Are you Being Squeezed by Social Media?

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Facebook has made several radical changes to support its drive to increase revenue. Twitter is on the same path. But have they tipped the balance and found your breaking point yet?

Dangerous Minds has written a lengthy and eloquent complaint about how Facebook is deliberately “broken” so that your posts are held hostage unless you pay to promote them. They didn’t cover the other parts of this plan, such as removing or obscuring access to RSS feeds of Facebook content, or treating cross-posted content as inferior, so that not even the 15% of your friends or fans – who might see content you posted directly – get to see those posts. They are listed as “X posted something from WordPress”, for example. This is designed to force you to access Facebook directly so they can deliver their promotion pitch. For activists, there is the additional challenge of having content removed, or having pages or accounts suspended. We are not just unwelcome: we simply do not belong.

Twitter has always been cumbersome. From the early days of having to deal with the fail whale appearing often and at random, we have learned to roll with the punches as they change the terms of service and the ‘rules’, mess with search and trending topics, prevent us from accessing our tweets but sell them wholesale to market research companies, remove RSS feeds, arbitrarily suspend accounts without warning, and respond to complaints or enquiries with template emails… the list just goes on. Most of the changes are not announced. The users have to maintain a constant state of vigilance – finding, figuring out and publicising each change. It’s an irritating waste of time. And it’s not what we came for.

As activists, we want to engage in a more meaningful way: to forge relationships, spread awareness, make a difference. These platforms are increasingly hostile environments, and the decisions they make in support of their profit mandate often run counter to our needs.

In my opinion, anyone with serious networking goals is going to have to get off the social media hamster wheel some time. The ideal scenario would be one where we take our friends WITH us, leaving Twitter and Facebook to turn into the consumer wastelands they aspire to be, and without our direct involvement. In other words, to relegate them to a lower rank on our social media menu. I think this would mean cross-posting to Facebook and Twitter (whether automatically or selectively) , but rarely visiting the apps themselves.

The poster image created by Dangerous Minds reads “I want my friends back”. I don’t think most people realise that they are no longer seeing as much content from their friends, and I assume they will be staying in touch through other channels, including private messages. However, after watching Twitter getting blackmailed by a judge into handing over content including private messages without a warrant, or be forced to reveal its earnings data, we can’t really regard private messages as “private” with any certainty. If more changes are planned, ones that shrink the current options, I expect that many users will reach the point where they want out. Then again, I have observed that the majority of social media users, including activists, can be incredibly resistant to change. If that includes you, then I have some questions, and I would love to hear from you:

Have you tried (or tried and failed) to move away from Facebook and/or Twitter, and what happened? What justifies you staying on Facebook or Twitter, and what would it take for you to leave? Are you aware of alternatives that you have avoided because they are not as heavily populated, or because you can’t break your existing pattern of online behaviour, or because you are afraid you would lose your friends or following? Would you move to a social media application that uses a paid subscription model, where privacy, security were top priority, and it was guaranteed to be free of advertisements? What do you suggest as an alternative?

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85 thoughts on “Are you Being Squeezed by Social Media?

  1. djirdjirak

    Hello and thank for this !
    You’re right: we are all quite stuck to our habits. I think there is a bit nostalgia to it. For me for instance: I really still like and use twitter, because it was there to inform and exchange in 2009 Iran(s)election…
    Perhapsit’s also being too lazy to explore something else ?

  2. djirdjirak

    Oh, and your comment box is not extending any further than 3 lines ? Is this your way of keeping comments short ?
    So I could not proofread my own commentary, sorry for the typos.

    • Hi, thanks for the comment, and especially for coping with the comment box constraint, which I hadn’t noticed before. I investigated, to see if there was a way to make it more flexible, but there is none, sorry.

  3. I don’t use Twitter right now, so I can’t comment on that. Facebook I find is hard to delete my account, mainly b/c some of my friends only communicate via FB posts or FB messages—some of them don’t even check their regular email! So keeping in the loop of upcoming events or anything else becomes difficult.

    • Thanks for reminding me, I must look again at ways to monitor Facebook without actually signing in.. I tried downloading the new message app software a couple of months ago, but it refused to work.

