The Disconnection Paradox of Exiting Social Media Platforms.
Most of us are simply too busy to really care or notice. Yet, it is clearly written on the wall. There is a problem in existing social media platforms and particularly in the way we use it, and it is important we acknowledge it.
Social media platforms have effectively become “The Matrix.”
Let me explain.
Social Media Platforms Are Broken.
As much as we are all connected to each other through multiple social media platforms, the truth is that we are practically disconnected and deceived. We have become slaves to blind consumption of non-sense and are in fact, used as effective tools for the distribution of media and new forms of advertising. Even when we realize this, we still remain hooked simply because we are somehow convinced that we are going to miss something or god forbid, become irrelevant.
Could you imagine what could possibly have happened if we all stop sharing?
The likelihood is that nothing could really happen, simply because the visibility of the typical social media user is already zero-to-none. But more importantly, nothing will happen because there is no lifelong value for us in the way we currently use social media platforms. What is shared today is in most cases, a shallow, superficial or otherwise suppressed representation of our true identities.
Following Race Leads To Invisibility and Noise
We are all consumed in this constant acquisition race after followers (and fans). We want to build audiences primarily to be heard and promote our online presence. We want to ensure our social existence and relevancy. But we are sucked into this vicious cycle of reciprocal following game.
We are unable to distinguish between organic and manipulated accounts. The amount of available tools and services that are specifically designed to boost your followers count and at the same time, keep your account “balanced” and under the banning radar of the networks—is overwhelming. It has become a number game. A way to inflate your online reputation.
And if not embraced by marketers, “gurus,” or even mainstream users, this type of activity is directly promoted by the platform itself. In an effort to grow each platform’s ecosystem by continuously fuel the built-in distribution—we are constantly encouraged to follow, be friended, and connect to pages, advertisers, acquaintances, companies, or anything that is part of the platform’s social graph. “The more the merrier” type of agenda.
Whether it is an organic acquisition or a promoted one, at the end, the more users (or things) we follow the faster we lose control of our aggregated feed. Even a small number of followees could mean a busy, flooded feed. No matter at what time of the day your followers “plug” in, chances are that your most recent messages are already buried at the bottom of their feed. And as we all have that much of an attention span, most users are unlikely able to scroll their entire feeds. It is simply time consuming and they are likely be distracted much earlier.
The result is that your voice cannot really be heard by your very own followers. When this happens, it is just a matter of time until invisibility becomes apparent to the average user, a realization that results in a much reduced activity and suppresses continued growth of these platforms.
You are invisible. You are broadcasting, consuming, and distributing. You are connected but disconnected.
Irrelevancy & Self-Censorship.
Technically speaking, most existing social networks promote irrelevancy by design. As a user, you are allocated with a single feed into which you share your content. When following other users, you are basically forced to consume their entire feeds. However, if you think about it, any two individuals share very little interests in common, no matter how close they are. Overlapping interest base is non-existence, if the social tie was created only on the basis of reviewing some random messages. And as a person grows on both personal and professional levels, his interests and focus are constantly shifting and as a result his sharing themes.
No matter how narrow or wide the context of the network is, you will find that you are (unconsciously) restricting yourself to a limited set of sharing themes, or involuntarily forced to pick sharing themes that are aligned to the lowest common denominator of your direct network. Not doing so, and you will be adding noise and irrelevancy to you followers, and risk to be gracefully hidden or removed from their feed.
Controlling the sharing based on a manual segmentation of your followers doesn’t solve the problem of irrelevancy. You cannot assume relevancy even based on real-life relationships.
You are practicing self-censorship and you don’t even know it.
Retention Models Are Abused.
The default retention models are based on email notifications and mobile push notifications. If the notifications are not excessively used by the platform itself, then it is used by robots and marketers exploiting the platform. Either you get that random “favorite” email for a post you submitted a year ago, or you get a dozen notifications and emails the second you clicked the Post Message button.
I have opted into social media to engage with people, not with organizations, brands, and marketers that promote their agenda. I want real people to follow me and send me real feedback in regards to what I share or what I have to say.
I am annoyed by marketers who tend to forget the correct approach to conversion. Social media is not different than any other sales channels: ignite or actively participate in a discussion first, and then build relationships that will eventually result in a transaction.
I know, it doesn’t scale, and you are in a rush for my money.
Retention models are now used as the back door to your phone and inbox. It’s the good ’old spamming, just dressed a bit nicer. A “social” spamming.
Who will be the first to enforce “No Soliciting” policy?
Automation Tools, Robots, and Droids.
Social media management tools and other plugins allow you to schedule your messages. You are timing your messages probably because you want to ensure maximum visibility and combat message invisibility with technology. But this practice is not social. Are you skipping the lineup in the bank or in the coffee shop? Who gives you the right to push my friends down the feed?
Or do you want to schedule your messages simply because you don’t want to assault my feed with too many messages too frequently? How thoughtful. You must be very creative to post, and schedule that many messages, don’t you? Yes, I know. That’s a nonissue for you the “brainer.” There are some more tools that gladly help you find the most popular content in social media. But why would you want to send that many messages in the first place? Ah, I get it, to make sure I know you exist, and increase the likelihood I will continue your distribution cycle. Thank you, that is very sociable of you.
You see, we are being manipulated by marketers and their robots, and we have become droids ourselves. Was that the original intention of the creators? Most certainly not.
While we all understand the tight dependency of large-scale platforms on advertising revenue, as a user, I am annoyed when I see something that is out of context and artificially implanted in my feed in a way that is hard to identify as an advertising. I am even more annoyed when I see an endorsement of some page timed artificially and repetitively. Any form of advertising should be clearly and prominently distinguished from the organic content of the feed. The exact layout or color theme of a user-generated message within the feed should not be used.
Overtime, and unintentionally from our end, we have replaced (or supplemented) the flood in our email inbox with an opt-in advertising and directly into our personal aggregated feeds. Instead of letting the users to naturally endorse products and services, we are being fed directly, and are socially engineered to endorse brands and distribute their well-crafted, and continually flowing content to our personal network.
We have a new part-time job.
Fragmentation & Complexity.
As much as specializing in specific niche markets is important, the social universe and our online identity is fragmented across multiple social media platforms. We are loosing our ability to control and manage our online identity. We juggle between multiple social networks and share differently based on the context, while others may conclude wrongly based on the first context they find.
We are confused with the rich options, cannot distinguish between default and controlled privacy settings, and have to constantly assess and understand the risk of unintentional disclosure.
Content We Share.
The typical sharing theme: A link to an article. Photography, at times, animated. A video. Recycled content. Bragging.
Are we that shallow? We have all the time in the world to relentlessly check out our feeds, and that’s all we can do?
How about writing our own opinions? How about recommending a good read? How about sharing our thoughts and life experiences, verbally? How about we ask questions and ignite a discussion? What? We have graduated Grade 12 and are not capable of writing one paragraph a day? Once a week? Once a month!
Are we creating value to ourselves? What can we do different?
“And, while I’m happy that I’m building a collection of life recordings that I can look back on later, I’d still prefer if I shared better stuff, that’s more accurate, more personal, more meaningful, so I could have a better accounting of my life.” Liz Gannes, AllThingsD
Thank you for taking the red pill.
The above was written based on a personal observation. The author believes an evolution in social media space is imminent, and is actively building and promoting a new type of social media platform.