Facebook Disengagement

Facebook disengagement by those I know has become so serious that I have decided to take a break from the social network myself. For many years this was a network of people I knew and spent time with in person. It has school friends, uni friends, activity friends and social media friends. For many years it was a place to socialise, share events and images. From the moment Zynga polluted Facebook with Farmville the conversational aspect of the social network degraded. As the conversation declined the sentiment that Facebook was a waste of time became a reality.

Facebook users no longer use the network to share their lives and converse. They use it to share sensationalist rubbish. Aside from Social media marketers Facebook has become a ghost town. As normal people no longer use the social network you are saturated with sensationalist rubbish. Facebook has become the preserve of the lowest common denominator. It has become a tabloid news distribution network and those who enjoy intellectual stimulation have moved on to other networks.

The content has declined in value to such a degree that I felt myself turning in to a troll. Every second or third article that people share is sensationalist rubbish and I feel the urge to call it rubbish. I don’t want to offend individuals so rather than do this I will take a break.

Social networks are about people connecting and conversing. It is about sharing what inspires us both through the adventures we have and through the links we share. Every article and headline should inspire us. For as long as social media practitioners focus on telling us how to feel rather than provide a description of the content of articles I will stay away.

Conversations are personal and current affairs articles should be factual. When a network like Facebook no longer has conversations and when articles are emotional the world is upside down and the model is broken. It is time for social networks and social media to become personal once again.

It amuses me that I write this about facebook. I wrote the same about twitter a few months and years ago. Social networks and their strategists keep making the same mistakes.

Social Media and The Human Return on Investment

Social Media and the Human Return on Investment, because contrary to popular belief we use social networks to socialise, not to shop.

As we grow older and more mature our close network of friends changes and evolves. We go from school friends to university friends and then to professional friends. In the process we move from a village to another village, from a town to another town and eventually from one city to another. In the process the links we have with some friends strengthen and others degrade over time. This is modern life.

I find it hard to discern whether the return on time invested on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and others is decreasing because people’s understanding of these social networks is shifting or whether it is related to growing up. As the people I know get married and have children their priorities change and privacy becomes more important. We have to keep the children safe.

Facebook, as a social network is less engaging than it used to be. The people I have as friends post less frequently, the events we can participate in together is shifting and the content shown in timelines is evolving. To compensate for the decline in friends engaging in social networks like twitter and Facebook people are following publications, brands and news sources. This flow of information is tailored to the lowest common denominator. The sensationalist writing style discourages me from following these sources of information.

I have a concern that what were social networks until two or three years ago have become advertising networks on which people occasionally socialise and interact with other individuals. I feel that a bigger and bigger portion of the time that people spend on advertising networks is looking at mainstream content and comments. On Facebook as I scroll down the timeline I notice an increasing number of adverts. Personal posts are less and less frequent. Has the community left this “social” network?

I have spent years thinking about online communities and how they interact. During this time I have seen the ebb and flow from one type of community to another across multiple platforms and applications. Within the next two to five years social networks will be virtual reality environments such as we saw with World of Warcraft, Everquest and Second Life. The question is whether people will want to socialise in virtual reality or whether it will be populated by gamers.

Every online social network is stigmatised. This stigmatisation prevents people from fully exploiting the potential of social networks. We see this stigma through the use of dating apps rather than Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social networks. Dating apps are stigmatised but at least you swipe left or right and you’re done. ;-). You’re only “active” for a few seconds at a time. On Facebook and twitter you need to be active for hours, days, weeks or even months… You have to be careful. You may be stigmatised. 😉

Now that most people see social networks as a waste of time it gives us more time to do other things. It gives us time to read, to do research, to watch television and even to go two or three hours without looking at a mobile or computer screen. Imagine that. 😉

I believe that on the one hand the stigmatisation of Social networks as a waste of time has discouraged people from using them to their full potential. As a result of this people feel comfortable spending ten to fifteen minutes a day on these networks. On the other hand I see marketers, public relations specialists and advertisers push for their campaign to be seen. As peer to peer communication goes down and human return on investment (ROI) decreases, and as marketing campaigns take over the timelines they are effectively closing the door on people’s motivation to spend time reading through their timeline.

