There’s been an influx of new1 social networks recently, such as Threads, Mastodon, and Bluesky. And to some extent, I’ve tried to keep up with them. But if anything, I’ve noticed that my use of social media, in general, has been dropping.
I used to use Twitter for talking about everything, and Instagram for posting my photography. But then Glass came along and for a while my serious photography was going there, and then BeReal made me want to save a photo for them every day. As for text content, there’s been Micro.blog, Mastodon, and Threads that I’ve tried as alternatives to Twitter.
However, all I tend to use now is just Instagram, Twitter/X, and Mastodon. Instagram is where my friends and family tend to be, and that’s where I post photos of what I’m up to, and also any real photography. Mastodon is where I’ve found a lot of tech bloggers and developers have flocked to, so I’m there for that crowd. And I still haven’t given up on Twitter/X, because I’ve found it to still be the best place for current events, football content, and a bunch of tech people are still there. And when I say, I use these three platforms, that’s not the same level as before. I used to try and read every tweet in my timeline, both on Twitter and Mastodon, and I’d spend countless hours scrolling through Instagram.
Now, I’ve got notifications turned off for everything, and I’d say I browse Twitter/X slightly regularly. But I only really go on Instagram and Mastodon now when I want to post something. I haven’t found them to be good places to browse. I get too sucked in when using Instagram, and I haven’t yet cultivated a good enough following list for me to spend a lot of time in Mastodon2.
I’ve found that right now, I’m more interested in people in the real world than on the internet. That’s not a dig at anyone I’ve talked to online. But it doesn’t replace talking to people in the physical world.
I think the reason why I’m preferring to write for my blog over social media, is that it’s a more biased relationship. It allows me to collect my thoughts, and then express them in whatever form I feel fits the content and context. And then if people want to reply in any way, they can do so via email, Mastodon, X, etc. But, at a slower pace, and also in any which way they feel relevant.
The real-time speed and perceived urgency of social media are reasons why I’ve stepped back from it a bit. So, if you’ve sent me a message online or by email, know that I’m probably not ignoring you. I either haven’t got around to reading it yet, or I haven’t yet found time to think and reply.
Written: On a train from London to Kings Lynn. ↺
You may (or may not) have noticed the impending arrival of
Meta Instagram’s new social app. Well, it’s now officially coming out on the 6th of July, and it’s called Threads.
The main rumour was that this new app would support ActivityPub, which is an open protocol that Mastodon is based on. This has led to all sorts of reactions. From people completely opposed to anything from Meta connecting to the Fediverse, and wanting to block it from their instance. To people that are excited about the potential of the new users that it would bring to the degenerated social network world.
I’d say I’m somewhere near the more optimistic end. Because, there is clearly space in the market for a new short-form text-based social network, and if it’s backed by Instagram, then it stands a good chance of surviving. Or at least gaining enough attention to make it viable in the short term.
Regarding ActivityPub and the Fediverse, my opinion is that if Threads fully supports the protocol, then that is surely a good thing. Because, apart from major social networks simply not existing, having them work with an open standard is surely a pretty cool thing.
I do not doubt that some people will not want to have their instance to connect to Threads. This is a totally valid opinion, and I’m sure there will still be options for this.
However, I’m guessing a lot of Mastodon instances won’t block Threads. Which means, if you know people that didn’t make the jump to Mastodon, you may now be able to communicate with them this way.
Either way, it’s a curious situation that a major platform like Instagram would even think about integrating with something open and decentralised. And I look forward to seeing what happens as a result of this.
This is primarily a feeling that I have, based on my experiences, and what I’ve seen both on social media, and from other people. So don’t expect any scientific studies or extensive market research. But for a few years, Instagram has clearly been getting worse as a platform.
I have no idea why Adam Mosseri (Head of Instagram) keeps posting his rants on Twitter where he tries to explain that clearly everything they’re doing is what users want. I know it’s unreasonable, and probably stupid, to keep Instagram how it was originally without ever trying to improve the platform. However, for an app that most people use as a social network to communicate and to share photos and videos, they sure have gone about it in the most complicated way.
They eventually removed IGTV, which was essentially just another type of video. But now along with the content on your Feed, and ephemeral content posted to your Stories, there are Reels. Which is their attempt at capturing users back from TikTok, where you have an endless stream of algorithmically selected content. Just how Stories was them doing the same thing to Snapchat.
When you’re scrolling on your Instagram Feed, instead of it being a list of content from people that you follow, you’ve also got sponsored posts, recommended posts from people you don’t follow, products that are for sale, people you should follow, and a few reels sprinkled about. There doesn’t seem to be much difference nowadays between your Feed and the Explore section.
