Twitter, Social Media, And Tribes

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)

The sale of Twitter to Elon Musk (which isn’t done due to the usual process) made me think, “yeah, time to rethink my social media use.”  I’ll share my thoughts, but first, a lesson about myself – and perhaps yourself.

I’m not leaving Twitter (yet), but I decided it was time to look at my social media use and other “microblogging options.”  So I went to open accounts at a mastodon site and counter.social, and found I already had accounts from five years ago.  Suddenly memories streamed back – I had planned this earlier.

I remember being concerned about Twitter and Facebook being the end-all-be-all of social media and had begun investigating other options.  How well did that go?  Well, I’m looking at five-year-old accounts I used for a few posts, so the answer is poorly.  Face it, Twitter was just easier (and we were glued to it during the last terrible administration)

I had been here before, so my first lesson is – never become so dependent on one social media site again.

Now onward to some more thoughts.

Steve’s Thoughts on Social Media Use

Humans work in tribes, but humans also like to build big things – like societies.  A healthy society comprises many interlinked “tribes” to both support each other and keep any one group from taking over.  A healthy society is linked together, communicates, and has people active in maintaining it.

My goal is to find, make, and link my tribes while playing a role in the larger society.  So next up, here’s the social media I’m thinking of:

Have A Website: Get a domain and use it.  Have a blog, a website, whatever.  Direct it to LinkedIn or to your Linktr.ee (very useful tool).  You want someplace people can find you, a home base, something – there are tools to set these things up easily.  It’s a place for your tribe to find you.

A Blog:  You may want a blog, which is easy to set up with WordPress.  Blogs are good ways to post things and you can set up an RSS feed for people to use.

Use an RSS Reader:  RSS may not be as big a deal as it was, but it’s invaluable to integrate information among sites.  I use www.NewsBlur.com not just for news but also friends blogs, etc.  It’s a way to be informed and keep up with my people.

Newsletters:  Newsletters are very underrated ways to stay in touch and build a tribe.  They give you a mailing list of people, they give you a way to stay in touch, and they allow for links, documents, and other useful info.  Learn how to send one (I started one for friends and family 16 years ago).  If you’re a writer or artist they’re invaluable.  Plus you may have ones for different “tribes.”

Video Chat: Zoom, Webex, whatever these things are great.  You can schedule regular meetups with people easily, share data, and so on.  I strongly recommend picking a platform or two – I even pay for Zoom for myself.

Chat: Chat programs are great ways to stay in touch and have a more regular “tribe.”  Discord, Slack, etc. are really good for that.  Way back when AOL shut down, my friends and I moved to Discord, and it was great.  You may or may not need them, but consider them if you maintain some active social groups.

Microblogging:  Even if Twitter has an unsure future, “microblogging” like this seems useful for people.  I don’t think it’s needed for everyone, but it may be useful for authors, people trying to reach others, etc.  I’d consider one of the various Mastodon instances, Counter.social – and don’t write off Twitter yet.

Facebook (sigh):  I am regrettably on it for reasons.  I don’t consider it necessary, it may not be for you, so I’ll leave it up to you.  However if money is an option, Facebook is free and has many of the above features.  Just remember you are the product.

Blog sites:  Twitter’s travails seem to be reviving Tumblr, and Pillowfort.social seems to show promise if growing slowly.  I think there’s a place for these for community building and information sharing, but you are dependent on another platform.  However you use these, remember to “back up your tribe” and find other ways to stay in touch with your community.

What I’m trying to do (read: revive my ideas of five years ago) is optimize how I use each of the above.  What tribe matters?  What purpose does each media serve?  How do I avoid over-dependence on any one?

You can guess you’ll probably read about it here.  Or five years from now if I fail again.

But before I finish up . . .

Engaging in Activism

I want you to find at least one form of activism to get involved in.  Donate, call, raise money, get out the vote, something that gets you involved.  It has several benefits.

  • First, you are able to do good.
  • Secondly, you build a tribe around things that matter – or find one you want to belong to.
  • Third, you learn how the world works (trust me, you don’t).
  • Fourth, you use the social media skills you developed above.
  • Fifth, you learn how tribes matter.

