Thursday, 1 October 2020

Social dilemma

I have just watched the Netflix documentary 'The Social Dilemma' that deals with the algorithms and business models behind monetising social media, in particular Facebook. It is a sobering watch. Whenever my attention is turned towards such things I find myself thinking very hard about my own use of social media. Here is where I currently stand...

FACEBOOK Binned it a few weeks ago, mainly down to the volume of incoming posts from the (few) natural history groups that I was a member of. Also friend and family pressure lead me to 'friend' people who then gummed up my timeline with vacuous and pointless images of their latest meals, pouts and 'look at me' moments. I have not missed it at all.

INSTAGRAM A very short membership of this platform, which I joined to access a local Art Group account and I left due to - you've guessed it - pressure from friends and family to 'befriend' them who then gummed up my timeline with vacuous and pointless images of their latest meals, pouts and 'look at me' moments. I have not missed it at all.

TWITTER My God this platform infuriates me. It is my number one method of gleaning instantaneous news of what birds, moths, butterflies and plants are being seen. It has become an indispensable way of getting my information out, and other's information in. It has also become my number one method of being shown how little I am seeing and how much others are. This, of course, is grossly slewed in favour of the lucky few - 99% of us are those whose noses are squashed up against the shop window looking in at the lucky ones who are feasting on success - and don't they like to rub our noses in it! And all of that congratulatory nonsense dished out to people who have jumped in a car to follow directions to see a bird that somebody else had found - yeah, top birding mate (ironic face emoji). I see 2,200 House Martins zip through at Priest Hill and punch the air. Within minutes my bubble is burst by news of the 13,000+ at 'nearby' Leith Hill. I bird all day for a few crumbs of migrant delight to be assaulted by images of Siberian Thrush, White's Thrush, Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler, all found by birders - just like me - but who have had the good sense to position themselves in a better position. Maybe not 'just like me' after all... Still hanging on, although the increasing number of adverts is annoying.

WHAT'S-APP Sounds simple this one. Groups of like-minded people disseminating information, pure and simple - until you get a stream of banal chat going on that would be boring and out of place across a garden fence. Still hanging on.

BLOGGER Still here, at least I have some control over input and frequency. Maybe a dying platform populated by older people. The long-form narrative has little place in our sound-bite times. But I'm old-school and will keep on blogging.

The way these platforms are being manipulated is frightening. Society is suffering, what is true and what is false are being blurred. What I really should do is delete the lot. Live in the now. Converse with those that I have a real connection with, by actually using my voice or sending an e-mail. Drastically reduce my time looking at a phone or tablet. Am I brave enough to do so? At the moment, just a bit. Just a little bit.

9 comments:

Wild Stutton said...

Steve, your blog and that of one or two others are the highlights of my Twitter feed. Stay with it!

I share your view on the local WhatsApp. It is a goldmine for news (so long as I have my data on!). Persuasive admin skills utilised here to keep the banter at bay. Folk are getting the message. As a friend said, use 'Pub landlord' rules. If you don't like it...

Don't get me started on those FB pouts.

Peter Alfrey said...

I've learnt so much from people's blogs (like yours) and good facebook groups. The negative side of it all comes with everything. A bit of counter algorithm insurgency can't hurt- liking and retweeting local efforts from stalwarts and effort related work instead of gawking at another PG-Tips, Siberian Thrush or White's Thrush on Shetland (YAWN!)

Gibster said...

It's just what you make of it, Steve. I have no FB friends, I culled absolutely everyone a few years back for the reasons you mention and now I use it purely for gleaning info and learning IDs from the multitude of nature groups I've joined (hence the only 'pouting' I'm ever likely to see is the species of fish) and I use it for messaging people. Blogger I use for my two nature blogs, both of which are primarily a personal nature diary tweaked to be made more readable for the masses (yep, all six of them...) Essentially it's something for me to look back on in years to come, just to remind myself how inept I was/am at nature. So essentially what I'm saying is that I use FB and Blogger for my own ends. There's no need to get sucked into anything, get frustrated over it or to throw in the towel. Ads on YouTube, THAT is something that pisses me off though.

Ric said...

I've never looked at Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram even once. Twitter was about twice. Only Blogger gets an outing. I don't use a phone either. Why is this? I simply didn't want to end up being connected 24/7 to a gadget that morphs from a handy item to one that you cannot exist without. But can lose!

I see things on U Tube but don't see any adverts. An Adblocker deals with that side of things.

Stewart said...

I watched half of that documentary Steve, it was food for thought. I like Twitter, its my favourite. Facebook is a pain in the backside but I like the specialist groups for id purposes, I tried insta for 10 minutes then removed the app from my phone, we have a birding Northumberland Whats App Group, well, 2 actually, a Rare and Scarce Group and a well Bullshit mostly group. Blogger was my first and I will stay with it because I like reading blogs.

Look at the combination of all platforms merged as a magazine that never ends and you can interact with it.

One day itll all go tits up I'm sure...

Gavin Haig said...

Have been through similar frustrations, but eventually got the point which Seth has already highlighted: it is just what you make of it. And Stew's analogy re the magazine is such a good one. I haven't watched the docudrama and probably never will. Reading a synopsis on Wiki I was delighted to learn that one of the interviewees is tagged as 'Facebook like button co-creator'. Hahaha!! Love it! What an accolade to have on one's CV...

Gavin Haig said...

PS. Love your new header pic!

Steve Gale said...

Thank you all for the comments. Social media is, in my mind, a necessary part of modern communication. For keeping abreast of natural history news and developments it really is a no-brainier to keep on using it - and that is what we are, and what the platform owners refer to us as - users. Pick the best bits, tailor your use to what you want and try and limit the rest. Sound advice from you all!

David said...

I'm old school... Well: old, really! But I'm a massive blog fan, because I enjoy the extended background and extra images that people (like your good self!) can put on their blogs. I use my blog as a personal diary, and am delighted that quite a lot of people seem to look at it every day!