Article: Stepping Back From Social Networks

by on January 6, 2018

As we start 2018 and the meta-topics of social networks are being discussed on social networks, I started thinking about my use and what value these are bringing to my life. I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to share my strategy with some thoughts on what led me to those decisions. These conclusions may not work for you, but maybe they’ll serve as some inspiration.


I’ve effectively stopped using Facebook, have even deactivated my account, but haven’t quite deleted it yet. I’ve been generally unsatisfied with their service when the site tried to be too much for too many people, notably when the change was made to algorithm-ify the News Feed, and focus on trending news stories. I would’ve rather had the firehose of content from people I cared about, rather than that posts from that one person who I should probably just unfriend, but posts all the time. As for the news stories, they generally gave me a sense of disappointment that this is what the collective whole of Facebook is finding interesting and worthwhile.

The bigger concern is how Facebook has been accused of doing creepy things—getting around app restrictions by using audio on mobile, possibility listening with the microphone, tracking for the sake of ads across sites, and just being a bad citizen on iOS in general. Splitting functionality across apps also makes it tougher to compartmentalize the nonsense. I think the fact that it took forever for it to come to the iPad also made me begin to lose interest.

The SchwarzTech Facebook page has also been removed, as cross-posting became a bit harder and the company seemed to only care about boosting traffic to my page and telling me how I’m not doing a good job of it.


Despite loathing Facebook, I actually enjoy the concept of Instagram quite a bit. I follow a mix of real-life friends, tech people, and a few other notable semi-famous people. I like it because it is sort of the world in a happy, sanitized, perfect place, not to mention that it’s generally based around positivity. People share neat places they’ve been to, odds and ends they’ve found funny, pets, or something like that, and the only thing you can do is like. There’s a chance Facebook will ruin it entirely, but for now I’m starting to trust the app less and less and browse via the web.


Ah yes, Twitter, the one that I really do have a love/hate relationship with. Despite my firm belief that many social networks are what you make them, the last year or so has taken a turn of normal people caring more about politics and social injustices and so even following people that aren’t in those areas will lead to your timeline being full of retweets and stories that will surely frustrate you. While this is a good thing, it also has made Twitter more exhausting and it just seems that the general feel is more anxious and grumpy.

What gets me more is that the company itself has been so tone-deaf to all the bad things happening on its service and doesn’t seem to care, because eyeballs are on screens, leading to ad revenue. For that reason, I’m more inclined to use the service less and not support that business model. The hubris that the company thinks of itself as more than just a tech company that could be replaced also leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Besides trying to use the service less for my personal use, I’ve cut back the @schwarztech account to basically be a place for posts to be shared. I didn’t want to take away this avenue for those who use it, but I didn’t see as much value in retweeting and maintaining it as an Apple news channel.


Not a social network, but I did find any blogs or sites that I enjoyed and followed on Twitter and moved them back to a Fever° installation, syncing to Reeder. It’s nice because as long as people keep publishing, I get the items when they appear—algorithms and trends be damned!

My only gripe is that Reeder and Fever° don’t do a good job of detecting RSS feeds, and some sites don’t always publish the link. I’m keeping this site available via traditional RSS or JSON feed.

Apple News

Similarly, I removed most sites that I had on Apple News that were also on my RSS subscriptions. I still get most world, business, and sports news from Apple News, but I didn’t like how things in the tech area often were omitted or skipped in favor of an algorithm. I also know that I can skip it for a day or two and come back and won’t really miss anything too important.

If you do like Apple News, there is a SchwarzTech channel that I may eventually get around to dressing up with the more advanced features.


I pop in to a few subreddits for geeky things I enjoy every now and then, but it’s somewhat minimal. I thought the service deserved a mention, but it’s no different than some of the discussion forums I participate in through various web sites.

Going back to Twitter, I love the interactions and idea of the service, but sort of hate the company and noise. Manton Reece was also sick of it and was born. It’s a bit clunkier than Twitter, has a paid component if you aren’t going to roll your own timeline (anything that pumps out an RSS feed is fine), but you own your content and that’s some good community guidelines. If you just want to lurk, that doesn’t require anything.

So far, I like it (I’m ecschwarz), but I have found that there are a lot less people there and the participation is lower. I’m hoping it picks up and isn’t the next, because the idea is really really appealing.


So where am I going this year? If takes off, I’ll probably use it a lot more, especially since I control the archive/source material, and it will undoubtedly become a playground for my web geek side. Facebook may stay on life support or I’ll finally not care about an old acquaintance here or there that I can’t reach any other way and delete it entirely. I’ll keep using Instagram and Twitter, but really want to see Twitter clean up its act or cut back on my use.

On the other hand, I recall the halcyon days of the mid-2000s when there were a lot of new social networks, old ones dropping off and disappearing, and can only hope that something new comes along with enough traction to make some of the existing ones a thing of the past. That shuffling allowed new services to spring up if old ones didn’t adapt. You probably wouldn’t have so much, “Well, I hate x, but there’s nothing else to use,” argument.

With the start of the new year, it’s always a good time to re-evaluate your relationships with various businesses and services and, while I’ve made some choices, hopefully this will inspire you to think about what aspects you value, what services you’re sick of, and what is the best use of your time.

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