Once upon a time (okay, the year 2000), I ran a blog. Back when WordPress and other point-and-click tools weren’t very popular, and I ended up hacking together a weblog and commenting system using php3. But then I stopped writing.
What happened? Xanga, Livejournal, and eventually Facebook. The ease of writing without having to worry about comment spam or technical things. A built-in friends “list” that ensured that people would see my posts without having to worry about RSS readers (heck, even in 2012 people don’t even know what those are). Shorter “status updates” meant I didn’t have to post anything meaningful (cultural junk food, yay). So I let this blog die, and joined the crowd.
But then the complaints started. Facebook opened up to the general public beyond college campuses. Your mommy friended you. You’ve collected 1500 friends and you don’t even remember who half of them are. You realize that you can’t see your friends statuses because Facebook filtered them out thinking they were “unimportant”. Privacy settings don’t stick, or have gotten so fine-grained you can’t stalk* that cute girl’s pictures anymore. The interface has gotten so convoluted you stopped caring. Fucking Timeline.
*As an aside, looking at someone’s profile, even repeatedly, doesn’t constitute “stalking”. If it’s posted it in a public forum, it’s there to be read. (Someone told me the exact same thing while quoting my posts in 2001).
So what would you do? Google+? Sure, if you like talking in an empty room.
I’ve gone full circle, returning to the medium where I first started. What are key advantages of blogging instead of Facebook:
- You have full control over what you choose to post. There are no ads on your site, and nobody’s making money off your “profile”. By the way, I suggest putting fake info in your Facebook profile to “fool” the data miners. I wasn’t born in Detroit, but Facebook thinks that.
- You can post longer, more meaningful things, instead of short status updates or “notes” nobody ever reads because they get drowned by pictures of your hotter, more popular friends.
- Your data is your own, and can never be destroyed. Hey, whatever happened to all your info on Friendster?
- You can choose a theme or even a different identity for your own site. No my name isn’t Elemental, but here I want the message to stand out more than the messenger.
Of course, there are downsides:
- If your friends don’t know how to use RSS readers, they probably won’t visit your site that often. Big deal, my friends can message me for a “status update”, preferably over steak and beer.
- You’ll have to manage comments. There are blog plugins and external services for that, which I’ll cover later.
- All your posts are public. Then again, all your posts on Facebook are public anyway. What, you have nicely organized “friends lists” and you switch privacy settings for each post? How cute, just give a mutual friend a reason to post on someone’s wall in your presence (invite her to a party!) and assuming they’re on different “lists”, you can see what was hidden to you before.
Also, relying on Facebook to defend your privacy is pointless, as if you get involved in a lawsuit, any half-competent lawyer can force you to log into your own account (therefore bypassing any privacy settings) and record everything as evidence in a trial. So, you might as well post publicly anyway, being more cognizant of what you say.
So now that you’re convinced (let’s assume the sale), you have two tasks ahead of you:
- Create a blog — It’s not hard, go to Blogger or WordPress. If you want to create your own website (for even more control), I’ll cover that in a future post. Ideally, you’d be installing WordPress software onto your own server.
- Exchange addresses of your blogs with your friends. Add all of their sites to a RSS reader like Google Reader. Consider helping promote them by adding them to a links section of your site. Speaking of which, I’d be happy to swap links if I know you.
Society is a joke. Live accordingly. It’s one of my key beliefs in life. Taking control of your own social networking is just one of many ways to do that.