Anyway, I think it’s clear now what my thoughts are on Instagram. And I’m sure there are plenty of other people that have been feeling the same for a while. However, more recently, I’ve noticed muggles “normal” people starting to grow a bit tired with Instagram’s self-bastardisation. Where their main goal is engagement, not a good service, just “how can we get more people’s eyes looking at our app for longer periods of time”.
There are two apps I’ve personally noticed people using recently to share photos with friends. The first one being Dispo, which I used a while ago, and just played with again today. I know it used to be about “living in the moment”, as you’d choose a camera (essentially a filter or style), and then took your photos, which you’d then have to wait until the next morning as they were “developing”. From what I’ve seen, they have also expanded this to become also a photo sharing platform, with a simple feed of your photos, more camera effects, and also an instant “develop” feature. I think it’s clear they want to try to poke their nose in a potential Instagram-sized hole at some point.
The second app I’ve seen grow recently is BeReal. Which is based on an interesting concept, where everyday everyone on the platform is notified at the same time to capture and share a photo of them in that moment. You get a 2 minute window to post what you’re up to, and you can only view other people’s photos once you have shared your own. Although you can capture a photo after the time, it will just have a “posted 2 hours late” mark on it. I don’t think this will replace Instagram, in a way where it does the same thing. But I certainly think it will start to grab people’s attention away from Instagram, and this may be some people’s platform where they share their life with friends and family. Similar to how Snapchat isn’t an Instagram clone, but that certainly has its own place in the world.
I have to also give a mention to Glass, which is a (paid) photo sharing platform. It’s probably the most essential version of Instagram. However, it’s specifically for photographers, so while I think it will grow, most people aren’t photographers.
I’ve been thinking for a while that there needs to be a new dominant photo-sharing service, but it’s definitely starting to feel like more people are thinking that way too. Although I doubt they’d use those words. Just ask the Kardashians and the backers of this Change.org petition.
Jas Hothi, wrote a rather interesting piece on why he’s quitting social media, and I tend to agree with some of the points he made. Especially this observation:
As Richard Layard explains in his book, just a couple of decades ago pre-digital age, the comparisons we made were with those who lived on our street, or were otherwise in our social circles – i.e. colleagues, extended family, and so forth.These days, our ‘circles’ have been expanded – thanks to the internet – to thousands of others all over the world. So the Keeping up with the Joneses effect is increased, we compare ourselves more, and we feel unhappier.
The massive scope and scale of social media is where I feel most problems stem from. That can certainly be a benefit in some use cases, but as for the “social” part of a social network, I don’t think it helps.
For whatever reason, we tend to compare ourselves to others. However, comparing yourself to people in the real world is one thing. Comparing yourself to the endless amounts of people on the internet is another, especially given how manipulated and glamorised they tend to be.
One thing’s for sure, I’m very glad my childhood was largely free from social media.
I definitely used sites like Bebo and MySpace when they were around. But I was a teenager by then, and they seemed more like fun ways to talk to your friends than a way to keep yourself “plugged in”.
The premium photo-sharing platform, Glass, has now introduced likes. However, they’re not quite like the likes that you’ll be familiar with.
Instead, as they have written on their blog, the feature is called an “appreciation”. And rather than powering algorithms and fueling the desire of that never high-enough like counter, it’s a quick way to show your appreciation for a photo that someone has shared.
There’s no visible counter on a photo, and you don’t even have an easy way to find the total for your own photos. But, you do receive a notification in the app that shows that someone has shown appreciation for one of your photos.
The way I see it, it’s a cleaner way to replace the “Nice shot” or “Great photo” comments. I think it both cleans up the comment section, and also allows more people to show their liking for a photo. As I know that I personally have felt that there are photos where I want to just show somehow that I’m a fan of a certain photo, but didn’t really want to add a typical short comment.
It might result in less comments on photos, which maybe goes against the idea of a community where photographers share their thoughts on each other’s work. But that’s not necessarily a sign of people not communicating with each other, it’s just a different method of showing appreciation.
Greg Morris has been able to use the update for a few weeks, and his thoughts seem to be similar to mine:
My takeaway from the update (I’ve been able to use it for a couple of weeks now) is almost all positive. Being able to leave a small token of appreciation will replace the hundreds of times I write “great shot” or “love this” and means the comments I do leave have more thought in them.
Lee Peterson also shared his thoughts on the new feature, and while he had some initial hesitation, in it’s current form, he also seems to feel the same:
I think as long as it’s treated like a quick comment and not a popularity contest we’ll be ok. Let’s see where Glass take it next but I’ll be keeping a close eye on it’s next step.
