Every year, at least two times, I try to revive some old, forgotten corners of the internet; those that materialized in forms of chat rooms and forums a decade ago. And every single time I fail, because it feels like I’m fighting time itself, and even Thor wasn’t able to defeat Elli. Up until now I was always chased back to generic social networks, since _"everyone is on them, you can’t ignore that, and you **have to use it"_.
Even though this is a lie there is a frightening realization to it. If you’d decide to ignore Facebook, delete your account, how many of your friends would respect this decision and would reach out on other channels?
Same here - just a fraction of them.
This is what’s keeping us on the social networks: the friends who doesn’t respect our personal choices, even if there is a pretty good reasoning behind it. Still, I decided this has to change, even if I may loose contact with some friends. Some recently published articles, especially Salim Virani’s Get your loved ones off Facebook[^1] are concerning enough to make the first steps.
And with this elan, I started cleaning, deleting, sorting, saving, closing and so on - and the process made me realize many things.
Most of the networks are going into lockdown-mode. The Twitter API[^2] has ridiculously strict limitations even on displaying the tweets. From 2015-04-30 you can only access Facebook with the 2.0+ API - and, for example, there is no way to access group messages at all. In short, they are trying to block external access to force you to use their own app, website, whatever only. From the business point of view, it’s understandable, from any other perspective, it’s a problem. For example, I’d really like to have one single place where I see all my social media things, but the Terms & Conditions are restricting this nowadays.
Deleting is painful - on purpose. Some networks - Tumblr, Flickr, 500px - are pretty straightforward when it comes to managing your data, even if some refuses to actually delete it[^3], but the main players are making it hard. I had to sort out my posts on Facebook one by one because there is no mass manage your posts. And when I thought I’m done with 2011 after a refresh additional posts popped up from nowhere, previously hidden even from me.
You content, your moments of life is out of your hands. I don’t any more have the power to actually delete data about me. There is now data about me which I have nothing to do with: posts by others, photo tags, location check-ins. This is really, really bad. All the mistakes, even those you later realized can be pulled out from the past and used against you. And of course even if the EU is trying to do something about this, most of the services find way to bypass it[^4].
A “like” ( fav, love, etc. ) is not a bookmark. While it sounds obvious for some, it may not be for others, especially for those, who’d seen fav on proto-social networks, like DeviantArt. It’s practically impossible to search in the contents of things you’ve liked, voted, faved nowadays, with respect to the exclusions, and with this, the only purpose they serve is ego-boosting.
And these are just the most obvious ones, not mentioning how you, your face, your work, your art can be used in whatever commercial they’d like to.
And they are ignoring you. Ignoring your rights, ignoring your wishes; they even sacrifice the content you’d be interesting in for mood experiments[^5]. All this, of course, for money and power, the two shackles that binds the human evolution.
So, what else if not the social networks? Should we go back to our caves?
It seems like for a little while, we sort of have to, to make corporations realize they have limits and that they should respect certain boundaries.
We could all return to our
abandoned dusty old blogs. Or make new ones, like Known[^6] There are tools now, actively developed, to use your own site to send and accept likes, replies, etc.[^7]. And this might be more beneficial for some: I saw professional photographers going back to their own sites lately because they want to sell their work instead of doing endless, meaningless self-promotions on social networks.
We could send regular newsletters. While it sounds dull I’ve seen some veteran internet people returning to hand-managed newsletters lately, and it’s good. Your readers are not forced to read it immediately, it’s not intrusive, it’s private and if it’s a regular, once-a-week letter, everyone is happy: no too much information and you’re keeping an organized self-log for yourself.
We could return to instant messaging without social networks. In the faceless, old fashioned, non-recorded IRC networks it was much easier to actually get to know someone. Telegram[^8] and Slack[^9] are becoming more and more hyped, even though both seem to be a frontend for znc[^10] and bitlbee[^11]. We don’t need the social networks for messaging.
You are not bind to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, or any of these services. There are always alternatives ways and no one should be forced to use them.
I believe we are about to experience a mass social extinction. When more and more realize how badly they are actually treated in exchange for “free” services; how boring the locked services are becoming; how their art and work could be legally stolen from them they’ll stop using many of the networks. Most will not bother to replace it with anything, others might find their way.