Burnt Out and Bummed Out: RIP Social Media (2008-2019)

Image: Animated Heaven via Flickr https://flic.kr/p/S7w8UL Used under Creative Commons licence.

In a world where algorithms relentlessly filter our social media sharing and the only way to get noticed is to be SEO’d or more provocative, what’s the point of social media anymore?

I joined LinkedIn in its early days, probably 2004 (my member number is in the 50000s) and then forgot about it, getting active again only in 2009. I got on board with Facebook in 2008 when “Likes” hadn’t even been invented yet, if you can believe it. 2008 is also when I started Tweeting (@coachdavender). I’ve explored others such as Pinterest, Instagram and Path (and for a brief moment, Google+), but they didn’t resonate in the same way as the Big Three.

Over the years I’ve organically built a good-sized following (6500 on LinkedIn, 3000 on Twitter, 2000 on Facebook). Although these are not huge numbers, I have not spent a penny nor have I done any growth-hacking or SEO content.

There was a time when I truly enjoyed conversations on these platforms. I spent an hour a day on the sites, discovering a lot of things about entrepreneurship, leadership, startups and personal development. I also hope people who read my postings learned something from me, too.

But I started noticing, especially in 2015, that I was getting less and less engagement. I would often be the only one tweeting a conference hashtag. The same people were replying or liking my Facebook posts about entrepreneurship. The algorithm was getting more and more strict. Paywalls popped up, limiting my Facebook Page reach.

Then the 2016 US Election happened. I remember seeing those anti-Hillary ads and posts and dismissed them as spam. Twitter got especially noisy and nasty. I became so fed up with Twitter’s tolerance of hate speech (especially from a certain tiny-handed media celebrity) that I quit the platform in July 2017.

Much as I tried to curate my Facebook newsfeed, it became more and more repetitive…and depressing. The scandals in late 2018 about Facebook’s data sharing and user manipulation, and about Mark Zuckerberg’s feckless response, turned me off. As an experiment, I locked myself out of Facebook for a couple of weeks over the 2018 holiday season, and discovered I did not miss much. There are two Facebook groups I’m following more closely, so I created a new FB account just for those two groups. But I’m not accepting any friends for my new profile.

Even the Grownups’ social media, LinkedIn, has become noisier and noisier, especially since the introduction of videos in the feed. A lot of my feed is dominated by people liking or commenting on other people’s promotional videos, or posts…

…where every sentence

is spaced

on a different

line (yuck).

Today, my use of LinkedIn has mainly reverted back to how I used it in 2004, as a big contact database where I can look people up before I meet them. I also use some of the messaging capabilities, but even there I get more In-Mail Spam than useful communication.

I’ve found a better way to satisfy my news fix than through Facebook or LinkedIn. Since the RSS Google Reader was retired, I replaced it over the years by subscribing to hundreds of newsletters, managed through a standalone Gmail account. I recently converted this list (325 sources) to a Feedly account, which is more fun to scroll than my Facebook or LinkedIn feeds. Google News (viewed in incognito mode to avoid tracking and algorithm bias…somewhat) complements my newsly needs.

So if I can get the news I want without social media, what’s left? The entrepreneur in me knows that I need to be seen and heard so I can promote my business. I’m publishing a book later this year – shouldn’t social media be part of my strategy? Maybe I will go the route that many promoters do, hire someone to populate my feeds so I don’t have to endure signing in once a day. But the days of meaningful debate through social media are over. Now it’s all about likes and stickiness and not getting spammed by bots.

I’m burnt out and bummed out about Social Media. But how can I live without it?

I’m not quitting Facebook and LinkedIn, just being more judicious. And hoping people will still read my non-SEO optimized posts and thoughts and comment from time to time…