So here’s the thing. We’ve all noticed how dull our social media feeds are getting (Facebook), or how impossible they might be to actually manage in any meaningful way (Twitter), or how inane most of the content is (Instagram). OK, this may not be strictly true for everyone, but I reckon we all nod in at least some agreement, recognising our own frustration and let’s face it, boredom that we now experience when browsing our social media.
I think, as time goes on, serious content may exit from the majority of the feed on Facebook. In a bid for them to control fake news, they’ll end up removing all news. Serious content in any shape is considered ‘news’ in terms of it not being ‘friends and family’ (F&F), that most annoying of categories. F&F is often synonymous with dull, trivial posts about food, holidays or fitness regimes. Lots of people tend to interact with these kinds of posts, leading Facebook to believe that’s what we all ‘want’. It probably isn’t, but how else can Facebook derive economic gain from the feed? Interactions can be recorded. If you don’t interact – for example just reading something – you cannot really be recorded in any meaningful way beyond a ‘time on page’ statistic being generated. But no real truth or understanding is associated with that piece of data. For example, the page could have been open all day on a computer no one was looking at, or a user opened the page, copied the whole text and closed the page within a few seconds. The latter is the user who derived most benefit from the page content, but the former generates data that implies they gained most benefit. See the problem?
So Facebook (or other mainstream content feeds) have no choice but to create interactions based experiences. This of course is also a fundamental problem for learning analytics – a discussion for another time. This, I believe will be the downfall of Facebook, just think about the dilemma of the ‘Stories’ feature – something that younger users might find useful, but everyone else (likely the majority, when all demographics are added up) do not. See this discussion on the Facebook help pages as an example of that: http://bit.ly/turn-off-facebook-stories.
In the case of new and interesting content we find ourselves having to move away from mainstream social media for sources, so we need a replacement, and in real terms we are returning to what we used to do before social media appeared. We are using RSS feed readers again. I recommend Feedly, a beautiful and efficient user experience to compile your most interesting RSS feeds for news, podcasts and blogs. There are other good feed readers around – check this fairly recent article from Zapier. Other posts have appeared within the past year about feed readers, here’s another from Lifewire, and that’s not a coincidence, people are sensing a sea change in sourcing of content. (The Feedly reader comes out on top, and has free or paid accounts.)
All of us more serious Internet users are noticing the same problem with our social media – good content is buried amongst a quagmire of trivia. We want actual quality content, removal of that trivia, and feed readers are the way to achieve this. We may still use Twitter to share useful content, and find some recommendations from others, but it’s no longer the main source of finding content.
If you’re an author, academic or content creator, make sure you have a good blog and can generate an RSS feed (you’re going to need it), and that you know how to use a good feed reader. We, your readers, want to follow and read your posts, we’ll add your feed to our feed reader, so we can see your posts in all their glory. The feed to my blog here is: http://webteach.penworks.net/feed/. To add this to your feed reader, simply copy the url and add a new source.
For more advice and uses of RSS, don’t hesitate to contact me via DM @penworks.