Transform Social Media – Part 3

Stuck With Social Media

In part 1 of this article, I talked about the bad and ugly side of Social Media that overshadows the good side. The question there was to either remove or improve the social networks.

Part 2 talked about removing Social Media altogether because of its negative effects on society.

Now it’s time for part 3: improving Social Media. But that’s a soft word. Let’s say: transforming.

Social media needs a paradigm shift!

New Social Media

At this point, it’s unlikely Twitter or Facebook will disappear. According to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook can be killed, but only by a superior social network (No Filter by Sarah Frier, pg 64).

These networks are entrenched in society; they span the globe. Indeed, we’re entangled in a world wide web. Facebook and Twitter are not just websites, they’re cultural centers of communication. They’re planetary town halls. They are woven into the fabric of culture, for better and for worse.

If Social Media persists, there must be radical new ways to do it:

  • Only paid subscriptions; no advertising-supported models.
  • Only real names; no pseudonyms.
  • Only individual people; no brands, companies or business pages.
  • Only individual profiles; no universal aggregated feed.
  • Only group feeds; small administered groups of people would have their own feed.

These ideas are necessary to try because the ways we’ve been doing Social Media continue to fail.

The New Face Of Facebook

Facebook can take radical change for the better. You and I can keep using it; we won’t need to change, Facebook will.

First, no more Newsfeed; just kill it. Go back to the original Facebook that had only profiles of everyone.

The new Social Media rejects the Newsfeed or Timeline. If I want to see what my friend said or did over the weekend, I click on his/her profile! It would be like simple blogs or tumblogs without the overhead.

For convenience, small groups could have a feed. Individual users who manage the group would moderate the feed. The feed is optional, turned off by default.

Second, no more ads. Charge $1 per month per person. I’m sure most of the 2 billion people using Facebook right now can afford that. So that would be $2 billion dollars a month in revenue from Facebook Subscribers! That is serious business.

A Facebook Subscription model would work like Netflix. You pay monthly – just $1! – for the network, and at any time you may cancel.

And your profile is saved. So if you want to return after a 2 month hiatus, no problem! Just log in and flip the payment switch. Buy some Facebook one month at a time. Take a break when you need to.

Other Options

But what if Mark Zuckerberg is unwilling to change Facebook? Then you and I should move to a better platform. What other social networks are there besides Facebook and Twitter?

New social networks with real growth potential have launched before, threatening Facebook. Either Facebook copies them (SnapChat) or buys them (Instagram). Or they implode (Google+, Path)

But there are two new networks that aim to do things better: AllSocial and Bokeh.

The Facebook/Twitter Alternative

AllSocial abolishes the algorithm; it’s in opposition to Facebook. You get a user profile, and there’s a universal feed. But in that feed, you see every single post from every single friend in chronological order! There is no algorithm filtering or sorting anything. While there is content moderation, there is no censorship.

This network is young. So if you join now, you might get the username you want, like I did! Here’s my new profile.

The Instagram Alternative

Bokeh eradicates the entire advertising model of Social Media! It requires a paid subscription; there are no ads! It’s more private, there’s no algorithm for the feed, and it’s also in chronological order. Go check out my separate article here. Suffice to say that the promise and potential are so great, I backed it on Kickstarter.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

For Better Or Best

Maybe I’ve been too focused on the negative effects of Social Media. To be fair, I could talk more about the utility, convenience, and fun of scrolling the Newsfeed.

But if it’s fun entertainment I’m after, then you and I both know there are far better ways to enjoy it outside of Facebook. YouTube much? Or better yet, take up a new hobby.

And though we like the utility of Facebook Groups or Marketplace, those services are elsewhere too. But they’re often overlooked. And if they don’t exist, it’s because there’s no chance for them to compete against the leviathans of Social Media.

There are real benefits to a universal platform where anyone can say or publish anything. Much good comes from such freedom of expression. Social Media is sometimes a helpful change agent.

But it’s not the only change agent, and it’s not the best. Worse is the unprecedented power of Facebook. Its vast global reach is under the ultimate control of one person. This is precarious; it could be perilous. Who can change this mighty change agent?

In any case, Social Media must change. We must transform it because it causes more harm than help in society.

So don’t hesitate to consider other social networks. Think about joining AllSocial or Bokeh. I know your friends and family might not be on those networks; maybe they’d never switch. I get it.

Change is hard, and when “everybody” is on Facebook, there’s too much inertia from the network effect to break free. It’s a real issue! But is that issue insurmountable? And is that issue greater than the negative effects of Social Media on everybody?

Talk to your friends and family. Open a good discussion (not on Facebook) about starting fresh on a new and improved social network. Invite them out for coffee and politely ask if they think current Social Media is a net negative or positive. Share this 3 part article with them.