 

Reactions – What if Twitter died

You can tell when someone joins a social network by what they think the network is for. I joined twitter in 2006. No one knew what the network was best at, eventually everyone decided to use it as a conversation tool. When people understood how dynamic conversations could be the network grew. The author of “What if Twitter Died“wrote this:

“it can’t seem to stretch beyond its celebrity, celebrity follower and tech roots. If you aren’t into celebrities or the tech industry, Twitter just isn’t that appealing, especially given all the other options for online social interactions.”

It is clear from this writer’s post that he has not been with twitter since it’s earliest days. His twitter profile indicated that he arrived in 2010. That’s up to two years after the golden age of twitter ended. My previous posts have explored this topic in depth.

While social media focus on marketers and public relations professionals I will keep blogging. It allows me to express myself without providing content for platforms that have destroyed the social dimension.

Has Social Media made us less sociable?

As an extrovert of course you'd believe this. As a mid to late adopter you'd also believe this.
As an extrovert of course you’d believe this. As a mid to late adopter you’d also believe this.

Introverts who are not going to compete with extroverts, through social media, have an opportunity to have friendships and interactions that would otherwise not occur. To say that Social media makes is unsociable is a fallacy.

When I was a uni student the second time around I was socialising with fellow students all throughout the day and I was also active in social media. In 2007-2009 facebook was my university friend network. Twitter was strangers. Facebook was an extension of my physical social life.

Twitter was an opportunity to meet new people. It helped me meet people from tuttle. It introduced me to Seesmic when it was in Alpha. I conversed with some of the big names of the time and went to podcamps. I was invited to Leweb in Paris in 2009 and we met had seesmic meetups a number of times

More recently playing Ingress by Niantic Labs has helped me meet people in Paris, lausanne, Fribourg, Geneva, Nyon and other places. To say that social media makes people less social is to ignore that people use social media for conversations, not for brands.

The fallacy of most “social media professionals”, “Social media experts” and other “social media” snake oil practitioners is that they go home to a spouse or better half. They have no need to create a relationship with the people they are interacting with. As they do not create relationships with those who use social media they are kicking dust in the Atacama desert in the hope to raise enough dust to create a nucleus to which water will collect and fall as rain water.

There is a shift in social media today. It is a shift away from conversations especially on websites such as twitter and facebook towards brand brainwashing. As a result of this facebook and twitter have lost engagement.

That is not to say that other niche social networks are not benefiting from the ground broken by Facebook and twitter. In particular I am thinking of websites for slow ups and other group activities. I’m thinking of OVS (on vas sortir), Glocals (Geneva Locals) and many other social networks. I notice that the expatriated and international community benefit strongly from websites that encourage groups of people to do communal activities. Thanks to Glocals I scuba dived every single weekend for more than a year, I learned about Via Ferrata and loved the sport, I finally got to rock climb, I enjoyed canyoning and more. The idea that luddites can constantly bash social interactions via computers and electronic devices fatigues me.

You know what the most amusing thing is about the people who say that social media reduces conversations is? Their one word answer. :-D. Don’t you just love the irony?

Social media, breaking news and information overload.

Social media is really fast because there are so many participants. It’s also fast because one person telling a few others is simplified. The social media are a crowd and when one person says something then others repeat what they have just heard to find out what has happened.

Within a few minutes the crowd knows what is going on. The difference is that whereas the crowd standing at a street corner five years ago would have spread it would have spread at the speed of the telephone and the rate at which people can move around.

Now what I think is interesting is to look at the theme of globalisation and social media, how both the local crowd and the international crowd are using the same tools. If something big happens in one country and there’s enough interest then it gets international interest.

The fact that people post pictures on flickr, videos on youtube and tweet as soon as they know something means that information is easily distributed without the accuracy being checked. In other words you’ll have hundreds of images of an event but will there be any captions or analysis?

The role of the audience will change with social media, and it’s been discussed frequently If everyone has a voice and everyone distributes their content of an event then the reporter is no longer processing they’re receiving. It’s the blog reader, the twitter watcher and the picture viewer.

Having access to all this information is great because we can get a good feeling for the ambiance on the ground at the location where certain events take place but one question remains. Who has the time to look through every blog post, see every tweet and look at every image?

