Regarding Social Media – Don't Split the Difference
I've been trying to figure out recently how to make social media work better for me. I am stuck between two “worlds”. On the one hand, I've got my IRL friends and family who are on the major platforms and don't want to be bothered with something different. On the other hand I've got the professional and hobby-related communities that share my ideologies around social networking, and that have almost entirely abandoned the major platforms for decentralized, user-controlled ones.
On a different axis of this investigation, I've noticed that regardless of platform, my mental wellbeing is supported by simple, one-experience user interfaces. Example: Instagram offers both Stories and Reels / Posts in the same interface. This completely kills the flow for me. Stories are useful in that they highlight content that might otherwise disappear from your feed, but they are also incredibly time consuming to get through, even if you are furiously tapping the “next story” side of the screen.
Similarly, the Mastodon interface offers an “advanced” view that is reminiscent of TweetDeck and feels like having the Matrix poured into your eyeballs. Even with “slow mode” enabled, it is not a relaxed scroll through the fediverse. So in both cases, I have dumbed down the interfaces as much as possible. I mute Stories for every account that I follow on IG, and I gladly stick with Mastodon's basic interface.
Because my groups of interest inhabit different platforms, but the conversations that I want to start are the same across those groups, I'm going to settle for cross-posting. And I can say, objectively, that Mastodon supports this perfectly out of the box, while IG, thanks to Meta, only supports this in the douchiest way possible. It's a rant for another day, but if you want to post to your IG account from a 3rd-party cross-posting tool, you must: a) have an FB account, b) have an FB page that links to your IG account, and c) your IG account must be a Creator or Business account.
So here's where I have to be totally honest with my IRL friends and family: If it weren't for you, I wouldn't bother with IG, FB, or any other centralized platform at all. If you only want to follow me on IG or FB [^1], I'm going to support that, but you are not going to have much of an interactive experience:
- I'm going to cross-post there so that you know what's going on with me
- I'm going to occasionally check in on the web (not mobile) to see what's going on with you [^2]
- Otherwise, if you want to engage with me like we're a pair of regular social media mavens, let's do it on Mastodon or any other ActivityPub-compliant platform of your choosing
Looking over the history of my posts about social media, none of these have aged really well 😂 So in order to hopefully increase the longevity of this, here's the key learnings:
- I don't think it makes sense to abandon the big centralized platforms. I've got too many non-techie people in my life who don't want to deal with the perceived challenges of learning something new and different.
- I also don't think it makes sense to go out of my way to engage with people on the big centralized platforms. I don't want to compete with an algorithm. I want to have real conversations with people.
- Less is more. Anything I can do to simplify my experience when interacting with social media makes the platforms more useful and meaningful to me.
Another way to say it: “don't split the difference”. One way in (through a cross-posting tool), simplified experiences (through “dumbing down” the UIs), and one platform where I will seek engagement with others. Via cross-posting, I can maintain a minimum viable connection to the people that I care about who can't walk away from the centralized platforms that I don't want to use. But that is a lesser experience for them, and I'm happier with that than with trying to make it great for everyone.
 Don't bother with Twitter, Bluesky, or Threads. I have accounts there that will lay forever dormant.  This is mostly relevant for friends and family that I am not talking with regularly. The top reason I maintain an FB account at all is in case one of you ever needs to get in touch with me.