My first consistent social interactions via Internet were a long time ago, around the year 2003. I was a regular user in several web forums and I used occasionally IRC or web-based online chats (an extinct thing now). Then a Spanish service akin to social media emerged, called Pobladores. You can read further about this service here, but for the sake of brevity, let’s say that it was a strange concoction of a CMS for web creation and a social medium.
Using Pobladores I created a small videogame-related webpage which included a web forum. This web spawned a decent small-sized community of geeks from Spain and Latin America. I was too young to appreciate enough how interesting this was. With hindsight, and considering that this happened way before social media boom, it appears to me as an outstanding event. I don’t claim credit for this, though. I created the initial content and some of the infrastructure but people came to the web on his account, proactively. Even though I spend some time struggling with image processing software to create those cheesy animated GIF banners of the GeoCities era, my marketing efforts were meager. This community was an early adopter of features present on social media since we ourselves created our content and uploaded to the community. We took screenshots of some videogames and, using image processing software, added some cameos or some funny reinterpretation of the game or its characters, and also we created fanfiction. Yes, this was user-generated content but very different from the one you usually find on social media.
I came to and fro this service until I eventually quit. I was no longer interested in maintaining the website (a thing I regret now) and I even passed on the credentials to a fellow geek who ran the website a few years more until it finally was put to rest. Anyway, the hot thing those days was MSN Messenger. Microsoft was a little of a pioneer in this area, if you ask me. It had the instant messaging application MSN Messenger, which it was loosely connected to a news hub called MSN; it also had user-created content in MSN Groups and MSN Spaces. There you could upload and show to others your own pictures. Sounds familiar? I bet it does, since Facebook has gathered all these features under the same ecosystem.
Ok. Full stop. Here’s it where the web 1.0 ended, at least for me. It had been mutating for a while but the next chapter in this story takes us directly into the so-called web 2.0, with services fully marketed this way and called plainly and directly as ‘social media’.
As I said, from 2008 to 2010 ‘social media’ came to my surroundings. It first started with Tuenti. This name may not ring a bell to English-speakers readers, but it was quite a revolution in Spain (amongst the young). It was strongly inspired on Facebook, which by that time was way less used. I created accounts on Tuenti, Facebook, Twitter and Last.fm. It was at this time when I started to notice all these strange behaviors social media tends to impose, like taking pictures every time you party and upload them. Funnily enough, around that time having a decent internet connection for data transferring on your mobile was extremely rare, so it was fun to expect the pictures to be uploaded when people got home that night or the next morning. Notifications started to pour in, people tagged you in pictures… Slowly, Facebook took over Tuenti. I remember that initially Facebook was different, with less irrelevant content if you want, but it soon was populated with the same presumptuous and bragging content as Tuenti had. I know memory is selective but I consider user-generated content in the web 1.0 and web forums era more relevant than it usually is now in Facebook-ish web 2.0 era.
Also around this time I started to use Twitter more regularly. I had an account, now terminated, which I used to stay informed on the news and politics. In addition, I used it to interact with politicians (although only two ever responded to me), pundits, writers and other public figures. During this period I started to use Last.fm, a music-related social medium and (still) relatively unknown to Spanish public. It was and still is a nice way to discover new bands and keep a record and stats of what you have listened through the years. I also created a LinkedIn account and started to use it. Around that time it was of little use to me for getting a job, to be honest.
Around 2012 I met WhatsApp. Now part of the Facebook ecosystem, initially it was solely a instant messaging app. I think this first WhatsApp was perceived among many as the substitute of the now beloved and deceased MSN Messenger. Almost instantly, I dove into it and became a heavy user. On the contrary, I deleted my Tuenti account. It was a derelict and not very social by then, since most of my acquaintances had moved to Facebook, and had a lot of ads.
From 2012 to 2015 this was my social media setting with little variation. When I started working with INTEF, in 2015, I knew that I’ll be using social media professionally —a new thing for me—, so I deleted my old Twitter account and created a professional account. I didn’t want to keep two accounts.