I don’t mean to point out the hesitation as any kind of put down, as I believe it’s well warranted. Most social media platforms nowadays love these little interactions, because they can add counters everywhere, and it can drive that feeling of wanting more, and never being fully satisfied. Like Lee, my opinions are based on it’s current form, and if it does change into the “like” button that you see on every other platform, I’ll soon change my tune.
There’s certainly a lot of opinions about TikTok, and technology that originates from China in general. But putting aside cultural and political differences, I’ve been reading about the rules that Douyin (China’s version of TikTok) have put in place for its younger users, and to be honest, I’m a fan.
I’ve got a pretty strong opinion that in general, social media isn’t a good thing for children. But I’d have to admit that it does have its benefits. Especially given how intertwined social media is with the modern world.
According to Kerry Allen, a BBC China media analyst, these restrictions have been coming for a while:
For the last three years, official media has been warning that the growing amount of time young Chinese people are spending on the internet is having an impact on their physical and mental health.
I’m sure it isn’t a surprise to most people that young people’s physical and mental health can be affected by the internet, and in particular, social media. But I can’t think of any other platform that has actively tried to combat the effects.
As for the rules and differences that apply to Douyin’s younger users, here are a few:
- Under 18s require consent from a legal guardian to use the platform.
- More educational content is being produced, which will target younger users.
- Under 14s can only access the platform between 06:00 and 22:00.
- Under 14s can only use the platform for a maximum of 40 minutes per day.
The restrictions for under 14 year olds is known as “Youth Mode”, and it requires what they call “real-name authentication”, so I’m assuming that some form of identification is necessary, which would certainly be a controversial topic in the west.
However, I still think it’s good to see that at least one social media platform is putting the health of its younger users before engagement metrics.
Note: These are raw thoughts and not a PhD thesis, and therefore should be treated as such.
In my opinion, social media networks like Twitter, Instagram, and to some extent other microblogging platforms, are underutilised and I think we could gain so much more from using them.
In short, I think that social networks are more enjoyable for everyone when people share everyday life, opinions, ideas, life updates, progress, and real experiences.
I’ve noticed a few things that I think are misconceptions on how we should treat social media:
- Every photo needs to be perfect. The background can’t be distracting, you must be in an amazing location, with no mess, and you must also be a professional photographer.
- Your thoughts need to fit within the expectations of others.
- If you do not provide context, then it is wise to assume the worst possible scenario.
- You must treat yourself as a brand.
- Sharing a curated feed of your best moments makes you interesting.
While I don’t believe I’m the messiah brought to Earth to fix every problem with social networks, there are a few things that I think we forget when it comes to using them:
- We are all real people.
- Our lives in most caress are drastically different to what we share online.
- Real-life is what other people can relate to.
It’s always seemed fascinating to me how we all seem to understand that social media doesn’t represent real life, but we still get caught up in it. It’s like we’re all wilful subscribers to an alternate reality, where we get triggered by purposefully emotive headlines, opinions that differ from our own, and from people that we do not know.
But imagine if we used social networks to share our real-life experiences. We all have them. We can all see the distinction between what happens in real life and what appears on social media.
I think that is where Micro.blog has felt different to platforms like Twitter for me. In a sense, it feels slower, but at the same time, it feels like you are connecting with real people. Whereas when I use Twitter, most of the time it feels like I’m interacting with an online account rather than the person behind it.
I’ve definitely fallen into the trap before, where I’ve used Twitter as a place to share perfect photos, links to my blog posts, and anything else that can bring external validation. But I think I’m going to try and just use it like a normal person for a while, and see how it goes. Nothing I do is perfect, and it won’t ever become perfect. So the only thing I’d ask is that if you do see me on Twitter, please treat my public posts as coming from a real person, not someone simply out to cause havoc.
So about last night. England lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy. That was hard to take.
But what was worse than the loss, was the racial abuse that some young black English players received after the game. The primary targets were the 3rd, 4th, and 5th penalty takers, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, and Bukayo Saka, who are 23, 21, and 19 years old. Each of them had the courage to step up and take a penalty in a final when the entire country was watching them.
Whatever happened, happened, and Italy beat England 3-2 on penalties.
But what immediately followed were streams of racial abuse on those three players social media accounts. Most of them posted by freshly created accounts, that were created solely to abuse young players that were representing their countries at a major tournament.
And for as many arguments I see and hear about football players “taking the knee” before games, most of them based on being against the BLM organisation itself, and either not agreeing with their politician stances, or just insisting that politics should remain out of sport. Last night was a clear example of why footballers feel that they need to continue with the symbol. Whether or not the gesture is aimed at supporting the BLM organisation itself or a symbol against racism, it’s very much clear that racism well and truly exists within a group of football fans that quickly turn on players after a bad result.
