We need to move to decentralized social media now more than ever.

This was a recent post I saw on Facebook by one of my friends:

Liberal dependency on capitalism has never been clearer than when liberals stayed addicted to Twitter a decade after Diaspora was released — the first decentralized, entirely free, and still active social media platform, designed by Americans, for Americans, now frequented by mostly Europeans who saw it for its true merit — and now as soon as Twitter gets hijacked by the mediocre man-child, they immediately move to Mastodon, a much younger, profit-compatible, non-Diaspora code compatible, platform.

What’s Diaspora?
Me: “Let me describe it for you…” *proceeds to describe it*
You: “Oh! Like Mastodon?!”
Me: 🤦‍♀️ (face palm emoji)

In the end, it’s clear, it’s corporate governance that Democrats like to control speech, and that’s how they want to keep it. Obviously I’m not in favor of hate speech or misinformation, but the dependency on corporate governance to mitigate that rather than an open forum for reasonable debate is the sign of a class of people who want to control information, not free it.

Republicans want the same and claim the opposite (because doing terrible things and claiming they’re good is their schtick). Democrats claim to do it and then do it… with a few caveats to keep rich liberals in control, financially, socially, and most of all politically. There is a price to benevolent liberal rule, just as there is a price to conservative oppression.

It just feels so often that no one is suggesting the possibility that we shouldn’t have to pay for free speech infrastructure online, let alone any other human right that CONTINUES to be missed by ANY government we’ve had in my lifetime (starvation, housing, healthcare, etc.). Seems like the whole social media / free speech thing should have been easy to guarantee in contrast to those age old issues.

My response was a shorter version of the following. I have added more details here since I have the ability to expand upon my thoughts on my blog.

I have dabbled in nearly every single alternative social media network that I have seen, however, I keep Facebook/Meta active (even though I do regularly delete my account and take sabbaticals from social media) for the simple reason that this is where the majority of people I know have settled to – this includes friends (IRL) and family members. I would say Discord is my second largest network and I really the only app in which I engage with people I have never met in person.

I really like Shorts by YouTube but TikTok is where my friends are and it is, therefore, both more socially rewarding for me and more effective for me to use to consume and share content. I am hoping that YouTube, with its fancy new usernames (so up with the times LOL), will now become more social. It has always bugged me that I couldn’t use it like “a Facebook”, as far as sending content to and commenting on my contacts’ content. Hopefully, we will now be able to tag other users in comments and Shorts so that we can more effectively engage in conversation. They have all the pieces (channels, pages, content, short videos, timeline updates, etc.) but none of them are connected socially.

All of the apps seem to be dying off anyway as they all clammer to adopt entire apps as features on their platforms and shift toward displaying more ads and suggested content vs the one thing they are supposed to do – show my contacts’ content. Instagram by Meta is utterly useless now for actually seeing photographs from people you love, which is what it was SO GOOD at when it launched. It went from euphoria for me to a hellscape. Same with Twitter. Utterly useless, even before Elon’s hostile takeover.

Until there is a mass jump to another platform, the older ones are the only options to keep my ADHD brain engaged with people I actually know.

“but the dependency on corporate governance to mitigate that rather than an open forum for reasonable debate is the sign of a class of people who want to control information”

I have engaged in, helped build, and developed content for social media since it became a thing and I have yet to see a working example of self-governance that works en masse.

Nobody wants to be “the bad guy” that bans someone else’s account for hate speech, misinformation, etc. as you are seen as someone trying to be better than thou and then come under the scrutiny of your own or flat-out doxed thru revenge by the offending party or their contacts. Not to mention, if a social media platform is “successful” in that they have millions of accounts interacting like Twitter does/did, content moderation becomes the largest part of the management system needing literal thousands of people looking at reports and making on-the-fly ethical decisions (aided by AI and machine learning).

And my generation – GenX. We are allergic to being “da man”, even when it is needed badly for the betterment of society. The great irony is that we don’t want to push ourselves on anyone, while we stand by watching people push others down. It is frustrating and paralyzing.

It was/is just so frustrating, especially as someone in tech, to watch Twitter start out as what “social media” should have been, a simple way to ping all your contacts with what you are up to, and then so quickly turn into this capitalist ad engine bullshit that it is today. And GenX created most of it with the purest of intent. Society had transitioned from meeting at your favorite table at your favorite cafe/pub to shit talk about the day and life to sending group texts about your day. Twitter 100% made that transition easier in its original form. So much so that when we were at SXSW when it launched to the public we shut down the entire cellular network in Austin and caused panic. LOL

We created a solution to bridge that divide and it got turned into pure evil in such a short period of time.

We need to start the move to decentralized social media. The time when this was simply something cool to play around with has now passed. It is now an essential idea to preserve our communities and communication. Nothing has secured this fact more than the recent threats to ban TikTok in the US.

Luckily, I am seeing Gex Z take it old school again – film cameras, meeting at pubs, playing board games on Friday nights, living simply, eating simply, etc. I think the more we get back to the basics of living, our social lives will heal. In our hurry to consume and create in a new digital age, GenX forgot we were the last of the analog children and that was a badge of honor that we let fade too hastily.

  • Steven Trotter is a graphic designer (UX/UI, web & branding), photographer, and maker living and working on the Oregon Coast.

    https://www.steventrotter.com hey@steventrotter.com Trotter Steven