  4. I’m tired of seeing what all my friends “like” and all the inane greeting cards and posters they share, and all the games they are playing. I wish FB would just be a place to share photos and updates. I actually was off FB about two years ago after my account and gmail account were compromised, and the FB people were of very little help. Being off it was the online equivalent of bbeing a hermit in a hut.

    • Oh the game invites! It’s impossible to block them in advance, and new ones are spawned constantly. So tedious. I think your comment may inspire a new post: “Social Media Pariahs”

  5. Congrats on being freshly pressed. It is that same thrill when something can make the newsfeed on fb because you ‘like’ and push the drop down menu to ‘add to interests’. They would make much more revenue if they kept in their successful actions of people. Thanks for the posts. I added your url to my fb and ‘liked’ the dangerous link above. The Hipster link should be worked as it’s a good name.

  6. I went back to FB, after several years of account dormancy, when I started a small business. I think a lot of smaller businesses do use FB because it’s cheap and easy in terms of content marketing. I still get more results and visibility from my blogs than I do with FB, though. Like The Sandwich Lady I get tired of multiple re-shares, likes, and dopey inspirational quotes and pics.

  7. Great post, I’ve always found the hashtags “trending” on twitter to be very suspicious. At times when major conflicts break out I check the hashtags. I swear when it’s a NATO/US backed uprising or protest it’s all over Twitter but when it’s the west doing the killing it’s all Xfactor and Bieber. Or maybe that’s a sad but true reflection of the state of awareness of most people on the planet.

    Either way there’s no doubt that the major social media sites are not on the side of the activist, no matter what ideological “bringing people together” PR rubbish they spout.

    Thanks for sharing :)

    Rohan.

    • I have to agree, on the basis of my own observations. The sad part is, even if the “no one cares” argument for lack of “trending” isn’t valid to begin with, you can’t care about what you can’t see.

  8. I would absolutely leave Facebook if the privacy setting changed. They have been altered a little bit but I am very careful about what I put on FB and I don’t want some random staner knowing that I’m going to a game on this day or my family lives there. You know what I mean? Although I enjoy FB and waste a lot of time there I would delete my account if they started to invade our privacy. Great post, wow apparently thought-provoking judging by the massive comment I’m writing! haha Congrats on FP!

    • I worry about these safety issues, too. When friends post images of their kids, travel plans etc I am paranoid about checking the settings for who can see their post. These things certainly deserve more thought and attention.
      My attitude is that application developers are starting out from the wrong direction. I think defaults should be set at total privacy, and users should be able to peel away or reinstate those protections as and when they wish.
      Also, you are welcome to comment (short or long) any time!

  9. until i find a better alternative to fb, guess i’ll have to stick around for awhile. most of my friends are there so it’s enough to say i’m trying my best to put up with all that you mentioned above. congrats on being fp!

  10. It’s easy for people to get lost in the fact that everyone they know, including their mom, their best friend, their third cousin and soon their cat as well is on Facebook and/or Twitter and forget that these social media platforms are businesses. They may have been initially intended as something pure and just for fun, but as they grew bigger and more popular into the giants that they are now, both platforms started running on the promise of money. And that is completely normal because it’s business to their creators and managers and IT workers. To them, the people actually responsible for running these platforms, the purpose of the platforms’ existence is not to enable people to reach their friends with better ease. It is to make money through people reaching each other faster and easier and over and over again.
    Now speaking from the user’s point of view, I can’t say I have ever been a big fan, or a ‘slave’, of neither Facebook nor Twitter. But with almost everybody I know having profiles there, stalking each other and tweeting away, I can see why it would be difficult for many to stay away from social media. For us, it isn’t all bad – we get to overshare if we will, to stay ‘connected’ with people who live thousands of miles away from us, to broadcast our love life or lack there of and so on. But most of all, nobody is really forced to have a Facebook page and I do have friends who have quit theirs and some who never even made one due to the lack of interest. Same with Twitter.
    Social Media may be powerful and it may not be all good, but how people use it and how much importance people contribute to it is in the hands of the people. It’s a product. Don’t like it, don’t try it, don’t buy it, don’t use it.

