Let November 2022 serve as a reminder of why it’s good to have a blog. And a self-hosted blog at that.
I started my career as a website designer. You could say my attachment to owning web “real estate” is biased.
But there’s never been a more important time to have your own webspace, given the state of social media today.
What’s going on?
Social media isn’t making the money it used to. That means it’s costing too much to run. Tumblr is bleeding billions. Meta was banking on the ‘Metaverse’, but that’s not working out, causing massive layoffs. Meta is also suffering from a generational “ick”: young people aren’t on its products as they once were.
Twitter hasn’t been profitable since 2019, has halved its new owners’ wealth to acquire AND lost its main source of income.
These platforms might get shut down if they can’t work out how to extract wealth from their users in some novel way.
And I don’t want to know what way that is, given that data brokering is already a legit business. And that the biggest buyers of this data are governments and political bodies.
In order to sell more products via ads, social media feeds need to elicit outrage and delight in a slot-machine-like fashion. This primes us to switch products and take actions, like “buy now”.
The side effect of this outrage/delight is that it also primes us to adopt and propagate new beliefs (like extremism). Sometimes, the actions we take are “dogpiling an account that’s posted something I don’t agree with”.
I don’t know if the world we’re in right now is the best example of ad-sponsored & data-selling media being good for society.
Data Brokers Are a Threat to Democracy Unless the federal government steps up, the unchecked middlemen of surveillance capitalism will continue to harm our civil rights and national security. – Wired
People are broke right now. No one is going to pay for social media. Not as a service and not for clout.
What can you possibly extract from us and sell that hasn’t already been extracted and sold?
And do I want to stick around and find out?
Your content is training data.
Possibly the creepiest thing is how the content we’ve posted on free sites like GitHub or Instagram has been scraped by AI bots for training data. The paid-for products they make replace human labor in some cases, or seriously undercut their earning potential – like for artists.
With chatGPT, nonfiction writers may also feel a wage cut coming soon.
is social media really that convenient?
All of this to say, maybe the cost of “free” and instant is just too high in terms of mental health? Maybe the hassle of sporadically changing social sites and retraining the feed algorithm is actually taking up too much time compared to maintaining a low-effort blog? The kinds that existed before blogs required 700-word posts, and custom themes.
In defense of sloppy blogs
- You can’t be de-platformed on your own blog. Currently, there’s a lot of talk about organized mass reporting on different social media platforms with the aim of silencing certain kinds of content.
- You don’t have to report anyone and wait for a response from a company on your blog comments. You can just delete and block. You can block by IP address, domain, ISP provider, country, as many variables as you want.
- You can always reach your followers via email list.
- Your content (art, music, photos, writing, code) is 100% yours. There’s no clause saying they have a “right to modify” or distribute.
- If you want to keep bots or strangers out, there are different plugins or platforms designed for post privacy options.
Activitypub for blogs
For me, the ideal solution – not yet implemented- is the indy web model. Publish your photos and text on your own domain, and let the API feed them out to compatible networks based on media types. This meets my ideal criteria for having my content somewhere permanent but allowing for networking.
Here’s where Activitypub gets fun: if other blogs also use activitypub, each blog can have direct messaging between blogs and notifications – as if they were on a social network together.
So you don’t have to sign up to leave comments on someone’s ghost blog, for example. You can just DM them from your hugo website.
Beyond that geeky aspect.. I’m also really liking how the fediverse works since joining mastodon – a network that makes use of activitypub.
The level of civil discourse and genuine willingness to discuss ideas (at least on my instance) has been a real wake-up call to how much my view of humanity has been distorted by “slam dunk” culture on other platforms. I like meeting new people and discussing things, I just don’t like bad-faith comments and trolling.
Whatever the future of online communication is, we need to bring back the willingness to engage sincerely or simply scroll on.