As someone who has spent a lot of time reading, researching and reflecting about social media, I felt it was incumbent upon me to join the conversation about the current state of social media even though, like so many, I feel that it is quite frankly a complete mess. After reading Inger Mewburn’s excellent post The enshittification of academic social media I found myself nodding with agreement. Like Inger, I have encouraged many people to build their personal/professional learning network (PLN) using social network sites, and I have personally benefited so much from the connections that I’ve made and the learning that I have experienced through these sites.
I have to admit that I am still using Twitter (at the moment…). I am still connected to wonderful people on the site, and thanks to constant weeding and nurturing, my network has not become poisoned. However as the site continues to decay, and terrible stories of toxic leadership and mass manipulation emerge, I wonder for how much longer I can stay. How long will it be before I wave goodbye this particular edtech cruiser, which has brought me so much opportunity?
I certainly feel that I cannot encourage others to join, and I know that people that I respect and learn from are moving away from the site. It feels like we are witnessing the sacking of a once great empire. Even though Twitter never was as big or as successful as it seemed, there was a time when it felt like everyone who was anyone was there.
By Russian painter Karl Bryullov (1799-1852) Public Domain, Link
So is Threads the new space which will take over from Twitter? Or is LinkedIn picking up the slack for academics and educators who once shared so generously with the little blue bird? Is Mastodon the answer, with its non-commercial, open access democratic take? For me personally, I honestly don’t know. I’ve been sharing more on LinkedIn, because what I usually shared on Twitter was of a professional nature, and so the shift has been fairly seemless…I’ve started a Threads account, but have yet to become involved…I’ve been on Mastodon for a few years, but somehow it never quite gelled…
One thing I do know is that I continue to strongly believe in the value of ‘a domain of one’s own‘ a rather old idea that riffs off Virginia Woolf and which suggests that on the internet, everyone should have a space which they own, and which they are in full control of. This idea, which was initiated at the University of Mary Washington’s Faculty Academy on Instructional Technologies was based on the concept of every student creating and then curating their own personal cyberinfrastructures, allowing them to develop capabilities to be effective architects, narrators, curators, and inhabitants of their own digital lives . Imagine if that had indeed happened across every University back in 2009; would we be in this mess today? Perhaps…but you could be sure that there would be more people out there with the type of capabilities we wish for our students in 2023 – informed, active curators and creators of information, who feel a sense of ownership over the content they share and potentially, therefore, are more considered about what they say, and how they say it.
Having a domain that one owns means that it doesn’t really matter what social network or networks you belong to; you can publish your work in your own space, and then push it out to friends and followers, engaging in the conversation that follows. This goes some way to helpings to avoid the ‘enshittification cycle‘ described by Cory Doctorow and Rebecca Giblin, and referenced by Inger Mewburn: “HERE IS HOW platforms die: First, they are good to their users; then they abuse their users to make things better for their business customers; finally, they abuse those business customers to claw back all the value for themselves. Then, they die.” By owning the space where you publish, you also own your work; when the platform owners eventually start to take advantage of their customers, you can leave more easily, because the work you’ve invested in is still in your own domain. Of course, you do lose your network; but people know where to find you. You have a home base. This, I think, is the most important part.
So where can you find me? Well I’m still on Twitter for now…and I’m increasingly haunting LinkedIn, and I’m playing in Threads and other spaces…but you can always connect with me here on my site! I will be sure to keep my social network links live on these pages; so if you can’t find me, just jump onto my domain, linkinglearning.com.au and find out where I’m hanging out!
Let’s take back the power and create networks that are human; where people and not platforms drive the engagement and learning :).