Original social media needs still unmet

My friend Peter Rukavina blogged how he will no longer push his blogpostings to Facebook and Twitter. The key reason is that he no longer wants to feed the commercial data-addicts that they are, and really wants to be in control of his own online representation: his website is where we can find him in the various facets he likes to share with us.

Climbing the Wall
Attempting to scale the walls of the gardens like FB that we lock ourselves into

This is something I often think about, without coming to a real conclusion or course of action. Yes, I share Peters sentiments concerning Facebook and Twitter, and how everything we do there just feeds their marketing engines. And yes, in the past two years I purposefully have taken various steps to increase my own control over my data, as well as build new and stronger privacy safeguards. Yet, my FB usage has not yet been impacted by that, in fact, I know I use it more intensively than a few years ago.

Peter uses his blog different from me, in that he posts much more about all the various facets of himself in the same spot. In fact that is what makes his blog so worthwile to follow, the mixture of technology how-to’s, and philosphical musings very much integrated with the daily routines of getting coffee, or helping out a local retailer, or buying a window ventilator. It makes the technology applicable, and turns his daily routines into a testing ground for them. I love that, and the authentic and real impact that creates where he lives. I find that with my blog I’ve always more or less only published things of profession related interests, which because I don’t talk about clients or my own personal life per se, always remain abstract thinking-out-loud pieces, that likely provide little direct applicability. I use Twitter to broadcast what I write. In contrast I use FB to also post the smaller things, more personal things etc. If you follow me on Facebook you get a more complete picture of my everyday activities, and random samplings of what I read, like and care about beyond my work.

To me FB, while certainly exploiting my data, is a ‘safer’ space for that (or at least succeeds in pretending to be), to the extent it allows me to limit the visibility of my postings. The ability to determine who can see my FB postings (friends, friends of friends, public) is something I intensively use (although I don’t have my FB contacts grouped into different layers, as I could do). Now I could post tumblerlike on my own blog, but would not be able to limit visibility of that material (other than by the virtue of no-one bothering to visit my site). That my own blog content is often abstract is partly because it is all publicly available. To share other things I do, I would want to be able to determine its initial social distribution.

That is I think the thing I like to solve: can I shape my publications / sharings in much the same way I shape my feedreading habits: in circles of increasing social distance. This is the original need I have for social media, and which I have had for a very long time, basically since when social media were still just blogs and wikis. Already in 2006 (building on postings about my information strategies in 2005) I did a session on putting the social in social media front and center, together with Boris Mann at Brussels Barcamp on this topic, where I listed the following needs, all centered around the need to let social distance and quality of relationships play a role in publishing and sharing material:

  • tools that put people at the center (make social software even more social)
  • tools that let me do social network analysis and navigate based on that (as I already called for at GOR 2006)
  • tools that use the principles of community building as principles of tool design (an idea I had writing my contribution to BlogTalk Reloaded)
  • tools that look at relationships in terms of social distance (far, close, layers in between) and not in terms of communication channels (broadcasting, 1 to 1, and many to many)
  • tools that allow me to shield or disclose information based on the depth of a relationship, relative to the current content
  • tools that let me flow easily from one to another, because the tools are the channels of communication. Human relationships don’t stick to channels, they flow through multiple ones simultaneously and they change channels over time.

All of these are as yet unsolved in a distributed way, with the only option currently being getting myself locked into some walled garden and running up the cost of moving outside those walls with every single thing I post there. Despite the promise of the distributed net, we still end up in centralized silo’s, until the day that our social needs are finally met in distributed ways in our social media tools.

3 thoughts on “Original social media needs still unmet

  1. Gloria

    I think that escaping from social media isn’t an option because other people, like his readers, still will publish links and quotes and their own opinions about his articles on social media. I know that this move was an answer to his need to control where and what is published on social media about him.

    I think the best solution for this is using internet monitoring application. Online presence managing is a must nowadays for everyone and we already have some great tools for this, like BRAND24 which I use, like and recommend.
    This tool gives instant access to all public mentions on the Internet relevant to your blog, name, business, brand, product, whatever you need. It allows to find and join online conversations about you, your content, product etc. and also gives some interesting analyses. It is easy to use and efficient tool which gives control on what people saying about you on the Internet and i think this could be the best solution!

    You can’t don’t exist on social media, but you can control what’s said about you on the web 🙂

  2. Lilia Efimova

    Ton, wondering if you see what could be done at an individual level to make sure that this decentralised future happens. Do you expect that people will eventually see the problems with the walled gardens and be prepared to invest into standing into their own feet instead of convenience? What kind of business models could support creation of tools needed?

    1. Ton Zijlstra Post author

      I think people inevitably see the problems with walled gardens, but until now they then migrated to the next one that felt fresher, better etc. until they realize it is just as walled as the previous one. Right now loads of people see issues with their continued use of e.g. Facebook, but really feel they have nowhere to go. First because of the cost of leaving (migrating somewhere else means rebuilding the entire list of contacts from scratch) and fear of missing out on interaction, and second because of a real lack of perspective on alternatives, and the skills to be able to use them. Platforms like FB ultimately reduce your own agency, and you need increased agency to move towards a better solution for oneself.

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