It’s very easy to jump to the opinion that social media accounts should require some form of identification, to try and deter the level of abuse that occurs every day on the platforms. I’m torn because there are a lot of downsides to no longer having anonymity online, but when things like this happen, I start to think is the price that we need to pay? Because something needs to change.
Several organisations and high-profile people have already released statements condemning the abuse, but I’m not sure if they will actually be effective at stopping it from happening again. Sure, it will offer a level of support to the players, but something needs to be implemented so that it’s not that easy to post racial abuse on social networks.
Maybe some will say this is against some kind of free speech rule, but are social media companies not capable of not allowing racist comments to be made? Instead of relying on their reporting tools after such remarks have been posted.
I can only hope that the press that will no doubt be created because of the recent abuse will force the social media companies to start thinking about what else they can do to prevent it from happening in the future.
A truly great piece on the current state of social media, the internet in general, and what behaviour it encourages.
I came across a tweet regarding an interesting app idea yesterday. The app is called one sec, and it’s developed by Frederik Riedel.
The idea behind the app is to enforce a few seconds to take a breath before opening a social media app. So for example, when you go to launch Instagram to mindlessly scroll for a few minutes, you will be asked to take a deep breath, and then you can decide whether you really want to open Instagram or not. A lot of times, I tend to open Instagram or TikTok simply out of boredom. And I think it’s become a bit of a reflex. Sometimes I catch myself blindly opening Instagram, but I little kick every time I did would be helpful.
It works via the Shortcuts app, and specifically by using the automation feature of Shortcuts where you can assign actions to happen when a custom trigger is activated. In this case, you assign the “Take One Sec..” action to the a trigger for when a certain app is opened. This way the shortcut is launched every time you launch that app.
The app has a level of customisation where you can select how long you want the “breathing” to last whenever you launch the app, and also whether you want it to apply if you relaunch the app within a specific period. I have it set to a 3 second duration, and also allows relaunches to be allowed if within 1 minute. That way I think it will cause enough friction to stop me from mindlessly launching things, but also not enough that it annoys me if I quickly go back to it a few seconds later. Because this would also apply if you’re switching between apps quickly.
While you use/don’t use apps after you’re told to take a deep breath, one sec is keeping track of all of this, and displays these stats when you launch an app that is behind the “deep-breathe-wall”, and also in the one sec app itself.
Another interesting feature is that when you’re told to take a breath, you can obviously choose to open or not open the app, but you can also choose to continue breathing. And this time spent breathing, can also be added to the Health app to count as part of your “Mindful Minutes”.
I think I’m going to use this for Instagram and TikTok solely, simply because I think I spend too much time on those apps when I should be doing other things. And a little kick will certainly help. I thought about doing it for Twitter as well, but I don’t think the mindless scrolling really happens for me there. But we’ll see I guess.
Something I’ve thought of doing before, but never really got around to, is having a break from social media. Jason Kottke spent a week “fasting” from social media:
Last week (approx. May 7-14), I stopped using social media for an entire week. I logged out of all the sites and deleted the apps from my phone. I didn’t so much as peek at Instagram, which is, with Twitter and old-school Flickr, probably my favorite online service of all time. I used Twitter as minimally as I could, for work only.1 I didn’t check in anywhere on Swarm. No Facebook. As much as I could, I didn’t use my phone. I left it at home when I went to the grocery store. I didn’t play any games on it. I left it across the room when I went to bed and when I worked.
The idea of this is very interesting to me, and his findings also made me think about doing something similar myself.
The whole outcome that I got from this piece, was that it’s more about not using a phone, than using social media specifically.
This is one of my favourite parts:
After the week was up, I greedily checked in on Instagram and Facebook to see what I had missed. Nothing much, of course. Since then, I’ve been checking them a bit less. When I am on, I’ve been faving and commenting more in an attempt to be a little more active in connecting. I unfollowed some accounts I realized I didn’t care that much about and followed others I’ve been curious to check out. Swarm I check a lot less, about once a day — there was a lot of FOMO going on when I saw friends checked in at cool places in NYC or on vacations in Europe. And I’m only checking in when I go someplace novel, just to keep a log of where I’ve been…that’s always fun to look back on.
This is something that I regularly experience, albeit very short lived. It normally happens after a holiday abroad, where the use of a phone is diminished. Usually by either the international usage costs, or just because the people that I’d be contacting, were there with me physically.
I’ve started to evaluate my computer usage in general recently, and I think of it as a refining process. Hopefully with things like automation, and better focus on specific tasks will make it easier.