There was a comment on FB the other day that struck me so off guard.
Nerdwriter asks “would you use social media if there were no likes or comments? Would you use Youtube if there were no view counts?”
And then he says ‘no’
Except. I would say yes.
You see, FB and Instagram and Twitter and Youtube and even Medium here, aren’t about the likes. They aren’t about the followers. I write PHD in Curiosity as an email list and only I know the number of people who subscribe, and only then because Mailchimp insists it’s important.
But it’s not.
I wrote Acrylo back when there were zero hits. It grew, as things do, to be “successful” in that it was reaching hundreds of thousands of people by the end. But it was successful from day one because it was a place for me to write about crap that I liked.
Like I write here.
Some people know this, but many won’t: my Medium account is roughly ten times bigger than you guys see publicly. I journal in it almost every day.
The thing is, writing is like… I don’t know. It’s cliche. Breathing. If you hold your breath too long your brain gets all panicky and tries its best to remedy that. To struggle to the surface and thrash about until you get it.
I write to remedy the bit in my brain that needs me to.
Sometimes these thrashings are messy, I’ll be the first to admit. Sometimes they’re crap in topic or presentation or coherence.
But it’s a gasp. It’s an outlet of whatever that creation process is.
The comment was that I was talking to myself.
And it’s true, I posted a status and then I commented in my own replies to keep expanding my theory.
For all of the derpy UX that the Facebook comment reply structure is, it’s actually really good for categorizing and sub-categorizing related topics. Not for people to reply to things, but for me to reply to things at different levels.
And that was always the problem with Medium / linear writing: it’s a list. You have to structure topics inside a list. But that’s dumb and inefficient if we have drawers and things to put certain kinds of ideas together into.
But. I digress.
The thing was, that comment slammed a thought into me which was, people do actually use Facebook as a method for talking to other people.
That sounds obvious, right?
But here I was, not doing that.
I mentioned the journaling aspects of my Medium drafts. The interesting thing is, there is zero written difference between my writing to myself or writing to you.
The singular difference is one I hit ‘publish’.
See, I don’t even know if these words right now will ever be seen by anyone. If you’re reading this, congrats, I did publish it.
But maybe I won’t. Nine times out of ten I’ll get to the end, shrug, and close the tab.
Medium saves them automatically, which is sort of nice, but it’s unnecessary.
Before I used Medium I just used Notepad.exe and wrote until I CTRL-F4'd it.
And so social networks are based a bit on context of the person, right?
I would write as I do here even if no one ever read them.
I would tweet all the same things.
I would take and post the same Insta photos (and to be fair, I don’t really look at other people’s Instagrams, so I am effectively posting those into the void already anyway)
I’d save the same Tumblr photos to my HDD collection (which I recently started reposting to @Acrylodes in an effort to share my years of cool industrial design inspirations)
Sort of gave up on Snapchat. It almost solely relies on you caring about the recipients and so naturally it’s out of my wheelhouse. I do like the time limit thing, but Instagram and Twitter move so fast they’re effectively temporary.
In the meta, I do wonder if it’s all related to the creation v. consumption mindsets of people.
I am a creator. I take nothing and I make something.
And I do this over and over all day.
It’s what I do. Like a shark smells blood and swims towards it. It doesn’t think, it just moves towards the goal closest to it at any given time.
But social media, for the vast majority of people, are fundamentally consumptive verbs. You read Facebook. You look through Instagram. You churn through Pinterest and Tumblr. You consume the things other people are saying and doing.
The trick is, they’re also really good at making you feel creative.
Right? It’s a pleasant feedback loop. You post something and you get likes.
The likes are meaningless internet points, of course, entirely worthless for anything but your own ego. But you feel a little good because of them. You feel like you did something. Dare I say, like you made something.
Tumblr is probably the best for this feedback. You can become a very “successful” and Tumblr-famous pseudo celebrity by reposting other people’s photos. That’s how the network works. You can do zero photography but build an empire of gorgeous photos. And it feels good.
You’re a curator, you can take credit for having good taste, I guess?
You’re a human content filter.
So am I. Because curation is the most amount of accolades you can get for the minimum amount of work. You just hit a ‘repost’ button and likes stream in!
That’s way easier than thinking up something witty, or actually taking a photo
It’s easy to dip into whining with this.
If it feels like I’m against any of the above, it’s a product of that thrashing about in writing. The fact is, at best I’m indifferent.
Do whatever you like. If it’s Facebook likes, go for them.
Mostly I just noticed that I don’t really use social the way other people do and this was a way of sorting out my thoughts on the matter, like I would with any journal entry.
Because writing for me, fundamentally, is a method for getting abstract things into a relatively linear place.
Writing is thinking.
Social, for me, is just thinking with a ‘post’ button.
You can like it if you want, but those are the least of the reasons why I do it.
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