Twitter, Social Media, And Tribes

(This column is posted at, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort.  Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my

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, 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 (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 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, – 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 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

On Truth, Connection, and Disconnection

(This column is posted at and Steve’s Tumblr)

In an age of propaganda and post-truth politics, we face people believing outlandish falsehoods and obvious propaganda and acting upon it.  How do people become so disconnected from reality?  Disconnection is the appropriate term, because some people seek to cut the strands of knowledge that helps us find truths – and some cut their own strands deliberately.

I’ve heard it said that we’re in a post-truth era in 2016, where the idea of truth is irrelevant to many.  It’s clear that enough people believe falsehoods, and many are happy to believe blatant lies and fantasies if it fits their agendas. Many propagandists and opportunists are glad to provide these lies to their audience. This is feared rightly by sane and rational people because this disconnection is enough to get people killed – and in modern times, technology allows that to be a great number of people.

We wish to oppose this “celebration of falsehood” for the as we’d rather not die or have other people die because of other someone’s chosen foolishness and those providing that foolishness.  To deal with this we need to deal with the nature of Truth.

The best way I have found to define Truth – which will always have a subjective component – is connection.  Something is True (or at least “truer” than other things) because it can be explained in multiple ways, because its validity is confirmed multiple ways, and the “true thing” relates to other data, concepts, and experiences.  One may look at the effect of a drug, find studies done by reliable researchers who in turn base their work on other validated research, talk to their doctor, evaluate their own experiences and have  a decent idea of the truth of that drugs effectiveness.

Truth is a web of connections. Truth does not exist outside of context.

In understanding the Truth of something, there will be flaws in data, mistakes, errors, even outright falsehoods.  The whole of the Truth stands together despite flaws in parts of it.  It is at worst, “true enough” to work with – connected enough to sources of information and validity that it’ll do the job.  At best, the Truth even incorporates its own flaws, with margins of error, exceptions, or contingencies.

In a connected age, which we live in at least at the time of this writing, one would think we would have more truth, and not be battling falsehoods.  I’d say we actually have both more truth and more falsehood – more useful and valid knowledge, but also more post-truth lies and propaganda.  Why is this?

This is because there are people who profit from untruth, motivated by everything from money to self-esteem.  These people can use our modern media and technology for their own gain with relative ease.  With this technology they do what dictators and liars always do – they attack the connections that form the truth.  They attack the knowledgeable, the advocates, the educators, and the informed – breaking the social and cultural connections needed for some kind of truth and common ground.

The attacks made by the propagandists break both social and personal connections, sowing mistrust and disregard not to increase truth by questioning, but to decrease it destroying credibility of ideas, institutions, and people.  These attacks don’t always offer a replacement truth outright.  Instead these attacks are passive-aggressive ways to say “believe me” by focusing on saying others are not trustworthy.  When someone believes the attacks on people, they will more easily believe the attacker.

No this is not sane, not rational, and is very dangerous.

Our modern times gives us people gladly following and sharing falsehoods and placing themselves in narrow social bubbles with modern technology.  These two experiences, of falsehoods and of echo chambers, are really two sides of the same phenomena.  Media companies cut the ties of truth with their lies, and out of them form echo chambers.  Others obsessed with believing untruths make online communities build echo chambers and then cut ties to a larger shared Truth.  The results are the same – and overlapping.

People are cut off from the “larger picture” of what is true, believe only certain things, and then reinforce these beliefs with each other. They may feel connected  but ultimately are not, their only connections are to someone feeding them lies, to a closed community, or both.

This is cult like behavior; separating people from community, convention, and connection.  We have people acting as cult leaders who are news figures and media figures, severing the ties that maintain our truth with lies.  We have people willing to act as their own cult leaders, isolating themselves deliberately among specific communities that share their views and untruths. Either way we end up with people separated from the rest of the world – yet trying to influence it because of the falsehoods they believe.

It’s disturbing to think in this modern world there are people so disconnected from reality that they deny large parts of how the world runs and works.  These people cannot keep a functioning society running at best; at worst they part of dysfunctions in society.

