As she so often manages to do, Meredith Farkas has written a must-read post, this time about social media, identity, and ownership.
I thought of her post today, when a colleague said they were so glad that RSS was no longer a thing. I, on the other hand, still think the death of Reader was one of Google’s worst decisions. But we knew then and we knew why they killed it: because there was no money, no (well, less) tracking, in RSS. I use the Old Reader now. It’s great.
I posted about some of the reasons why I restarted this blog a couple of months back (with a note about some life changes). A sense of ownership and control over my identity is among them. I had the opportunity to work on policy and advocacy around the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) before leaving the UK, which made me keenly aware of the ways in which many companies did not give us choices about what they collect and how, until they were forced to. I contributed to the debate about ‘fake news’, before that discussion very abruptly turned from concerns about over-regulation and stifling of innovation to dismay at deals done by companies with no oversight.
Evgeny Morozov’s for some time seemed overly gloomy and pessimistic about the future of the Internet, but his latest piece noting that the world will likely no longer accept a US-led order in pursuit of a global, open, Internet seems striking and logical in this context. Everything is politicised now: standards, technology, trade. The AI race. Witness too the debates over intellectual property.
What to do? Meredith asks what a supportive social media ecosystem would look like. Given the muted response to Facebook’s data issues (almost no one deleted their account) I’m not sure a new entrant is possible at this stage but I still think social media has some redeeming benefits. I get a lot of my up to date research from Twitter, and expert hot takes on everything from North Korea to what’s going on at the Internet Governance Forum. But I think it has marginal utility in helping people connect, despite Facebook’s motto.
For me there’s still power in curation. I still visit Arts & Letters Daily on a regular basis. It hasn’t changed in forever. I still read newspapers and magazines like The New Yorker and Foreign Affairs, though I switched to digital editions. As noted above, I still use RSS. And I mostly use Twitter for news. Perhaps the ideal ecosystem for me is a super aggregator.
Or perhaps just pretending to use the Internet like it’s still 2007.