Social media traps

How do you avoid falling in social media traps?

Since the self destruction of Twitter, we have seen an explosion of social media sites and a fracturing of the landscape. I think we have reached peak social media. Many people will withdraw from social media sites altogether, deciding it’s not for them.

But for those of us who like social media, what are we to do about the new landscape? Do we persevere and stay with Twitter—I cannot even say its new name—despite the idiocy of its new owner? Do we go back to Facebook, whose audience of active users is shrinking? Do we concentrate on the new platforms, like Mastodon, Threads, which is also owned by Facebook, or Bluesky, which at the time of speaking is invite only?

I have tried all of them, and have landed on where I stand, and I will give you my reasons.

In the first place, I am not talking about personal use of social media. I am talking about the social media platforms I use as a writer to communicate with other authors or readers. In the past I have found so much benefit from using social media that I want to continue to do so. Writing is an isolating experience.

What social media do I use?

I still have my Twitter account, and I also still post on it, but I only do this through the button on my website that allows me to post the link and then I quickly close the window.

I do this, because I have more than 6000 followers on Twitter, and I do not want to throw them away with the bathwater, or as it may be, the sink water.

I will not be engaging on that platform any more.

I use Facebook mainly for communicating with fellow authors. I am in a lot of different groups where we discuss various aspects of writing. Facebook is forum software, and this is how I use it. This post is automatically syndicated to my Facebook page, and you can comment there. I will reply to it.

I tried Mastodon, but I cannot get my head around that site. I can’t find anything on there.

I got an invite to Bluesky, which is quite eclectic at the moment, with a lot of like-minded people talking about learned subjects like science and politics. I like those things, but it’s not terribly useful for writers, since the writers on there are terribly trad-oriented.

I have found the most fun at Threads, funnily enough, because it’s not easy to find things on there either. The algorithm serves up a combination of posts that they think you might be interested in, and those from people you follow. I quite like this, because if you just see the posts of people you follow, the danger is that your views become quite siloed, and that you never step out of your existing communities. This is not why I am on this type of social media.

What is my driving reason?

I have become wary of platforms that don’t allow you to post links off-site. This was one of the main drawcards of Twitter, which was basically an aggregator for interesting links. I used to follow all kinds of newspapers and read their articles. None of the new Twitter replacements has come close enough to that, although Threads is definitely trying. Because they use the Instagram database, most of the news organisations are there, and they actually post on their accounts.

As someone who uses social media for communication with people outside your personal contacts, you want to be able to get them to your website where they can sign up or get further information. For this reason, I have scaled down my writerly activity on Instagram and TikTok. They don’t allow you to post links. They want you to do everything on their site, for a cut of course. As I said, earlier this year, I lost access to my Instagram shop, and now when I visit that account, they want me to sign up for eight dollars a month so that I can keep having my shop. No. Thank you very much.

The enshittification of platforms

Over the next few posts about this subject, I will be referring a lot to Cory Doctorow’s process of enshittification, the things that happen when a platform transforms from something fun to something that’s meant to extract as much money as possible from all its users. Various social media platforms are well along the enshittification timeline.

First they get the people in because the platform is fun, then they start to pollute the waters by showing ads, but making it still really useful for the small-time commercial users to place those ads. They screw up prices. Then they start to charge people money if they want their posts seen by others. It’s like they don’t realise that because we are the product, we therefore resent paying for being the product. We’ll go elsewhere. This is the stage we have reached with several of these platforms. We have reached peak Facebook, probably reached peak TikTok, we’ve reached peak Instagram, and the other upcoming platforms will just follow them along.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t use them. In fact, use the batshit out of these platforms while they work for you, but also make sure that you have a personal off-ramp that doesn’t leave you at their mercy, doesn’t leave you ensnared in social media traps, feeling obliged to pay for membership or their ads.

Once they start pulling that sort of bullshit, you just pull up stumps and move elsewhere.

Comments on this site are closed because I do not have the time to deal with inane comment spam. You are more than welcome to comment on places where I’ve syndicated this post, such as Facebook, Threads or Bluesky. Find the links at the bottom of the right hand column.

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