Social Media on a Timeout

I’m an impulsive guy and unlike a lot of people, I do better at cold turkey than tapering things. One day last spring I just decided to stop drinking diet coke and went from 3-6 cans a day to drinking maybe a dozen in the last year. Last fall I decided to stop using Twitter pretty much all at once, based on their treatment of the I Want Sandy acquisition.

Today, out of nowhere I decided to taper down my use of FriendFeed quite a bit. From my hiatus message and comments:

I’m thinking hard about taking a FriendFeed timeout. It feels like I have a big imbalance between the time I use it and the value I receive from it. I also really don’t like that I used to blog 10 times a week and now I do it once or twice a week.

I used to build value for myself, now I do it for FriendFeed. Others are doing it for Twitter or Facebook or whatever. This is the ugly underside of Web 2.0. We feel like we’re conversing but we’re really sharecroppers to make a few millionaires into billionaires. I’m having a 2.0 burnout/meltdown/rejection.

In fact, I’m closing the web page right now. For the time being, my only interaction with FF will be through the ~ 1/10th of my subscriber list that goes to IM (mostly locals with whom I might conceivably have lunch.) Time to start following my gut, and this feels right.

I really do feel like I’m getting played by social media in general. FriendFeed is without a doubt the social media that feels like I get the most value out of it and it isn’t enough. I’m tired of strangers who come in via friend of friend relationships giving me smack. (It’s already happened on my post above.) The whole enterprise feels like a time suck that doesn’t give me enough back to warrant my time.

I’m already gotten pushback on my paragraph #2. This is absolutely something I believe and have been talking about for some time. Tim O’Reilly and other Web 2.0 utopists talk about the upside to users. I’ve been noting that Web 2.0 and the Long Tail have a seriously dark underbelly in that while lots of people are doing bits of work and hopefully receiving requisite value back, the people who cash in are the aggregators and big players while the rest of us are just hamsters in their wheels. While we are running around and crying “Wheeeee!” for getting to ride in the wheel, they have wired us to the grid and are selling the power we generate. The real winners are Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg and Kevin Rose and Evan Williams. People think I’m nuts for this attitude, but it’s the truth. This is happening right now. I mentioned I Want Sandy above. Rael Dornfest sold his company to Twitter and the reason he could is that 50,000 or so people used the site. We created the value, someone else cashed the check. That’s what Web 2.0 really is.

So, I’m withdrawing somewhat from the social media world. I’m going to take that energy and try to post more to this blog. I’d like to record more podcasts. Perhaps I’m being a selfish prick but if I’m taking my time, I’d like to accrue the value. I have control of every post I’ve ever made to this here blog. I can’t say that about any social media site. I’m tired of building things in other people’s house. Let’s do some of it here or on your own site, in ways you control. Take back your time, rise up and stop your tweets and super pokes and what have you. I want to be in charge of my own identity, to own my own stuff and I’m tired of building someone else’s house 140 characters at a time.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.

8 thoughts on “Social Media on a Timeout”

  1. Ken Kennedy says:

    +1, Dave. Well-spoken. I think I’m feeling some of the same; I’m in the process of re-importing old blogposts from my previous CMS into WordPress right now, and I’m much, much more excited about seeing all this stuff flow in than I am about tracking down some old tweet I did 18 months ago when I still gave a shit about twitter.

    That being said, the literal (vs. buzzwordy) ‘social network’ stuff IS useful — the persistent identification for comments and conversations (even if they’re pseudonymous); the ability to friend (or group, or whatever) with fellow travelers, etc. I am of the belief that we can do this stuff in a distributed fashion, however, and keep most of the advantage of our hard work to ourselves. Jon Udell thinks likewise, as do the folks working on DiSo (just to name a couple of examples).

    It’s part of the reason I finally broke down and moved my blog to WordPress, in fact; it’s one of the platforms the DiSo and Activity Streams stuff is being prototyped on. I’m playing about with it. In addition, I’m opening up the plugins for logging in via Disqus, FB, etc. when commenting…I really don’t care about pushing comments back to other sites, but I do think it’s good to lower the activation threshold for commenting in a non-anonymous fashion (should one choose to do that).

