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Tough Road Back to the Original Social Media

02/17/2024

While browsing YouTube I came across this production by Lauren who makes the case to abandon social media and instead rely on a personal website.  It's exciting that someone like this 20-something young person seems to have independently contemplated the ramifications of self expressing  on social media platforms with a commensurate conclusion to use a personal website instead. 

As one who has tried to delete all social media platforms myself in favor of this very blog and website, I want to add to her points by mentioning at least one other that she either misses or inadvertantly glosses over which is the weening off of a desire for dopamine hits.

If conducted in a way where one completely deletes their social media accounts and then resumes posting at their own URL, expression becomes very lonely and can seem eerily pointless.  Although Lauren and indeed the entire new IndieWeb movement do address connectivity to others (engagement) and discuss solutions, it's important to understand that they are all less tangible than the "like" or the flattery of someone leaving a remark that is had through, say, an Instagram post.  

In making this point I am absolutely not saying don't do it.  I'm pointing out a substantial layer of bedrock to be prepared for, when you do.  I think Lauren in the video, speaking mainly to artists, covers the mental and emotional pathways to exclusive web publishing well enough, including overcoming the immediate perils.  But in calling out this other force, I hope to add some longer-tail resilience -- the grit necessary to carry past the 2 month point or in general, well after the initial rush of declaring one's digital independence. 

That emptiness by the evaporation of dopamine flow is going to feel heavy at first.  In time, as Lauren says, you will come to be focused on your message and your product rather than random validation of it.  Eventually validation will come from IRL engagements with your site that are discussed and appreciated through more intimate online connections or even offline completely.

That all being said, keep in mind too that if a "return to the WWW" sentiment evolved into a full-fledged movement, enough people might rediscover the enjoyable pastime of sitting with a cup of coffee and an open browser on an actual computer, clicking from place to place, person to person, perspective to perspective.  When people return to doing that, and begin interlinking and sharing their URLs again, so might that original form of external appreciation by a random audience.  

Yes, it will be a feat because in the time away we have as an online populace been away from that style of digital interaction, the world has moved to handheld devices where the "clicking" from one place to another has been replaced by the tap-as-needed one.  There really are literally only a fraction of devices left in the discretionary world where people who don't need them even buy a PC.

The other area of friction in making the transition is the learning curve, which aside from the promise of instant engagement and visibility, is the other major perk point social media platforms offer by all but eliminating that.  Learning some degree of HTML and scripting is far and away more difficult than simply "signing up" to something.  Again Lauren covers this nuance, turning it, rightfully, into a positive learning experience.  Doing so would in fact allow one to develop those skills, but crucially, it would happen slowly over time.  Perhaps more or less depending on where one is starting from.   

But by god I would advise anyone:  Try it anyway.  I was excited to come across Lauren's video because it just shored up my suspicion that yes indeed people are seeing the foils of the big platforms, all while beginning to appreciate the control and versatility of the original WWW one.

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  By Dave for Personal Blog.

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