Apropos of nothing, a newsletter I get sent me a link to a site that lets you see a list of things people did at whatever age you might be. I’m 61 (yikes), and that list is uninspiring. It includes both the fact that Richard Nixon resigned at that age, and that, also that age, Gerald Ford pardoned him. Blah. But, I though, I’ll be 62 later this year. So what do I have to look forward to?
It turns out that J.R.R. Tolkien published the first volume of his fantasy series, Lord of the Rings at age 62.
Watch out world.
Like a lot of folks, I’ve been watching the world of social media with equal degrees of interest and malaise. I’m interested, of course. Given my age and my general occupation and skillset, I’ve arguably been dealing with social media since before it really existed. This blog goes back to 1996, anyway, when the proper term was “web journal.” I wasn’t in the very first wave of folks who kept online conversations going, but I was right at the tip of wave two. HTML hand coding for the win.
Here’s my first-ever post—which I “updated” at one point to be served through a perl script formatter (thereby separating design from content, yee haw, baby!)
Here’s that first post in its original form (though I had it embedded in a frame so I could let readers control the days they were reading).
This was literally before Google. Yahoo had been the rage, but to be sure it was yucky. Back then there were these groups that wandered around the Web and gave special awards as “the Cool Site of the Day” to help people find things that were, well, cool.
So, yeah, as I noted above, I’m a tad older than the average social media mover and shaker these days. I frequented local bulletin board systems back when you had dial up modems. I did GEnie and Compuserve.
I still generally like the concept behind social media, but I’ve seen the game often enough now and I’m fine with saying I move a little slower than the pack. Part of this is that social media, like pop music and pop culture, is a young person’s game, and I’m not a young person. But part of my approach to social media now is that I’m also not inclined to be super-excited about any platform that I don’t control the material I post on it—which means pretty much all sites.
Looking back, I realize that’s always been a thing for me. It took me a long time to move to WordPress, and to be fair I still sometimes wonder if that was a good idea.
As stodgy as they were, I liked the old style platforms because they were mine. Other than the fact that I bought server space—which wasn’t necessary, and is still vulnerable to hacks—since I can still back it all up isn’t a horribly risky breech od the concept I like. No one else touched anything on those olde sites, and even if the hosting group I used went belly up, I could always find another.
Then along came these platforms that didn’t require individual hosting: Myspace, Tumblr, Blogger, Live Journal, etc., etc., and there went the neighborhood. These are all systems that people spent years nurturing a presence on and (of course) sending the platform owners content they could advertise with—making these owners quite rich.
These platforms don’t require technical expertise, so they open the conversation to all sorts of people. Which is truly great in some ways. They put the “social” into social media. But they all have an inherent flaw, and that is that they are all for-profit businesses. As such these environments are subject to all the ramifications for-profit businesses entail. Perhaps they go flat broke, and just disappear. Or they get bought out and become something you don’t like. Or they get bought out by a competitor and then strangled to death to make space. It’s all a business, after all. Whatever the reason, when that happens, you’re just kind of dead.
Catherine Valente, who was in the social media generation behind me (and apparently didn’t deal with hand-coded sites) wrote a great piece about various platforms that have come and gone over time. If you haven’t read it, you should.
Anyway, my general view also means I’m also not inclined to go nuclear on any particular news of distress in that realm. Live Journal is crashing? Such a surprise. Tumblr got hosed? Shocked, I say. Totally shocked. Facebook is bothersome? Well, duh. Elon Musk is a horrible manager of a worldwide communications platform? Wow. Who woulda thunk it?
This is just what happens. These are private entities, not public places. They can basically do what they want, when they want to.
If you want to change that, find a way to elect people who will make a national Twitter, and be done with it. Good luck. Otherwise, there’s nothing you can do but predict it, bitch about it, and move on. As for-profit businesses, these environments will grow and grow and eat each other up along the way (using us as their products because that’s the entire game). Nothing personal. Just business built on channeling sometimes years of your hard work into their pocketbooks. When they can’t do that anymore, it’s time to move on.
FaceBook is still huge but clearly is fading as it gets older. Twitter has been blown up but is still flapping. We’ll see what happens.
Personally, I’m still hanging around both.
I’m causally scanning for other platforms, specifically with my writing in mind, but at present I’m not seeing anything that gets me really excited.
The beauty of the big social media sites is their outreach, right? Facebook was a place to go where you could see the whole world. Same for Twitter. I’m dallying with a few others, but I’m not thrilled with any of them.
A lot of my reticence to jump quickly has to do with the energy-to-payoff factor, and a lot has to do with that whole control thing. Every time you join a Post (which I’ve done) or a Mastodon or an Instagram (which I’ve also done), or whatever, it’s just the same thing over again. Remember when Google was the “Do No Evil” gang and wouldn’t touch advertising because it would muddy their reputation?
Mostly, though, I’ve been looking at this little website of mine that is now twenty-six years old and going … well … if not always strong, it’s going. And when I scan back over it, I can see every post I’ve ever made, and every comment that ever came along (except for some comments made back when I hand-coded my own little perl discussion board—that held up to 10 comments[!] before they rolled off to oblivion).
As we enter 2023, I think that says something.