You’re the same people that don’t have time to chat on twitter, or seesmic or work through the whole of your rss reader. You’re immersed in it. How is the everyday public going to react when 20 minutes a day on facebook is too much for them?

Disclaimer: This post was written in 2008.

Pride and media consumption

I enjoyed reading the Unbearable Lightness of Being so much that I read every book by Milan Kundera. I also read every book by Albert Camus because I enjoyed reading La Peste so much. Laura M. Holson wrote an article about “Unplugging without FOMO” which I skimmed after someone on twitter commented on twitter that Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 18.45.06

and I strongly disagree with this person’s view. It brings us to the conversation about high and low culture. I take the view that media consumption should be focused on high culture. For my dissertation I watched hundreds of documentaries. I watched every David Attenborough documentary, every Jacques Yves Cousteau documentary. I read many books and articles on the topic of the documentary genre and as a result I take pride in the knowledge that I have acquired in the process.

When I skimmed through the article I saw that the discussions were about low culture, about tabloid topics. They speak about things that I would never discuss as they are of no importance or interest. These are things that have no effect on my quality of life.

At the same time I do feel the usual regret. Mid to late adopters came to social media, made it tabloid and then complain about the stream which they and their friends generated. In my childhood I read encyclopedia articles during breakfast, as a teen I spent hours in computer rooms learning about webmastering and search engine optimisation before others were interested. I was experimenting with video compression tools in the late 1990s and gained a deep understanding of the tools that would lead from new media to social media. The conversations were about culture and people took a constructive attitude.

From 2009 onwards I saw the shift away from personal conversations between friends to the hunt for followers and the loss of the personal connection and I blogged about it. As I went back to read the article about unplugging so I see a reaction to what I have been saying for years now. Articles are being written for people with no staying power. Social networks are becoming broadcast rather than exchange and the superficiality of the web is driving people away.

I am happy that social media and microblogging are beyond their sell by date because it means that I can give time up to blogging once again. I can once again discuss topics that interest me in long form. It means that we will spend more time reading, more time learning once again. That is the beauty of the shift away from social media.

In reality I have nothing to gain from participating in the Meme media. Même media, the Same media. The media where people use hashtags to be certain that they are in the flock, the flock of hashtag users rather than conversationalists.

If I can’t converse I will have a monologue and people who are like minded will find me and we shall converse away from the madding crowd. Someday I will read that book. I love to read and I love to write. Today I am doing both as it’s raining outside.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 19.14.02

 

Social media, loneliness and isolation.

“The pathology of social media is all about loneliness”

Social media professionals take the weekend off. Twitter users use hashtags so that their content can be found without being followed. Everything is turned towards discoverability rather than commitment and conversation.

Social media practitioners know that people aren’t listening attentively so they repeat and repeat in the hope of a click or two. Hashtags are just a way of pretending that a conversation has had an audience. It doesn’t measure the number of comments and responses. It doesn’t measure how long threads lasted before they stopped.

There was a time when people like me would read every tweet from people we followed and we would converse daily. It created a lot of friendships and led to a lot of face to face meetings.

In today’s social media landscape I do see loneliness rather than socialising. I see on twitter that people are actively posting only once or twice a day. On Facebook I have seen such a serious decline in participation that there is little reason to stick around. My generation were active in social media for a short amount of time and now they have retreated to “normal” life.

Whilst some people have hundreds of likes on their instagram images I have half a dozen to a dozen. Almost every like on Instagram is a person that I have conversed with online for years. There is a chance that I can tell you how long we’ve been chatting online, whether we’ve met in person and at what event and which networks we have shared. Twitter friends were trusted enough to become facebook friends. Facebook and twitter friends followed on instagram etc.

Facebook was a very active and social place when we were all at university and having the same social life. Twitter was a very social network when I was looking for work and meeting the London Social Media crowd, the French social media crowd and the Swiss social media individuals.

Ingress has presented me with a large group of Swiss people whom I have met many times recently as an active player of Ingress. Many of them are around my age.  We use Google hangouts to talk and plan missions and are in constant communication.

Glocals was good for finding people to explore new activities and locations with but the connection lasted only as long as the activities. There was little to no follow up socialising online. The Glocals Scuba diving group is the one I got along with best and the group with which I did the most activities. It’s a shame that this was an activity for people a decade older than me.