    - MT

  11. I closed my Facebook account but someone managed to reopen it and use it to promote a business. Finally got it closed (I hope). Went to Goggle+ for awhile then left, closing all my Google accounts.. I don’t enjoy social networking, but I am a writer and need to find a way to be visible online. I haven’t had any real problems with Twitter yet (fingers crossed).

    • Account theft is a serious risk for business, I do hope it is all fully resolved now.

      Activists operate under many “hidden” constraints, and the risk of being hacked is a constant threat. I know many activists who do not enjoy social networking, but feel obligated to use whatever tools are available and popular.

      The ideas they are rolling out in G+ have lots of commercial potential, but few in my circles want to trust Google with their data.

  12. Raven

    Ive never liked Fartbook as I ‘lovingly’ call it. I have always thought why not have a blog and use that as a nice combo between twitter & Facebook. Personally I have left FB behind and the only way to ‘socialize’ with me is through my blog or through, ancient but still it works MSN/Skype. That works like a charm for me.

  13. You are absolutely right about this! I, like many others, have been forced into a downward spiral of social media to the point that not a day goes by without me using it. I know what Facebook and twitter use my information and posts for, (selling to market researchers) but like most people, I am trapped in the viscous circle of social media. Social media is very clever into trapping you into addiction and know how people work and it’s just a shame that we can do very little to prevent this…

    • I think I found fresh understanding of this addiction issue through my friends in Mauritania, a country in West Africa where they have really slow internet, with less than 4% penetration, and an established cultural routine of casual socialising and conversation. For a year or so, they were constantly on Facebook, but their existing real world social network proved more appealing and enduring; most have now significantly reduced their online time. Some have also begun to divide their time between Facebook for discussion or events, and Twitter for casual commentary and breaking news.
      When I compare this with the situation in countries like mine, with increasing unemployment, disintegration of the family, rising costs of (often overcrowded) transport and outside entertainment, but with widespread access to high speed internet at reduced prices. The result could be an increasing trend of social isolation that makes online social networks a surrogate for those real world activities many can no longer afford.

  14. LinkedIn can be free or paid, both account statuses have advantages, I have stopped face booking, just not enough time because all I do lately is press like. I do wish there was a slap button because some Facebook posts are just ridiculous.
    Thanks for the great thoughts on social media and congrats on the FP!
    -Ron

    • Thanks Ron! Glad you mentioned Linked In, as I rarely hear complaints about it, and it has been evolving into a very slick, yet security-aware app. I wonder if they would ever spin off a “NSFW” branch where people could socialise without it being linked back to their career profile. That is something a lot of people are concerned about with Facebook and Twitter.

  15. Nice post. I use twitter maybe b/c its a short route of me hearing from the world than waiting for weeks and months to go buy mags. Internet sometimes traffic in unbearable. Facebook yes..having friends that like it turned me not to delete the account.

  16. I am glad you wrote this blog as I have been thinking about social media. One of the things that is confusing to me is it seems like facebook is always changing the game and it is hard to keep up with their changes. What do you think?

  17. Facebook could solve a lot of their problems by just charging a nominal fee each month. The problem is they started off free so it is tough to now charge, so they have to sneak the fees in. They are a business, they do have to make money, but they are going about it the wrong way. They made $1.26 billion last quarter, which is about $420 million a month. If they charged each of their 1 billion users even $1 per month, no other fees, they would make more than they are making now, and people would be happier with the service. An alternative would be just to charge the business users and let everyone have a free personal account (free for charities and activists as well). I do think they need to separate the personal use from businesses using it for promotional purposes. They are forgetting what brought them users in the first place.

  18. J.D. Perkosky

    I shared this on my FB. I wonder whether I tripped a flag in their system.

    Here’s what I found most memorable and relevant from this piece:

    “The users have to maintain a constant state of vigilance – finding, figuring out and publicising each change. It’s an irritating waste of time. And it’s not what we came for.”

    “Constant vigilance” is something that stresses you out. And it’s not reasonable to expect out of people. Maybe that’s just the point. We’re s’posed to be constantly vigilant of our IRA’s, bank accounts, nutrition labels, and congress. And if you have kids, look out!

    FB and Twitter are conveniences. We trust them as guards.

    So who will guard the guards?

