I don't feel safe on Facebook. Its interface and business model feel like the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal, sucking your content and life force for the profits of its shareholders and advertisers. In 2018 I pledge to post more to my website and create media I can actually search for and support beneficial impact with. I also pledge to create more local in-person events spread by word of mouth and real face to face contact.
Facebook is actually my least favorite place on the whole internet. It often turns into the shittiest version of a town hall where everyone is just bitching within cordoned off marketing corrals of political ideology, stuffing late stage capitalism down your throats in a last hurrah of centralized marketplaces. You can't even program your news feed to show you the info you actually want.
I knew all this going into Facebook, which is why I originally created a satirical profile under a different pseudonym. Yeah right I am going to give my personal information to the public. Also at the time I didn't want my political expressions to be censored or squelshed by my conservative family members. I didn't have the emotional and intellectual maturity at the time to talk with them about my views in a constructive way. As is the case with the majority of people on platforms like Facebook and Twitter today. They are not designed for the depth of dialogue and careful moderation, as well as successful collaborative mobilization that will be required for humanity to make its way through today's problems. Further, as a political activist, managing one's identity is often a careful operation. In this sense and many others I think Facebook actually suppresses political progress.
To emotionally and intellectually digest information on Facebook, I think the user needs a lot more blank space. The platform literally squeezes commerce into every square millimeter it can get away with. On the right hand sidebar right now, I have a bad version of Craigslist showing me random stuff for sale near me, there is a top navigation bar, and a side navigation bar, a central feed and a ride sidebar, all packed to the gills with what to me seems like a completely chaotic display of information. I nearly never click anything on the left or right. And this is without the far right ticker showing you realtime friend activity. It is so bonkers! I hate looking at it. It actually makes my face look different afterward. I look like I just saw the psychic detritus of thousands of traumatized people talking into a platform centered around ego and commerce, displayed on devices that put people in variously hunched over fetal positions.
I wish I could say I'm done with the platform right now. I hope I'm close, or at least will be able to re-center my content creation outside of it and use it more as a channel. I happen to be really good at writing engaging Facebook posts, and it has been a useful social utility for me in making connections with fellow creative activists. My head still feels like garbage after I'm on it, and I honestly feel terrible the entire day after making a post to it. I think this is because I can feel everyone reading it and how uncomfortable they are in that virtual space and what it's telling them about the real world. If people spent less time yelling at each other on the internet and more time with their neighbors building community and localized production, a lot of things would start to get better.
To ditch Facebook, I need a platform that has a better integrated mobilization function, is more carefully designed to support IRL interaction as its priority, and has a community governed way to decide which features to implement. Imagine a Facebook created by the Maker community crossed with really skilled facilitators who have mad chops in mediating conflict across race, class and ideology. But don't imagine a Facebook, imagine that this is just an interface format or plug-in that is available across any website that is a hub for community to share resources and information. And that it has a good, secure identity system. I need to get a thorough rundown on Blockstack from someone over there, but I vaguely know they've been working on the identity problem: https://blockstack.org/
(To finish up the story about my first Facebook profile... After about a year my profile, friend set, and a bunch of really incredible photos people had taken of me at festivals in full costume, all vanished with no warning, with a note that I had violated their names policy. At the time, there was no warning, and no channel to recover my profile to at least pull the data off of it for myself. Once I set up a new profile I regularly download a backup. I do this with Google Drive as well because Google will also pull content down without warning if it finds something out of bounds. These are platforms the user has essentially no voice in their design, governance or policies.)
Since getting involved with Bloom Network in 2010 I've been researching social network designs and following what's out there. At the moment my favorite things are weco.in and scuttlebutt.nz . We've been approached over the years by many companies developing social networks, to be early adopters because we have a large existing global network of interesting people. However, I really think we either have one shot at asking our communities to join a thing, or, and this would be my preference, the next generation of social networks gradually emerges as a more decentralized, interwoven ecosystem, which our website is basically just an inspiring-to-be-on routing engine for.
Bloom will be producing a conference in September 2018 at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. It will be part of a larger cycle of incubating regenerative action projects across the planet. As part of the practical implementation of it, and the needs for digital communication systems across the working groups, I think we're going to end up grabbing the best fit tools for now and beginning to string them together.
We've already spent 8 years designing a decentralized global governance model for Bloom. At the conference we'll be producing a hackathon to complete that including identifying the tech tools we're going to use for voting and proposals etc. I hope we can demonstrate an example of a community-directed technology/utility, which straddles the physical and digital world in a way that supports people in healing their bodies, psyches, and their ecosystems.
With love and passion for creative collaboration,
You can now support the work I'm doing via my Patreon page at http://patreon.com/imaginationhealer. My first goal, at $200/month (I'm already halfway there!), is to produce a video series about my experiences living on gift economy for 5 years. Here's the intro video I made for that, and I hope you'll check out the fun and helpful rewards and choose a tier to support at. Thank you!
I'd like to teach a class for activists on information design. I'm putting together our resources file drive for the local Evolver organizers, and I'm finding myself going through and editing file and folder names so they are shorter, cutting out a lot of explanatory text and sticking to basics, because I know these people are pulling heavy weight and the easier I can make things for them, the better.
There are two things I see often among activist community that if changed, could make the movements more effective. One is marketing - activists often use the same fear-oriented approach that their opponents use and create an environment that exacerbates toxic emotions and grief. For me this led to burnout as an organizer, and I watched a lot of effort go into campaigns that ultimately primarily spoke to "the choir" and brought marginal awareness to people who weren't already aware of the problems and injustices, etc.
And the other is internal communications. If you're going to ask me to be part of your mission, and want to hold hands together creating better systems, please make it easy for me and don't sent me 10 emails in a week that are long with much word fluff and messy logistics that I have to wade through. I think of this as presence - being mindful and respectful of your colleagues' attention bandwidth. Most people want to say yes when asked to help with something great - if in order to say that they have to first spend 20 minutes trying to understand what you are asking them for, you lose 80% of your engagement. I see this a lot in crowdfund outreach, for example. I can nearly never wade through a lengthy email asking me to participate or share a campaign, but when someone makes it very little work for me to share, by using thunderclap or sending me a two-sentence email as opposed to explaining something which would be explained if I just looked directly at their campaign they spent three months preparing... I'm more likely to make the time to participate. The most effective communications I have are when I can put myself in the shoes of the person I'm talking to. When it's multiple different groups that might be in different situations, I make the time to piece out what each of those groups needs to engage, and design my communications for a best fit. This is particularly important when there are unequal power and privilege gradients.
Related to internal communications is checking your emotions at the door. To me all of this is not a game, with the global economic, resource extraction, climate chaos, health and war issues etc etc, it's like message warfare, and I find it helpful to disengage my emotions and think tactically about what is going to be effective. I think one source of ineffective internal and external communications is when you hit the people you're talking to with a wall of fear or panic . It's simply a somatic thing - when I'm faced with that, my body contracts, I get stressed out, and I have to work against my automatic nervous system reaction to run away. Which again, just adds bandwidth for an organizer who is already acting in a place of leadership and networking and "holding space" for a lot of people to feel their emotions and take the step of action.
At some point I'll take a marketing class or attend a conference on it straight up. I know there's a Social Media for Non-Profits conference. Do you know of any others you'd recommend I check out? I'm glad I've been self-taught so far, because the machinery around marketing is something I want to stay aware of not blindly mimicking.