I should say, mainstream and/or popular social networks. I don’t use Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. I use a self-hosted StatusNet instance, and of course I have this site.
Let’s start with what I am missing:
- Connection with people I’ve met – I haven’t stayed in touch with people from my time in public education, nor do I follow up with most people I meet at meetups or conferences.
- Timely updates – I don’t use social networks to keep up to date with anything, from major life changes in friends to memes or movements they find important.
- Ease of using platform-specific technologies – I can’t see half the events people send me, since they are hidden in Facebook. There are games I can’t play, and people I can’t contact when they decide to leave an @handle instead of an email address.
I listed the cons first, because those are real things I miss out on, but they are also all reasons I don’t use those sites; hence, my pros:
- I email, text or call the people I am interested in, and I have a very strong core group of people that I can rely on for various things. A strong tribe that isn’t diluted by casual connections.
- I advocate the slow web. I don’t seek out information that is peripheral to the task at hand, and my tribe curates my news.
- I don’t turn over my information, reputation and network integrity to companies that merely promise to be good.
I don’t think that social networks are bad, but we have a strong historical record demonstrating that companies lack the flexibility and power to be good stewards of cultural dialog. I believe that the internet has to be paid for, and since the consumer web was introduced it has been marred with an increasingly abstract funding scheme, where ads and private data are the currency. I would take it even further though, and say that humans don’t collectively understand how we’ve adapted to our computer-mediated communications, and that digital illiteracy has to be mitigated before capitalist principals loose grip of the popular web.
I am documenting this here mostly so I can refer to it later. I want to be on the public record saying that I don’t think social networks, or really social anything, is bad. But we can do better, and it is fairly straightforward.