Whilst writing some daily thoughts out I have recently been trying to formulate where my Social Media presence is going in 2021. Setting goals in what to achieve regarding blog posts, videos and all sorts of things is all well and good, but the web, and Twitter specifically, is where I spend frankly ridiculous amounts of time. I’ve been there for 11 years and tweeted more than 38,000 times (not any more they are all gone). About what I can only shed some vague guesses but every time I see those figures I really start to wonder why.
Why is it that I feel the need to share my life with others online, and especially on Twitter, a platform aimed at following people you don’t really know very well at all. To be honest looking from the outside, and really taking stock, it’s hard to understand why any of us share anything on Social Media. The platforms must have built such a homely atmosphere that makes us all feel so comfortable we share intimate and personal details on to a web that is often open, relentless and at points unforgiving.
Posing this question on Twitter is met with the warm and fuzzy replies you would expect from people that are ingrained in the platform, but every now and again I just can’t help but question myself. Why do I believe that other people, with equally busy lives, need to read what I am doing, reading, watching and sometime even eating? I have tweeted more things in the past 11 years than times I have updated my family what I am up to. In fact, I would never share most of what I tweet into more personal avenues.
Sharing based on those more personal networks makes sense. Facebook exploded by piggybacking on connections existing in the real world. Posts became a digital extension of your real identity and personality because it really was. You became Facebook friends with your real life connections allowing them to see into your everyday life. But as the Facebook population grew to billions — your friends list grew to include family members, co-workers and that friend of a friend you thought was cool but turned out to be a bit racist — it all gets a bit much. Managing expectation can be exhausting and curating a feed that entertains but is also varied. With all these on your friends list you are expected to have one identity, one digital face that is a recreation of your normal life.
Having one identity and sharing to those close to you, well, at least a bit closer, has now devolved back to more personal networks. iMessage and WhatsApp groups are the new normal points of contact for the self-expression when you are not meeting in person. With no need to mediate your online work, or create a Finsta account because your parents are on Facebook. As well as Twitter, Snap Chat and whatever else the new hotness is.
You see, Social Media in its current form feels like the old web. A small evolution from bulletin boards, without the anonymity, but asking much more from you. Based on old ideas and clinging to the importance by the smallest of threads by putting more and more services into their apps. Starting as the place where everyone you knew hung out online, but devolving into attention seeking contests that demand more and more of your time.
Twitter feels too flat and rigid in its approach to Social Media. It’s less personal than it really should be in the world we live in. People follow me for no doubt the tech stuff, but get switched off by my other interests and personal posts. I constantly find interesting people to follow, and then click unfollow due to American politics or sports bleeding into my time line. In many ways Google Plus got it right all those years ago, by sharing to specific circles the reach of posts were reduced, but in return you only showed people what you wanted to show them. Could a more modern approach be found to separate identities and build a place to express yourself in different ways without putting others off?
Twitter and Facebook still feels too much like shouting into the void and waiting for the replies. Many of which never arrive because we all have hundreds of people to follow and simply can’t keep up with it all. Clicking follow on more and more people to give ourselves more and more to look at, for no other reason than ‘that’s just how it’s done’.
Social Media isn’t going anywhere, but some are feeling the same pinch points that I feel and are starting to wonder where to go from here. The answer may be to spread yourself over many things, at least until Social Media becomes more social again.