Can we imagine better social media?

I started this blog partly because social media was leaving me unsatisfied – Facebook, long my stand by for messages, video chat and getting basic soul feeding news about the place we are not living, seems to be be giving me less and less of what I want.

What do I want? I want what I think everyone wants from social media, and from relationships in general – to be connected, acknowledged and appreciated.

But with our back-and-forth lifestyle, keeping up with social media takes on a new importance – heck yes I want to see pictures of my cousin’s brand new baby, or know that someone I know moved into or out of the area.

I want to know who’s building a house, who lost a parent and who is receiving awards at work.

I also need to see those casual snaps of your dog which show a corner of town I’m missing, a tree or shrub, something normal from the other place, to sooth my homesickness.

But Facebook feels like it’s going down the tubes.

Although this is not the first time Facebook has been in the spotlight for breeches of privacy, CEO Mark Zuckerburg’s appearance in US congress in April to address his social media companies role in the presidential election felt different.

Zuckerburg faced accusations that he allowed a data firm used by Trump during his campaign and election, Cambridge Analytica, to use information from 50 million Facebook users without their permission.

You get the sense from Zuckerburg’s comments and interviews throughout the scandal that he has no idea how to control what he has created [a feeling parents of two year old’s can relate to!].

Most of us know that Facebook has our basics – age, gender, location, occupation, and that it targets ads towards these factors [which is why I get bra ads that say “do you have relaxed breasts?” why yes, I do!] and makes stinking zillions of dollars – a business model known as ‘surveillance capitalist’.

But what feels different is the possibility that our info was used for political influence. US politics is messy business, and if Facebook influenced the results of the last presidential election in any way except one user sending another user something [meme, article etc] then I’m very uneasy.

If something we think is absolutely our own – our political beliefs – has actually been twisted by timely, and possibly untrue, information, then Facebook has become the monster Zuckerburg fears.

Un sure about Facebook, I recently re activated an old Instagram account.

Glossier than my life is, Instagram all the same has its strong points – mostly that it seems to not breed the kind of contemptuous political memes as Facebook. It’s hard for people to start an online brawl over a close up shot of dandelion fluff.

But fluff or politics, it’s all the same in the end – many people don’t know that Facebook owns Instagram [since 2012], and despite the apparently different ways the two sites engage their audience, the end result is that one company owns all our information.

There is, however, a clear demographic split between Facebook and Instagram.  Facebook is hosting more and more of my parents generation, even their parent’s generation, while if you want to keep up with your teenage or under 30 year old friend’s, you’ll find their Facebook account exists but is not active.

But before you imagine young people have realized the fundamental flaws of social media and are joyfully living life free from the bounds of social media, check Instagram – where under 30’s post every day, and it’s a beautiful glimpse, hungrily eaten up by grandparents who joined Facebook to keep up with their young people, only to have the young people jump ship.

This demographic shift has happened gradually, and it’s hard to remember now that Facebook was started by a college aged kid, and designed for college aged kids.

When I first opened a Facebook account in 2006, I was working at a summer camp in Maine. I don’t remember any Australian friends being in Facebook to start with – it was designed for the people I was working with, American students in their early 20’s – but it sure did take off fast.

Since Facebook’s business plan depends only on having information to mine, it may not matter if the average age of it’s users is 20 or 60, as long as it still has a critical mass.

I’m not convinced either Instagram or Facebook has what I’m looking for – which makes sense, since my age neatly places me between the two loose age groups [almost middle aged!].

Instagram specializes in aesthetically pleasing images, macro shots of the items or experiences we value, enhanced with filters to give a glow.

And perhaps there’s something in it – I stepped away from a party to take this shot of poppies in the late evening sunshine. But although I was away from what was happening, somehow that action of taking a photo helped me be more present [this picture is not edited – at all. And nor did I post it on Instagram].

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So maybe it’s not the beauty of Instagram that intimidates – maybe one of the reason’s I’m uncomfortable with it is that it neatly knocks a few layers of people in my life out: those who don’t have smartphones – older people who haven’t figured out smartphones yet, and people who can’t afford a smartphone, or don’t live in a place with reliable cell service.

I’m not quitting yet though – I love the connection I get sometimes from my social media sites, and, like a rat receiving random rewards, I keep coming back for more!

Thanks to all who are reading, following and engaging with this blog. These interactions have deepened my social media experience so much in the last few months.

Tell me, what do you want from social media?

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 Comments

  1. Instagram definitely feels like a “filtered” almost guilty pleasure for me sometimes, but it’s also where I can follow travelers and collect ideas for my own travelers, where I can follow “famous” moms who are honest and hilarious, and other like-minded people or interests…and still some friends and family, too. While Facebook is definitely my place to collect photo “albums” and stay connected at least a little to the few people I’d lose connection with entirely if not for FB. But what do I want social media to be? Less addicting. Less distracting from true, actual, face to face connection.

    Like

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