I Quit Social Media. Then Social Media Quit Me
It took me about four weeks after Elon Musk took control of Twitter to decide enough was enough. So I downloaded my tweet archive and deleted my account.
When Twitter emerged after SXSW08, I was an early adopter. Looking back, those early tweets were cringe. However, I quickly picked up the style and organically built a sizeable following for someone not aiming to be an influencer.
I started to question the effectiveness of social media for non-paying users when I attended an event in 2015. I dutifully tweeted the highlights using the official hashtag. But afterward, I noticed that I was the only one doing so. That, and the crap that took over the medium in the following months, caused me to back away from tweeting. Then, due to the blatant violation of Twitter’s terms of service by a particular politician and the platform’s failure to enforce it caused me to stop using the medium altogether.
But I didn’t want to delete the account. I had about 6000 followers then, even though they did not engage much by that point. I thought they might be worth something. So I returned for a few tweets to break the boredom of 2020, but no reactions. This confirmed that follower counts are just vanity metrics.
Musk’s incompetent management of Twitter in the latter part of 2022 urged me to delete my account lest it count as a show of support.
At the end of each year, I go through my password manager to clean up unused accounts and update my passwords. However, somehow I locked myself out of Facebook. Most platforms use 2-factor authentification (2FA) through a code by e-mail or SMS to validate your identity. Facebook asks you to validate access through another supposedly verified browser and device. The problem is that I have many devices: three Macs, two PCs, two iPads and a phone, plus my work PC and work phone. I attempted to access the site on my other machines, but they were locked out too. I don’t have the Facebook app on any device, and I refuse to install it due to cybersecurity concerns. Facebook offered no 2FA option.
They did suggest asking three “friends” to let me in. However, I did not recognize any of the profiles proposed. That is because, in the same way that I organically accumulated a few thousand Twitter followers over the years, I did the same on Facebook. My social graph on Meta has no resemblance to my social graph in real life. Since I have not posted in a long time, even if I used the “social unlock”, would these names (whom I could not vouch for) vouch for me or dismiss the request as spam?
This means that Facebook locked me out. A wave of panic passed through me — what was I to do? But then I realized that I hadn’t posted much on Facebook in the past few years. My last post was a good morning photo from the summit of Montreal’s Mount Royal taken six months ago. I’ve lost access to my timeline, but there is nothing to be ashamed of in that archive.
So, I decided that if Facebook locks me out, I don’t want back in.
Is my experience part of a trend? In the 2010s, social media meant the “big three”: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Then a second tier of visual media attracted a different generation: Pinterest, Instagram, and TikTok. A few well-funded platforms tried but failed — remember “G+”?
But in the 2020s, the polarization of Social Media means we are breaking into tribes. Mastodon’s federated architecture might be the future of social media — where communities communicate through individual servers and the servers linked together. Where the first and second generations of social media encourage users to save every utterance through the years, Mastodon enables users to expire their “toots.”
Social media should be a conversation, not a shouting contest. It should elevate thought, not homogenize or monetize it. And most of all, no one person should control it.
My active platform is LinkedIn because I’m an old fogy. I’m not a visual influencer, so ‘Gram and TikTok are out. Maybe Mastodon is my communications project for 2023.
One thing is for sure: Buh-bye to Musk and Zuckerberg.
For what it’s worth, my toot handles are: