The 46-year-old woman-social media: how a person lets Twitter, Facebook and Instagram make a living | social media | Tech Reddy

The 46-year-old woman-social media: how a person lets Twitter, Facebook and Instagram make a living |  social media

 | Tech Reddy


Matt* should have joined Twitter years ago. He likes the user profile: well-educated, politically active, all over the news, good at debate, and he’s a climate scientist.

But unlike many users who struggle with the new world of Elon Musk, threaten to jump ship (but stay on deck), or try gather strength to descend to another position, and, “toot”, Matt has a wife. Flawless and immaculate – the 46-year-old has never joined a single social media platform.

“I’m not very quick to get up and running with new technology,” says Matt from the Victorian town of Geelong, “but after a while I started to see things that didn’t work. I liked their adoption.” Along with concerns about privacy and data, he said that most algorithms encourage anger and continue to be used. Like a true scientist, he was brief (and only posted on the public record) and he ended: “I don’t know what can be said in 140 characters.”

Twitter is relatively small (29.5% of Australian internet users use it at least once a month, compared to Facebook at 76.8%) but watching people tweet if they exist, or go through real time learning. It’s an illustration of the growing awareness among long-time social media users (and people who still remember the pre-internet era) of their vulnerability to changing algorithms (and owners). and what drew them to social media in the first place.

And if unicorns like Matt can show us that there’s another way to live, maybe we don’t even need to Google the word “Mastodon”? Maybe… finally?

“It’s hard to be that person because that’s where most of the networks you’ve invested all this time, energy and content. There is a price to disconnect,” says Jordan Guiao, researcher at the Australian Institute for Responsible Technology and author of the new book Disconnect. “The big media relies on that. Everyone knows they’re bad news now, but it’s still hard to physically move.”

The circumstances do not exactly reflect Matt’s monastic position. By the end of 2021, 82.7% of Australians were active on social media, an annual growth of almost 1 million users, due to the isolation epidemic and the growth of TikTok.

When social media is baked into our daily online diet, what does it feel like to be left out of the conversation? I question Matt in the same way I might approach a time traveler from the 1880s or a highly intelligent baby. How do you keep the information? “Radio, print, internet.” The zeitgeist? “Most of the time it’s reported there if it’s important.” What do you do in all your free time? I think differently. Where do people find time on social media?

Leaving Las Vegas (online)

Felicia Semple, 48, from Melbourne fell off Instagram in May. He has yet to explain his loss to his follower base – 24,000 in total.

“At first it was a surprise. I decided I wasn’t going to post while I was on vacation, but I couldn’t take it back,” Semple said.

Semple started a blog called The Craft Sessions in 2013 to “provide a place for artists to come together” to share ideas and inspire each other. Next up, Semple writes about the relationship between mental health and art, or “the head thing” as he calls it.

Joining Instagram first will grow its community in very meaningful ways. But lately, “every time I open it I’m terrified, not happy. It’s become a chore – a place of depressing, moral-spiritual anxiety.”

Instagram's algorithm changes that feature videos changed things for many people.
Instagram’s algorithm changes that feature videos changed things for many people. Photo: Rafael /SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

Like many artists who have recently created a whole career on the site, Instagram’s algorithm changes (mostly mirroring the TikTok model of the snack food video) changed everything.

“The requirements of the algorithm changed the type of content I created,” says Semple. “It’s confusing my creativity and my story, because it’s confusing my life, I think I have to keep it.”

“Popular media wants us to be there with 24/7 access at all costs,” says Guaio. “Social media makes it seem like Las Vegas is crazy, it’s so glitzy and so addictive. In the real world we don’t live like that.”

We need to “start thinking about a better way of doing things … develop platforms that don’t have some sort of takeover business model that relies on us being there every second of the day, if … we’re going to hit dopamine for everything.”

Semple knows that the decision to quit Instagram was a luxury, because he did not rely on it for income. Many people who have built their business on social media feel they have no choice but to adapt.

But lately he has been sleeping better. “I have more time and peace of mind. I finished my psychology degree last week.” In light of all this, Semple is thinking of ways to re-engage his online community.

‘I’ve read three books in one month’

Forty-five-year-old Olivia Sinclair Smith works in education. He left his platform of choice, Facebook, a month ago.

He had tried to leave before, but this time he went cold turkey. “I’m just scrolling through people’s posts and bits and wasting time doing it. I started feeling guilty after that, like I was addicted and I couldn’t stop.”

Since I quit, “I don’t see the crime and abuse I do before I look at the bad things done by people I don’t know… I’ve read three books in the last month I can’t hear it anymore.”

Sinclair Smith has strategically retained one part of the platform – Facebook Marketplace. “I created a fake account with no close friends and I used it to look at things to buy.”

“I’m tempted to join interest groups using my fake profile,” says Sinclair Smith, but he worries it’s “a gateway drug”.

A major overhaul?

Guiao says people are getting smarter. “We’re seeing a shift away from big, public, mass-market sites to smaller and more social platforms and private messaging like WhatsApp,” he says. “We’re going back to the way we communicate in our physical relationships or our social life.”

According to Guiao, the hope that we will disconnect completely is unrealistic, especially for civilians. “We are now online for the rest of our lives. But there is also talk of reformation,” said Guiao.

How the reform works for young people embracing social media like TikTok and YouTube remains to be seen. For users looking to join special events and communities on those platforms, it’s like running through a casino looking for a ball pit and ending up at a craps table.

“The challenge is that there is no good way… even if we wanted to change, it was very difficult,” said Guiao.

Guiao points to the work of Eli Pariser, who talks about the concept of “virtual parks as quiet spaces for gathering. How do we create online versions of that? Internet ‘Las Vegas’ is not impossible.”

Remember, these places are already occupied. “Before social media, there were social platforms like blogs and forums and all that [were] designed for connection, community and collaboration but not designed to kill you.”

Matt has no interest in joining the group. But she still manages to be considerate of social media, as her children, now seven and nine, affect her. “In the social life of young people, the cost of not participating is very heavy. All I can do is help them realize that the priorities they have for their own lives are not exactly the same as those of these companies.

“I’m also concerned about the ability to find shelter in their lives.”

Most of us aren’t as pure as Matt, but we can make social media work for us. The sound of tooting may not be so bad.

*Name has been changed


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