Sustainable Social Media Usage

[en] 6min from a realisation about social media use to system critique |

Over Christmas, I blocked the Twitter website and app, even though it was my door to the world. Thoughts, impulses, little sparks from friends and comrades, its all there. Just like the latest news from the city, state, federal government and the world; practical for my studies and, especially in times of Corona, somehow a glimpse of the outside world. But not everything is so beautiful. So I thought about how I would like to deal with my social media consumption in the future.

Through my interaction logs (ActivityWatch, time tracking) and histories (web browser, chats, calls), I also know that it's not a "social" network for me. Quantitatively, qualitative time with friends decreased. I created less art, made less music, read less, wrote less. Not at all, but less. And instead? Instead, I was simply furious: about TERFs, about corona deniers, anti-vaxxers, political decisions, Nazis, hate in general, companies, software, design; so much hate about so many things. And actually it's wrong, everything about it is wrong! The world is a gigantic shit pile and my reaction is to throw myself into more negativity? That's the stupidest coping mechanism in the world! xD

Social media brings a lot of dopamine, but also stress. Especially the current Facebook leaks about the internal handling of negative effects on users (WE DONT CARE!) clearly show the extent to which a "social" network triggers psychological problems and stress, with serious effects on the soul and body (BfG 2021). Even if Twitter (in contrast to Facebook) transparently communicates which problems are seen in the algorithms used, these algorithms are not calculable formulas, they are based on machine learning. That means that even Twitter itself doesn't always know HOW exactly recommendations are generated and how problems (e.g. the increased delivery of right-wing extremist tweets) can be counteracted. The goal of the algorithm? To deliver content to people that keeps them on the platform. This typically means that a network encourages strong emotions and interaction because these lead to people spending more time on the platform.

But is that what I want? To experience what is happening in an ambivalent relationship between joy and hate? Feed the fear of missing out (FOMO)? I don't, actually. Do you?

What I want is to read inspiring thoughts from others and share mine. I want to be informed briefly and concisely about current affairs without accidentally getting into an algorythmic hate spiral.

Measures

I have a goal: to make my social media experience less stressful and more social. To do this, I follow only a few accounts, namely only those that are particularly important (on a personal level) to me. I have a list for loose "internet friends". I use the chronologically ordered feed instead of the algorythmically ordered feed. I don't give a shit about trends, I watch news via the public owned media offerings ZDF and ARD; it's actual journalism and not a mixture of hate speech under a hashtag. I also want to use an abstraction level for posting my own thoughts, in my case the tool Buffer. That way I don't get lost on the platform, even though I only wanted to share a blog post briefly. I have set myself a time limit on the app itself (as with all other "dopamine apps"), 30min a day. At certain times (automatic: 10pm-10am, manual during work/uni) I use Android Focus mode to suppress notifications and limit sessions to 5min.

Of course, all of this is just an individualist solution and in no way combats the structural problem that social networks are forced to work for their own profit instead of serving the people. And to be honest, that's a shame.






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Literature

  1. Bundesministerium für Gesundheit: Stress: Auswirkungen auf Körper und Psyche, https://gesund.bund.de (Accessed 24. Dezember 2021).
  2. Ben Smith: Inside the Big Facebook Leak, in: The New York Times, (2021).
  3. Ferenc Huszár u. a.: Algorithmic amplification of politics on Twitter, in: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119 Jg. (2022), H. 1.
  4. How the Twitter Algorithm Works in 2021 and How to Make it Work for You, https://blog.hootsuite.com (Accessed 25. Dezember 2021).
  5. What to know about how the Twitter algorithm works, https://sproutsocial.com (Accessed 24. Dezember 2021).
  6. Introducing our Responsible Machine Learning Initiative, https://blog.twitter.com (Accessed 25. Dezember 2021).

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