Bri Manning

Social Network Death is All Around Us

May 1, 2014

That’s what many articles would have us believe.

The Atlantic published an article yesterday about Twitter saying just that.

“A Eulogy for Twitter”

It comes right on the heels of Google+ being “walking dead.”

Maybe I don’t get it because my 30th birthday is less than a week away so I’ve become an old fart.

Facebook isn’t popular with kids. Twitter’s active user base is declining. Google forced Google+ on us. Instagram is dying because of ads. No one is on Path. LinkedIn is boring. Foursquare is so three years ago.

Guess I should embrace Vine and Snapchat then. Neither of which my friends use. And Vine’s not about having conversations. Nor is Snapchat about sharing something publicly.

The Atlantic writers think back on a time when Twitter was better, fuller, more engaging and friendly. The Eternal September strikes again.

I remember thinking that about the internet as well. I remember when Slashdot comments were clever, Reddit users were fun and interesting, bloggers talked with each other, Hacker News wasn’t regurgitations of TechCrunch, and Digg had news on lock.

Those places changed, right? The users there changed, right?

Or did I? Did we all?

Maybe my gif patience ran out. Or I caught on that no one has a clue what they’re talking about and we’re all just making it up as we go along. Especially industry insiders. Maybe it was internet fatigue.

It seems like the internet was an interesting place with insightful articles, interesting pictures, and engaging videos. But that’s probably my rosy-colored, nostalgia-laden glasses. Maybe I can’t find them anymore, but now it’s filled with articles about why “x” is bad for the world or “y” is out to get us or “z” is dying off.

Did I change? If I saw those same interesting things now, would they still be interesting?

Or did the internet change? Did it become so optimized around sound bites and bullet articles that the marketplace of attention pushed the interesting articles out of the way?

Time for an aside.

I learned a lot while raising and training my dog Rugby. He’s clever. But not too clever. If he did something bad, I was inclined to get mad at him. A breakthrough happened one day though. I realized he was trying his best to make me happy whenever he could. If he failed, it was because I put him in the position to fail. I left a sandwich within reach. I didn’t pay enough attention to his signs he needed to go outside. He needed something to tire him out so he wasn’t so rambunctious.

Instantly he was a “better” dog. The best dog, in fact. Because I had taken the time and thought to set him up to be. It was in him all along, I just hadn’t been putting him in the right situations before.

This made me realize that most situations in life are like that. Don’t put yourself in a situation where something would happen that you wouldn’t like or wouldn’t be happy about later.

For me, an example would be not going to the bodega after work. If I went, I’d end up with a box of double-stuffed golden Oreos. They’re delicious. And fattening. And I can’t put them down. If I went to the bodega under my apartment in New York after a long day at work, it’d be easy to justify grabbing a box. I wouldn’t have that opportunity if I didn’t go in though.

If an aspect of work consistently happened and stressed me out, I worked for a way to not let that situation happen. This is what led me to the idea of self-defense coding, a variant on defensive coding, but that’s for another article.

So, if I view the internet as a situation I put myself in where I’m setting myself and it up to fail, how do I fix that?

I changed my subreddits, ignored a bunch of friends on Facebook, curated my Twitter feed, changed up my RSS reader (you can see I’m a dinosaur), and things seemed better. For a while. The noise seemed muted somewhat. But the internet still seemed unpleasant or like work at times.

The last two months, I’ve been on a road trip from LA to Boston. It started great. I saw friends in San Francisco, saw Big Sur, and drove the whole Pacific coastline. I had a blast. Then, when crossing the country, I started having car trouble in Idaho. It’s been five weeks of waiting since. The car repairs are a long story.

During the initial part of the trip, I was always busy. I was seeing new things while working remotely. Every second on the internet was a second I wasn’t exploring. I needed to get the most out of it which meant throwing myself into work and plowing through as much work as possible.

Facebook usage plummeted, Twitter ceased to exist, and my RSS reader had thousands of unread articles. I only used three social networks: Instagram, Viddy, and YouTube. I used them to post my travels, not to consume anything. The internet and I were friendlier than ever, even though we rarely spoke.

Then, the stagnation of car trouble hit. Sitting in motel rooms waiting caused the old usage patterns to return. And here I find myself.

How do I put myself in a situation where the internet and I are friendly again?

Maybe the social networks are dying around us. Maybe they should. At least for me.

Then again, where would I have gotten the inspiration for this article had I not checked Twitter this morning?