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Opinion

Acid Test for Social Media

This is likely to be the final part in a series that includes posts on tidying up the web, and the problem with social media conversations, and annoying social media techniques (an article that would have grown into an epic if I were to update it with all the latest tricks)… my main reason for writing it is because quite a lot of people are contacting me to tell me that my Twitter account has gone, so I wanted to assure everyone that it is deliberate!

So as a few people have noticed, I have been gradually deleting all of my social media accounts over the past eight months. I originally deleted Facebook, then Twitter, and then all of the others (including Google+).

Keep before your eyes the swift onset of oblivion, and the abysses of eternity before us and behind; mark how hollow are the echoes of applause, how fickle and undiscerning the judgements of professed admirers, and how puny the arena of human fame. – Marcus Aurelius

Here’s the acid test I used to make my decisions. It has two simple parts.

The first test is this:

Does the conversation stay on topic?

Zinging off on a tangent is a perfectly natural thing to happen. It occurs in conversation all the time. On social media, though, the switch is sometimes jarring – like people haven’t read what has come before.

This is why Facebook was the first to go. For some reason, no matter how a conversation starts everyone seems to want to supply a low quality punchline. Every time the spark of an interesting conversation started, it was snuffed out by some inane comment.

The second test is this:

Does visiting the platform make you feel better or worse?

For example, does checking in on social media make you feel more love for humanity, or do you now cheer on the asteroid in Armageddon? Do you feel like shaking hands with strangers, or does it make you want to head into the woods to survive off of the land in total isolation?

This was the nail in Twitter’s coffin. I persevered for quite some time with Twitter, partly because of the sunk-cost fallacy (I invested a lot of time in Twitter and had “earned” a lot of followers) and partly down to the feeling that I might not be “in touch” with new ideas without it. In the end, I knew that each time I checked in on Twitter I left feeling a little worse than when I arrived. So it had to go.

And so the story goes for pretty much every account that I deleted. They failed one or both of these simple checks.

What I have kept is RSS feeds (thanks to Feedly) which pass both tests with flying colours (and there’s jam for tea). So while I’m not following people on social media, I am following them via their blogs. One major benefit of RSS feeds is that you can enjoy your reading without the inane comments.