Bugs of social networks!

As I’m surrounded by my like-minded people, who care about software freedom and privacy, I’m usually questioned about why I’m not on social networks and sometimes get suggestions about what social network may suit me.

I have to explain to them that my problem is not with a certain network, no matter how ethical they might be, but rather is with the essence of social networks. My problem with social networks is that they’re social and they require some bare minimum that I’m uncomfortable with.

Social networks always have a system of rating and assessment of posts and people. They always have like or upvote/downvote buttons, they show following/follower counts and they rely on people to interact with each other and remain active to be able to keep up with the network and the people.

These are the bare minimum requirements of a social network to become functional for people. People love these and if a network misses these so-called features, people consider it broken. A social network with no follower/following count, no like button, no stats, and no kind of rating people is, in my honest opinion, a true “social” network.

My favorite social network will not mind-play people to compete with each other to care about the following/follower rate or how many likes their posts get; but rather tries to connect people solely based on their posts and favorite communities. My favorite social network won’t tell you that your post is good enough (so it got enough likes) or you’re not likeable (because you get few followers), it’ll tell you how beneficial or important you are for your community based on the interactions you have with other members and real communications, not by likes your post gets.

A social network should be about connecting people and members of communities, not about trying to make people compete in pointless mind-games. My problem with social networks is that they’re addictive and they somehow force you to remain active day after day but my favorite social network helps you be active whenever you need or whenever it suits you.

My favorite social network won’t exclude any people, however it moderates the communities and people. The network, which surely should be decentralized, will try to prevent any harms done to you both mentally and physically. It will protect you from privacy-invaders and it will protect you from harassment.

Networks we currently have are trying to show you more and more. That’s one way to make you an addict. Algorithm or not, the way timelines work, even in Mastodon, it’s an endless scroll; specially if you have a lot of following. My favorite social network won’t give you an endless feed, rather it focuses on giving you a feed which makes you aware of how much you’re scrolling or turning pages. This way it ensures that you’re not spending countless hours reading what you won’t even remember 10 minutes later. Of course it’ll also show you funnies or daily stuff happening to your friends but it will also make sure you’re aware of your scrolling.

My favorite social network will give you possibility to limit your interactions. It will hide you from everybody other than what you choose. You will be able to choose whether you want to be public or keep hidden for outside circles. It won’t make you public or show your existence to anyone other than who you choose. You may choose to be discoverable or not, but whatever you choose it will respect it.

My favorite social network won’t be owned by any corporation or a billionaire, it won’t be forced to implement anything because a player in network or a donor requires it, it will only implement what benefits the members of the network.

Of course not all social networks have all of these issues but they all have at least some of these problems. Sadly, there’s no social network, to my knowledge, that fixes all of these problems. And social networks create communities and not all communities are toxic for me. Federated social networks managed to create a network of communities. For example, in Mastodon, we have Fosstodon that is a FOSS community and we have SDF which is an art community all connected together.

And not all members of social networks actually care about my issues or even care about mind-games social networks play, but most people, I believe, have this kind of mindset and it has become the nature of participation in social networks. We should change that.

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Ali Reza Hayati

Entrepreneur, hacker, cypherpunk.