July 5, 2019

Twitter isn't your friend: FOMO and self-promotion

Remember that post about changing priorities?

I think fear of missing out (FOMO) makes most people use sites like Twitter or Facebook. They might know how harmful they can be, but the fear keeps them enthralled.

People who want to promote the things they make get a second tier of the FOMOmenon. They aren't just afraid of missing people. They're afraid no one will ever see the things they worked hard to create!

I've been there. When a post is a hit on social media, it's great. A billion hits I didn't have to do much for. Neat. And then...nothing. You have to keep getting those hits. Or you have to keep re-retweeting your links so everyone sees them. This is exhausting.

Technology is supposed to free us. Technology is not supposed to lock us down or make us afraid and dependent. Every startup backed by billions of venture capital dollars heads down the same road. First they lure you in with "engagement." Then they lock the platform down, shutting out app developers. Twitter did this over the years. Then they crack down on people who don't fit neatly into the boxes adored by advertisers. Then...you're trapped.

But you aren't trapped. Not really. Growing a blog or newsletter or whatever takes longer without these big walled gardens. So what? That's how it was before they came along. You can still do it.

Growing numbers with RSS and newsletters takes longer, but you don't have to work as hard to keep people coming back. And you own that connection. Sites like Twitter and Facebook own that connection when you depend on them. You might lose 90% of subscribers if you switch newsletter providers, but at least you won't start from 0. Zero is hell.

What happens if Twitter shuts you down? You're just gone. Unless you have another way to reach people. If you must use these sites, use it to direct growth to platforms you control.

But what does it mean?

Twitter says I "earned" over 270k impressions in the last 28 days.

Reddit says I have over 13,000 "karma."

I have almost, maybe more than, 10k points on Hacker News between accounts I've made over the years. All of them were exploration.

Most of the connections I made on these sites fade away if I don't stay there. Even the connections I maintained depend on participation on other things: chat rooms on Telegram or Discord, message boards, et cetera. These people are notoriously difficult to get to know elsewhere.

I'm aware of all the tales of people becoming great friends online. Even I had such a story! But it turned out he only connected on Twitter, and he was glued to the app in person. Trying to pull him away for a substantial in-person conversation just led to resentment on both ends.

You know all those '90s shows about virtual reality gone wrong? People jacked in and that was it. You never saw them again unless you joined up. I hate to sound like a luddite, but that's how it feels. If I disconnect, all those connections that felt so real fade away.

Maybe it's me. I've decided to cut way back and try something different. I remember conversations over email and in comments felt more substantial even if they were more fleeting. RSS has no push notifications, and email seems more transactional these days, but I want to see.

Sometimes the only way to get a fresh perspective is to try on an old one. Making friends on message boards and in blog comments seemed easier. I may not talk to most of them anymore, but I remember those conversations in a way I never have with Twitter or link sharing sites.

We'll see.

Blog Archive