  19. Several times I have left Facebook and Twitter, tired of the changes and stress that comes with trying to promote my books and connect with other indie authors. When I am away I feel less stressed and I can concentrate on writing. But when it comes to selling/promoting my books and supporting my indie friends, I just can’t manage without promoting on Facebook and Twitter. For me to leave there would have to be a place that I could still promote myself and my indie friends with the number of followers not effected by the move. I am on Google+ (despite the low population) and WordPress (which I am now blogging more regularly but not quite where I want to be follower and post wise). If there are other alternatives I’d love to check them out. I have tried several and left because they weren’t worth the hassle. Right now, I can’t use a social media application that uses a paid subscription but even if I could afford it, the site would have to be highly recommended for me to spend my money on it.

  20. Dave

    If you don’t like what Facebook and Twitter are doing to increase revenue, delete your account and never use social networking again. Simple. I did it and my social life has not changed.

  21. I’m still on facebook, but their increasing interference with what shows up in my stream is getting seriously annoying and creepy. I’ve found that a lot of my activist friends and organization I follow have moved their social networking to Google+. I’m slowly but surely moving that way too, though I’m not sure whether replacing one large profit-making entity with another is really the solution. I’m generally just a bit tired of all the social stuff online and increasingly bringing my life back into the real world. Part of why I’m still on facebook is because I simply don’t have time to sign up for another “greatest new social networking site” because ultimately they’re all big time sucks. More meaning, less chatter is what I’m looking for.

    Thanks for this post, it’s a great conversation to have. Glad this got freshly pressed.

  22. I hated Facebook. I would never pay for their services because I see how poorly they handle and maintain their free stuff. There’s zero customer service.

    I enjoy Twitter. I don’t have an enormous following there, but it’s a great writing tool. I practice making my point in 140 characters or less. I think one reason I enjoy Twitter more is because I don’t have high expectations of them. Facebook on the surface promises more, so it’s more frustrating when they don’t deliver.

  23. Im maybe little different young guy. Because I don’t have Facebook at all. I just don’t want to get stuck in that kind of world. I do use twitter, but only because I follow some interesting peoples for me.

  24. I left Facebook May 2010, and I have never (not once) regretted my decision. I was wasting too much valuable time, but more importantly I felt disconnected from my friends and family. I figured that if John Smith really wanted ME to know something, he knew how to get in touch with me to tell me. At first I was concerned that my friends would fall away (and certainly some have), but in these past two and a half years, I have grown much deeper and more meaningful connections with those friends who bother to keep in touch with me (and I with them). I don’t pressure my friends to leave, because I figure they will either 1. do as they like regardless of my recommendation or 2. leave on their own after deciding for themselves that Facebook (or Twitter or whatever) isn’t worth all the trouble. I have taken control over my life now, as well as over who is allowed to access certain information about me. In releasing myself from online social networking sites, I have become a much more social creature.

  25. i think the only way forward is to get better and better with my actual content…we’re moving into an era of pull rather than push,so the idea of constantly notifying folk that i’ve just posted or uploaded something new,doesn’t appeal to me anyway,even if twitter or where ever else were perfect….i look around and i see some folk who are so good..they set a great tone for themselves and supply fabulous content..they’ll have my mindshare even if their linked social networking sites vanish right now…dangerous minds is a perfect example…maria popova would be another…joe my blog…….as it stands i expect nothing from Facebook…i’m just reading…learning,and trying to make the best music and related content possible..my guts tell me things will only fall into place for me only if i get better and better at this fundamental thing.

  26. I am still caught between leaving and staying. I love the connection with friends, the networking that can take place, and the ability to find great small businesses and home-based businesses quickly – but I am tired of clogged newsfeeds, not seeing what I want to see, and having to pay as a business for more than 20 – 30 people to see my posts. At the point it becomes paid, it would be easy to leave.

  27. Great post. I’ll be deleting my FB account in the next few days, I just got so sick of all the gossip about this that and the other unethical things that they do. It seems every other day there’s someone posting some sort of boogey man type message on FB telling you to do something or other to keep your information safe.

    I’ve been taking Google+ for a test run for the past month and it seems not bad. The security and other set ups seem a bit more involved than FB, but not overly so.

