05 Feb 2021, 11:47

Social media: Intro, implications

It’s 2021 and people are creating (and consuming) more content than ever before. Or so I’m told. Should you become a content creator? After mulling over it for some time, I think it’s generally a good idea, but it’s a really tough hustle out there. Some observations follow; I’ll likely make a series out of this - alongside some changes to the blog to support a strategy I’ve finally committed to.

As far as I can tell, there are at least two important axes of social media:

Producer/consumer axis

The P/C axis is fairly cut and dry. Posting content is a very different manner of interacting with the platform than consuming it; not much more needs to be said here, but it’s important to present.

The more interesting one, in my opinion, is the informer/actor axis.

Informer/actor axis

The informer/actor axis is slightly more nuanced, but fairly easy to grasp. Weathermen, reporters, and similar are largely in the informer camp, frequently blasting out information that may have a very large benefit to you (avoiding a blocked road saves you an hour and a half).

On the other extreme, actors fill most of social media. This class includes social media professionals, such as models, “thinkbros” on Twitter (often having large follower counts and tweeting platitudes e.g. “time to grind”); it also includes your friend who posts way too much from exotic travel locales, those who are always arguing, and even the rare-but-popular posters. Many celebrities also wade around on this end, producing cheap-calorie political takes, attempting to signal their “interest”.

Some people are in the middle. These include politicians, who often pair a statement of fact about a vote, with some speculation about why it was important or what good it’ll do.

Around now, you’ll probably have a fairly good idea where you lie on both axes. When I used social media as a younger adult, I was heavy towards actor (pictures from exotic places, political debates) and heavy consumer. That led me to put some serious guardrails on my social media usage, including quitting for a time. Now that I’m scoping out the content game, that will have to change, but I’ll never fall for what the social media companies generally want from you - slavish consumption, driven by actors.

Avoid consuming content from actors

Social media thrives on engagement, and plenty of actors are there to play the part. Actors (maybe you?) get dopamine hits upon receiving likes and comments. They engage commenters, especially when disagreement comes up, getting into deep debates and arguments - or memes - all driving more and more time spent on the platform.

Now, if you’re making a living based off of that (model, celebrity, …), that may be a lane you’re willing to roll in. You’re almost certainly not, though, which means you’re at a table you probably shouldn’t be at. These platforms are engineered to keep people locked in - the attitude that you’re smarter than average or that you don’t spend much time on there are almost certainly provably false. Internalize your iOS weekly screen time report.

I’m now of mind consuming most content from actors on social media is an absolute sucker’s game and ought to be avoided. That may lead to some weirdness on a social level (“hey, you never engage with my posts anymore!") but I think it’s worth it. Doomscrolling, crushing stories, snaps, status updates, or any ephermeral content is super unfulfilling and may even leave you envious (I don’t have that [lifestyle, girlfriend, fill in the blank]).

Content from informers is a different story, but hard to filter out from the legions of actor junk out there. Tread carefully, including possibly multiple accounts if needed.

Where should you be?

Where you want to be depends on your long term goals. Mine, as of present, include:

  • Influence - including personal and professional
    • Consider someone who follows you on Insta with 20 followers (is he new here?) vs. 2x10^4 (this person is popular!)
    • similarly, with e.g. professional blog posts, articles
  • Potential connections
    • it’d be awesome to chat with someone who organically found your content and thought it’d be fun to have a chat. Super long term goal.
    • Similarly, for professional opportunities
  • Community creation
    • May be more trouble than it’s worth, but a group of commentators that your content brought together, in a medium you own, is really cool.

To achieve these, I’ll definitely need to produce content and probably do some acting. One thing I won’t be doing, though, is consuming. It’s just not worth it.