This is another subject to post on, but get involved.  It’s not easy (indeed, I could do it better), but it’s worth it.

Steven Savage

Run Deep Not Shallow

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

My friend Serdar tweeted thusly:

“speculation: nostalgia for 8/16-bit gaming / computing is nostalgia for an era of dedicated devices and focused time, an era when you could sit down to write or play sth and not have 200 tabs assault you sidelong”

As I retrogame, I had to think this statement over. I came away with the conclusion Serdar wasn’t right in the whole, because there are many reasons. But he was right in the small as, on review, I saw this in myself and others.

Echoing memories of a simpler time.

This reminded me of an exercise I had done to evaluate my life and career. Often replaying my choices, I took a walk for an hour and worked backward through my life, looking at my major life choices. I had many deep insights during my stroll, but at times I remembered life before internet-driven complications.

How much of my time today was really mine?

I finally found a way to express this when I discussed social media with a communication professional. They noted the research required to go into a good strategy these days and how easy it was to be distracted. I summed up their conversation as “what are the deep patterns?” that mattered to what they had to say.

We are distracted by so much that professionals have to keep developing counter-distraction approaches.

Thus we come full circle to what stuck in my head due to Serdar’s Tweet. So much of today’s mega media always-online culture of constant chatter was a distraction from “deep patterns” of life. Like powerful currents running beneath a body of water, those are important, not the sparkly ever-changing reflections on the surface.

The deep patterns, the powerful currents we need to navigate, steer, and control, are easy to miss in an age of 200 tabs and constant scandal-chat. It often feels like there’s more of everything, but what matters is a shrinking percentage of the whole vying for our attention.

How many times have you wanted to scream but does any of this matter?  Admit it, it’s a non-zero number.

For me, I’m glad I have experience and interest in meditation, philosophy, and psychology. Some Taoist abdominal breathing or pithy Buddhist quotes help bring me enough awareness of the distractions I face. But sometimes, it’d be nice to just not have 200 tabs, ten text messages, and email piling up.

It’d be nice to just focus on a good game.

Steven Savage

The Social Self As A Business

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

To mark this post historically, this was posted the day Tumblr decided to cut out some adult content (it’s hard to tell exactly what they meant, it got weird)  This was quickly followed by an algorithm that clearly was terrible not doing it’s job, and leaving people to discuss leaving.  When you can’t exactly spell out a vision for what you want to do, that vision seems to be “stop some nudity”, and your system is bad, yeah people are going to leave.

This doesn’t entirely surprise me, an old hand at watching internet companies shoot themselves in the food.  I’ve seen sites and services appear and vanish, sometimes quite sadly.  This has led me to an important but unpleasant truth.

You have to run your social media presence like a business.

What do I mean by this?  Simple

  1. Social media is vital to our lives (for some of us more than others)
  2. Social media companies rise, fall, and change.
  3. To reach your social media goals, you have to consider your vision, make a plan, and have expenses – just like a business.

For me, a writer, this is more vital – but also as my writing is a hobby, it’s almost more effort.  I mean it’s hard to disentangle my audience, my fellow authors, and my sarcastic video game posts.

But it still comes down to this – business decisions affect social media, social media is connected to our lives, so we have to run that part of it like a business.

No, I don’t like it.

I don’t like knowing something may vanish the next week because of a merger.  I don’t like seeing people leave a site due to some weird policy change.  I dislike wondering who’s harvesting my data.  It’s tiring and it’s exhausting, and annoying, not to mention a bit dehumanizing.

But this is where we are now, when business decisions affect where you post recipes and if you repeat an Overwatch meme about Hanzo’s shirts.

Maybe in time we can build more humanized platforms.  Maybe we can get others to evolve.  But until them your social media life has to be run like a business, especially if you have any large groups, complex plans, side businesses, media presence, etc.

If it helps, what I do is actually review my social plans once a month – who’s planned what, do I want to host an event, etc.  I’ve had to work my social media reviews into that, along with my marketing reviews for my books.  It helps, but it’s annoying.

And again, I don’t like it either.

Steven Savage