    The more I see of Social networking sites, the more I realize that they’re just like dealing with banks; They all do one or to things that you don’t like but the world is really making them nearly a requirement to have, so all you can do is decide which of them does fewer things that you don’t like and does things that you don’t like but can still bring yourself to live with.

  28. codester

    Social media is another tool to control the message and the flow of information. This is why we are seeing Facebook and Twitter change the rules of usage. Both have reached saturation, with millions addicted, so now they begin to control the information.

  29. Interesting post! I’ve noticed some unwelcome changes with FB as well but not so much Twitter. I guess, to me, Twitter has always been as simple as it gets. I don’t pay as much mind to it as Facebook.

    As for your questions, I don’t think I’d ever want to pay for a social media site regardless of the ad-free gimmick. It’s just not something I see a point in. I have not left Fb but I have actively backed off of it. I don’t feel as much of a purpose for it. As a film maker and writer, I kind of have been using it more than anything to promote myself and my work. That’s invaluable as a platform where I can share my work with a mass amount of people.

  30. I think what Facebook is doing is idiotic. Yes it’s a free social media network and for that, I thank you. However, I do not agree with purposely breaking the algorithm in order to get money. I was reading and article (and sorely wish I remember what the URL was) and they were mentioning how Facebook could have kept it’s functionality but ADDED a promoted-type deal where your post(s) would be more widely spread to more people. I think people would be more willing to pay for this. I don’t think Facebook has had a good history of how it treats its users and soon people will leave its grasp little by little.

    I personally use it because I like to keep up to date with friends and family across the world. However, it is difficult to do so when I see how the visibility of my posts are dwindling drastically, not just for my blog’s Facebook page but also for my own personal account. For now, I shall continue down this bleak path but I see myself dabbling in other sources of social media in the future.

  31. Wow, this is freaky how many Freshly Pressed posts are relating to my life right now. Actually, just an hour ago I was asking my cousin about whether I’d be able to disable my Facebook account for an indefinite period of time. Not to totally shut it down, but basically have it inactive. I’ve been feeling like Facebook is a waste of time and wondering what life would be like without it. Would I keep less in contact with my friends? Would people make the effort to contact me through other means? Would I make that effort? I’d like to do an experiment for at least a month and see what happens ….

  32. I don’t love how many ads are in my newsfeed for “get this photo to 42387480571 likes” and “read this heartwarming faux tale of heroics”. I just wanna see stuff directly from my friends, and I don’t like the concept that they restrict my wordpress posts :(

  33. I went off Facebook for a couple of months, but am back on it now. I have family in another country and Facebook is an easy way to keep in very casual contact with them. Plus I missed the crazy banter and videos some friends post up – very entertaining!

    Also, I’ve found that more and more local groups are using FB as a cheap and easy website, and only ever promote their events on it.

    Having said that, I’m thinking about going off again. But I think you need to get your alternative set up first so that you don’t find yourself in a void.

  34. Reblogged this on tompetersononline and commented:
    Very interesting view on if Social Media is going too far. I think in addition to the advert question, the social media providers really need to improve on removing spam accounts and virus apps which hijack user profiles. This is particularly true on Twitter.

  35. I think this is a point where both Facebook and Twitter had to come one day. They knew it. And we did too. They couldn’t just sit and let their sites get populated without increasing their revenue. And naturally, we are the target.

    As for your questions in the last paragraph, I think I am on Facebook just because its of population. I have a Twitter account, but don’t use it much. Talking about moving elsewhere, where will you go? Google+ is still growing. And to my experience, most of my friends and followers avoided G+ until now. So there aren’t much alternatives (at least one which offers a strong population).

    Also, thanks a million for sharing this informative post. Have a good day. :)

  36. chunter

    It isn’t just easy to clone sites like Twitter and Facebook, the software to serve your own version of either is already available! The problem, if it is one, is to get people off their social sites and onto yours.

    In this way, personal Web pages will always be important, if you have something strong to share.

  37. Virus book refuses to accept my account as deleted, it continues to send me emails about requests and otherwise after I deleted every single thing that I ever put on it, before I deleted my account. The place is criminal.

