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Clearly, I have not stuck to my promise of leaving Facebook and other for-profit social media platforms. Although, I did last a couple of years in the relative darkness of decentralized social media!

I’ll outline here some of the reasons I came back to conventional social platforms, the pros and cons of leaving, and what my plan is for the future.

Why I left Facebook

My first de-facebooking post goes into detail about this. But in short, I was frustrated. You see, I had no power over what of mine was in the world out there, not just in/on Facebook but everyone Meta was sharing my information with without my consent.

Meta however, might be making some privacy-forward moves, or at least on paper they are. For example they recently released default end-to-end encryption (E2EE) on their messenger platform (but notably not on Instagram…), which means that your message contents are way more secure now on messenger. Your message contents supposedly cannot be read and scraped anymore by anyone including Meta themselves. This is not a fix-all, but it is a step in the right direction.

Meta also released Threads when the whole Twitter/X debacle happened, and have promised to actually integrate Threads into the Fediverse by adopting the ActivityPub protocol. This means that in future you should be able to choose to interact with Meta users through, e.g., Mastodon or the other decentralized social media platforms that are also on the Fediverse (see my original post on de-facebooking for more about this).

The case for conventional socials

Traction / audience

It was incredibly difficult for me to build traction on other social platforms. Although, I will take credit for converting most of the McGill Physics social circles to using Signal for all our group chats, and then the same for almost all of my group chats with my friends in Montreal. However, people in Oman were much more difficult to sway. In fact, I think I had a less than 10% success rate there, and the only person who still has the app active after I convinced them to get it is my mum (<3).

Signal is still my preferred messaging platform, even though WhatsApp has since adopted reactions — also, Signal has stories which are E2EE and can be shared only with specific group chats of people and I think that’s a really cool feature that nobody uses. WhatsApp has stories too, but you either share it with all your contacts, or only specific ones; you cannot share it to specific already-made groups of people.

I still think that Mastodon has promise (especially since Twitter died and turned into X). Although, I don’t really like micro-blogging anyway, and I was never big on Twitter/X. I’d rather have the freedom to actually write what I want and not limit myself to 500 characters at a time. Also, I find Mastodon still has a discoverability issue. It’s hard to find people there, and it’s hard to be found.

You’ve got to be a part of the world to change it.

Unfortunately, after talking to many folks about my actual goals of producing authentic and organic content (like these blog posts), I’ve come to realize that I probably do still need some form of traditional social media. Moreover, if I have issues with the way certain things are done and would like to get people on my side, it’s kind of difficult to do so as a recluse in some dark corner of the internet.

I realize that it’s not until the average person is convinced that things can start to change. So, I can put my content on my own site, just like this post, but I still have to reach the average person wherever they may be if I care about it being read at all.

It’s not your best friends that you need social media for

As I was leaving Montreal it became apparent that not everyone is easily Google-able, and not everyone has a website that they update with their latest contact information. LinkedIn is useful, but I did not want to connect with people who are my friends on LinkedIn unless they are also professional connections. I was left with a problem: how do I stay in touch with these people knowing that I will soon change my number and move to a different country? If I don’t make it effortless for others to update me on their contact information then it’s all too easy to lose touch with people. It’s not my closest 20 friends that I am worried about, it’s all the friends that I would reach out to if I were in the same city as them, but remain radio-silent with otherwise. Personally, I like to maintain those friendships too, and conventional social media platforms make those friendships easier to maintain; it’s what allowed me to couch-surf around the world in 2018.
So, yeah, I value connections over privacy right now.

Short-form videos and the inevitable

There is a new big-bad in my eyes: TikTok, the platform that somehow managed to fry an entire generation’s attention span.

Ultra short-form video content was bound to become dominant online. If we review the history of media (not just social media), it’s been monotonically increasing in overall information density conveyed per unit time since the dawn of the internet. First,we had written communication like blogs and articles (where words have to be read, slowly). Next, as data transfer speeds increased, photos became more easily shared online and everyone knows: a picture tells a thousand words! Finally, with the rollout of 4G, video communication became increasingly popular. We now live in a digital world where everything online is fighting for our attention with moving images, pop-ups, and sounds. So, it was only a matter of time before video editors started utilizing sharper cuts and shorter formats to battle for that attention.

All this is to say, I now suspect that TikTok is more dangerous than Facebook. It has way too much sway on the content we consume by virtue of the algorithm only showing us one specific item at a time. It also has a slew of spyware concerns associated with it. So, for now, I am currently off TikTok as I have no need for it.

That being said, I am not totally against short-form video. In fact, alternatives with large user bases that already exist like Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts are still fun. I actually really like YouTube Shorts, they feel like little trailers to the main channel which has the longer-form content that I find more enriching. I discover a lot of new and helpful channels this way, and most of the new channels I subscribe to have come to my attention via this mechanism.

The dream

I guess my dream would be that we everyone who wants to communicate directly with me does so on Signal, and everyone who can donates to the Signal Foundation for it’s upkeep. Anyone who I want to remain loosely-connected with I follow on Instagram (or pixelfed, it’s Fediverse-equivalent) -> follow me!

My medium

Just like artists have their medium through which they share emotions and thoughts, people also have their preferred medium of digital social interactions. For me, I like seeing where people are in the world through photos, and like seeing people I care about share their cool accomplishments and the dreams that they are building through pictures and images. Personally, I’m a big fan of the photo + caption format for loosely keeping in touch with folks.

Stories are cool too, but they serve a different purpose. Stories are almost always for my close friends, I find them a bit toxic otherwise. Stories are also useful for advertising new projects — although I may have abused this for >read(the_room) lately on Instagram! As much as some privacy geeks hate on Signal for developing stories on the app, I kind of wish more of my friends used Signal Stories over Instagram/Snapchat stories for the E2EE and peace of mind.


Okay, I need to keep this post short and avoid rambling too much. TL;DR I am unsure of my actual thoughts on social media and I am still wary of the privacy nightmare it can be. Although, I recognize the need for such spaces online in today’s world. I still have a soft-spot for the Fediverse, and hope to find more of my people on there so massive companies like Meta don’t have absolutely everything I’ve ever done online in their records. That being said, I am trying to see if content/project creation is at all my forte and, well, I need to be on conventional socials for that to have a chance of working out in 2024. In fact, I might even go the full opposite route from what I am used to and just make all my social profiles public soon! We’ll see.

The featured photo in this article is of me standing in the Sea of Oman with my two year old nephew. Photo credit to Naila, my sister (and his mum). Taken December 2023.