    And last but not least…I can RAMBLE on blog comments!! No 140 character limit, no whatever-longer-but-sometimes still-not-enough limit FF has, etc. A nice, long, get all my thoughts out honest to goodness comment. This IS nice, Dave!

    It’s becoming more and more obvious to me, even as I write this, that it’s a great idea. I’ve swung back lately to hanging out at some of the blogs that I read via Google Reader, and I think I’m going to start commenting more in those places as well. Let’s bring it back home, everyone!

  2. Gordon says:

    Ditto. I guess I’m just not the social media type. I didn’t “get it”. I tried Twitter, FriendFeed and even Facebook. I could only see one-way comments – no real conversation.

    I’ve tried IM and IRC, but neither does it for me.

    I’ve retreated to my photoblog and my personal blog (which itself has recently seen three blogs coalesce down to one blog).

    Perhaps “less is more”.

  3. Andre Pope says:

    As one who doesn’t contribute much to either world I for one am delighted to see this progression if only you stay true to your word. You have been talking about a movie you wanted to make and I want to see it happen. I think we use 2.0 stuff as a distraction from our real goals cause we understand our real goals take work, the 2.0 stuff doesn’t.

  4. Wayne says:

    I had numerous experiences where I’ll run into an old classmate and guaranteed, somewhere in the conversation is “Are you on Facebook?”. For some reason, they’re always shocked that I’m not there. Typically, I respond with “Well, I’m here now. Ask me how I’m doing.”.

  5. dave says:

    Ken, thanks for backing me up. It’s similar to why I was always skeptical about spending lots of energy building things in Second Life that you ultimately don’t control. It’s about accruing and managing and controlling the value you build in the online world.

    Gordon, I’ve been following your photo blog since the early days of podcasting. If it works for you, keep at it. I don’t think anyone should feel obligated to to keep at things they aren’t digging.

    Andre keeping me honest and holding my feet to the fire! I might need your help in production! I agree with your sentiment though, having the movie to show for it beats anything that will ever come out of posting to FriendFeed.

    Wayne, that is weird and hilarious.

  6. Ken Kennedy says:

    I have one thing to say…you’re a goddamn genius, Dave Slusher. I’m happier w/ my onlinie-ness than I’ve been in months. Not that I was actively upset…just something felt icky. That something was apparently the tentacles of SNS wrapped around my limbs, throat, and brain.

    I’m now caught up and commenting on blogs that I actually CARE about (vs. finding out that a HS friend’s kid got the sniffles and gave them to his class…oh, and SUPERPOKE! *ow*), posting on my own blog, and free time besides. Your intuitions may not ALWAYS be right, but brother, you’re well above the mean.

  7. dave says:

    Ken, I feel the same way. I think the hidden cost of Twitter and FriendFeed, et al is the ongoing wearying drag of the continuous partial attention. This is Linda Stone territory – dealing with the tiny onslaught of this information constantly makes you tired and less happy. Getting IM notifications of FriendFeed activity of the dozen people whose daily activities might affect mine is much easier to deal with than that of hundreds.

    A while back I was pushing back on Steve Gillmor about the value of “real time” in these flows. More and more, I’m coming to think that real time is actually harmful to our mental health. Like you I’m happier tapering down and I think I may stay there a long time or forever.

  8. Ken Kennedy says:

    This continues to rock the house, Dave. I’m actually experimenting further…since I’m mostly caught up with GReader now, I’m trying out using the “Next” bookmarklet rather than GReader the app. I click it, it takes me to the actual blogpage for the next post I’m to read. The bang for the buck here is that I feel more connected with the site again (some of them have had major redesign/cleanups that I hadn’t know about, since I only read them via GReader), and I also am usually right on the page to comment directly at the site itself, if I’m so inclined.

    Downside is that saving/sharing via GReader is more of a pain, but I can sidestep that w/ saving in delicious and sharing in FF, both of which I have other bookmarklets for. So far, I’m digging it.

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