I might be suffering from social media overload. In the past, I've used social media networks as a way to keep up to date with both what my friends/acquaintances are up to and follow updates from certain news sources. This has mainly been through Facebook and reddit 1. Now I'm starting to find that the rate of return from visiting these sites has fallen below a threshold where I no longer feel that visiting them produces value. Now you may say "you're doing it wrong!" and that social media is about entertainment, not productivity and you're certainly right. However, I had set up my social networking accounts with enough variety in the sources they display that every time I would visit their newsfeeds, I would find something new to learn.

But lately I've found that the content and layout of the newsfeeds no longer prioritise the things I want to see. I never really wanted to see pictures of food or check-ins or lists of the same as-old-as-the-hills reaction GIFs. For a long time, I felt that this aspect of the web puts undue emphasis on visuals and videos, which is very frustrating to a text person like me. I like, no..., love reading and writing. I take joy in playing with words, using idioms, and crafting unspoken, never-before-seen sentences. Places like Facebook are not the right venue for me to indulge in that. I have toyed with the idea of scoring posts based on the complexity of their grammatical constructions, but I don't know if it is worth the time.

The essential point that keeps me from enjoying social media use is that it is very disorganised. I could try to put in work by organising people into lists, but any such lists are going to lack granularity. People are complex and multi-faceted and it would be a disservice to group them so indiscriminately. There may, however, be a way to cluster posts in a way that is useful, but this will require playing with the data. I may do that someday.

But not now. Right now, I've blocked myself from social media on my computer. Since my computer is where I work, I need to isolate my work area from something that is decidedly non-work. And I feel better for it.

P.S. A year ago, I read a book called The Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser. It talks about how algorithms are automatically choosing what we want to see for us and thus deciding our world views: we only see the world that we already agree with. He talks about how this is a dangerous trend because it rapidly blurs the line between fact and opinion.

Eli Pariser started the Upworthy site which tries to break such bubbles by making social issues go "viral". Their posts often fit a specific formula which appears to work given the amount of times their stories are shared. Upworthy has been so adept at applying this formula that imitators have sprung up all over and now social media feeds are full of people trying too hard to get people to click on their posts. I have a feeling that they all get their stories from the same sources because I see the same story posted multiple times throughout the day by different pages. The constant pleas of "Click me! I'm important" (termed click-bait) are yet another reason why social media starts to feel less social and more abusive. If every site is pushing the same content, I'm not sure the goal of bursting the filter bubble worked. We just replaced algorithms with people, but the results are the same.

  1. I've also used Slashdot for a very long time, but that has always been more of a news site for me. ↩