It is the duty of any citizen to maintain and increase the connections that we rely on for Truth. We should actively introduce people to knowledge.  We should support and expand knowledge systems such as schools, publishers, and magazines.  Perhaps maintaining these truths was once unconscious or assumed; today it must be a conscious and committed effort.

The more we maintain and improve the social and informational connections that give us some Truth, the less we have to deal with the pathologies.  We must create and maintain a healthy social and cultural system that can resist propaganda, lies, and delusion.  Our survival depends on it.

– Steve

Way With Worlds: Sex and Worldbuilding – Let’s Get Social


So you’ve got sexually reproducing beings in your setting. You’ve worked on their psychologies, understanding just how sex, really the most primal communication a being has, affects them.

Of course when you deal with sex and psychology, it’s all because beings have to interact to reproduce. Where you bring together two more more beings with some mutual goals and drives (at least reproduction) then things get complex. These creatures have to interact, get along, and work together to survive – and thus reproduce. Once you have sex you eventually have a crowd and they’re going to need to work together.

In fact, working together benefits everyone. You need some level of cooperation among a species to A) reproduce and B) not kill each other off.

At some point, you start developing a society. Be it a pack level behavior or a human-like capacity to hyperadapt and run culture as if it was a program, sex leads to social behavior.

What can I say? Sex makes things complicated. But you knew that.

A Quick Note

I’m going to be talking social behaviors here, and I’ll be referring to this as society, since it’s likely that you’re focusing on sentients in your settings and because sentience is when things get more complicated and when we write. However a good chunk of this applies to less-sentient, animal-level behavior that has social behavior even if it’s not a society. I’ll refer to this as “society” for the sake of not constantly clearing this up.

In short, i’m using the word society in the broadest sense.

So What Is Society?

So let’s ask just what a society and social behavior does.

Society is how living organisms arrange themselves and communicate among themselves. No man is an island, and a creature living on its own is probably dead in the end. But a society allows for members to interact, share, survive, and prosper – oh and of course have sex.

When it comes to sex, society lets them hook up, reproduce, and carry on the line – and the society. You can’t separate the two if you think about it. Society lets you reproduce easier (and deal with the results of reproduction).

Sexual organisms at the very least need some social elements to let them connect, have sex, reproduce, and raise the young (as much as is needed). When you have sex you have society of some kind. Some creatures just take it farther than others – like humans.

Society is sort of the “next level” of psychology for a species. It’s that principle that lets them get organized, communicate, and pass on information – and genes.

Consider how having these social instincts contributes to survival. The ability to bond and socialize, social behaviors, allows creatures to further grow and survive. Highly social creatures are almost an organism all their own, each being a cell, moving forward, growing, and surviving – even as some cells are born and die.

In fact, society itself really is about the transmission of information. Behaviors, language, rituals, training all allow for survival but are also communicated due to social abilities. An individual, be it a poet or an animal that passes on a clever hunting trick, outlives their time and perhaps even their progeny by passing information along.

In a weird way, society is almost a “second level” of sex. An individual can have vast influence beyond their individual reproduction, and ideas, concepts, or even simple learned behaviors can echo for ages in descendants yet unborn.

As I said, living beings are all about communication. Sex is just the first kind.

But that leads a lot to explore, and when you talk sex and society, there’s a few things you’ll want to explore when you world build a society and the way it affects sex.

The Biological Level

On one level you have to ask how much of the social instincts creatures you design are innate and how they vary.

It’s very likely any reasonably complex sexual species is going to have some hardwired social instincts just so they can survive and reproduce. These may be rather basic, but are likely to extend beyond the individual psychology of raw sex drive and need. After all if they’re not hardwired enough, that drive probably isn’t going to get expressed very well.

This can get rather tricky as now you have to ask where the core biological drive ends and learned and social behaviors begin. Ask yourself, in your experience, what are the basic human social drives and you’ll see how complex it gets.

