The problem with replacing social media

The part that most people miss

Larry Sanger is an interesting guy whose blog I read from time to time. I first came across him when I found his article about why Wikipedia is garbage, I recomend that everyone read that, as the founder (or as he likes to say ex-founder) of Wikipedia Larry Sanger gives some great reasons for why nobody should use it. But most of Sanger's stuff isn't about that, he writes about a variety of things like I do and a lot of the things he advocates for is laid out in what he calls the Declaration of Digital Independence (which I may actually sign at some point). Along with the adoption of this declaration is his call for the creation of a new social media network unlike any other.

Sanger's most recent post does the best at explaining what he is looking for which. What Spranger wants is really an open source platfrom which relies on RSS to view the posts of others but unlike any RSS readers we have now allows us also to like and share posts and write posts of our own easily. It also seems to me that Spranger wants each person's posts and other data to be self hosted so that any user of this platfrom could have true free speech (Which is the one part of Sanger's proposal that would likely have to be compromised if he ever wanted this to become widely used which would be unfortunate since it is the best feature). In this post Sanger also talks about the problems with the current alternatives to mainstream social media platforms, I completely agree with Sanger's criticisms of these platforms, but the question that Sanger fails to address is the one that is also most important. Do we really need this kind of platform?

There are three problems that Larry is trying to fix. The fact that all the power in the realm of social media is centralized in a couple large companies is a huge probpem, but its not the biggest. The fact that we have no idea what sort of data of ours is being collected and sold by these closed source applications is a huge problem, but its not the biggest. The fact that we don't have free speech on these platforms is again a huge problem, but even that is not the biggest. The biggest problem with social media is the fact that it is addictive and that it tears people apart.

In my post about why you should quit social media I didn't talk to much about the problem with things like likes and shares (or upvotes or retweets or whatever the marketing departments of these cooperations want us to call them) but it was covered in the video I reccomended. Likes shares and comments are all addictive, we all love to see that people agree with what we are saying or that they are laughing at our jokes, even if we claim that we don't care about likes on social media deep down we all realy do because it taps into something fundamental in human psycology. Notice that whenever you open the Facebook app if you have a notification there is a slight delay after everything is open and the red dot telling you how many notifications you have appears. There is no technical justification for this delay, Facebook can count just fine, the delay is there because seeing that red dot appear after that half second of anticipation releases more dopamine than if it had been there when everything else appeared (of course now that I've told you this it won't work on you). Things like this prove that the fact that the number of people who are addicted to social media is not a side effect of some great innovation, it is the purpose of the innovation. A social media alternative that does not address the main problem with social media will not go far enough to make a significant difference in the world.

The real social media alternative

Sanger of course would not be satisfied if we all stopped sharing our ideas and experiences online, I'd agree that the sharing of ideas is important but the solution to social media is already here, in fact it is older than social media and Sanger is already using it, so am I, the solution is traditional blogging on self hosted sites where we put actual effort into discussing what we are talking about (all accessible throgh a quality RSS reader of course, atmittedly I need to fix my RSS feed so that you can read everything in it). Often times when YouTubers are asking for likes and comments and junk it is so they can encourage "engagement" around their content. That is not engagement, this is engagement, througout the course of this article I have linked two articles and a video other than my own, which I have encouraged you to take a look at, sure Larry Sanger may never see that I've suggested his blog to others, but a high number of likes is not a true mark of quality. Google was the first good search engine because it ranked results by how often they were linked to by other sites, until social media fundamentaly changed how we use the internet this was the best way to judge the quailty of a webpage. Now we live in a time when amateur programmers can write "bots" to drive up engagements on mediocre content and bost them up in the search algorithms of various social media platforms. The world does not need more people addicted to chasing clout, it needs more people engaging with interesting ideas and applying them to the real world. We need less poeple burried in their phones and more pepole working to make the world a better place.