My Social Media Policy

After 25 years of reading and 15 years of posting on the Internet, my basic policy is that anything I care about goes on a server I or a trusted friend control or gets backed up there, and links always point from closed social media to the real web not the other way around. ‘Free’ sites that I can’t export as simple HTML and CSS with a clear directory structure will always break at the worst possible time, or mangle things I created because the owner’s priorities are not my priorities.

The basic dilemma is that closed social media are bad for my countries and not consistent with my policies around security and privacy and personal boundaries, but by 2020 some people will only see my work if it is cross-posted there. And some people I am interested in chose closed social media as their homes on the web. So while the categorical imperative would say I should ignore these sites, I make limited instrumental use of some of them, knowing that teams of smarter people than me designed them to make sure that the benefits flow in the opposite direction.

Remember that on social media what is happening on social media looks big, on forums people admire each other, in the days of fanzines there was great drama in the letters section, and so on. Closed social media rely on peer pressure – in twitter’s case, this comes from the media as well as their own users – and fear of missing out. So if you don’t enjoy them, you have to think very carefully about what you are putting in and what you are taking out, and heavy users are probably not the people to ask for their thoughts.

There is also a vicious circle where closed social media attract people away from healthier communities, so people who feel lonely move there. Community on these sites is often despite, not because of, their design and moderation.

Since 2018, moving off Automattic’s servers and moving the static part of this site off a CMS to a static site has been on my list, but its a long list.

Several German projects independently came to the same general policy as I did: Nachhaltige PR-Strategie (Humbold-Universität zu Berlin) and Facebook: Eine Grundsatzentscheidung (digitalcourage.de) (with the warning that your organization’s informative posts are unlikely to spread as well on Facebook as cat videos or jokes about politics).

If you don’t follow the kinds of people who are discriminated against by the big social media monopolists, two good articles are Gustavo Turner, “Twitter’s New Terms of Service, Effective January (2020), Reserves Right to Shadowban” (3 December 2019) and Twitter Hack Offers Rare Glimpse into Anti-Porn Shadowbanning Practices (16 July 2020) (you probably want to visit those with scripts and ads blocked).

– S.M., August 2020