This is such a good overview of the state of things in online communities. Some excerpts below (emphasis mine):
From interest-based communities to your lousy neighbor
If you’ve been active on the web for long enough, you may have fond memories of internet forums. Maybe you were a fan of video games, Harry Potter or painting.
Fragmentation was key. You could be active on multiple forums and you didn’t have to mention your other passions. Over time, you’d see the same names come up again and again on your favorite forum. You’d create your own running jokes, discover things together, laugh, cry and feel something.
And then, Facebook happened. At first, it was also all about interest-based communities — attending the same college is a shared interest, after all. Then, they opened it up to everyone to scale beyond universities.
When you look at your list of friends, they are your Facebook friends not because you share a hobby, but because you’ve know them for a while.
Facebook constantly pushes you to add more friends with the infamous “People you may know” feature. Knowing someone is one thing, but having things to talk about is another.
So here we are, with your lousy neighbor sharing a sexist joke in your Facebook feed.
Facebook’s social graph is broken by design. Putting names and faces on people made friend requests emotionally charged. You can’t say no to your high school best friend, even if you haven’t seen her in five years.
Too big to succeed
One of the key pillars of social networks is the broadcasting feature. You can write a message, share a photo, make a story and broadcast them to your friends and followers.
But broadcasting isn’t scalable.
And then, there’s all the gamification, algorithm-driven recommendations and other Skinner box mechanisms. That tiny peak of adrenaline you get when you refresh your feed, even if it only happens once per week, is what’s going to make you come back again and again.
Algorithms recommend some content based on engagement, and guess what? The most outrageous, polarizing content always ends up at the top of the pile.
In other words, as social networks become bigger, content becomes garbage.
Centralization is always followed by decentralization. Now that we’ve reached a social network dead end, it’s time to build our own digital house.
And if you have interesting things to say, do it on your own terms. Create a blog instead of signing up to Medium. This way, Medium won’t force your readers to sign up when they want to read your words.
If you spend your vacation crafting the perfect Instagram story, you should be more cynical about it. Either you want to make a career out of it and become an Instagram star, or you should consider sending photos and videos to your communities directly. Otherwise, you’re just participating in a rotten system.
If you want to comment on politics and life in general, you should consider talking about those topics with people surrounding you, not your friends on Facebook.