GeekNights Monday - Social Media

Tonight on GeekNights, we consider the Leopard that is social media. It is difficult to summarize the myriad ways that social media has materially harmed society despite its great promise. From Orkut to Facebook to Twitter, it's been a destabilizing force. In the (possibly too on-the-nose) news, Facebook had a major global outage today (see our episode on outages), Facebook has a whistleblower revealing terrible revelations about the harm Facebook causes, a new tool can reveal who actually owns companies, and Europe is looking to (rightly) standardize on USB-C for charging electronic devices (much to Apple's discomfort).

Things of the Day

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After this episode I just unfollowed and unsubscribed so much stuff. I’m also trying out an option in TweetDeck that shows me only tweets. No retweets.

If you want a recent cracking the cryptic to watch here is Bowser’s castle.

The way he is able go the first digit is mind boggling.

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Ahh Cracking the Cryptic, I do love watching them solve sudoku and trying to keep up.

On the social media aspects of things what you describing about doom scrolling is why I basically left it cold turkey a few years ago. I know that I am missing out on so much news but the advertisements, bad memes, and the hit pieces made me get in such a state that it was a bad space mentally.

So far I have been proven right. With the latest news on Facebook I am at the point where deleting my account is something I am going to do soon, my birthday reminded me that a bunch of people will post to my wall wishing me well but no one would actually spend the time to call/text in a meaningful conversation. The big thing stopping me is Scott does his party invites on there and would like to be included in those.

The one thing I do miss is being able to talk to people in a meaningful way. Hense why the forums are so valuable, I would like to have to be able to schedule a call with a friend for nothing more than just catching up. My fear is that social media is devaluating that to such a manner that I fell that by trying to get into a better headspace I am going to be left behind in the tech space.

Compound this with the pandemic and I just miss people really. I can not tell you how much I just want to hang out at a random spot and connect with you all, I just want to do it safely and not worry about getting each other sick.


The whistleblower has confirmed basically everything we already knew.

The only thing I have to add is that just about every single business involved in digital advertising is using fraudulent numbers, just like Facebook is. It’s standard industry practice. If the SEC wants to crack down on it, they should absolutely go after Facebook. However, they should not neglect to target the entire at-tech industry, starting with number most wanted Google.

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We’re gonna be in a hotel lobby with drinks the night before that first gaming con we all go to and it’s going to be glorious

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I think you hit on why Apple doesn’t want to change to USBC for their iPhones: everyone has 4 Lightning cables already in all the places, and Apple doesn’t want to tell all their existing customers to get all new cables when they get their next phone. It’s annoying! Staying with Lightning cables is a form of soft lock-in.

That said, I don’t think this new law is needed. As you noted, just with tech progress and market forces, every device now uses two connectors. USB-C and Lightning, and iPhones only use Lightning because USB-C didn’t exist when they switched away from the awful 30-pin connector designed for iPods.

Just imagine if Apple, in 2012, had to switch to the previous EU standard connector though! Lightning is waaaaaaay better than USB Mini and USB micro. And USB-C learned all the correct lessons from Lightning… would it have been so good without Lightning existing?

This new law seems to be 10 years too late, but couldn’t have existed 10 years ago due to the technology not existing yet.

I did it, Facebook account has been deleted. I know there is a group of people that will realized this after it is done. Just hope they understand myental health is important and they reach out to me in other means.

Welcome to a better world. =)

I’ve thought about the state of 2021 social media more, and I think there’s a dimension you missed discussing in the podcast.

Native content vs linked/imported content.

I like Instagram because the focus is the content being created and shared directly by the accounts I follow: images and videos, along with stories. There isn’t any focus on comments. There is no linking on a per-post basis (hence “link in bio”).

I like Twitter because I’ve turned off retweets from 99% of the accounts I follow. The content I now want to see is the words written by the accounts I follow. I don’t see the comments/replies to that tweet. The tweets are the content itself.

Instagram and Twitter are about what people in my social circle (plus some famous people I follow) are doing or saying right now.

I hate Facebook because the main “content” is links to articles/videos elsewhere… AND all the comments on those posts. I don’t care about, or ever want to read, any opinions anyone has about any issue, unless I seek out their comments on a topic or issue myself. I don’t want a firehose of outrage or adulation or vitriol or mundanity.

I think this exposes the main difference between what Facebook has now become from what it once was. It’s been many different things over the years, from a place to keep up with what your family is doing… but it’s now a place for people to share and comment on things from elsewhere. That’s what gets the engagement, and so that’s what is promoted into the algorithmic feeds.

Content native to the platform, and created for the platform, works with me, even when I scroll off the end of my own feed and end up in the algorithm feed.

Sharing content from other places and services doesn’t work for me, as there’s a mismatch of expectations, and a too-wide range of possible destinations/durations/moods/tones/etc.

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I think we definitely did mention the impact of the retweet vs. just the content that’s actually from the people you follow. But we definitely could have dove deeper on that.

Also, as far as Instagram not putting focus on comments, that’s true to a certain extent. Instagram puts a lot of focus on comments if someone comments on a post that you made. But yes, it largely hides those comments from other people. This treats the comments not as a place to have a conversation, but as a place to sort of openly DM the person who made the post. When you reply on Twitter, you’re inviting a conversation with basically anyone who sees the original Tweet.

That said, I strongly agree overall. I have been experimenting since doing the episode. I made a separate home column in TweetDeck. Both home columns are content only from people I follow, no ads, in reverse chronological order. But the new one only has tweets. It will only contain a retweet if the person quote tweeted to add content of their own.

The difference between the old and new column is drastic. There is still some retweeted content that I like in there. There are some people I follow who are just great at finding and aggregating great stuff. I wouldn’t follow the accounts they are retweeting, but it’s great to get a sort of best-of thanks to this other person doing curation. Other than that, the no retweet column is superior in every way. It has way way less content overall. Even if you try to doomscroll it, you run out of content really really fast. Even after reducing the number of people I follow on Twitter by about a third, the feed with retweets is still a long scroll. The quality level of the no-retweet column is also superior. Just about everything in there is something I want to see. I may just have to sacrifice the good retweets as its the better of the two options.

The only problem is that if I keep trimming back my social media subscriptions it gets much harder to find the good things of the day XD

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I hadn’t realized “turn off retweets” was a tweetdeck option. It is much better this way.

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This was a really interesting read because it takes on a different angle. If someone is a troll, what does the algorithm put in that person’s feed? Turns out, if you’re a piece of shit that they’ll show you lots of misogynistic and conspiracy theory stuff. I wonder how many of the trolls were not simply permitted, but created by the social networks putting that sort of content in people’s faces. And that stuff isn’t likely to be reported because it’s not likely to be shown to people who would report it.

Now accepting wagers on the new name.

Finally listened to the show. What’s wrong with Nate Silver now?

He went from his area of expertise, statistical modeling and baseball, to being a kinda-sorta politics knower who didn’t know as much as he thought he did from his initial success, and then kinda fell into quasi-covid denialism because he felt his statistical models disagreed with epidemiology.