I’ve written a few times about MeWe. I pointed out that our instinctive dislike of MeWe‘s exposed out our hypocrisy with respect to privacy concerns. I talked about how my first and second Facebook suspensions were driving me towards MeWe despite my instinctive dislike. I then took a thinly veiled stab at Facebook. So here I am trying to find a replacement for Facebook, but it’s been tough. Last weekend, I posted the following to Facebook:
I’m really trying with #MeWe, but it’s just not going anywhere.
After navigating my way through some commentary that were mere diversions, I reached a conclusion as to why I’m having so much trouble with MeWe. Sure, the privacy protections make MeWe unwieldy, but that’s because it isn’t meant to be used the way we use Facebook. With Facebook, it’s all about “friendships.” I hate that they use that term. We’re not necessarily friends. “Connections” would be more accurate, but less marketable. Obviously, the latter is Facebook‘s concern, but I digress. To use Facebook as intended, you should have as many connections as possible. MeWe‘s technology isn’t conducive to that, but I get the impression it isn’t meant to be.
I think the idea behind MeWe isn’t about making numerous direct connections. Instead, the idea is for you to join groups that cater to your interests, and interact with people within those groups. That is, you’re not supposed to just post a random thought on your timeline and expect to receive reactive comments from your connections list, nor are you supposed to see the random thoughts of your connections hitting your timeline and giving you an impulse to rant. Instead, you’re expected to do these things within the groups you’ve joined, thus reducing the noise on the site, and avoiding the need to connect directly with other accounts in a way that could compromise your privacy.
And MeWe is great with groups. I’m a member of many music-oriented groups, and despite song lyrics often addressing sociopolitical issues, I’ve never once seen a sociopolitical debate in those groups. We can discuss the lyrics of, for example, Gimme Shelter by the Rolling Stones, which are about the civil unrest of the 60s, in particular the Vietnam War, race riots, and Charles Manson. As long as we discuss the Stones’ opinions and don’t inject (or at least don’t emphasize) our own opinions on analogous modern subjects, there’s no true mixing of politics and music in a way that spoils the group. If you want to share your opinions on modern issues, there are plenty of political groups available that are designed specifically for that. Go there. You may even see many of the same people there. Problem solved. Everyone’s happy.
In contrast, I’m a member of a Far Side group on Facebook. I’ve never once seen a post that didn’t devolve into a sociopolitical debate. I’m not exaggerating. Every single Far Side post is a debate between Republicans and Democrats, vegetarians and meat-eaters, etc. It’s maddening, and it’s typical of Facebook. Perhaps when MeWe gets more popular, it’ll devolve into that as well, but for now, these groups really work well.
So why am I still having trouble with it? Simple: I’m not used to it, and Facebook keeps my brain from adjusting. On Twitter, I have over 40 accounts. No shit. Over 40. I do that to reduce the noise. GSLLC is for gaming, music, and other assorted nerdity, MMADork is for sports, PropertyAtty is for law, and RobertEBodine (seldom used) is for politics. (The other accounts are anonymous satire accounts or related to a gaming project I’m working on.) I’ll never cross those streams on purpose because I’m doing my part to keep the noise down. Nevertheless, even Twitter has the same effect on my brains because none of you follow the same practice. My GSLLC stream is loaded with politics I don’t want to discuss (or even read) there, and filters are only so good at keeping those topics out. As a result, Twitter also keeps my brain from adjusting. Transitioning to MeWe successfully is going to take a lot of work. For me, that’s worth it — I’m very concerned with the antitrust implications of the Facebook/Twitter oligopoly — but I don’t know that it’ll ever be worth it for you (until you’re severely censored).
Plus, there are the small things. For example, I’ve turned off automatic notifications of chat messages, but I still get the audible ding whenever someone posts a group chat message. In other words, I can’t turn it off. More importantly, MeWe is missing distribution lists. Google+ introduced me to them because they had them from the start. Facebook eventually followed suit, but not before I had well over 1,000 Facebook connections. It took a lot of work to place all of you onto list. One of these days, MeWe will wise up and introduce them, and that’s going to create a lot of work for me. Finally, I’ll mention that MeWe avoids ads. Hooray! Right? Well, not really. In order to maintain the site and make a profit, some features require payment. We hate ads, but we’re used to not having to pay directly for social media, so most of us won’t pay for those features. Again, it’s our hypocrisy. We’re not bad people, but we’re continually making our own bed with this, and I hope enough people are paying for MeWe Premium ($5/month) that the site stays afloat.
I’m not giving up. I’m going to make this work eventually.
I’ve seen this and similar Facebook groups cited a lot recently: “This group is not an airport, no need to announce your departure.” I know it’s nothing new, but they’re cited even when people are very polite in their announcement.
Do you know what else you don’t need to announce?
What you had for dinner last night.
What you think of voter ID.
Why you bought the car you just bought (this one’s mine!).
Why you quit your job.
Whether you prefer hot or cold climates.
Where you’re going for vacation next month.
Storms: Scary or fun?
Whether you think you have too many keys on your keychain.
How great your new bed is (also mine!).
Why you don’t care that the person is leaving the group.
You don’t have to announce any of those things, but you do. Why? Because that’s probably the most important use of social media. Sure, except for Elvis, it would be awkward to announce your departure, whereas the rest of the list is common party fodder. That said, Facebook isn’t a party. It’s a social media platform. We’re communicating our thoughts, often to strangers and sometimes mundane, in a medium designed for that very purpose. Most of what you say means nothing to most of the people to whom you say it (even at a party of strangers), but the means to say it is a primary reason why these platforms are so popular.
I’ve only once had people do that to me, and surprisingly it wasn’t when I told everyone I was forming an exit strategy for Facebook (so far unsuccessfully). I left an XFL group and said I was giving up on the league because of a tremendous lack of integrity they showed. Officials at headquarters allowed a game to end when it shouldn’t have. The members laid into me. I laughed it off, but some take it more personally, and I thought we were all supposed to be nice to one another.
Instead of telling everyone, “Bye, Felicia,” or posting snarky animated GIFs (pronounced gif, not jif, obviously), how about you just be honest and say, “I don’t care about anyone else’s opinions but my own and those that agree with me.” Someone saying they’re leaving, and especially when they say why, can have value, but only to the open-minded. The rest may continue citing those groups. Which group are you in?
By all means, add a comment that you’re never going to read my blog again, but if you do, please tell me why.
We all know how humans argue. We don’t listen; we just wait for our turn to speak so we can claim our opponent is wrong. As a result, we hear maybe a sentence or two of an argument, then fill in the missing pieces with our own assumptions and prejudgments about what we think our opponent is arguing. The result is that we hear only a portion of what they say, and even worse interpret their argument in the opposite way in which it was intended.
But it’s not completely our fault. Twitter gives us only 280 characters per tweet, and even if we chain them together, people will usually see only a single tweet in that chain. This reinforces our tendency to address only a portion of our opponent’s argument. As the conversation continues and others contribute, the effect snowballs into a real mess, and you don’t always remember to whom you’ve already clarified your points, meaning you make assumptions about what they understand.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Twitter is so popular and that it’s effect on dialogue mirrors the way we choose to discuss politics and religion. We choose to use Twitter because it’s how we argue. The cure to this social disease is to address only those topics that can be covered in 280 characters. If you want to blog, then blog. If you want to write a PhD dissertation, go back to school. Then it’s not your fault when people choose to miss the point. Otherwise, it is your fault.