am I naïvely imagining some sort of personal ‘carbon offset’ to social media’s harm? The intangibility is frustrating, and, just as I don’t want to increase the profits of that pizza company or the pillow guy, it pains me to think that I’m part of an ‘active users’ stat that shows up in a Facebook or Twitter earnings report.
Maybe I’m putting off the inevitable. Perhaps this experiment will yield nothing but teeth-gnashing and anxious excuses. Something tells me cold turkey is a better option, especially if a particular former head of state gets his accounts back.
I’m giving it a try anyway. That means I’m pledging to write a lot more on this blog. Now that I’m freeing up the mental space previously taken up with concocting snappy one-liners for Twitter, it should be easy. And, believe me, after today’s events, I’ve never been more inspired to write a blog and send out an email newsletter.
I’ll finish with some quick technical notes. My goal is to never directly go to these platforms. Instead, I will post remotely using Publer (referral link), the best option I’ve found for doing that sort of thing. I’ll use Fraidycat to keep up with the interesting Twitter accounts I enjoy and Nitter to look at any Twitter feeds or posts. For Safari, an extension called Privacy Redirect will automatically go to the corresponding Nitter mirror when you click on a Twitter link.
Posting on the Facebook personal page is more challenging as there aren’t any remote options available via their API. As far as I know, presently, one can only post remotely to a fan/business page or a group. I may have to post and immediately hit the road (I use VPN and tracking blockers). Again, I’m not sure if that will work as comment engagement will be a temptation. If I see comments building to a link I post, I’ll have stock copy-and-paste text for replying, requesting that we take it to the blog comments section. I doubt that will be too effective, but it’s worth a try.
I’ll update you on how this goes. And I’d love to hear what you think. I’ll see you in the comments section.