I have a Love/Hate relationship with Social Media.  I’m going to share a bit of my own history with Social Media and my problems with it over the years and recently.  You’re not going to get any ‘Hot Takes’ nor are you likely to see anything here that you haven’t seen before as I doubt I’m going to say anything that hasn’t been described more clearly and completely elsewhere, but this is, at least, my experience with the phenomena that is Social Media.

I am calling it a phenomenon because the degree to which it has transformed some aspects of how we interact with each other and with culture, pop and otherwise is phenomenal.  This is funny because it’s really only phenomenal if you view it from the perspective of a 57-year-old who has been watching and participating in technology for his entire life.  To my kids, it’s table stakes or is, at least, omnipresent in their world from an early age.

Facebook (2006 – Present)

Facebook is the first time I recall hearing about Social Media.  This goes back all the way to reading about an application that was unique to, at that time, a few colleges back around 2004 and 2005.  You can learn far more about it than I care to talk about from the movie The Social Network (2010).

I recall hearing about how it moved from being available to college students only to where it became available to the public and I signed up, probably as soon as I could in 2006.  It was new, it was growing crazy fast and I, along with lots of adults, was curious to see what all the kids were up to.  (Quick check which can be applied to most forms of Social Media: By the time most adults know about or are involved with a given Social Media platform, most of the core audience, “The Youths” have moved on to something else.  It’s almost certainly not cool anymore.)

I was on Facebook for a long time because I saw it as a common platform to connect with family and friends who I didn’t see or talk with regularly.  And it worked for that!  For a while.  

A few problems:

  1. I saw a lot from “Friends” who were not really friends, just people who I connected with from various points in my life, and much of what was going on there was not all that interesting because, let’s face it, most of us don’t have that interesting of lives.
  2. I learned more than I wanted to about some folks, which was enough to tell me that I should almost certainly never talk to that person about anything in any way challenging because it would almost certainly go poorly.  This typically included religion and politics.
  3.  Facebook gave a forum for people whose opinion I was not interested in to shout that opinion to a wider audience and often that opinion was that I suspect they could and should have kept to themselves.  Basically, it gave the old man shaking his fist in his front yard at “those damn kids” or whatever the ability to amplify their voice when, really, they should just keep all that inside their head.  Or alone on their porches.  Preferably their back porches.
  4. While I knew that Facebook was really in the business of selling our eyeballs – because they had to make money somehow, I got that, and a “free” site is not really free – over time it became clear that things I wrote were not even being seen by half of my target audience, which was the folks who I actually was Friends with on the application.  In some tests that I ran, probably eight years ago now, I found that less than half of the people I was connected with were seeing my posts.  But, we all saw lots of other posts from either individuals or organizations or ads that Facebook made us scroll through to see the stuff that I was actually there for.

So, after my longest stint on any Social Media Platform, I broke up with Facebook in January of 2014 and didn’t look back.  I shut down my account and walked away.  The power dynamic had shifted way to far away from me and I was not getting enough out of the platform to justify my continued involvement.  That was over nine years ago, but based on math, I guess I was on there for something like eight years, probably.

For comparison, today, roughly 71% of adult American’s are on Facebook and this is with engagement and usage declining for many years now.  So, clearly, Facebook has managed to get along without me just fine!

MySpace (2005 – 2008)

To go back before going forward, MySpace is the first time I became aware of a Social Media platform that my kids were interested in.  MySpace was really popular back between 2005-2008 or so.  After that, it died off and became, according to one article, “an afterthought”.  But, at the time I became aware of it because my kids were on it, collecting music, getting their computers infected with viruses and following people who I didn’t know, never met and might not even be local to them.  MySpace was the first time I saw my kids editing code!  Because even back then, you could edit the HTML code to customize your own page.  I recall my daughter hacking her MySpace page.  Little did I know that more than 20 years later, she would pursue that as a career!  All she wanted to do at the time was change some colors and some other small things you could customize at the time.

But, for all of that, it was pretty clear that it was Not For Us (the Parents, the Adults).  This kept it cool for a while, but ultimately meant it didn’t cross over or break through the way Facebook did.

Google+ (2011 – 2019)

Not long after Facebook blew up, Google took notice and decided they wanted some of that pie, so they focused the might of their giant space lasers at the problem and produced … Google+.  Which was, let’s be fair, a pretty weak attempt at a Social Media Platform.  The main thing it had going for it was that it was from Google?  There was some integration with Google Photos and a few other things, but largely it was sort of the Nerd version of Facebook and, like many things that Google does, it put a ton of energy into it for a while, determined it wasn’t going to pay for itself and then killed it off.  

Snapchat (2011 – Present)

Snapchat is an example of a Social Media Platform that is Not For Me.  By which I mean I am very much not its target audience.  As someone outside that phenomenon, I will simply say Snapchat exists, so far as I can tell, as a way to share pictures (and videos).  What’s unique is the ability to determine how long a given post lives.  Could be very short-term.  Theoretically, you can’t make a copy of a Snapchat post, so it was a way to post photos that were protected to some degree.

Again: not the target audience.  That having been said, “As of the 3rd Quarter of 2022, Snapchat has 363 million daily active users. That is 18.6% increase Year over Year.”  Who knew?  Certainly not me.  I thought it was dead.