Note that these social instincts do not always involve sex. Sure sex is a big part of living creature’s behaviors (as we know) but they also have behaviors that help them get along. I suppose you could note once you start reproducing you’ve gotta start getting along.

EXERCISE: Look at the way you spent your day today. How many things did you do that were more learned than instinctive? How many were more instinctive than learned? That point you yelled at someone for cutting you off on the freeway may have been pure territorial rage . . .

The Developmental Level

The next question in designing sexual species’ social elements is asking what traits that have that can be developed that are part of social (and thus to an extent) sexual behavior. What are the creatures wired to do or able to do, but that is highly variable or can be “filled” up?

Human language is a classic example of this. It’s amazing, but we have this ability to create symbol systems and thus pass on information. These words you are reading are in a language that evolved for aeons, allowing us to employ our natural communications abilities.

A similar example in humans is developing social roles. Though we have complex, varied societies, we still seem inclined to form social bonds and roles. It’s as if we slot ourselves into them happily – even if said role is that of an outsider, we almost need others to announce how “outsidery” we are.

This is an extremely challenging area as you have to enter a liminal area between biological traits and the larger society beings form, to ask what they’re INCLINED to do. However I find this area very rewarding to explore as you have to enter this unsure area and really ask how the life forms you designed adapt – and in what parameters.

EXERCISE: Name five human skills/traits/abilities that you think are natural and hardwired, but are also highly developmental. What role do they play?

The Social Level

Ultimately, when you get to sentients or complex social beings, you end up with a society.

A society is a strange thing really. It’s composed of biological creatures with some hardwired traits, who have learned various things because they’re inclined to, and now pass the society they constructed along. Society is both something they give birth to and that is their parent (to keep the whole sex thing in the picture)

At the same time, a society is a powerful thing for a species to develop. It can literally be like a unified yet adaptable organism, it vastly outlasts any of its components, it can change quickly since it’s not as tied to biological components, and it can propagate information effectively. A society is the ultimate reproductive/communicative tool that can send probes to distant worlds, seed TV signals into space, and write words down that survive thousands of years later.

Thus when you design organsims that have sex, they develop individual psychologies, they have social instincts, and ultimately they create a society.

Which if you think about it makes sense. A society is built on communication and propagating information, and because of that it allows for survival, and thus reproduction (even if its not biological). A society is in a way the sophisticated triumph of sex, the primal communication.

Of course that gets complex, but first . . .

EXERCISE: In the next five minutes, list all the ways an identifiable society is like a living organism.

EXERCISE: Now that you listed the similarities between a society and a living organism, list the differences.

The Social-Sexual Level

The thing is that sex is hardwired into beings that reproduce. So ultimately the society that they evolved is going to involve sex because its so primal, so hardwired, so vital to living beings.

Once you toss a bunch of beings together, the hormones (or equivalent) get going and there’s mating behavior, competition, childrearing, and more. So society, that giant organizational tool of living beings is going to have to cope with sex and make sure it’s handled properly (well what people deem properly). Sex got us to society, and society will usually have something to say about it.

This makes perfect sense since sex is such a primal part of living beings. If you’re going to get along, this core urge and process will be regulated, encouraged, discussed, etc. Thats jut part for the course. Sex doesn’t happen in a vacuum, unless you’re writing some interesting spaceborn pornography – and even then its not a social vacuum.

So ultimately when you design living creatures and their society, sex is going to come into it all the time. YOu can’t avoid it because sex is how you got here.

EXERCISE: List all the sexual taboos in your culture you can think of. Why do they exist.

EXERCISE: What is the most nonsensical sexual taboo you’ve seen. Why did it exist, and who may think it made sense.

Once you have living creatures that reproduce you eventually get society. It seems that’s kind of inevitable because sex requires socialization, and society just kind of follows.

Ultimately this loops itself and the society has to handle sexual issues as well. It’s sort of a perfect oroborous really.

Of course, when you get to society and sex, there’s plenty of areas society has to handle, so we’ll get to that next . . .

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, publishes books on career and culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at