Over at kottke.org, Jason discussed a social media fast he went on. His observations mirror my own “vacations” I’ve taken: no one really notices or cares when you take a break, even if you’re an active social media user (which I’m not), and that a lot of social media (and phone use in general) is more of as a virtual fidget-spinner than any actual need.
My own take: I took an extended break from Facebook last fall, and still haven’t really returned, though it has crept back into use in various ways. It’s still got just enough social utility that I’m not quitting it entirely, but I do plan to continue to not use it much. I probably could fully quit if I decided to — it would just take a few life adjustments and a little preparation. Interestingly, there seems to be a trend of this, folks getting fed up with the bullshit of modern social media, and making the deliberate decision to exit (and at least anecdotally, the people who’ve quit weren’t due to some weird policy change or other outrage machine, but simply because they realized it wasn’t useful to them anymore and was making them less happy).
As for other social media, well. I’ve been on Twitter for a decade, and have it pretty nailed down on what I use it for, who I follow, and what I choose to post there. That said, it still ends up going in fits and spurts: I might be on it daily for a few weeks at a time, and then not log in for a month. This is a far cry from when I was most active (circa 2008-2010), where I was on daily and actually kept up with probably 90% of my feed. The shift is due to a few factors: 1) it’s not my priority; 2) I’m not a fan of some of design changes and loss of client support; 3) the community has shifted, and seems to vacillate between being an outrage machine and a trash fire. (Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of great content there, but the short form, punctuated broadcasts seem to foster emotional outbursts, miscommunication, and misunderstanding just as much as they provide short, pithy thoughts and entertainment.) The shift towards tweet storms and people just retweeting the start of a 300 tweet thread is also a cause for a lot of eyerolling and disinterest (if you are writing medium-long form text in tweets, go write a blog post and tweet the link, seriously).
I have accounts on a number of other social media sites, but don’t really touch them, whether because they were on a whim (Peach), or inertia (Flickr), they just never grabbed me. I do occasionally log in and check my ello account, though I basically never post — I just think it’s neat to see how they’ve pivoted towards being an outlet for designers and artists. I’m infrequently active on Instagram, though I use very few of their features — mostly I use it because they make it stupid simple to cross-post to other services. I have a Snapchat but don’t use it (I kind of hate the UX, and I’m not using “hate” lightly).
I think a lot about consolidating, and finding ways to self-host everything. I don’t know if it’s really “there” yet, though the tools have come a long way (the Indieweb scene is actively working to make POSSE viable and easy). There are open source, self-hostable versions of many of the services we use every day (as an example, OStatus is a protocol that replicates and even expands on a lot of the functionality of Twitter, with tools like Mastodon, GNU Social, and PostActiv all in active development, and at least ostensibly able to federate with each other). It would be a lot of initial work to get everything set up how I want, and then there’s maintenance and keeping everything secure (it’s just me, so I’m not exactly a shiny target, but that doesn’t really matter to a bot that just probes the internet for any service with one of a list of vulnerabilities unpatched), but I keep coming back to the idea. Maybe I just miss the old internet, when things weren’t so silo’d, and we felt a little less like a product and a little more like a person. Even if I didn’t worry about POSSE, and just posted in one place, I’m not sure how much that would matter — I might not get as many views, but if past experience is any indication, I’d get just as much connection. Something to think about, anyway.