  38. Well said! I have more or less given up on fb, and refuse to pay for posts. Im spending more time on my blog now, and send posts to fb but not much else. I think, for now at least, blogs seem to be the way to go. xxx

  39. Facebook is a total shit, they don’t care about users, greedy liars, I moved on to Google+ and tumblr, much much better than fb shit! Tumblr doesn’t have fake accounts + both of them are ad free!

  40. I use Facebook to keep informed on what my family and friends are up to. It is a free site so I am not complaining if FB makes changes without checking with me first. I visit FB “a couple-three” times a week. If they start charging a fee, I will leave without an issue.

  41. Excellent blog. I recently cancelled my Twitter account after a friend told me it was hacked. I hadn’t noticed as I hadn’t been on there in months. This inspired the decision to cancel the account as I clearly wasn’t using it.

    Looking back at Twitter I only ever used it to try te funny (often without success) or ‘edgy’,read ‘be a douce’ (I never trolled to be clear).

    I guess that I must have grown up a little but I just suddenly found the whole thing to be tedious. I do still use facebook but only o promote my music/band. I don’t think that it will die off, it’s more likely be passed to the next generation to use and then get bored of, same as we have/will.

    Congrats on being freshly posted x

  42. You’re right, the main social media companies get worse and worse. It’s the same as any “top dog” company in an industry, trying to squeeze out more profits. I still have a facebook account, but I rarely access it. The reason I keep it is to stay in touch with acquaintances. My friends and I have other means of communication so I don’t need it for that.

    I don’t think a paid service for high security would take off. Most people remain quite apathetic. And as for changing to Google+ or something, there’s the whole critical mass issue. You need a critical number of people switching over for others to. But also, who’s to say Google wouldn’t do the same things once they gain the majority of users.. Kind of tough predicament.

      • I’ve been blogging under a variety of pseudonyms for quite some time and have now finally started doing it under a name. But, I think that if someone wants to read my writings or “follow me”, they can just follow my blog instead of Twitter, Facebook or _insert_social_network_here_. Hence I only exist here. You however seem to not only be on Twitter, but you seem to be Twitter. I’ve seen people with 10.000+ tweets, but 176 thousand? You clearly have issues. It’s okay, I don’t judge.

      • haha yes, I am sort of “everywhere” and I do have a higher than normal tweet count, although the bulk are from 2009/10. One day, I expect Twitter will offer to sell my content back to me. Sadly for them, I don’t need such a service, as I maintain my own archive. That probably seems weird, but it is surprising how useful a history of tweets with links can be, both for myself and others in my network when we are countering propaganda or contradictions in official statements, or building new campaigns. :)

  43. FB is a pain in the ass. I’m currently blocked from posting for a week because some precious princess took offense at something one of the other administrators posted on a page we have. One admin gets reported and all the admins get punished. There is no recourse. I’d happily leave if I could take all my friends with me and in fact many of my activist friends have already left. They use irc instead. The main problem I found with wanting to move elsewhere has been with the audience and fellow activists from Syria who would not trust any other platform at all. As I understand it, facebook was pretty much the first social network they got access to and the first one they understood how to use. It worked well for them at first, the regime was very much behind the 8-ball in that respect, and Syrians don’t trust easily. Hard won trust is also hard to let go of. Nothing anyone said would get them to do anything else no matter how much we told them about security. So we had to stay. Flouncing from FB could have resulted in lives lost. The one FB feature that keeps me coming back besides that, is secret groups. Groups can be enormous fun and great for organising and discussing issues, but most people who have never been into chatrooms or Usenet don’t seem to know what to do with them and can’t see the potential. A lot of the activist fail on FB is due to the the paranoia of faux activists using the reporting function to sabotage each other and get accounts deleted, which creates even more paranoia and distrust. We’ve tried some other networks but they haven’t got the contacts, the “audience”, the same data flow or functionality of FB. I quite liked Diaspora but while I got some people to register people just forgot it was there. Google+ has that real name fascism going on so nobody I know has bothered with it. Frankly, Twitter is still probably the best IMHO. Its simplicity is an equaliser which is a strength. I would not have an important conversation over Twitter DMs or any other social media. There’s always encrypted email and other methods for that.

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