This picture from Andy Allen of all the various Twitter-like apps now fighting for attention, along with Meta’s launch of Threads this week, really made me think about the current state of social media in 2023. As I’ve written on this site many times in the past, I find social media to be a fascinating bit of technology that has had a profound impact on life in the last two decades.
I also don’t really like most of it. Hmm.
When I think back to my primary uses of social media, it’s really been as much to stay informed as it’s been to stay connected to people. Since launching this site back in 2006, I’ve supplemented social media with posts here to keep family and friends updated on personal news (and have often automated connections between those services and this site). It automatically produces RSS feeds and content is now pushed to the Fediverse using the ActivityPub plugin. I also love this site as a way to learn new technologies and skills, such as WordPress, PHP, MySQL, Linux and AWS.
It seems like one by one, my favorite social media companies have done questionable things (Doctorow’s enshittification) that caused me to close up shop: Facebook, Instagram, then Twitter. I miss family from Facebook, restaurants from Instagram and some really awesome people on Twitter. I still keep my LinkedIn open for work reasons (after closing it once) and I’ve really grown to like my Mastodon experience. Was never on TikTok or Snapchat and it seems like I will be on the Bluesky waitlist forever (their new domain revenue model is certainly interesting). Don’t think I will try Threads at this point, given my issues with past Facebook products, but I am cautiously optimistic that the promised interactivity with the Fediverse will happen.
Aside from the time commitment of keeping up with the volume of my Mastodon newsfeed, I’m still a huge fan of the Tapbots team and their Ivory Mastodon client for iOS and macOS. It gives me everything I want: chronological feed of just the accounts I follow, synchronized across all of my devices, with no ads, “promoted” posts or other weird algorithm junk. I’m now following 334 people as of today and I believe the quality of a feed is directly related to how well you curate your follow list. I’ve also found that allowing or muting “boosts” from certain accounts helps a lot too.
So what other supplemental things do I still use outside of social media? Group texts have become much more common with our family and friends. It’s fast and (generally) secure, offering easy ways to share photos and keep in touch across platforms (hello green bubble Android friends). Don’t really email all that much outside of work and other commercial interactions. Currently out of the Teams world, but that may be hard to avoid forever. I still love using NetNewsWire to read RSS feeds, but that volume seems to be dropping a bit lately. Apple News is a part of our Apple One Premier bundle, but it’s always seemed a bit off to me (nice to get around some paywalls, though).
Speaking of paywalls, I do still like to financially support a handful of traditional news websites (Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, Washington Post, New York Times, The Economist and Racket). I use two ad blockers with my primary web browser (Duck Duck Go and Privacy Badger) and have to say that browsing the web now without those is just a disaster. Ads in general are awful: just about all iOS gaming ads, ads on paid streaming services, ads you can’t fast forward, ads embedded in social media feeds. The only good things I can say about ads right now are 1) Mad Men, 2) the Super Bowl and 3) the British Arrows Awards (and the last two really haven’t been all that great post-pandemic, to be honest).
It’s encouraging that really smart people keep talking about new social media advances so that I don’t have to sign up for everything to learn what’s going on. It’s also encouraging to see people like Dear Dara post again on Mastodon after 120 days away. I have to laugh when pundits make definitive statements about new services like Bluesky and Threads when one isn’t open to the general public yet and the other has been live for two days. Things evolve, projects and companies change, people can be jerks. Stay tuned…