Social Media Upheaval

Like many, you’re probably weary of Facebook and Twitter. They’ve taken their toll on society. I know I’ve felt it. Their cultural influence is more bad than good; they need transformation. So I was stoked to find a concise booklet on the subject that resonated with me. After reading the first chapter, I felt like deleting Twitter!

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

As a blogger, my favorite parts of The Social Media Upheaval by Glenn Reynolds are at the beginning where the author contrasts early internet blogging with modern social media. He makes great points about their differences to show how blogging is a better form of digital communication. Pumps fists!

Along this line, Reynolds also contrasts social media with broadcast TV and radio to explain the problem with info transmission platforms like Facebook and Twitter. It’s because of the added interaction.

This non-fiction booklet is more like a really long blog post. You can read it in one sitting, take notes, and end up with a good idea of how social media should be transformed. And if you’re not already convinced that social media has caused upheaval or needs to be upheaved itself, you will be.

To that end, if you know someone who is unaware of the downsides of social media, this book might be worth handing to them. Maybe they’ve sensed a problem but can’t quite put their finger on it. This book shines the spotlight as needed.

The first part of the book focuses on the fundamental weaknesses of social media, that it’s:

  • Too Fast
  • Too Incomplete
  • Too Emotional
  • Too Untrustworthy

The second part of the book discusses the way to transform social media: Regulation. There are five types with pros and cons explained:

  1. End online anonymity
  2. Remove section 230 immunity
  3. Increase user scrutiny
  4. Increase content scrutiny
  5. Algorithmic transparency

But these types of regulation are content or speech regulation, which overall do not work well enough. 

So in the third part of the book, the author proposes the only type of regulation that will work: Anti-Trust.

The arguments are straightforward and easy to understand. The author makes as clear a case I’ve heard. I’m convinced that policing speech on social media is a bad idea and that policing whole platforms by breaking them up into smaller ones is best. 

I also agree with the author that social media can be safely ignored otherwise. We don’t need Facebook or Twitter to exist. The internet works fine without them, and society can too. Dismantling cancerous social media monoliths into small benign parts makes sense.

With increasing awareness of social media upheaval, in both the general public and mass media, and with recent gestures towards antitrust regulation in the federal government, I am hopeful that social media transformation will begin soon. It might start today!

Books like this one by Reynolds add fuel to the fire for social media reform. If you’re aware of other similar books, please let me know!

Goodreads rating: 5-stars.


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Smart Tech A Dumb Idea?

For someone who is into tech stuff, you’d think I’d be all over the trend of making a “smart-home.” But I don’t even own a smartwatch (anymore)! My tech stance is strangely anti-smart stuff. It might be a dumb position, but there’s wisdom behind it. I might be open to some “smart” house stuff in the future. But proceed with caution!


The Costs Of Smarts

Before I tech-splain, I should state for the record that my phone is a smartphone – I love it! It’s the only “smart” thing I have.

But a smart-home?

All your household appliances down to your light-switch get smart with built-in wi-fi and mircochips. They’re interconnected to your smartphone. This makes your smart-home more efficient and convenient. And it puts you in more control. Great, right?

But there’s a big downside: it adds new complexity to your home and life. With every extra processor, modem, and other silicon wizardry, your once simple devices have new points of failure. Your thickened wi-fi mesh network – the internet of things – becomes a stickier web of technology, weighing on your house like a wet blanket.

Recall all the frustrations you’ve ever had while using your desktop computer. Now extend those to your entire home! You don’t wanna need to reboot your house! That’s the complexity I’m getting at.

So I’m not entirely sold on the idea of a smart-home. Besides adding technical difficulties, it also adds cost.

Buying more tech – smarter gizmos – increases your expenses. The home budget must balloon. I like tech, but I don’t like being broke.

Dumb Works

Aren’t some devices better off “dumb?”

The smart-TV isn’t so smart. Consolidating an internet connected device (like Roku) into your TV box – 2 become 1 – is a nice way to simplify.

But since the “smart” part of the TV is a computery-thing, it needs to be updated. And it soon becomes obsolete. Then you must throw out your otherwise perfectly good working TV because, in effect, it has become “dumb” again!

This extends beyond the TV. Any gadget you integrate with a web connection or an app system risks becoming obsolete sooner than later.

The “dumb” light-switch in my wall today is the same one from decades ago. Not only does it work in the same way, it still just works! That is smart.

Internet Of Things

There is a growing industry and market towards the Internet of Things – IOT. So all your common housewares become wi-fi enabled or have voice activated A.I. digital assistants to make them “smart.”

But this market is slow to take off. And that’s because of standards.

Different companies – Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft – want to capitalize on IOT. For all your housewares to work together “smartly,” there must be standards.

Which company will win your home and rule it with smart tech, or can you mix it up? Can you ask Amazon Alexa to speak your schedule from your Apple calendar? Will Google Assistant dictate email using your Microsoft account? Things get confusing.

Simple Is Smart

My dumb-watch is smart because: it never needs to be charged. Simple.

My dumb-light-switch is smart because: it works with the flip of a switch. Simple.

