Charles Harries

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Replacements for social media

Social media sucks. Yeah that's right Twitter, I'm talking to you.

Identifying powerfully with Robin Rendle’s “My home on the web”. Twitter has long felt like my default hangout: somewhere to catch up on the meta, to feel lost in a crowd, to keep up. Before Twitter I was on Instagram, and Facebook before that, back when I lived in Japan. Each of these places gradually ratcheted up my anxiety until being there, on the platform, lurking, became unbearable.

Lately I’ve been trying to replace Twitter with a combination of RSS and podcasts, but my lizard brain won’t let it go. Where will I read the jokes? The hot takes? How will I trigger the subtle fleeting pleasure of recognising the subject of a subtweet?

My attachment to Twitter is purely emotional; there are practical replacements. Podcasts are good for keeping up with the latest developments on the web platform, and my voice is but a quiet one in the vast modern chorus of RSS evangelism. Just today, Stu Robson updated his .opml list file of RSS feeds, and Šime Vidas also maintains a great list of dev feeds that could very plausibly replace Twitter (full disclosure: I’m on Šime’s list!). Either one of these (or any of many others!) can be imported into your RSS reader of choice for a significantly higher signal-to-noise ratio than you’ll find on the bird app dot com.

For solace I turn to my abandonment of Facebook circa 2017—a choice which brought me, and continues to bring me, great joy and great relief. In latter years it effectively became a birthday calendar for me, and an easy lookup for big events in the lives of people I only ever really had a passing acquaintance with in the first place. I’ve successfully replaced Facebook with a carefully-curated contacts list, courtesy of Flexibits’s Cardhop—though the lengths to which I’ll go to note down my contacts’ life events (for posterity) could feasibly be interpreted as Psycho Behaviour.

As for actually producing content, there’s an abstract sort of satisfaction to owning your own platform, your own space on the web. Sure, distribution’s a bit of a problem—but I’m writing mostly for myself here, and I can syndicate links to Twitter if I feel like it, and it’s possible that I’ve got one or two subscribers via RSS. And while a feed with a single user on it can feel a bit lonely, the whole rest of the web is just a hyperlink away.

My home on the web, Robin Rendle

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