You’ve got to give change a chance.

You are the change agent. For the better. And for the best.


What do you think? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Transform Social Media – Part 2

The Social Media Dilemma

We’re talking about living with Social Media for better or worse. Part 1 of this article showed the overwhelming downsides of Twitter or Facebook. We’ve tolerated and suffered them long enough.

We asked the question, should we remove social networks or improve them?

In this Part 2, I say remove Social Media. But remove is a soft word. Instead, let’s say: eradicate, abolish, and abandon.

No Social Media

I first joined Facebook in 2009 and have been using Social Media ever since. Years of privacy scandals, election tampering, misinformation, and fake news hurt society. Mixing that with funny memes, dad jokes, cat videos, baby pictures, and travel photos is jarring. Doesn’t your mind feel assaulted when scrolling the feed?

Social Media: the pros don’t outweigh the cons.

Despite the good stuff you and I enjoy on Facebook or Twitter, all the bad stuff is too much. The negativity is too negative. And it spreads like a pandemic virus across the globe! Why is negativity so viral? The downsides of Social media are too detrimental to our society.

We should eradicate Social Media from our culture and daily life.

My normal response to Facebook when it gets sour is to disengage.

Then I delete my account!

But since I always return to the platform, I do not plan to #deletefacebook this time.

In the past, I’d hoped that enough people would delete their accounts to cause a mass exodus. The network effect would kick in. If enough people left Facebook, then everyone else would follow along and leave too. It would become a ghost town and get shut down.

The problem is that everyone would end up on another Social Media platform. Then we’d have all the same people and all the same problems.

Back on our soapboxes, discord would be sown again. We’d reap a new harvest of civil unrest. Do people tend to agree-to-disagree on Facebook? Is Twitter a place where we compromise our agendas?

This is why we must abolish or abandon Social Media. We must avoid the degradation of society.

Connecting the world together reveals and exacerbates our differences and facilitates division. We want to moderate other people’s opinions when deemed as bad speech. But we feel we’re muted when our own posts are moderated. It’s decried as censorship, and the ranting escalates.

We’d be better off without the global megaphone of Social Media.

But can we live without Social Media these days? Yes, we can.

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Remove Social Media

We can return to the Old Way of digital networking via blogs, emails, and chat apps. You find the utility of Social Media replicated by these and other forms of decentralized or federated communication.

And there are advantages to living without the silos of social networks, like privacy and control of your personal data. On those lines, the IndyWeb movement fundamentally upholds the free and open web.

These old and new forms of social networking also have their pros and cons. But given our current state of Social Media, it’s time you and I understand and consider alternatives. Our very own democracy may be at stake.

Improve Social Media

If Social Media is too entrenched to be expunged, then we must find a New Way to network on the web. We must change how Social Media works.

Can we erase and replace Facebook and Twitter? Are social networks broken beyond repair?

In my next blog post, part 3 of this article, we’ll look at a New Way to do Social Media.


What do you think? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Transform Social Media – Part 1

For Better Or Worse

Let’s talk about Social Media. It’s an established part of our culture and daily life, for better or worse. Even if you or I choose not to have a Facebook or Twitter account, we still tolerate their effects on society. The problem is the worst parts seem to outweigh the best parts. So wouldn’t we be better off without Social Media?


The Pros And Cons

As with most things, Social Media has pros and cons. I’ve deleted my Facebook account four or five times. And I always end up rejoining. Why? What’s the first thing I do? I start re-friending! The greatest feature of Social Media is the people you know: friends, family, and acquaintances.

The Good

We can talk about the convenience of connecting to all the people we like. You enjoy following them, reacting, emoting, and commenting. We do this anytime and anywhere; just whip your phone out of your pocket. It’s easy!

There’s also the utility. We like the tools that help us network with others: Facebook Groups and Marketplace, or breaking news on Twitter. It’s handy!

Sometimes Social Media is fun! Remember Farmville? Okay, nevermind. Cat videos…memes… It’s silly!

The Bad

Despite the pros, we must deal with the cons. I don’t know about you, but I often reach the point where I’ve had more than enough of the worst parts of Social Media. And I’m not talking about its addictive nature.

I’m sure you’ve heard of Social Media Fatigue or Newsfeed Stress. In the past few months, we’ve been stuck at home surfing the web more than usual. I bet you’ve noticed a lot of negativity on Facebook or Twitter.

A global pandemic. A deadly virus.

Panic, protests, and politics.

Discord, division. Stress, anxiety.

Riots, violence, brutality, and death.

We did not sign up for these in our Newsfeeds, did we? There are not enough cat videos or silly memes to make up for it.

All that is bad stuff. And you’d hear about it in the news on Cable TV or news websites. Or you might even hear about it in the good ol’ fashioned grapevine, the word-of-mouth network.

