I like alternative, community-owned, social media. They have the potential to be much less user-hostile, and can be more mindful of the well-being of their users. Yet, pretty much all of them still copy one of the worst features of corporate social media – the linear feed. Let me explain.
We all know the feed. You open it, you are presented with a list of posts. You scroll down more, and, if you see a post you’ve already seen, you’re caught up. It actually works pretty well with a small volume of posts. But, as you follow more frequently-posting people, you’ll go past the point of being able to see every post. If you want to ensure you see updates from rarely posting friends, your only option is to keep scrolling – otherwise they’ll get lost in the noise from more frequent posters. Not that frequent posting means that your posts are less valuable – but, generally speaking, I’d rather see 10 posts from 10 different friends, than 10 posts from 2 friends. I use social media to keep up with people, so I want to have at least a peek at everyone’s lives.
Now, sure, algorithmic feeds can sort of balance that out. But post frequency isn’t the only metric by which we choose whose posts we care about the most. If I just e.g. went to a party with a few people, I’ll want to see their posts first. An algorithm won’t know about that. Furthermore, it still doesn’t guarantee seeing posts from my very rarely posting best friend – so I’ll still end up compulsively scrolling a lot, just out of FOMO.