WordPress 5.0 is here. I don’t like the Gutenberg editor, or the Twenty Nineteen theme. And I couldn’t even upgrade mitchwagner.com — which is good because I acquired common sense while waiting for the upgrade to fail, and decided I’ll just be smart and wait for the first patch. And then wait a little while longer, to see if the patch has any bugs.
Turn WordPress into a Twitter-like thing.
In late February I decided I wanted to control the posts I make to social media. For several years before then, I posted to Google+, and used a service called Friends+Me to copy, or syndicate, those posts to Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.
This Google+-first strategy worked out well in a few ways. It was fun for me – and that’s the primary reason I do this, for fun, although I do get some professional benefits. I accreted a modest but decent-sized community. I got in some great conversations. I got in touch with old friends and stayed in touch with them, and made a few new friends.
But I was unsatisfied in that I didn’t control my posts. If Google+, Facebook, or those other guys disappeared or changed their business model to exclude me, I’d be screwed. Also, I couldn’t control the layout of posts. I couldn’t insert a simple link, or image, or video. And it was hard to find old posts when I wanted to refer back to something I’d written about in the past. Annoying.
I decided to go back to blogging, something I’d done sporadically before the social media era. I’d made a return to blogging once before in 2014, but went back to the Google+/Friends+Me method after a couple of months because I noticed all the conversations were happening on Google+, Facebook, and so on, so I figured there was no point in doing it on a blog.
This time, I had a reason to do it on the blog: Because it gave me control over my work. I hoped people would come to the blog to read and comment, but I’d be fine if the conversations continued on social media. Indeed, I’d be fine if the number of conversations reduced, because I was starting to get Internet-famous enough to attract rude strangers to my posts.
It’s been more than two months of the experiment. How’s it going so far?
Quite well, actually.
I still get in a lot of good conversations on social media and I have the blog, mitchwagner.com, as a hub. In addition to the pleasure of posting and conversations, I can fiddle around with WordPress, and its plugins and themes and stuff, which I like.
But I’ve increasingly become dissatisfied with that arrangement. Those platforms are owned by other people – Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Those companies control the format of my posts, and who gets to comment on them. Those companies can make changes to their service, or even shut down entirely, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
All of that was something I was willing to live with for the trade-off of connecting with other people. But in recent months, the kinds of connections I get through those services have been unsatisfying. I’m getting more comments from jerks and other unpleasant randos, and getting tired of blocking them.
So now I’m posting my links and kibitzing here. Because I own this site, I have greater control over the platform than I do over what happens on social media.
A blog is a home. Social media is couch-surfing.
Does this mean I’m leaving social media?
Not at all. I’ll continue sharing my posts from here to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, and watching discussions there as before. Indeed, I’m looking for better ways to share on those platforms without taking up a lot of my time. Because this thing I do here is just a hobby.
I did this experiment once before, for five months in 2014, and ended up going back to social media. But now it’s different. At that time I was still concerned with increasing the numbers of people following me on social media – the size of my communities there. I’m less concerned now. My community numbers have been flat recently on all the services I use, and I don’t mind it. The noise from jerks and unpleasant randos is loud enough to make my social media experience less pleasant. More followers = more noise.
Also, social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ are starting to become public squares. We’ve always talked about them that way, but I’m seeing that myself now and it’s a mixed blessing. We’re not individuals there, we’re just part of the group. I’ve had people commenting on my posts and refer to me in the third person – not even by name, just as “OP” (for “original poster” – a shorthand I first saw on Reddit). They start calling each other names. When I ask them to be civil with each other, they want to know who the hell I am to tell them what to do. I don’t bother to ask anymore. I just block them when they get too annoying. It’s tedious. It makes social media too much like work.
By moving off of social media to a blog platform, I make it harder for people to find and read my posts. Not a lot, just a tiny bit. And I like it that way. I’m hoping that tiny little speed bump will improve the quality of conversation. Anybody willing to make that tiny bit of effort to get here is welcome. But they have to make that tiny little bit of effort.
If my follower numbers grow by a little or a lot, I’ll be happy about that. But if they don’t, I’m fine with that too. I don’t plan to take any special steps to grow my follower numbers – no ads or search engine optimization or suchlike shenanigans. I want people to be able to find me easily if that’s what they want, and if they’re not interested, that’s fine too. 1
Also: I recently read a blog post by a friend who’s taking a Facebook break. She values her privacy so I won’t link to it. But she, like me, is an introvert. And like me she finds social media connections to be a substitute for real life connections. She was finding going on Facebook often made her feel bad. I can relate.
I hope that by taking this baby step back from social media, I can understand better the extent to which I value personal connections, and how much I need of them, and to what extent I’m happy to be my introverted self. 2
If you’re interested in continuing to read my links and posts, thank you! Just keep on following me on social media, as you were, and click over here to read anything you find interesting. Or don’t – that’s OK too. Or you bookmark this site and come back regularly. Or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Also, you can get a daily email newsletter of my posts. I think the newsletter option is nifty and I’m surprised more people don’t take advantage of it. Perhaps I haven’t spread the word enough?
By the way, my blogging here might be temporary. I get infatuated with one technology or another and then lose interest rapidly and move on, much to the annoyance of a few friends who look to me as a technology bellwether.
On the other hand, I do stay with some things. I’ve been an online enthusiast for 27 years, longer than the Internet has been popular with the general public. I’ve been in the Appleverse for nine years now and am still satisfied. And I’ve been blogging like I do here for about nine years as well. So don’t be surprised if this blog is still up and running in some form 10 years from now, and don’t be surprised if I give it up in a few months either.
I do expect that if I stick with this for years I won’t always be on WordPress. But I do think whatever platform I’m using, I’ll continue blogging, continue doing it here at this URL, and hopefully all the archives will be in the same place too.
- Even friends and family should feel no obligation to connect with me online. This is my peculiar hobby that I’m happy to share with anyone, but have no interest in inflicting on people unwillingly. ↩︎
- “Introvert” has become such an overused word on the Internet. It makes me feel like an annoying hipster to proclaim myself to be one. On the other hand, maybe I’m missing out on an opportunity to ride the hype. I could start introvert clubs! Host an introvert conference! Just send me money and stay home and do whatever you want without interacting with other people. ↩︎