When social media first came out (friendster, myspace, orkut, hi5, etc.), I was enthralled and wanted to partake in the space. It was at a time when the only manner of making money on the web was through ecommerce. Social media provided a new mechanism that went beyond the shopping cart as a possibility for employment and ideas. However, over time, I had become disenchanted by the evolution of social media. This blog discusses my disillusionment and general distancing from these platforms.
The Over Proliferation of Platforms
Up until Facebook (and a few variations after), the initial social media craze was really a battle over the users and UI/UX. The early iterations like friendster and myspace were poorly designed, slow and primitive. However, each seemed to have a small niche; friendster was the old college buddies, myspace was all the sex crazed, promiscuous rats, linkedin for professionals, etc.
Eventually, Facebook won as they kept things simple yet effective; more important they focused on the platform and did something the others failed to realize: create an ecosystem for applications.
Gradually, more and more companies tried to do something similar. But Facebook definitely was one of the smarter ones with their Facebook Connect, Graph and APIs.
However, by a certain point, there just was too many. And many did something redundant like having the concept of friends/connections. You felt that you were merely porting the same data over and curating it a little differently per platform. Yet it was a lot of work re-uploading images, adding the same interests and contacts, etc.
Although a few of these platforms did emerge victorious, I think they ended up burning me out by the sheer volume. While integrating these platforms professional might be fun, from a personal use, I no longer feel connected because they do not enhance my life in any meaningful way.
Making One Feel Small
A while back there was an excellent article on techcrunch talking about several questions a VC might ask you when you interviewed for capital. One of the most profound questions was: “What is your deadly sin?”
For social media it’s plainly obvious that the deadly sin is none other than vanity. Go on Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook (or other variants) and the content is all about bragging rights. You produce content on these platforms in an attempt to elevate oneself to your peers.
The psychological repercussions is that it makes people who do little or have no money feel worthless. What happens when you eat at McDonalds three nights in a row? Or that your biggest accomplishment that month was getting to level 89 on Path of Exile? Or how about something insanely useful and productive to yourself such as cleaning your floors? Does that qualify as worthy content on these platforms?
At the end of the day, I realized that there was zero point in giving these companies essentially free money by providing them my data. I might still occasionally view content from these companies, but I’ll minimize my interactions with them.
You can’t fool me into believing that these companies aren’t keeping dibs on you. And you can’t lie to me in making me believe that they aren’t in bed with governments or other bodies of power to keep track of us.
Worse yet you really have little to no control on how they monitor us nor what they do with that information. Mostly, it’s for advertising. But to whom?
I recall when Facebook Messenger split itself from the main Facebook mobile application and demanded to hook into your contacts. That alone made me delete the entire application from my phone. I lived without it before and I can live without it now.
But things like that just made me realize that it’s pointless keeping these things around. At least at home on my laptop’s browser, I have some ability to protect myself with various blockers. However, because these companies can only make money through advertisement, they’ll stoop to any low in using your information for their own gain.
The Advertisement Game
Within the past 25 years, I would say that advertisement as a whole has become worse. It used to be just for brand awareness. “Here’s my product, here’s what it does!” And sometimes they’d throw in a funny/entertaining skit.
These days it’s the bottom filth of the world that clings to these people. They have their own stupid Mickey Mouse rules. And most of these companies end up holding a great deal of power over these platforms. Take Twitch as an example. It used to be fun now it’s corporate.
But the problems is that as I mentioned, these platforms for the most part never planned from day 1 on a concrete mechanism to make money. Instead, they relied on content -> community -> advertising revenue as the generic method for income. The result is desperation and instability since advertisement isn’t really reliable.
However, that desperation leads to unethical enabling of spying and advertisement intrusion. With applications that were formerly great such as Instagram having more and more annoying, unignorable ads coming through, there’s nothing you can do except delete them from your phone. Again, I lived without these applications before and I can do so now.
Mostly Pointless Applications
If you really look at what a so-called social networking application is at the core, it’s just connecting people that you know or have some similar interest and sharing textual, audio, video or image content. There’s really not much more to them.
The great hope for social media to me was to break down old barriers and connect those that normally could not connect to others. Like dating or celebrities. And while that does occur, the problem is that the masses got to them and helped pollute these spaces.
Not that I’m an elitist or anything but I long for the days when computers and tech were aimed directly at the really nerdy/geeky crowd. The masses have dumbed down what a good application should be and companies have decided to exploit that dumbed down notion into low hanging fruit, hoping that new niche markets can be created.
Social Apps Aren’t Real Tech
Kinda going along the previously introduced thought, I want to put it out there that social applications aren’t what I consider real tech. Maybe larger companies such as Facebook are solving other engineering problems using the money that their applications are providing. However, the primary applications for these social networks are mostly just variants of caching, relational databases and massive collections of data being captured.
Any of these applications can be created easily these days and you can make anything social by adding user profiles and allowing them to connect to each other. But that’s not real tech to me. That problem has been long solved.
Tech is where you’re solving new problems. The perceived problem in the industry is just one for advertisers in figuring out more granular ways on collecting data to later utilize in selling a product to a consumer. Again, it’s not real tech nor a true problem humanity really needs resolved.
The Realization That There Are More Assholes and Cunts Than You Initially Have Believed
For better or worse social media has given virtually anyone with some sort of wired device a means to having a voice. You would think that’s a good thing until you realize how pathetic mankind is.
The result of providing everyone a voice is that many people get drowned out, sometimes unfairly. Worse yet you still have censorship. And even worse than that you give idiots the ability to be heard.
If the white noise from advertisement alone wasn’t bad enough, now you aggrandize this effect a billionfold by letting everyone speak. It gets very tiresome fast to the point where being disconnected and knowing nothing is far preferable than reading the rambling nonsense of the world’s population.
Again, call me an elitist here but I truly believe not everyone was born on this planet with a clear purpose. More importantly, not everyone was born on this planet deserving to lead.
The thing is that I’ve practically unplugged myself from most social media. I’m tired of political rants and stupid celebrities still garnering attention. It drives me nuts that idiots become celebrities because they get noticed for something stupid rather than doing something brilliant.
I know in Japan they had a phenomenon called Mixi Burnout. I feel a similar situation will happen in the near future with social media. If not there will be a tool that comes about that eliminates the noise to the point where only useful information comes through.