Social Media Virgin at 46: How People Ditched Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and Survived Social Media

Matt* should have joined Twitter a few years ago. He fits the user’s profile perfectly: highly educated, political junkie, journalist, loves to debate, and he’s a climate scientist.

But unlike many users who openly fought Elon Musk’s new universe, threatened to jump ship (but then lingered on deck), or tried to aggregate energy transfer For another platform, well, “dudu,” Matt is a social media virgin. No blemishes, no stains – the 46-year-old has never joined a single social media platform.

Matt, from Geelong, Victoria, said: “I’m not very quick to pick up and use new technology, but this lag time means I’m starting to see places I don’t like adopting new technology.” Privacy and data issues aside, He argues that most algorithms encourage anger and constant use. Like a real scientist, brevity (and casual comments on public records) also offend him: “I don’t know what can be useful in 140 characters.”

Twitter may be a social media fish (29.5% of Australian internet users use it at least once a month, compared to 76.8% of Facebook), but it’s instructive to watch people tweet in real time about whether to stay or go . It’s a snapshot of the growing awareness among longtime social media users (and those who still vaguely remember the time before the internet) of their vulnerability to changing algorithms (and owners) and what drew them to social media in the first place.

Maybe a unicorn like Matt can tell us that there is another way to live completely, and maybe we don’t need to google the word “Mastodon”? Maybe we just… stop?

“It’s hard to be that person because most of your network is there and you’ve put all this time, effort and content into it. There’s a cost to leaving,” says Australian Institute for Responsible Technology Centre Fellow, new book Disconnect The author of Jordan Guiao says. “The big platforms depend on that. Everyone knows they’re bad news right now, but it’s still very difficult to physically move.”

These trends do not fully reflect Matt’s monastic stance. By the end of 2021, 82.7% of Australians were active on social media, growing by almost 1 million users a year, thanks to the isolated pandemic and the growth of TikTok.

With social media integrated into our daily online diet, what is it like to be left out of the conversation? The way I interrogate Matt is the same way I might approach an 1880s time traveler or a very smart baby. How do you keep up with the news? “Broadcast, print, online.” Zeitgeist? “Mostly, if it’s notable, it’s reported there.” What do you do with all your free time? I think back. Where do people find time on social media? “

Leaving Las Vegas (Internet)

Felicia Semple, 48, from Melbourne, fell off Instagram in May. She has yet to explain her absence to her group of followers — all 24,000 of them.

“It happened by accident at first. I decided not to post while on vacation, but then I couldn’t bring myself back,” Semple said.

Semple started a blog called The Craft Sessions in 2013 to “provide craftsmen with a space to come together” to share ideas and inspire each other. Semple is increasingly writing about the connection between mental health and crafting, or “mind” as she calls it.

Joining Instagram initially grew her community in a very meaningful way. But recently, “every time I open it, I feel fear, not joy. It’s become a chore — a stressful, anxious, morally questionable space.”

Instagram’s algorithm has changed the way videos are highlighted, changing the lives of many. Photo: Raphael/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

Like many of the recent artists who have built their entire careers on the platform, Instagram’s algorithm changes (which largely mirror the TikTok model of snack-sized videos) changed everything.

“The demands of the algorithm changed the type of content I created,” Semple said. “It distorted my own creative impulses and my message, by messing with my biology and making me feel like I needed to keep up.”

“The most popular platforms expect us to participate 24/7 at all costs,” Guaio said. “The way social media is constructed is that Vegas is crazy, super bright and totally addictive. In the real world, we don’t live like that.”

We need to “start thinking about a healthier way to … develop platforms that don’t have this extractive business model that relies on our presence every day, or … get dopamine with every like.”

Semple knew the decision to quit Instagram was a luxury because she didn’t rely on it for income. Many people building businesses on social media feel they have no choice but to adapt.

But she sleeps better these days. “I have more time and peace of mind. I finished my degree in psychology last week.” Given all of this, Semple is looking for ways to engage with her online community again.

“I read three books a month”

Forty-five-year-old Olivia Sinclair Smith works in education. A month ago, she quit her platform of choice, Facebook.

She had tried to leave before, but this time she was cold turkey. “I was just casually scrolling through posts and bits and pieces of people and wasting more and more time. Then I started feeling guilty, like I was addicted and I couldn’t stop.”

Since resigning, “I no longer feel guilty and self-loathing because I used to stare at crap posted by people I barely knew…I read three books in the last month, which is unheard of for me.”

Sinclair Smith has strategically retained part of the platform, the Facebook Marketplace. “I made a fake profile with no friends that I used to see what to buy.”

“I was tempted to use my fake profile to join interest groups,” Sinclair Smith said, but she feared it could be “a starter drug.”

Great rebalancing?

People are becoming more discerning, Guiao said. “We’re seeing some move away from large, public, mass-market platforms to smaller, more community-focused platforms and private messaging like WhatsApp,” he said. “We’re actually going back to where we socialize in the physical or real world. The natural way of communication in the network.”

It’s unrealistic to expect to be completely disconnected, especially for digital natives, Guiao said. “We will now be online for the rest of our lives. But to rebalance it, there is something to be said,” Guiao said.

It remains to be seen how this rebalancing will apply to younger users who embrace more broadcast platforms such as TikTok and YouTube. For users looking to engage with niche themes and communities on these platforms, it could still be like running around a casino looking for ball pits and ending up at a craps table.

“The challenge is that there is no viable alternative…even if we want to change, it’s very difficult,” Guiao said.

Guiao pointed to the work of Eli Pariser, who spoke of the concept of “digital parks as quiet gathering spaces”. How do we build the online version of it? The ‘Las Vegas’ internet is not inevitable. “

Remember, these places already exist. “Before social media, there were community platforms like blogs and forums and all that [were] Designed for connection, community and collaboration, but not to get you hooked. “

Matt didn’t want to join the party. But he’s still forced to think about social media because his children, now seven and nine, will eventually have to deal with it. “In young people’s social lives, not getting involved can take a very heavy toll. All I can do is help them understand that their priorities in their lives are not even aligned with those of these companies.”

“I’m also concerned about their ability to find refuge in their lives.”

Most of us will never be as pure as Matt, but we might be wiser to let social media work for us. Maybe the beeping doesn’t sound that bad.

*Name has been changed

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