“Your own website” will always be the best place to survive Social Media Storms… And also the biggest pain in the ass.

Greetings, you are probably here because I linked this in response to something you posted on (Circa Halloween/Thanksgiving 2022) Twitter or whatever always-on-the-cusp-of-profitability running-out-of-venture-capital waking-nightmare-social-networking-site (Let’s stick with ‘twitter’) is having a similar breakdown… asking where you should go next and pre-lamenting the connections you will lose if the site sinks/explodes like a modern-day titanic/Hindenberg mash-up. Also, is there any way to stop this “social network where I had a lot of fun suddenly becomes shitty and makes me want to leave” cycle?

The best answer is “Your own website”. It’s a space where you get to post all your content and fully moderate the visibility and responses to it. It’s where you can put the “How to contact me” template and the “How to follow me and figure up what I’m up-to” guide (often with a just-as-annoying to setup and maintain email newsletter). It will endure past any social network and will provide a good base for drafts and allow you to pick the best highlights of yourself you want to show to the world. It will be very flexible and extremely cost effective. There are also all sorts of different hosting services with varying levels of templates and help. The protocol is also extremely robust and portable, and while various social networks will get snippy about you guiding people outside of the social networking ‘space’, none of them have outright blocked the posting of links or putting them in your profile.

That being said… Hosting your own website will also be the biggest pain in the ass. Especially compared to a “Full of Venture Capital Trying to Gain/Poach Users” Social Network. Things will probably look iffy and gross and slightly out of date all the time. It’ll be an extra trip for anyone trying to interact with you. It will also be doubly annoying trying to monetize anything on it and it’ll be damn near impossible to go viral on it (but the nice thing is, if something goes viral you can move THAT bit to a social network/cloud-host with an ad in front of it and let it pay for itself). You’ll have to do the website equivalents of mowing the lawn and trimming the bushes and replacing the roof. There is also a good chance that if you don’t maintain it for a year, it’ll get trashed (hacked) and condemned and you’ll lose a bunch of the stuff inside.

Unfortunately, the thing that made Social Media nice/fun is what made some of your social media friends seem better than they are.

So, if twitter dies, what about all those people you liked hanging out with? Well, what’s stopping you from giving them your email and/or cellphone number? What’s stopping you from reaching out and saying “Hey, let’s try and do a regular meetup and/or form a group-chat/text so we can keep in touch”? Those little burbles of “Well, I don’t actually know these people that well” that bubble up (especially within myself, which tacks on a bunch of socially anxious ‘I’m not able to reasonably assure myself I’m not annoying them’) are valid feelings. It’s that moment where we realize that you are not sure of their boundaries, and we aren’t sure if we want to go through the rigmarole of properly defining ours. and that’s because Twitter was a big free breakfast buffet where everyone wore hot mics. It was literally just a big, bugged greenhouse where the weather would be fairest for fair-weather friendships.

I remember way back in the day when I was occasionally hunting for Jobs, everyone was like “Oh, hey, I heard Google/Twitter/Facebook/[SilConVal-Startup] has this awesome free breakfast and nap pods and massage therapists and [perks], wouldn’t you love to work for them?” and I was like “No, I want to show up as close to start time as possible and then go home when I am done and do Not Work Things. I don’t want to work at a place that creepily tries to keep the ‘college experience’ going because they know that if I get a life outside of work I’ll work less.” Social media was much the same way. They had all these celebrities come in and regularly post their inner thoughts. And they had great algorithms that seemed to be able to immediately figure out what more you’d like to read and show you people who seemed to like a bunch of the stuff you did but had opinions *just different enough* from your own to be interesting but never disagreeable. Twitter was so addictive there were articles on how and why it was so addictive regularly posted to twitter.

But then, the venture capital runs out, suddenly bills need to be paid and investments start needing to pay back… so the free breakfasts become not free, and the perks disappear and suddenly you start seeing lots of stuff in your feed that is aggravating and demands a response and it’s right next to an ad for something you were thinking about buying three weeks ago. People start complaining and leaving and new communities form simply from everyone complaining about how bad it is. People who showed up simply to sell stuff near where the free breakfast pulled a lot of people suddenly start looking real cagey… and unfortunately those people you were looking forward to listening-to and talking-to every day start doing those mutual “Did I enjoy your company on it’s own, or did I enjoy you while we were getting free breakfast in the best weather?” evaluations that are kinda crappy but necessary.

And once you lose the spot or decide to stop going back to the spot, you really find yourself indifferent to a lot of those folks and how they lived their lives.

Even if you don’t have your own website, maintaining connections/community keeps getting easier.

I may seem sort of old/gross/bitter/jaded about Twitter possibly going away, but I feel like after going through so many other social network collapses and false-starts… (AOL/AIM dying was my first real e-diaspora)… I can comfortably tell you that the Social Network boosted FOMO makes the natural dissolution of fair-weather friendships feel worse/more impactful than it is. Social networks are like Shopping Malls: Corporatized recreations of more natural social spaces that were designed to eventually make you want to spend money on things you probably didn’t need.

Thankfully, unlike back in the AIM death days (where the best options aside from ‘your own website’ were Facebook Messenger, e-mail, and text messaging), there is now a plethora of options to keep up with people you wanna keep-up-with with varying levels of security, ease-of-use, and modality. There is also a general shift towards decentralized open-source solutions (like the Fediverse, the lead ‘winner’ of the twitter diaspora being Mastodon) that more closely mirror the original protocols on which social networking was built. It’s very much like small businesses moving back into downtown.

There are always new places to go, and virtual moves are way easier and cheaper (or free-er) than physical moves. It also means that you get to focus on spaces that talk about things you like to do or things you want to learn more-about. And once you get niche enough… it falls off the radar of rich dickheads trying to score a bunch of new users to sell-shit-to.

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