Social Media


Keeping Up with the Joneses on Social Media

6th January 2022

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”.

Glass: “I Appreciate You”

10th December 2021

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.

The Restrictions for Younger Users on Douyin, China's Version of TikTok

27th November 2021

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.

Some Thoughts on Social Media

24th September 2021

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.

Racial Abuse on Social Media

12th July 2021

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.

Instead of Launching Social Media Apps, Why Not Take a Deep Breath First?

13th October 2020

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.


one sec on the App Store

Jason Kottke’s Social Media Fast

28th May 2017

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.