Decentralized social is coming

Every week I keep tabs on what’s trending, new technology, and consumer habits that impact the social web and our culture. Sign up to get this in your inbox every Friday.

The last two mornings I have started the day by doom scrolling all my news apps and feeds while holding my breath. Because that’s what I’ve done every single day for years. And I need to unlearn some habits. Starting with doom scroll apnea.

“it feels like having a sound system blaring at you on full blast for years and then suddenly cutting out. there’s phantom music in our heads. we can’t process things at normal volume yet. our ears are ringing with the last four years in all this relative silence.” –Hayes Brown

Although I remain personally hopefully and professionally pessimistic about pandemic recovery and the cultural conflicts yet to come, I have to say this week greatly increased the margin of hope in my heart. Just need my anxious strategy brain to catch up.

Source: @webcomic_name

So… if you’re like me and discovering you suddenly have some free time away from the feeds, consider reading and watching some non-fiction that offers a window into the human condition.

Specifically, I’m taking Erik Davis’ advice about consuming media concerning the “slipstream nonfictions that map the logic of the strange liminal zones that now greet us at every turn” to understand the magical thinking phenomena that shaped 2020 and continuing to try to keep my bubble popped when it comes to understanding people who aren’t like me.

I’m not super into drug or smoking-frog movies like he recommends, but there are plenty of documentaries about the edges of white culture that may be increasingly moving to the center. Here are three I recommend:

  1. We rented the Darren Aronofsky-produced documentary Some Kind of Heaven, about the massive The Villages retirement community in central Florida. It’s a damn spectacle, and although the characters they follow aren’t necessarily representative of the community at-large, it had gorgeous cinematography, a subtle plot, and prompted a lot of deep post-movie conversation about retirement, homeless elders, and the need for community no matter your age or life stage.
  2. Then we watched the documentary Voyeur on Netflix, a true story by journalism icon Gay Talese about the owner of a Colorado motel who secretly watched his guests through vents via an observation platform he built the motel’s attic for decades while keeping thorough journals. Conclusion? People are 😳. And it somehow didn’t address recompense for victims whatsoever.
  3. I’ve mentioned this one before, but if you’re looking for a third documentary to stream this weekend, check out The Rock-afire Explosion, a 2008 documentary about super fans of ShowBiz Pizza Place (and Chuck E. Cheese) who purchase and restore the animatronic bands to share performances out of their garages. You can stream the entire doc on YouTube for free.

Here’s what else I’m tracking this week…

Inauguration Social Highlights: As could be expected, there were viral moments for Bernie Sanders, Lady Gaga and ‘How it Started/How it’s Going’ coming out of festivities this week. Here are some of the best memes. Here’s a website where you can put Bernie anywhere in Google Maps Street View. If you have an iPhone, here’s an AR object for you to magically project him into your home. Amanda Gorman gained 2+ million Insta followers in one day. And here are people sharing photos of the Black women and girls in their lives watching Kamala Harris become VP.

Updated Twitter Accounts:

Wikipedia Turns 20: Happy birthday to the internet’s crowd-sourced encyclopedia! Beyond the free and most easily dissemination of human intellectual capital, the fact anyone can edit Wikipedia has also brought us “edit wars,” where Wiki editors get into huge fights about things like capitalization, Andre the Giant’s height, and lots more. More recently, there’s a TikTok trend emerging that features timed Wikipedia challenges where you try to get from one topic to another via connected Wiki pages (e.g., Try to Get from Barack Obama to Among Us).

The Kids are Alright: It’s a rite of passage for each generation of school children to use music or media to push back on the authority of teachers (Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall, Alice Cooper’s School’s Out, etc.). Today’s kids are finding validation through TikTok, including @zachariahdemylo2 acting out classic teacher tropes, and @thatveganteacher being, well, that vegan teacher.  

Apple’s First Headset to Be Niche Precursor to Eventual AR Glasses: The latest leak in the lead up to Apple’s launch of smart glasses shows the initial product will be a mostly VR device with some AR functionality, in a move to trial headset functionality toward an eventual glasses offering. The rumor mill indicates Apple has planned to launch the product as soon as 2022, going up against Facebook Inc.’s Oculus, Sony Corp.’s PlayStation VR and HTC Corp.

Business Reads of the Week:The Moderation War Is Coming to Spotify, Substack, and Clubhouse; Slack and Zoom Were Distracting Our Teams. Here’s How We Regained Focus; Contenting is Hard

Quick Hits:

Decentralized Social is Coming

Dark social media isn’t new. Your most popular social network today is likely a group text message chat. Portals like Mastodon and Discord have offered communities places to gather beyond the major social platforms for years, while privacy-focused chat apps like Telegram and Signal have had a slow by steady adoption rate. But the former President’s ban from Twitter may have marked the turning point toward the next generation of decentralized and dark social networks where people gather beyond massive, public platforms we tend to think of as “social media.”

Get to know the word Fediverse, which describes social networks running on free, open software and multiple servers (e.g., diaspora, Mastodon and Funkwhale). If you have the technical knowledge, you can even administrate your own server for your friends and family.

Pay attention to how major platforms adjust to the trend toward fediverses – specifically a new Twitter-sponsored initiative called bluesky, which is aiming to build up an “open decentralized standard for social media” that would work similarly to a fediverse (although operated by the one of the world’s largest algorithmic moderators). And pay attention to how the big social networks moderate and limit their platforms, which will accelerate this adoption (although if you’ve been paying attention, this isn’t a new problem).

One of the biggest marketing implications of the move to dark social is the inability for brands to conduct “social listening” to get a pulse of what their target audiences are talking about, and the lack of advertising products with deep audience targeting capabilities. But those implications are often specifically the point of a consumer’s move to a dark social platform, and are something to continue to watch. 

Even Tim Berners-Lee, who was knighted for inventing the foundation of the World Wide Web, is helping move users and companies toward decentralized “pods” versus the current mega-hubs we know today.

One thing is certain: the term “social media” will continue to evolve and decentralize, especially as the rapid technology education and adoption effects of the 2020 pandemic ripple through user habits in 2021.

See you on the internet!

PS: if you dig this, forward it to someone! Or give it a like. Or share it on social! TY!