When I think of the social journey both online and offline I see that loneliness is not the pathology of social media. I joined Twitter because I love to try new things. Facebook was a network of university friends whom I saw every day. Seesmic was a network of people whom I developed strong friendships with that last to this day and Glocals was probably the only network I joined out of solitude and a need to do things on weekends. I like the irony that the network I joined to avoid solitude is the one that resulted in the deepest feeling of it. Eventually every social network becomes lonely but we would say the same about the city from which our friends have gone, of the bars and more.

Geneva is referred to as an airport hub. People come to the city for a year or two and then leave. As a result the refreshing of friendships is very high and it takes a certain personality to cope. Modern transportation; planes, cars, and trains create a pathology of loneliness and social media are part of the solution for as long as the social networks are frequented.

Threaded conversations and community

From the 1970s to 2007 we had threaded conversations through bulletin boards, forums, groups and other centralising discussion points. For a brief window of about two years conversations became so captivating that people wanted to meet in person as strong friendships were established. By 2009-2010 the threaded and personal conversations between web users was hijacked by “social media” marketers and so the speed of conversation and quality of interactions collapsed. In it’s place hashtags would replace user engagement with quick metrics.

The golden age of conversation has been replaced by the dark ages of indifference. Every day that we spend online we see how disengaged people have become. Look at twitter. Do you still see user to user conversations. Look at Facebook. Do you still see engaging content and passionate conversations? I see a waste of time. The conversations which were taking place have been replaced by dumbed down headlines and sensationalist content.

For several years we have heard about how corporations should not have access to our data because of what they will do with it. From where I am surfing the web and interacting with the online community I see a more serious problem. I see that as the chance of individual to individual conversations has decreased so the quality of shared articles, videos and other content has been dumbed down. This is evident on Facebook and Twitter. These networks are becoming ghost towns. They have millions of user profiles that are slowly going dormant.

That social media networks are going dormant is excellent. Instead of wasting time with Ello, Diaspora and other solutions I believe that going back to the blogging habit will benefit everyone. It is decentralised, it is interest based and it is long form. Through Worpdress.org tools, through Disqus and other solutions so our ability to connect and communicate is improved. It forces us to be positive and to be accountable. Everything that you share can contribute to your reputation and help share your passions. We should not be hidden behind silos and we should not be anonymous. We need to break the twitter and Facebook duopoly.

A move away from centralised “social networks” and “social media”

Facebook engagement has declined since farmville distracted people away from conversations and towards mindless interactions with games, the sharing of tabloid content and emotional posts. These changes have had an adverse effect on social networks and the way in which we engage with people. I have noted a shift away from individuals towards following “celebrities” and “thought leaders”. Rather than interacting with 300 people on your timeline, becoming engaged and getting to know people well we have moved to a “yelling to be noticed” model. I have many thoughts on this topic and will elaborate later.

Have you thought about how Ello, App.net and other social networks are trying to do what so many forums and discussion forums did before? They’re demonstrating how much context they are lacking. Instead of investing more time with social networks that may never gain traction I’m returning to this blog/website.

The Geekiness of My Lifestyle

I have fun with technology which means that I spend a lot of time online as a result of which I enjoy creating online friendships. The advantage of that is that wherever I am in the world I have people to chat with, or so I thought. I am taking a break from one social network in particular because I am no longer gaining from that social network.

It was never about more than developing interesting friendships with interesting people and this was fine when I lived in a city where everyone used the site. The problem is when you move to a place where there are fewer geeks. The social media require one very important character trait for success. That the user is not stigmatized as being geeky.

This comment comes after reading facebook statususes. One person said they were online at six am, second person replied “dweeb”. Of course this is playful but below the surface that attitude is very strong within contemporary culture. Spending too much time socialising in social media labels you as a geek.

Social media will never be social whilst people still think of conversing with people online as geeky. Social networks will never be strong until people drop the stigma of being geeky and embrace a new way of doing things.

Mobile technology is evolving the right way with so many social media networks developing their services for people to carry with them at all times. For the moment business professionals have blackberries and geeks like me have a diversity of smart phones. In two to three years when smart phones become more affordable then the stigma of being social online will weaken. It’s at that point that social media will hep improve your social life, rather than run along side it.