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“Social” media compared to natural communities

Recently I came up with a better way to explain my distate for social media, and I wanna share it with you folks today. I think it’s better than the last time I tried to explain it.

Natural communities and relationships within them

First, try to think about how natural, physical, real life communities work. You might have a group of people that see each other a couple times a week; Maybe you, or someone else sort of knows (in a very high level) everyone else’s likes and dislikes, you know most people’s names, etc. So right off the bat, you’re already connected to these people in some way.

Now, imagine the scenario of someone throwing an idea into the group that you’re in. Because everyone is already connected, naturally, people will notice that idea no matter what. And they can respond to that idea many ways: maybe throw their own idea as a response, wait for a new idea from that person or someone else, get silently interested in that idea, whatever. You can already see how easy it is to further connect with other people in that community, I’m assuming. It’s not rocket science.

The digital social medias that come the closest to that are chatrooms, mailing lists and forums/imageboards, chatrooms beings the most similar. You don’t have the physical experience in those, but that’s a different discussion.

But things aren’t quite this way in social media, or at least in post-twitter, post-facebook, post-instagram social media…

The bland, not very “social” media

(I’ll use the fediverse as the base for my argument. Other corporate, centralized social medias might not work the same way.)

In social media, you create your account, and… You’re alone. You’re in your own little space. You might have a public timeline, or a smaller, more condensed timeline composed of “trusted” instances, but no one is aware of you yet1.

“Fine”, you might say. “I’ll just make a post.” Ok, so you make a post, you share an idea with everyone… But who saw it? Who’s “everyone”? You might say, “it doesn’t matter”, but of course it does! That’s how it works in natural communities, like I explained earlier: The fact that you are already aware of everyone in the group makes connecting with each individual much easier.

What I’m getting to is, you’re constantly throwing ideas at the sky, hoping that someone will see it. You’re not connected to anyone, no one even knows whether you logged in or not. Some people might not even see your post for a variety of reasons, reasons which aren’t possible to consider from your perspective as the clueless poster that’s not connected to the environment. That’s why some people repost or retweet a lot of their posts, to make sure that other people saw it. I myself did that, and it didn’t work most of the time. You simply can’t know if people aren’t seeing your post, or ignoring it. You can know that in natural communities.

Also, that’s why I put “social” inside quotation marks, because there is little to no social aspect to throwing your ideas to the void, effectively gambling against the algorithm, or with people’s daily routine. Maybe that’s why I would frequently get anxious (and I know other people do as well) after a couple minutes of not receiving any interactions from my posts. “Did they not see it?” “Did they ignore it?” “Are they waiting for me to elaborate a little more?” “Did I say something offensive?” “Am I a failure?” You get the point. It’s just too much room for intrusive thoughts, no thanks.

Which one is better?

I invite the reader to answer that by themselves. But I can easily see that the nature of social media facilitates feelings of loneliness and stress, because of the lack of connection. In natural communities, those things don’t happen (at least not as often), because just the act of joining the group makes you start a connection with everyone in the group.

“Social” media is a grind; A terrible, boring grind. And I can’t seem to understand why some people think that’s okay, that it is fine to grind for basic social needs. You don’t need to grind in natural communities: The people are already there, and they probably noticed you already. Just talk to them2! No need to subscribe to this delusion that has no social aspect to it, yet people use the word “social” to describe it.

  1. Sure, you can make a bot that posts, “Hi @anon, thank you for joining, blah blah blah”, and everybody sees that, but that’s just a band-aid in this big wound; If it’s a small instance, fine, but the “joy” of social media is meeting people from all over the place, not just the people from your instance. I’m sure most people want to do that when they’re in a post-twitter social media platform. Also, what happens when you make a post applies to every instance, small or big. 

  2. I know some people have difficulties talking to other people (myself included), but my point is that the effort of finding people out there is non-existent in natural communities, which in my opinion, would help a lot of people with some degree of social anxiety, because it’s literally less effort necessary to connect with people. It’s easier, basically.