Rants Uncategorized

Facebook Remembers

Social networks and social media are weird. I'm deleting my Facebook account, but I'm not just deactivating it ‚Äď I'm going post by post, comment by comment, through my entire 10 year history and deleting each agonizing thing one at a time.

It's insane. I'm insane. And Facebook knew I was insane way before I did.

Something weird happens on modern day social networking applications and websites that I never experienced on previous generation forum type software. I'm sure this phenomenon has a name; I'm sure folks smarter than me knew about what I'm about to describe years and years ago; now that I've recognized it, I'm going to try to outline it here so that I never repeat myself.

I bet older generations had a version of this, too, but I bet it happened in person instead.

So, because applications like Facebook and Twitter are all about me seeing you, and because we've cemented our friendship with a formal request and acknowledgment, and because I choose to follow you, I think I have a relationship with you that I never really had. I see your posts, photos, and updates, and I think "this person wants me to engage with them" when, frankly, that's unlikely to ever be the case.

The reason I know this, is because I can look through every single comment and post on 10 years worth of Facebook content, see that there are people who I frequently respond to, who do not respond back. Ever.

I'm not mad that you don't like or comment. It doesn't bother me. The problem is that algorithmic platforms like Facebook and Twitter DO, and they use the patterns of our relationships (or the anti-patterns of our non-relationships) against us, without telling us exactly how.

For example: I've basically forgotten about 99% of the things I've ever said online, usually instantly after hitting publish, but Facebook will never forget. And they're able to calculate the intersection of times we've had interactions back and forth, over all of our online years, to identify that I like you more than you like me. I literally like your posts and comments more than you like mine, and Facebook has always known this.

It's fine that they know this, I guess. What's not fine is that they don't say that they know this, and that they use that knowledge to manipulate our entire interaction with their platform, by: weighting posts and comments higher or lower so that we are more or less likely to read or engage with them; by showing us ads that might make us feel better or worse based on things our friends bought or sold; by tricking us into thinking that by me saying "congratulations" to you that you'll remember that I'm still back here working towards accomplishing something that maybe you'll congratulate me back for later too. Jesus.

None of this is about privacy settings, or who stole my information, or who gave my information to what advertisers, because I gave it away for free first. The risk was mine to take, and I took it; I have no one to blame but myself, so just like I'm responsible for whatever the online version is of me that Facebook and Twitter and everyone else think you should see, I need to be responsible for taking that power away from them.

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are our worst friends. They know us at an intimate level, at our best and at our worst, and they use everything we say and do against us…

I want to see what exactly they're using against me, and what they gain from it. Pennies? Dollars? What does it cost them to host my 600 images, and what do they gain from me allowing their advertisers to scan through those images to identify that I own several LEGO sets, an XBOX, have 2 dogs, and so on.

I want control over their narrative. I want to be able to tell them "I don't actually like my XBOX; I only play 1 game, and it's buggy as shit, so it sucks and all that mining that you did was worthless and you're wrong."

I want to be able to say "I'm only friends with this person here because I think declining their request feels unkind, so even though I'd prefer they not have access to everything, and even though I'd prefer to not have to go through the work of blocking them but still somehow being friends, they aren't actually anyone I am friends with."

Obviously you and I are friends; besties, even. I mean, you've made it this far, right? But a lot of other people read something I post, don't get what they expected from me, think that I'm crazy or whatever, and don't engage. Maybe you unfollowed me. Maybe they mute me. I'll never know.

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are too much like real life, in all the bad ways that make us insecure, neurotic, and just a bit foolish because it's not even real life or whatever.

Lots of folks online are not my friends, but current generation social platforms are built to show us the best of what we asked to see. I actually do think it feels pretty natural to engage in conversations you find interesting from people you care about, regardless of how much they care about you back.

This is basically how folks like my mother like and repost everything that they see. Yes, it's process addiction. But it's also the best way they have available to them to use the platform everyone they care about is on in a way that enables them to "prove how much they care" a million times a day.

It's super weird, and really unhealthy, but kinda cute, I guess?

So, that shit stops now for me. I'm done commenting on stuff. I'm done liking stuff. I mean… I'll like it, but I'm just going to assume that you know I like it because you know I like you, and support you, and want to see you succeed. And if you need validation from me, or miss hanging out, I expect you'll reach out and say so.

I want to double down on work, on real life stuff, and solving bigger harder problems. No more likes or comments. Just work, results, and healthy positive reciprocating caring relationships. Hopefully, that's with you. ūüíú

In a way, this all feels wrong, which I think is why it's probably right. If less is more, than nothing is most, and silence is golden. Peace, and humptiness forever.¬†ūüė∂



Today Twitter rebranded “Stars” & “Favorites” to “Hearts” & “Likes”

It’s so obviously a horribly conflated notion that I struggle to¬†believe a team of thousands of people came to this as the logical conclusion to what was undoubtedly hundreds of hours of meetings & deliberation that will someday result in a tell-all novella titled: “Stars vs. Hearts: The Untold Story.”

Consider the absurdity of the following screenshot:

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 1.08.44 PM

In order to “Like” something on Twitter, we click/tap a symbol that means¬†“Love” with a “Like” label. Huh? When did Twitter start exclusively hiring Vulcans without a¬†range of expressive emotions used to convey the¬†likability of something beyond 1 single available incorrectly represented data point?

Hearts mean love. Any other reaction requires not-a-heart.

Partially in their defense, we’ve struggled with this in BuddyPress since¬†we made the decision early on to use stars as a “Favoriting” system in the activity streams; and that decision plagues us a bit with each subsequent release. I don’t think anyone¬†on the core leadership team loves (ha!) what we have, but we can’t agree on what exactly would improve it, so it stays what it is.

And, I get it… It’s cutesy and light-hearted (ha again!) and it’s intended to be fun and playful. But meh.

Now, what Slack has done with their reactions stuff is pretty great. You react to something with an emoji, and it’s entirely likely to be clever, timely, and contagious. Your niche group decides on-the-fly what emoji means to whom and why, and then either forget about it and move on, or it becomes lore to the group and an inside joke to small subgroups. I think it’s the best solution to enabling drive-by interactions, and one that BuddyPress probably could (see: should) adopt relatively easily.

What Twitter accidentally invented today is the very first conflaticon; a glyph that has historically meant one thing for generations but is now re-presented world-wide to mean something kinda-similar but actually kinda-very-different.

Maybe it’s intentional, though? What if Twitter is getting sick of storing trillions of records in databases everywhere, and secretly wants to reduce their volume to improve performance and eliminate maintenance burden? Take something that’s become far more popular than you anticipated, make it a little confusing while also inverting the meaning to be a bit socially awkward, and now you’ve saved the company dozens of dollars on a long enough timeline.

Whatever the reasoning, I neither like nor love this change, and wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a catalyst for a deeper discussion into¬†how valuable reaction-types are.

Subsequently, I’m thankful WordPress never fleshed out Comment Types. What we actually need is register_reaction_type() where a “Comment” is just one type of reaction to something, a “Trackback” is another, a “bbPress Topic” might be a reaction to a blog post, and so on. I envision a world where how we react to the internet-connected world around us isn’t baked into the software, but instead is representative of who we are at that time and place in our own lives. Maybe someday…