My dumb-TV is smart because: it’s agnostic thus able to display anything. Simple.

I don’t mean to oversimplify the above devices – they are a form of technology after all. My point is that there’s intelligence in simplicity.

I don’t want to over-tech (over-engineer) things. Some stuff will be too smart for its own good.

I might buy into a smart-speaker one of these days.

But before I aim for a smart-home, I aim for a simple-home.


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The Zero Feeds Experiment

Brain Atrophy

I think I know why our brains hurt. Instead of reading, we’re scanning thousands of text snippets. Headline after headline, tweet after tweet. You and I over-process; the brain-filter is clogged. It’s time to stop feeding on all the feeds, not just social media.


Aggregators

I use three services that collect or curate articles on my favorite interests: WordPress Reader, Feedly, and Google Discover.

WordPress Reader

I’ve considered abandoning the WordPress Reader to force myself into the habit of actually visiting people’s blogs.

The Reader is simple, convenient, and great for consistency. But it makes everyone’s blogs look the same. The Reader lacks a blogger’s personal touch of expression via their theme.

I want to see someone’s blog not stripped of its unique design. Aggregators supply lots of content, but they reduce blog posts to nondescript data-points. 

Feedly

Besides the WP Reader, I use Feedly daily. The name itself is about feeding on feeds!

What’s nice about Feedly is it’s algorithm-free. You can see every single article from every single blog site you follow – in chronological order!

While this means you’ll never miss a thing, the downside is you must track and absorb everything yourself. So I often reevaluate the sites I follow. Some sites are so prolific, it’s like they’re spamming the feed. I sometimes pare them down.

Google Feed

This is content curation at its best. Originally called the Google Feed, the Verge describes the initial purpose:

“Google is hoping you’ll begin opening its app the way you do Facebook or Twitter, checking it reflexively throughout the day for quick hits of news and information.”

Sounds like addiction to me.

Now called Google Discover (yet still labeled “Google feed” in Android settings), this will be a tough one to drop!

On my Android phone, it’s a quick thumb-swipe to the left of the home-screen. It presents an always updated list of news and articles that you’re interested in.

About the signal-to-noise ratio, it’s easily the best feed by far, surfacing a ton of relevant stuff. Better still, I can easily optimize the algorithm settings without leaving the feed. I help curate the content!

I truly discover a lot of articles I’m passionate about in this feed and enjoy it more than Feedly. Leaving this one behind will test me.


The Need To Feed

We are so accustomed to social feeds – and the mindless constant scrolling – that our brains find it hard to think outside that feed box.

Whether social media streams or RSS readers, the convenience of aggregated content brings efficiency. You consume content at speed and at scale – like your brain is a multi-core computer!

But this has problems.

I know from experience that my eyes fluttering over hundreds of headlines and titles also brings fatigue. It’s mind-numbing.

There’s often a feeling of low-grade background anxiety induced by web feeds. I’m sure you’ve felt it too. I sometimes experience a nervous angst, needing to read everything. It makes my brain feel scrambled sometimes. Overwhelmed. All that to hopefully find rare diamonds of information.

design desk display eyewear
Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

Fasting From Feeds

So as part of an experiment, I’ve decided to try living without any feeds!

This shouldn’t be too hard since I’ve been practicing #socialmediadistancing for a few weeks now – and I’m enjoying the calmer and simpler life. I deleted Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp from my phone, plus their bookmarked icons from my browser’s toolbar. My accounts are intact but inactive. It’s a 30-day trial.

Starting July 1st, I will delete the Feedly app from my phone. I will avoid the Reader tab in the WordPress mobile app. And I’ll turn off the Google feed on my Android phone.

Instead, I will manually click to websites or blogs like a net-surfing neanderthal from the 1990’s!

One challenge I foresee here, beyond overcoming the reflex to check feeds, is being forced to slow down. Clicking through several websites will take more time and be tedious. It’s less efficient. But as I’ve written recently, slowing down like this is usually beneficial.

Another drawback to this will be ads. My feeds don’t show ads. But the websites or blogs I like to visit are ad-supported, not subscription based. So I must face obtrusive and distracting ads. I’ll look for ways to mitigate deleterious pop-ups.

The point of this experiment is to see how my brain is affected by starvation of aggregated content. Can my thinking improve if it’s not inundated with hundreds of lines of disparate texts to process? My guess is that the slower pace will cause my mind to relax into deeper, stronger thinking.

After this 30-day experiment runs the month of July, I may post my thoughts about any results.


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Three Awesome Anti Social Media Things

I just wanna share a few things about blogging and social media. Because it’s a thing I like to do. Like drinking Dunkin’ Donuts I guess. It gets me buzzin’!


My last post was a 3-part series about transforming social media, so this topic has been at the forefront of my mind. Is that the frontal lobe place? Wherever. It’s in there, and the caffeine has access to it, ‘nuff said.

So with that, I want to share three other perspectives about social media. These three basically underscore my original impetus for writing that 3-part series: social media should just end.

One

The first article that you should read (after you finish mine, of course) is called Bring Back Web 1.0.

It is awesome.