The Ugly

Here is where it gets worse though. After bad news knocks you to the ground, you get kicked while you’re down by everybody’s opinion. Then things devolve. Not sure what to think about the hard times we’re facing? Twitter or Facebook will tell you what to think. They want you to pick sides.

Social Media is everybody’s soapbox. It’s a personal megaphone for declaring opinions as if they’re facts. It amplifies our base natures. Pseudonyms lower inhibitions or inflame egos. Algorithms exacerbate the situation, causing a downward spiral. Have you seen any high-profile incendiary posts lately?

You and I agree, on a rational level, that issues we face have many nuances and gray areas. But then we disagree, on an emotional level, over those same issues, making them binary. We end up polarizing the problems, which causes more problems.

Social Media is a place to post short statements, like sound bites. Whether pictures, video clips, or words alone, they’re brief. Often the context is incomplete. We make hasty generalizations and oversimplifications of complex issues.

When we do that, we lack civil discourse because Social Media platforms are not designed for it. The comments section of a post is a poor place to discuss watershed moments. Who likes arguing about politics or religion on Facebook?

Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

The Turning Point

What are you and I to do about this? We ask the question that Nick Bilton in a recent Vanity Fair article asks:

“If this is the case, it leads back to the age-old question of whether social media is a net positive or a net negative for society.”

My answer to that question came to me a few weeks ago; it’s what prompted me to write this article. It’s clear to me that Social Media is a net negative. The cons outweigh the pros.

Plus, Social Media is not necessary. It’s fun, convenient, and has utility. But you and I can have plenty of all that without Social Media.

Yet a troubling point came from Nick Bilton in the same article. The answer to the question isn’t what you think (emphasis mine)

“I spoke to both a former Twitter employee and a former Facebook employee about this, and their answers were surprisingly similar. Social networks are neither a net negative nor a net positive for society, they both said. Rather, they magnify our most visceral feelings and beliefs, at a blazingly fast speed. We yell at one another and point fingers, these former employees said, until we eventually abandon the platform that does not align with our views, and instead go to the one that does.”

I’m afraid those employees are right. Social Media is either neutral or playing both sides! It muddies the water.

So which is it? Should we remove social networks or improve them?

In my next blog post, you’ll read about my ideas for No Social Media.

Then, in part 3 of this article, I’ll talk about ideas for New Social Media.


What do you think? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

Hit The Blog Refresh Button

Something Changed

If you visit my blog regularly, then you likely noticed some big changes around early April. I had started rethinking how I blog and what I could do to make it better…which led to a new theme. Plus it wasn’t just any theme.


Rethinking Is A Theme

So how was I thinking of blogging better? I wanted to post more often. In fact, the holy grail of blogging to me is posting every single day! Why is this so hard to do? I would like to achieve that, but awesome I am not. I guess I’m not very disciplined either.

Instead of blogging daily, I would settle for just more frequently. But long-form posts of 500 words or more are hard to come by for a dad with 5 kids and a full-time job.

So I thought about doing post series. I would maybe break up one long post into three short posts. The idea of doing short posts more frequently (hey look there, it’s the quantity versus quality issue again) stuck with me.

I pondered different variations of short posts. What if I challenged myself to write posts with a 100 word limit? Then it occured to me that WordPress has short post types built into the platform: Asides!

To me, asides are like tweets on Twitter. Why not put my tweet-like short posts on WordPress instead of Twitter? This would potentially give me more frequent posts. Then I could still cross-post to Twitter when I hit the publish button. Two birds; one stone.

Thinking about the Asides on WordPress set me off to searching for a new theme that supports the aside post-type. After much sifting, I found Baskerville 2 was the best fit. What is most noteworthy to me is the fact that this theme happens to be designed by none other than my favorite, Anders Norén! I’ve written about him before because, like now, I somehow always gravitate towards his blog themes before realizing they’re his.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

While still aboard the change train, I also decided to add more photos to my blog as Image-type posts. I like photography, and this would again increase how often I publish to WordPress. It would be kinda like replacing Instagram as my go-to fancy photo share spot.

Along with adding images and asides to my articles and changing the entire theme, I also added a new homepage and rearranged widgets. And in the process, all this helped me refocus on what I want to write: articles and notes on consumer tech, entertainment, and photography. It’s a lot of change!


So How’s That Refresh?

Almost two months later, I noticed that despite the big blog refresh in April, for some odd reason my posting frequency in May has slumped. And on top of that, I’m starting to wonder now if I should have narrowed my writing focus to three broad areas specifically as mentioned above or if I should have left it more open ended.

I’ll give things more time before I make any other changes or decisions. I still enjoy blogging and will keep striving to improve it when and where I can.

