Welcome to Hunter-Gatherer, a weekly newsletter where I give you one thing to try, to think about and a question to respond to nurture your relationship with the Internet. In an online-first world, we're all hunters & gatherers of information.
I am really grateful for all the responses to my previous letter about escaping social media addiction. While technology helps the human gain more control over our environment, the battle for who takes over that control goes on. My aim here is to help users take back control from the companies who run the Internet.
There's a mental model for how I visualize all social media to be. And it is from this mental model that all insights and my advice around using social media stems from. That's what I'll talk about in this letter.
A simple premise: Since the dawn of time, we've come up with various mediums to communicate with each other.
Different mediums, be it text, audio, videos, allow us to communicate in different ways. These mediums are made of some combination of the 5 sensory signals that can be processed by humans. The beauty of the digital medium is that it gives us a blank slate to allow these signals to be combined in all kinds of medium formats for humans to communicate in: Tweets, Blogs, Snap Stories, etc. which is then communicated over the Internet with anyone and everyone.
Each medium allows us to communicate in it's own way. We send our messages through these mediums, and these mediums influence the messages we create. The mediums we come up with has a broad impact on the culture, which was first theorized by philosopher Marshall McLuhan who coined the famous phras"Medium is the Message."
There are two implications of the previous point that is of use to us here:
→ Social Media platforms are simply environments for people to exchange content in various medium formats.
→ In-person interactions are not inferior or superior than digital interactions. It is just different and is suitable for different purposes.
The biggest delusion of Facebook is thinking it is a digital replication of our social lives. It cannot be. It can only be yet another way for us to communicate. LinkedIn seems to be presuming something similar to our business lives. Both LinkedIn and Facebook don't focus on any single, standardized medium format for communicating. Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit and Medium, are all based on creating a network around a particular medium format.
With that said, this is a coherent framework from which all my advice on using social media stems from. I anticipate this framework to change and evolve, and I request you to help me do that with your thoughts and experiences. All resulting implications are my choices and if you disagree or come up with new ones, I would especially love to hear from you.
1. Social Media Feeds are flowing "streams" of Content. Originally, organized by time. Now, as “judged” by proprietary Algorithms.
2. Social Media Networks are created based around a Context. The clearer the context, the cleaner can be your streams.
An Implication: "Follow if you like the Content" is a clear context making cleaner streams possible. "Follow if you are a Friend or a Business Connection" is a vague context often leading to murkier streams of content.
3. Use social media platforms with a clearer context. Follow that context for every connection you make. Here, Naval Ravikant expands on this context with the rule: "Block the outraged, Like the Kind, Mute the Nitpickers, Follow the Insightful"
An Example: If your favourite creator on YouTube doesn't post creative pictures on Instagram, don't follow them on IG. If you are following someone on Instagram for their stories, mute their posts.
4. Configure your social media app to maintain this Context.
An Implication: "Follow" means content arrives in your feed. That implies don't let algorithms dictate what you receive. Turn it off on Twitter and confine yourself to subscriptions tab on YouTube.
5. Discovery of all content through sources whose judgement you can understand and value.
An Implication: The judgement of Algorithms is not accessible to you. Individuals often pick and save their favourite content from the social media streams, and have now popularly started sharing their curations in NewsLetters. You must find a few individuals whose judgement you trust and subscribe to their newsletters.
6. In a long-enough timescale, Twitter is the only platform that can be a truly public network. A filmmaker can tweet. A musician can tweet. An entrepreneur can tweet. A writer tweets. The same can't be said about producing videos on YouTube, or blogs on Medium.
7. Different kinds of medium demand different kinds of attention.
An Implication: Using social media that organize around a type of medium means you can better immerse in the "stream" as per your mood.
8. Optimize your media consumption for maximum immersion. That way it is more fun, useful, engaging and even interactive.
An Implication: Find the biggest screen to watch a video and best headphones to listen to music. Content that is not worth deeply engaging is what we call "junk". Consuming "junk content" does to your mind, what consuming "junk food" does to your body.
→ The above points, to the best of my understanding, cover all of Social Media platforms with one-to-many information exchange. If you think it doesn't, I would love to know your thoughts.
What I just did for social media, one of my favourite writers, Venkatesh Rao, does this for the entire Internet as shown in the picture below. Here's the link to that essay describes it all.
Maggie Appleton synthesized Venkatesh's ideas to create another gorgeous illustration of the web: https://maggieappleton.com/cozy-web
I hope these ideas help you come with your own ideas on how to leverage the most powerful technology of our times: The Internet, for years to come. And you already know the person who will be most excited to hear about them.
Here’s the link to my letter about escaping social media addiction. Please share it with whoever you think might find it useful.