I’m now three weeks into picking up and using non-walled garden social media systems instead of traditional ones, specifically Diaspora over Facebook and Twitter. It has mostly been a good experience despite some major disagreement on some of their decisions on user experience and other rough edges that I hope to help fix soon as a contributor. But the thing that puts social media apart from blogging or other static production ecosystems is the concept of sharing and interacting with other users. By the nature of the the fact these massive digital halls are still pretty empty I’m just not getting my fill of that.
I’ve had my moments in the past where Facebook pissed me off and I tried Google+. That didn’t work out too well so I went back to Facebook after they addressed some of those problems. I had my moments in the past where I was concerned about the amount of tracking Google does in searches so I went to DuckDuckGo. That’s still my main search engine but sometimes I need results that come out better in Google so go there. I also use the Google platform for my e-mail, documents, etc. The concept of them selling my data in exchange for giving me free service has bothered me to varying degrees over the years, but seeing how greedily it was manipulated recently is really amping that up to me. The amount of information available to the highest bidder has always been a known quantity to me but these recent stories are just putting that up to eleven. It’s not just the Cambridge Analytica story. There is also the story about Facebook and other companies forcing users to turn over their keys, so to speak, so they can look at any and all their personal data as a condition for working for them. There is the way they exploited that data in difficult discussions.
There are lots of write ups and studies which are showing more and more the negative effects on our perpetual stimulation by social media. This is everything from the negative effects of not giving your brain a rest, negative emotions from the perpetual stream of information, all the way to it being potentially an addiction. One simple way to get around this is to just uninstall every app, log out of the sites, and be done with it. That’s not always practical since these ecosystems are often how we tie into events, stay in touch with friends, and are helpful conduits to information we are looking for. The real problem is not having control of what and when information is presented to us once we enter these ecosystems. This is a byproduct of two features: alerts and newsfeeds. Eliminating and/or getting control of these is the key to getting control of and crafting your social media experience into being sane again.