Originally posted at Satellite
The quality of a social network goes down as it grows in size to represent the larger public. This happens merely as a result of the network now representing the “median” of the human condition. The median is of average quality. It represents the orthodox, boring and conventional.
In contrast, progress happens in outliers. Humanity could not have been progressing towards betterment without the at-that-point-in-time fringe-heterodox thinking normally associated with creativity.
This explains why social media was interesting in its beginning years, but have gotten increasingly constrictive (due to censorship) and of average quality in the current times.
The core problem here is the monolithic nature of these social networks, not their size per se. The solution is decentralization, 1 making it impossible for there to be a large monolithic network thus discouraging any form of universal group-think, for there will be no such universal group.
It is time we humans (i.e., each of us individuals) let go of the idea of “humanity” (i.e., as a “group”); decentralized social networks today have a fantastic opportunity to play their technological role in it.
Networks to look forward to
- Similar ideas
- Big Tech censorship likely brought forward decentralized tech
- Social networks: It’s worse than you think - “as the number of messages in the network rises, the quality of those which propagate falls” (interpreting this research)
- What happened to Monica Cellio is worth reading (here’s a timeline) to understand some of the fallings at Stack Exchange as the network grew beyond its original niche.
- Why Is the Web So Monotonous? Google. - degradation of the web from the perspective of boosting of “authorative” source (as a way of soft-censoring others).
Until we get there federation might be an acceptable compromise, as the UK House of Lords recommended in its report
Social media services offer citizens unparalleled opportunities to share their opinions with others. However, this market is dominated by a small number of very powerful companies. Rather than allowing these platforms to monopolise the digital public square, there should be a range of interlinked services between which users can freely choose and move. The Digital Markets Unit should make structural interventions to increase competition, including mandating interoperability.
It is worth keeping in mind, however, that when it comes to Mastodon (federated alternative to Twitter) - federation blocklists adopted by instance admins – and enforced unilaterally on their users – beats the spirit of it all, because many popular instances that adopt IdPol-fested policies end up clustering, and blocking other (non-IdPol adopting) instances en masse. See jointhefedi.com for a list of servers. The problem here is that moderation and censorship is still done by centralized parties (ie. instance admins) rather than voluntarily by the individual people themselves. Any centralized and unilateral enforcing of speech online is likely to become corrupt no matter the intention. Mastodon instances are also more likely to suffer from activist pressure than Twitter.