(Not quite sure why I am calling these “editorials”, I just have not come up with a better label)
Anyone who has been following my love and love to hate relationship with social media, Twitter specifically, knows how up and down I can be on this topic. However, I do believe I have found a happy place. While I have not totally disconnected OWL’s Asylum from Twitter, I have developed an on-going pattern of usage. That would be, a usage of non-usage. As a practitioner of strategies of no strategy I feel quite delighted about all of this.
I grew up in a time where everyone wanted to be on television. Being seen on a television screen for any number of reasons, including just being a game show contestant, was akin to accomplishment. These days, I see a similar set of social dynamics surrounding social media. There is a notion that if you post it, millions of dollars will flow your way. In that same vein of people doing anything to appear on television, there is now an insurmountable flow of content displaying people doing all sorts of just stupid. It is not that “stupid” part which alarms me, though, ironically. It is that people do not realize just how saturated these spaces become.
Showing up is not enough. While I am one of those persons that believes content drives its own demand, I do also believe that market spaces dictate consumption practices. Youtube is that new satellite dish of those 1980s and 1990s. For those of you who do not remember or simply cannot remember because you were not there, let me take you back.
During my youth, when someone’s parents purchased a satellite dish, it was this huge deal because they now had this seemingly infinite array of channels to choose from. Now, what is different from then and now is that most people either were still on UHF/VHF, cable with limited channels(let’s say 130 choices), or no television at all. What was always funny, however, was that even with all those choices, those people would still watch those same stations that people who only had UHF/VHF(roughly 21 or so choices of channels). Television consumption being a predominantly social event, no matter how swank those new channels, no viewing audience meant no one cared what you saw at recess that next morning.
I see social media in a similar light. Let us step all that way back, alright. I see this WORLD WIDE WEB in that similar light. There are more websites online than people in United States of America. For all intents and purposes, that represents infinite choice. Yet, just like that satellite television, most people on Earth only visit a hand full of sites. Coming back to YouTube, or Twitter, or Facebook, or Snapchat, or Instagram, these same dynamics creep in. When you log onto these modern channels, their algorithms, those pesky codes that nudge our behavior and limit our choices on these platforms, are written to show us most watched, most seen, most discussed, most followed, or some variant of “most” engaged content. This leaves a very long tail of obscure content vying for eyeballs under this same dynamic that caused “Girls Gone Wild” to become a thing in early 2000s.
While I embrace these platforms as communications mediums, I also have to be honest about my purposes. I do not care about millions of views if none of those millions ever develop a relationship with Asylum off of these more popular platforms. One million followers on Twitter cannot help me if none of those Twitter users become OWL’s Asylum subscribers. So, I do not use any of these services if I cannot link directly to here. I have my own site. It costs me to operate OWL’s Asylum, why would I own a house that I am never in?
And that has become my strategy of no strategy. I will not post any content outside of OWL’s Asylum that I cannot add a link to. Any dialogue must occur through private channels on that application or we can just text each other. If we do not feel comfortable enough with each other to exchange numbers, then our publicly distributed and databased dialogue probably will be fake anyway.