Instagram (2010 – Present)

Instagram originally existed to share photos.  You could follow folks and they could follow you and you could see their pics and vice versa.  Over time, they included the ability to post videos.  Then they were bought by Facebook in 2012.  Since then, Facebook inserts lots and lots of stuff over and above what and who you are following.  Often ads, but generally other content their algorithm has decided might be relevant but often is not.

I do have an account on Instagram.  I have also deleted it from my phone several times, irritated at the ratio of stuff I want to see versus the crap they make me scroll through.  I judge myself for staying on this platform.

But, I will say that this is an example of my shift in the role of Social Media for me.  I only participate as a consumer.  I don’t produce stuff that is easily consumable or appealing to a large audience, so that ends up meaning that Social Media is a passive activity that I participate in primarily as a consumer when I’m bored.  

This app doesn’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon.  It has over 2 billion active users monthly.  

Reddit (2005 – Present)

Reddit is a site where people with some common theme can get together and talk about it or ask questions or debate it.  Or just share memes.  Could be video games or politics or religion or wrestling, all it takes is for someone to create a reddit (basically a group) and if enough people are interested, you will have both contributors and viewers to keep it alive.

I have to admit: This is one that doesn’t really resonate with me.  I don’t get it.  It doesn’t grab me.  

That having been said:

Reddit key statistics

  • Reddit generated $350 million in 2021, primarily from its advertising business
  • Reddit has 52 million daily active users and approximately 430 million users who use it once a month
  • In 2020, Reddit received over 30 billion views every month
  • Reddit was valued at $10 billion in August 2021, almost doubling its previous valuation of $6 billion in February 2021

This one might stretch how I’m using the term Social Media Platform, but there are people, they talk to each other about things they care about, so I still think it fits.

Tiktok (2016 – Present)

This one surprised me when it came out.  It is from China and is all about posting and interacting with short-form videos.  Because it’s controlled predominantly by the “algorithm”, what you tend to see is the kind of content that you watch and/or interact with.  Swipe by a kind of video enough times and you probably won’t see much of that.  It’s mainly self-tuning in that regard.  

This one is kind of the pinnacle of bored scrolling.  Yes, I have an account.  I see a bunch of stuff about woodworking, crafting, puppies and other cute animals and a few other things that I can’t explain but don’t have a problem with.

Tiktok is massive.  TikTok officially has over 1 billion monthly active users.  That’s not going anywhere soon.  At the same time, interestingly, because of it being a Chinese company with close ties to the Chinese government, US governments are starting to restrict access to TikTok.  I understand there could be a risk, but I don’t suspect there’s a huge amount of intel that can be scraped from me watching woodworking videos, but I could be wrong!

Twitter (2006 – Present)

I thought Twitter was going to be a good thing.  Sigh.  We can’t have nice things.

Originally a way to post 140-character Tweets and follow who you wanted to follow, it has, if you’ve been watching any of the recent media, turned into exactly the kind of dumpster fire that you might expect when one Tech Bro (Elon Musk, if you have not read anything in the last year) lives too long in an echo chamber of people telling him he’s a freaking genius and that all his ideas are good ideas.  

Elon bought Twitter in 2022, mostly out of a combination of what I think was entitlement, pique and a gross overestimation of his own intelligence.

Just because you can roll your buy-out from Paypal into purchasing other cutting edge technologies like SpaceX and Tesla, does not mean you understand how to take a Social Media company that managed to lose money every single year of its existence and turn that around and somehow make it start producing golden eggs.  

I had been on Twitter for some time, again pretty much solely as a consumer, for some time before Elon came a-knockin’.  But I had a strong feeling that his notion of creating a true Agora where free speech was supreme was all just bullshit to cover the fact that his speech would be free and everyone else’s was free pending his approval.  Sure enough, he has made it clear he is a thin-skinned billionaire who famously can dish it out but not take it.

This week it came out that he went back to his remaining engineers and complained how his engagement was significantly lower than President Biden’s around the Superbowl and rather than accept that explanation for why that was, told his engineers to “fix it”.  Which they did by basically giving him his own setting in Twitter that artificially amplified his content to whatever degree he and his engineers decided.  Yeah, that’s free and equal speech for you.  And, to be fair, the guy bought the platform, he’s welcome to set fire to it however he’d like, including in a fashion that lays bare his own insecurities and weaknesses.

When he purchased Twitter, I drew a line in the sand: If/When he allowed Trump back on the platform, I was gone.  He stated his intention to invite Trump back and I deleted my account and the app and haven’t looked back.


So, what’s next?  Dunno.  Honestly, no clue.

I’m currently playing with Mastodon and you can find me there at this link.  Is Mastodon going to take over from Twitter when it’s slowly dying dumpster fire?  I’m not sure, but at least right now it does seem to be trying to do some things right and I think it’s worth my time to support and worth yours to check out what a Twitter-like solution could be if it was not run with Profit as its major driving force.

Because I’m an introvert and because of my age and background, Social Media as it exists today is a bit of a mystery.  It starts so much with young people who grow up and grow into the social media landscape and determine what will succeed and what will fail.  Again, by the time the elder generations come along and discover something, the Youths have likely moved on to the Next Big Thing.

I’m happy to see where things go, in the same way I’m happy to see where culture and technology go, but it will be as an observer, not as a mainline consumer because whatever comes along next will be designed to gain the attention of a generation that will have different needs and desires from those that came before.  

(Note: Blog Image created by Midjourney. How cool is that!)


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *