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Social Media in Plain Text?
This is less of a post and more of a quick idea I wanted to vent.
I wonder what it would be like to have a social networking platform in plain text format without any particular UX design or hidden user retention features. Just a chronological, searchable feed, explicitly designed to be as unimpressive and plainly boring as possible. The whole idea is that the interface is not aesthetically pleasing and the platform is only going to be used for strictly practical purposes such as writing messages to contacts, publishing posts to one or more groups of people, and perhaps sharing media content with them. Following interactions between strangers would not be the norm on this platform. There is not any fancy “discovery function” so you will typically only engage with the specific content you search out for yourself. There are no follows, likes, emojis, stories, chatbots, or retweets. Without timestamps, conversations/timelines could look something like this:
Such a minimalistic-designed social network cannot make profits, of course. It would have to be a public domain/open-source kind of project. But then again, the network won’t make people addicted, as there are no recommendation algorithms to harvest users’ data or consume their precious time and attention. On top of that, the ultra-simple format would discourage users from shitposting much.
There would not be a lot of fun on the platform either, but fun is not the point here. The point is to have a minimum viable social network trimmed of all fat and based on the realization that a global internet town square is not feasible or desirable, but we still need something. Contrary to Threads, BlueSky, Discord, Mastodon, this network is not looking to catch Twitter fugitives. In fact, it’s not trying to fulfill any user engagement metrics, or do or be anything at all. It’s just existing. As a convenient, information calorie-dense tool with less of the noise, attention-seeking hype, stupidity, and wickedness of social media. I imagine it as a curious mix of Outlook, old school text messages, Slack, and Mastodon. If such a social platform that I have in mind truly existed, I would use it over all the others. Wouldn’t it be great?
Reads of the Week
The Moral Case for No Longer Engaging With Elon Musk - Dave Lee, October 05, 2023 (Bloomberg).
What people ask me most. Also, some answers. - Ethan Mollick, October 12 (One Useful Thing).