Categories
Technology

On Social Networks

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, especially with the introduction of WT.Social, a new social network from the co-founder of Wikipedia, which boasts about being a better alternative to the mainstream social networks. We all know those mainstream networks, and we’re all probably on them. I’m on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, but there’s a lot more out there, and sometimes I wonder if that’s becoming a problem.

Originally, Facebook introduced itself as the only social network you’ll ever need. Almost 14 years later, it doesn’t seem like that has happened. Smaller players have joined and left the field, even big players have. Google’s own Google+ lasted 7 years, and let’s not forget Apple’s own iTunes Ping which lasted for a mere 2 years. But, others are hanging in there, like Tumblr, Reddit, and even WordPress.com has a social network element. They thrive on a loyal user base that prefers their product over others, and as Facebook continues to land on the wrong side of privacy, security, and marketing, no wonder other social networks are still thriving.

In the old days, we’d check probably just 1 social network probably just once a day, but now it’s more like 4 or 5 social networks 4 or 5 times a day (likely more). Is that a problem though? Is there an issue with having access to your friends and family, and a whole world of information, at all times? I believe that social media fatigue is real, so I suppose it all comes down to how you use them.

For me, I consider Twitter to be my primary social network, I’m on there and engaging the most, largely thanks to Twitterrific. I’m also on Instagram for photos, LinkedIn for business-y things, and reluctantly Facebook because that’s where I can connect with the most people I know. WordPress.com is in my life too, but that’s where I work, so I still consider it work. I do have my eyes set on Tumblr, but someone has squatted my username, and after winning Twitter and giving up on Instagram, I don’t think I’ll bother right now.

I have joined and thoroughly enjoy one alternative social network, MLTSHP (pronounced Malt Shop). It’s just a place where folks share fun images, GIFs, or videos they found around the internet. Think of it like a curated Tumblr or Reddit. It’s not free, there’s a small $3/year membership fee to keep all the junk out, and it works! Everyone there is kind and supportive, you’re immediately one of them just by joining, and anyone who joins with ill will is usually within hours of violating MLTSHP’s Code of Conduct anyway. The mainstream social networks are free and powered by advertising, you’re the product. MLTSHP is powered by that membership fee (and a $24/year upgrade for folks who want a few extras) and it’s entirely open source. You’ll never be the product at MLTSHP, and you could always fork it if it ever shut down, which is actually how MLTSHP was born from the ashes of MLKSHK (pronounced Milk Shake). You can follow folks there (like me), but the total membership is only in the hundreds, so you can go through the entire incoming feed once a day easily.

For me, MLTSHP makes up the missing piece of my social network collection. Twitter for engagement, Facebook for connections, LinkedIn for business connections, WordPress.com for work, and MLTSHP for fun. While I long for the unlikely days of 1 altruistic social network to rule them all, I think I’ve struck a good balance with these 5. Social networks will come and go. You should definitely try new things, but the best thing to do is to watch out for fatigue, however you handle that.

(Photo by Merakist on Unsplash)

Categories
Technology

Likes and Self-Censorship

likeA friend recently asked me about transferring Likes between platforms, which got me thinking about what Likes mean to me. Upon applying a little more thought than my typical “Yay, someone liked my post!” I came to the conclusion that they were useless to me, perhaps even detrimental to my writing.

Likes are an artificial construct we rely on as proof that an audience exists and is happy with the content we shared. I don’t need Likes to prove I have an audience, I have Stats for that, and Likes do little to prove that the audience is happy with the shared content. The simple action of pushing a button hardly qualifies as reader engagement, completely reading the post isn’t even required. The Like button is also only present on the site itself, it’s not present in subscription emails or RSS feeds. There is no proof that those who pushed the button actually liked the content or that there aren’t more out there who just didn’t bother to push the button.

Likes as an artificial construct of an audience are also seen as an artificial construct of self-worth, leading to self-censorship. I have always believed that the writer should write what the writer wants to, and let the audience grow around it. Likes are the antithesis of that. Once you begin to believe Likes are your only proof of audience satisfaction, you have lost the battle over your own creativity. Self-censorship sets in, and you begin to force yourself to adapt to please an audience which probably doesn’t exist in the form you understand it.

I have removed the Like buttons here after this little revelation of mine. I’ll continue to write what I feel like writing without being misguided by the Like button. I’m interested to see how this little experiment goes, and I’ll always have my Stats if I need proof that people read what I write. As for you kind folks, if you like what I write, please feel free to share it, Like/Favorite/+1 it on your social network of choice, or let me know in the comments. I may no longer have a Like button here, but I do appreciate a kind word from time to time.