From 2015 to early 2017 I kept Facebook, professional Twitter, WhatsApp and added Telegram but things started to change. WhatsApp had been bought by Facebook and it started its mutation that will eventually change it from an instant messaging app into a light social media. I was growing tired of Facebook, since content was always the same: attention seeking individuals that posted their weekends and vacation trips, their oversized meals (not the meagre ones that they cook in no time because they’re in a hurry), a trail in the snow, their uncoordinated jump on a random beach, their professed love with their partners, their success as businessmen/woman or entrepreneurs, their tales of woe when celebrities die… Don’t get me wrong. A lot of these individuals are among my friends and I care for them, but as content providers in an environment that forces them to post always the same kind of thing, they suck. Yes, Facebook is fed certain food by my friends, but the food they feed to it and which Facebook later on shows to me is a big repetitive, boring, presumptuos and unoriginal baloney. Sorry if any of my friends read this. I sucked too as a content provider at Facebook, always posting songs trying to look deep.
Around 2017 I started to read a lot of articles about disconnecting from social media. It was a kind of a minor trend in the news and, funnily enough, on social media. Yeah, people talked about quitting social media on social media. At the end of 2017 I deactivated my Facebook account. I did it for two reasons: 1) content is low quality (as stated before), 2) I don’t trust the company (privacy and their huge power over society). We are in 2018 and you know what? I haven’t missed it at all. As part of this course of action, and inspired by one former coworker, I restrained notifications and deleted my account from several services. My trend has been to disconnect but I have a certain degree of dissonance in this stream of thought, as you will read next.
What about WhatsApp? I’d also like to delete it, since it is a light Facebook and I expect it to transform into a hybrid of Facebook and Instagram. There’s also a lot of irrelevant content too, like Abouts with motivational quotes, daily advices and superfluous psychology. Alas, I can’t delete it. I mean, of course I can but it’d be very inconvenient since my friends use it to meet and I would have to use the phone to actually know what I’m to do Friday night. Use the phone for an actual call? Am I nuts? Now seriously, what do I do then? I deny the permission for using background data, so while I’m connected to my data plan (unfortunately, this doesn’t work when connected to Wi-Fi), I don’t receive any message unless I open the app and I have all the notifications blocked. This way it is I who decides when to be informed about the messages I receive.
And Telegram? Telegram, as of today, it’s what I’d expect for an instant messaging app. A piece of software different of a social medium. There’s no or little social media or time-consuming features: no stories, no abouts, just chats and file transfer. Then, I’ll keep it but bearing in mind that Telegram is planning to add some features different of those of an instant messaging app, like a blockchain network. We’ll see then.
What about Twitter? I try to keep this platform useful, which is not an easy task. That’s why I use the scheduling feature. My use of Twitter could be summarized this way: I curate potentially interesting things from the people I follow and store in a to-read list, I read them and in case it is worth sharing I schedule them to be tweeted. I spend relatively little time browsing the Twitter feed, only to curate potentially interesting articles that I store in a to-read folder and I use lists for that purpose. Of course I have disabled annoying notifications. I’m missing most of the social features Twitter provides and I’m ok with it. Thus used, with little social media regular features, I think I’ll keep it for a while. I don’t dismiss the possibility of deleting my account in a near future since Twitter is also quite loaded of non-quality content and promoted and non-promoted ads but still usable if you tame the feeds enough.
What about LinkedIn? As Twitter, you have to tame it a little if you want it not to be annoying. In first place, I ignore all LinkedIn attempts traying to convince me to install its app on my phone. If there’s something important, people usually send a direct message that springs an email notification. So there’s no need for an additional app. Another thing I did is to remove birthday notifications and hide non-professional or non-relevant updates from the feed. I usually scan the feed quickly and if there’s something apparently worth reading I’d save it for later in my to-read folder. Then again, used this way, and considering I did find a job via LinkedIn, I’ll keep it for a while.
And Last.fm? Well, I disabled some social features and it definitely takes little time from me. It’s not a platform you log in to check new content every day and I’m not annoyed in the least by social media features (it’s my oldest account on a social medium). Considering its service it’s still useful to me, I’ll keep it for a while.