Sometimes blogging slumps happen; I’ve noticed sporadic cycles in my own writing too. Even when I seem to get into a groove, seasons change, life happens, and it throws off my blog vibe. But I always end up coming back to it one way or another.

Maybe I need more coffee.


Do you ever hit a blogging slump? What do you do about it? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!

My iPhone Got Googled

Google’s Grasp

Would you believe me if I told you it is nigh impossible to get away from Google? The tech giant is so ingrained on the internet, you likely use at least one Google service. Several attempts at escaping Google’s vortex are posted online; just do a quick search for them – try not to use Google search! I distanced myself from Google several months ago, but now my Apple iPhone has become Google-fied.


Tech Turf

My iPhone is Apple’s home turf, and it was free of all Google apps. I had even deleted YouTube! Of course, Apple wants you to use their built-in apps, and doing so makes the iPhone experience smoother overall. In fact, after more than a decade, Apple still won’t let you change default apps.

When I switched from using an iPad to a Chromebook, which is Google’s turf, I embraced using Google’s web apps and services. At first, I wasn’t sure if I would use only the minimum necessary to blog. You can guess the one Google app I’d be “forced” to use on a Chromebook: Chrome!

On my once “pure” Apple iPhone, it didn’t take long for me to download almost all of Google’s apps; I had a whole page full of them! What can I say? I like to go all-in. Besides, Google’s web services are linked together to make them more functional, so it makes sense to fully embrace them.


Google iPhone

It seems like an oxymoron, but a Google iPhone is not a pretty ugly device; it’s surprisingly Google-y. You might say it’s the best of both worlds: Apple hardware with Google software. To me, it still seems weird having so many Google apps dominating my once “pure” Apple phone. It’s a major contrast, going from dependence on Apple’s solutions to Google’s. I’ll share three examples of apps I’ve switched.

Voice Assistance

For the third year in a row, it’s been proven that Google Assistant is more accurate in answering questions than Siri. And having used Google Now on Android in the past, I remember how handy it was at offering up info for whatever I was doing at the moment. Most of all, taking an all-Google approach, I want Google Assistant to be the default voice assistant, integrated throughout the phone at my beck and call.

Unfortunately, Apple restricts changing the default apps on iPhone. So I placed Google Assistant on my homescreen and also enabled the widget. Now I do a tap or swipe to access it and then start talking. It’s not as nice as Siri’s integration where you can just say, “Hey Siri” without touching the phone. But it’s nice enough; I can rely upon it for general questions and search queries. It’s also fun testing both Siri and Google Assistant in competition to see who, or which, gets the best answer.

Lifestyle Apps

This category is a tough nut to crack. Once you become accustomed to relying on certain lifestyle apps every day of your life, changing any one of them is daunting. I switched them all!

Instead of Apple Mail, Calendar, Contacts, and Reminders, I now use Google’s versions like Gmail and Tasks. Apple’s offerings work great. But Google’s are, in some ways, even better because of how they integrate with each other on the web. For example, Google Calendar and Tasks are separate apps on the iPhone. Yet online, you can access Tasks within Calendar, and if a task is set to have a date/time, then it will get a special entry on the Calendar too!

After hurdling over the flip-flop to Google’s daily lifestyle apps, it didn’t take long for me to feel comfortable relying on them. Google’s great at synchronizing your data across all its apps and services. From my web browser at work to my iPhone to my Chromebook, I’m happy to trust Google with my daily digital bits.

Music

I still prefer to buy songs one at a time, and Apple’s Music app plus iTunes has been my mainstay. But it lacks music discovery. I tried the Apple Music streaming service, and Spotify, but from my experience, Google’s solutions have been my favorite overall: YouTube and Google Play Music.

For the past two years, I relied on my iPhone’s Apple Music app to playback the songs I paid for. But I hit the big reset button in my mind; now I’ve switched to Google Play Music. I love the great “stations” it has to discover new music. And for now, I can still buy new songs outright from the Google Play Store. (Time will tell if YouTube Music replaces Google Play Music.)


Ecosystem Evolved

Switching from Apple’s apps to Google’s apps on my iPhone was technically straightforward. But mentally, it required quite a mind-shift, rewiring the well worn grooves in my brain.

It’s a lot like physically moving to a new house. You’re daily routine is mostly the same, but you must reorient everything for it. And it takes time to unpack and settle in before you’re “at home” with your new surroundings.

Speaking of moving, now that I’m on Chromebook and using Google’s apps on my iPhone, there’s one more move that I will likely make: switching to an Android phone! Will this happen? Let me ask Siri. Or Google Assistant.


What is your preference? Do you use only Apple apps or a mix of third-party apps? Or do you Google everything? Share your valuable feedback below, or write to me here! Thanks for your time!