Platform relationships

Alan Par­son is famously said to have said: “Audio­phi­les don’t use their equip­ment to lis­ten to your music. Audio­phi­les use you music to lis­ten to your equip­ment.” I think, it’s a litt­le bit the same with com­mer­ci­al­ly-ori­en­ted social media plat­forms and human rela­ti­onships: You don’t have a rela­ti­onship to other peo­p­le through a social media plat­form, you have a rela­ti­onship to the social media plat­form through peo­p­le.
Back when it was a thing, I used to be acti­ve on – a Twit­ter-like micro­blog­ging social net­work that went out of busi­ness in March of 2017. The­re was an acti­ve com­mu­ni­ty the­re, and a lot of fun was had. Alas, when the ser­vice went off­line, the data went with it, so the­re was no way to migra­te the com­mu­ni­ty to ano­ther place. A num­ber of other plat­forms aro­se, try­ing to home the com­mu­ni­ty, but the­re was not The One Place to go, so the com­mu­ni­ty frac­tu­red and basi­cal­ly was lost. It turns out, we didn’t have rela­ti­onships with one ano­ther, but a many-face­ted one with
Meta very obvious­ly uses the rela­ti­onship the user has with them on their algo­rith­mi­cal­ly-dri­ven pro­per­ties Face­book and Insta­gram. They mani­pu­la­tively sel­ect what things from the other users of the site (even mani­pu­la­tively cal­led Fri­ends) to show you at what time – making it bru­t­ally obvious who that rela­ti­onship is actual­ly with, and also being par­ti­cu­lar­ly asym­me­tric to boot.
Plat­forms offe­ring you more and more ways to stay in touch with other peo­p­le. There’s pro­ba­b­ly many reasons for that, but one of the effects is that your inter­ac­tions are just all over them, so the­re is even more lock-in – streng­thening the rela­ti­onship you have with them as the plat­form pro­vi­der.
One of the con­se­quen­ces of this hap­pe­ning is that peo­p­le find it hard to lea­ve X/Twitter behind, becau­se “all the peo­p­le the­re.”
If the­re had been rela­ti­onships with the peo­p­le, the­re would be other means to be in touch with them. If you need to be on the plat­form to be in touch with them – it’s not real­ly a rela­ti­onship with them.
So: how many peo­p­le you are in touch with on social media do you have other cont­act infor­ma­ti­on for? Can you mes­sa­ge them on one of the gad­zil­li­on instant mes­sa­ging apps? Can you send them an e‑mail? Can you give them a ring?
Who could you give a ring to now?

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