The writing is very…inviting. I wanted to cozy up and listen to more. I almost skipped it; sure glad I didn’t. Read: don’t skip it. It may appeal to older folks like me due to nostalgia. But read it nonetheless and educate yourself a bit. (Then go watch “You’ve Got Mail” starring Tom Hanks.)

Two

The second article is by author and blogger, Cheri Baker, who resides in Seattle (far different climate than my West Texas flavor). I somehow discovered her post last year, Can we make the internet fun again? The answer is…I’ll let you go read her post to find out!

Cheri’s article did that thing to me where your mind tingles like a struck tuning fork. (Sorry, my simile powers are feeling weak at the moment, like most moments.)

Three

And now the third article, which I found via Cheri’s blog post (see, there’s that wonderful link-a-doodle thing again). It’s written in the New York Post by none other than Cal Newport, one of my internet idols. He’s a computer tech nerd-geek, like me, who never had a social media account, unlike me.

You see, I’m trying out micro.blog and have looked into the IndieWeb a lot. I like to think I’m tech savvy, but even some of that stuff intimidates me. But anyways, Cal in his article, Can “Indie” Social Media Save Us?, superbly lays out his thoughts on the matter.

The answer, this time I’ll say, is a qualified “Yes.” The IndyWeb can save social media, but not at the large scale of current social media. It’s smaller, more niche, and that is a strength if you ask me.

Newport says,

“Despite its advantages, however, I suspect that the IndieWeb will not succeed in replacing existing social-media platforms at their current scale.”

On top of that, more importantly, Cal says that most people by this point, wary of social media in general, just won’t be interested in any other new form of it. They will move on. Some already have!

Cal argues,

“It may be, too, that people who are uneasy about social media aren’t looking for a better version of it but are instead ready to permanently reduce the role that smartphone screens play in their lives.”

That’s good! This is what I hope for and what I think is happening. People feel disenchanted by the big social networks. And rather than trying a new or different one, they likely won’t care to try at all. Who would blame them?

In my 3 part article, although I had set out to say social media should be eradicated, I ended up thinking it was unlikely that people would abandon social media. We’re all too addicted. It’s too sticky.

So I reasoned that since we’re likely stuck with social media, then it must be transformed into a far better version than what’s current. The IndyWeb-principled micro.blog and the like are potential alternatives.

But as Cal Newport wrote in the New Yorker, maybe people really are so disillusioned with social media that they’re willing to wean off their dopamine addiction. That means everyone can still surf the underlying open web outside the social media silos.


Just Say No To Drugs

Let’s take this back to blogs, because I’m still enchanted with them. Blogging, web 1.0, is still around. And like the linked article states, blogs only die off as much as bloggers allow themselves to get sucked into the pithy drivel of social media. I’m guilty of that!

I started to refocus on my blogging. I’ve socialmediadistanced. And now I’m about to do a hard thing. You see, I deleted the Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp apps from my phone. And I’ve even deleted those services entirely before. 

But the one I’ve always held onto is Twitter. So to go with my 30 day trial break-time from social media, I am now deleting the Twitter app from my phone! My daily dose of dopamine and snark is about to come to a screeching halt! I’m skeered. 😐

Wish me luck.


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The Race For Broadband

Race On

In the countryside where I live, we don’t have hi-speed broadband internet: no cable, no fiber. We have one single provider to choose from (not counting the satellite internet ones). And the only choice we have in our area is DSL – over the phone-line internet. But in the future, this is supposed to change. Three new options are racing, and the one that reaches our area first wins the cash prize.


The Slow

The internet to beat is our DSL. It won’t be hard. Our max download speed is about 16Mbps, which is fine enough for streaming an HD movie. But being a modern family of seven people in one house, we have a lot of wi-fi devices using the web, so 16Mbps is not enough bandwidth for them all. I had to remove our Chromecast, for example.

Our max upload speed is not even measured in Mbps, it’s in Kbps! We get about 800Kbps upload! It’s abysmal! I’m thankful that the connection is reliable, but it’s not feasible to backup large buckets of data to the cloud. It. Takes. Forever.

The Three

In the last year or so, three new developments have given us promise for future broadband. The local electrical company is rolling out Fiber to rural areas over the next few years. Our telephone company is doing the same thing. And each company is, of course, installing fiber in the areas with the highest demand – with the most people – first. That means my area is closer to the bottom of the list and we must wait a long time.

The third potential speed racer is the roll-out of cellular 5G data. This one, though, will probably take the longest of the three, and who knows how much the cell phone companies are going to charge for the privilege? It will likely cost too much. Time will tell.


Future Fiber

Being eager to have fiber with upload speeds equal to download speeds, plus all the bandwidth we need, I plan to sign up with whichever provider reaches my area first! Whoever wins the race gets my money.

The earliest I anticipate fiber reaching our neck of the woods is late 2020. Until then, we’ll focus gratitude on the fact we have the bare minimum useable home internet plus 4G LTE cell data to compensate.

And we have electricity and water. So there’s that.


Do you have internet speed struggles? Or do you enjoy crazy fast uploads? Comment below, or write to me here! Thanks for reading!