My Thoughts on Social Media in 2023

20 Jul 2023

I’ve written about how to fix social media before but with the giants like Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter looking like they’re begining a steep decline it seems like the perfect time to revisit the topic.

There is a lot of talk about the “enshitification” of the internet lately. The idea that algorithms, ads and corporate greed are destroying the platforms that the modern web was built on. In recent weeks Reddit essentially killed off 3rd party apps, Facebook launched Threads which appears to just be Instagram without pictures and a thinly veiled attempt to lure away Twitter users. And then there’s Twitter… Hot. Dumpster. Fire.

My personal experience with social media has not been much better. My feeds have become a wasteland ads, spam, and random shit that they know grabs my attention. And it works. I mindlessly scrolled and gained little value beyond dopamine hits. So, went ahead and deleted the Facebook, Reddit, and Instagram apps from my phone (I’ve never been much of a Twitter user anyway). I deleted my Reddit account. The only thing holding me back from deleting my Facebook account is that I do use it as the sole means of communication with some people and there are some valuable features like “Events” that I still utilize. But, that’s what it’s become for me now. Just a communication tool and nothing else.

And really, isn’t that the way it should be? These platforms are TOOLS for us to use to connect with people. Isn’t that the promise of social media in the first place? The problem, of course, comes down to money. As soon as you try to profit from community you invariably destroy that community. The users become the customers. Growth is king.

That being said, I don’t know that social media is dead just yet. I believe people are starting to take the control back. I like what I’m seeing so far out of Mastodon. What makes it different is that it’s not owned by any one company. The code is open-source. Anyone can make changes to it. Maybe more importantly there isn’t one company in control of the mastodon servers. Anyone can setup their own server, make their own rules on how it will be run and moderated. So, if you’re not happy with how the server is being run you can always jump ship to another one. You might be thinking “but does that mean I can only follow people on that server? If I leave I lose my entire feed right?” Wrong. Mastodon is “federated” which means that all the Mastodon servers can talk to each other so you can follow anyone on any server and have them show up in your feed. It’s admittedly a little more complicated than your usual corporate Social Media sites but it’s really not that complicated and it also just feels…right.

It’s community for community’s sake. No ads or algorithms. No data collection. Nobody is trying to sell you something or make a dollar off of you or trying to make you stick around longer than you want to. It’s exactly what it’s supposed to be: a TOOL. If you want to support it you can donate, or if you know how to code you can contribute to the codebase. It’s what the internet was meant to be: control in the hands of the users, not corporations.

It’s evident that the landscape of social media is changing rapidly, with giants like Reddit, Facebook, and Twitter facing steep declines. While algorithms, ads, and corporate greed seem to plague many platforms, there’s hope in the rise of user-driven alternatives like Mastodon. These decentralized communities offer an escape from the commercialized web, empowering users with control over their experience. Perhaps it’s time to move away from the term ‘Social Media’ and embrace ‘Digital Communities’ or ‘Community Portals’ as we enter this new era of meaningful connections online. I’d love to hear your suggestions for a fitting name!