12 Oct 2022
Reading Time: 5 minutes
For the most part, I’d agree that social media is bunk. Sure, all the young things are flocking to Tiktoc and giving the Chinese government access to all their details (just read the T&C’s people), but for everyone else, especially those that simply enjoy what they find on their feeds, the social media apps…. suck.
After being on Facebook 2003 and Instagram and Twitter since 2014, I’ve watched it all unfold and I’d finally had enough –enough of the black hat tricks, dark pattern tactics and certainly enough of using my phone to put up with all of that. I’ve become one of those people that now regard staring at your phone like some sort of drone as a complete waste of time (other than for playing the odd game during some ‘dull time’ mind you). Whether you realise it or not, the amount of ‘valuable’ time you loose to social media apps is completely bewildering. I needed, wanted, a way out.
It started with just having Insta and Twitter open in browser tabs on my desktop; it was the same shit as the phone, just not on my phone (though Insta does not serve up adverts on the web app….yet). And while, to their credit, Twitter’s ‘web’ version is just as good as the phone (I’d argue possibly better), Instagram’s is a half baked joke*, lacking the posting features you need, hence driving you to keep using the phone app. But it was a start and what I found was, yes, I was using the phone less.
Vero True Social has a great desktop client
The problem remained that I still had the apps on the phone so, like pretty much everyone else on the planet, I was still opening them when nothing was going on (and when I was away from the desktop). Not quite the ideal, I started looking for the next step – I figured if Vero True Social already has an excellent, fully featured desktop app, there must be options for Twitter and Insta and before long I’d found a desktop client for Twitter called Tweeten.
And it was a mind bomb!
Start it up, hook it into your account and you get your feed, sans all the other crap, just the tweets, when they happen, cronologicaly, from the people you follow. No black hat timeline manipulation, suggestions, tweets from people you never heard of. Just. What. You. Want. WOW! Add to this that you can set up colours, display sizes and best of all columns; so in my case my feed, notifications, messages, likes and my own feed are all displayed on one screen. It’s changed… everything.
So Twitter came off the phone.
After a few weeks of this bliss, I wondered if there was an option for Insta. Having Tweeten and Vero open in desktops (OSX allows the setup of multiple desktop spaces) was already changing how I interacted with social media, so I was keen to keep the roll going. With Instagram notorious for being difficult to integrate with, an ever changing API and permissions systems, for all but the most die hard developers it’s simply too much work. But after some searching I found an option called Grids and, for the second time in two weeks, mind blown.
Essentially Grids is like Tweeten, serving up your feed sans all the blackhat and dark pattern trickery. More impressively though, you can set your feed to be, now wait for this, chronological. That’s right folks, apart from being add free, setting your timeline to being chronological means that you now have the Insta of old – posts when they happen and none of the rest. Add to that you can display your feed as a grid, post to all the never ending options (feed, stories, reels) and do all the other ’stuff’ and who the hell needs the app? PLUS! Posts look bigger and better.
And just like that, I removed all the social media apps from my phone.
That was now several weeks ago and the near instant change in the way I interact with social media has been profound to say the least. The first stark realisation is just how manipulated we all are with these apps. When your feed is ‘honest’ you very quickly realise that the apps are designed to keep you interacting in a never ending feedback loop. Take away all the timeline and follower manipulation, the suggestions and everything else that goes on, and your feed becomes, instantly, a lot more quiet.
Case in point, Instagram makes you ‘feel’ that unless you are constantly looking at your feed, you will miss out. The reality is, I can see an entire 12 hours worth of posts from the 888 people I follow, in about 5 seconds via Grids. Think about that for a minute. The reality is, or mine is anyway, that my feed is much, MUCH, quieter than Instagram wants me to believe; people are not constantly posting, far from it and I definitely am not missing out…. when my feed is honest.
But more than this, I have found, even with the apps running on my desktop all day, my interaction with them has changed dramatically. With the FOMO feedback loop removed, they become just a thing that you check on once in a while, not something that warrants all your attention. Hell, my Insta and Vero feeds are pretty quiet during the day (Twitter, by its nature, is always busy), so there’s very little need to keep looking at them anyway. In terms of posting, yea, I am posting more frequently, to Twitter at least, as it’s now easy to do and suits the brain fart nature of the platform. I’d actually say that this change has seen me use Twitter more than any of the other platforms, as it’s easy to see the community nature of the platform, as opposed to say Insta which is so manipulated that meaningful community is now almost impossible. For Insta, no, I am not posting more. I’d actually say I’m posting even less. Knowing that the feed is a lot quieter and posting more does not, actually, make too much of a difference in a system so heavily manipulated, my desire to interact as a whole with it has diminished quite dramatically; so much so there are thought s of giving it the flick altogether.
And when I turn off my desktop? My social media turns off as well and so is my desire to want to look at it. Being tied to my desktop makes it a more or less 9-5, 5 day a week affair and the change in one’s brain patterns with this sort of structural change is acutely noticeable. I can’t say for a minute that I have regretted this change in use pattern.
As an exercise alone, this has been an eye opener into the evils of maybe not so much social media as a ‘thing’, but the companies behind it. Having honest feeds (once again) highlights just how manipulated and geared towards addictive feedback loops these platform have become, all to the detriment of the user experience AND user health. I’ve always enjoyed seeing the interesting art and ’stuff’ posted by the people I choose to follow, but the increased realisation that I was being manipulated meant I was rapidly loosing interest; like many are these days. Returning my social media accounts to where they started all those years ago, has not only rekindled my interest but also forever changed how I interact with them. For the better.
Copyright 2023 Gerard Thomas. All rights reserved.