Douglas Rushkoff, one of my favourite writers/thinkers on all things digital future, is "finally, definitely, fully leaving X, and probably all social media... And I’m encouraging people to do the same... Twitter has no tolerance for ... ambiguity. It’s missing the moderated, the emotional, the poetic…the whole human experience... this is just not good for me."
I so totally feel this. I dropped off Facebook a few years ago, quiet quit Linked shortly after, but stayed active on Twitter until Elon Musk eviscerated it. By that point I had already for several years been hoping Mastodon and the Fediverse in general would provide an alternative, so I joined the Twitter migration with gusto, only to become disenchanted with its technical limitations pretty quickly. As for Bluesky... whatever, by that point I just had zero enthusiasm for microblogging.
Because when Elon helped me quiet quit Twitter I didn't find an alternative, and I found that I didn't mind. I still go onto X to harvest some links for my reading queue, and - despite my own "That's it, I'm leaving! (possibly!)" moment - I still post there occasionally. I also check my LinkedIn notifications perhaps once a day, just to keep in touch, but I'm pretty sure that won't last. What counts for me is the CozyWeb (small groups on tools like Discord, Mattermost, etc.); I no longer feel addicted to mainstream social media or feel any pressure to go there, and it feels great.
There's only one problem. Pretty soon I'll be releasing an early adopter programme on MyHub.ai. If that works, then I'll need to raise money to build it out further. And that requires visibility. Balancing a need for visibility with maintaining personal mental health will be a challenge. After all, if you read this it's probably because I shared it on social media.
I, of course, am not Douglas Rushkoff. He has come to his position from a different direction: "I never felt it was appropriate for me to be on social media ... [which was] for people who weren’t getting paid three hundred dollars a column like me". His piece provides a good summary of the evolution of social media, from the hobbyist era through to its colonisation by professionals, which turned the "quaint, amateur (meaning love-driven) spaces ... more competitive... driven by click counts and ad sales and, eventually, influence".
As a result, social media evolved "from a play space to one that had some authority... It has been legitimized, including the lunacy ... all in the same size text...". It's a poor bargain, given that these spaces also lost their social power and their ability to support experimentation and skill development by hobbyists. The social media platforms have a stranglehold on innovation, and buy anyone who nevertheless successfully creates something new.
Instead, Twitter et al are now "the place to have supposedly serious conversations. And it’s not... It’s just the angry comments sections without the articles... Public discourse doesn’t work at scale". Which is why going to Twitter, as so many media do, to "find out how the public feels ... [is] like going to the psych ward at Bellevue to find out how people feel about current events", particularly now that Musk has "tweaked the whole thing to favor authoritarianism... institutionalized and amplified the worst qualities of the mob... 74% of the platform’s most viral, disinformation claims relating to the war come from blue-check users... promoted algorithmically" for $8/m. Nuance just doesn't get the retweets.
His position, he acknowledges, can look elitist ("like a Shakespearean actor ... jumping into the pit where the groundlings are... surrendering the advantage"), but what I took away from his piece that I hadn't seen before was this: "acknowledge this socially constructed power differential and use it to everyone’s benefit... you can ... let down your guard in a very different way than you can... standing on a soapbox in the park. ... a professional platform ... lets you be more vulnerable. You don’t have to fight for the dominance... [you can] express your doubt, to share where you’re at, and to talk about the difficult, ambiguous, in-between nature of real problems.... walk people through the experience of doubt."
With "Our experience of reality increasingly informed by ... identity-obsessed drives... nothing nuanced, nothing provisional, experimental, or in between and unresolved can happen" on mainstream social media. So what now?
Rushkoff, of course, has his Team Human community of subscribers, because "The extent to which any of us actually has an identity ... is entirely dependent on our connections we have with other people... You are my identity. Some call it audience capture; I call it community" (emphases mine).
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