Words by Luke Alland.
Twitter is the Wild West; Instagram and Facebook want brands to splash their cash on ads and for you, as a consumer, to inhale them like McNuggets after a night out; TikTok is basically unhinged; Pinterest and Tumblr are dead to most, and video content on YouTube just gets shorter and shorter with, well, 'Shorts'.
I have to ask the question: do you ever have to stop yourself deep into a doom scroll, or Instagram Reel/TikTok hole when you've seen one or two too many videos that make you think, "yeah maybe I should go to bed"? I'm as guilty as you. That dopamine hit you get from a call-and-response type video or the quick resolution to a question you'd never ask yourself is almost too much sometimes. Since the decision from Instagram to promote short-form video content to rival the explosion of TikTok, I genuinely think that my brain needs some equivalent of a factory reset. I find my attention span waning in certain conditions, and especially if someone shares a video with me. I can never consume just one. That's the scary thing. We all talk about consuming content, as if it's there to be gobbled up. We've moved away from the Michelin Star days of having things curated for us, to now a complex algorithm that somewhat arbitrarily decides to push what it thinks you want.
A few days ago, I found myself on an Instagram account which I liked, ended up scrolling through a number of the photos and videos, liked a few, gave them the follow and decided to return to my home screen. When I refreshed, eight of the first ten posts on my feed were from that account, and the worst part is, I'D ALREADY LIKED 5 OF THEM. If the goal of Instagram is to peddle us this content, why is it showing me things I've already engaged with? It's almost as if they want to drive up the impression stats for no reason whatsoever. It makes absolutely no sense to me that we just keep getting update after update that simply makes the app worse, yet we all just seem to live with it.
The other social media platforms out there are just as toxic. Twitter is something I have never really gotten the hang of properly; it almost feels you need to be on it every minute of every day and to consume absolutely every piece of news to be able to provide the witty commentary and sharp insights that people want to see. That is, if you haven't already got a platform from which you can project your thoughts to the world. Even then, you're only 280 characters or less away from being universally cancelled—and be it rightly or wrongly—it's a precipice that not everyone should be allowed to fall from.
Editor Rikesh, on the other hand, has always had a soft spot for Twitter. To him, it provided the best essence of what social media should be: a tool to communicate, engage, interact, learn. It was essentially a forum for debate and sharing cool things you wouldn't necessarily find—unless you were deep-diving around Tumblr or Reddit or 4chan. But for him it's where he essentially kickstarted his music career, by sharing songs with radio producers and presenters; it's where he first started speaking to his wife; it's where he went to get breaking news—normally hours before anything would be televised. There's a lot of nostalgia regarding Twitter, and it's a poignant reminder of what could've been. In recent years and months, it's gone through a bit of a weird trajectory, and the excess of vitriol, fake news, hate speech and bullying has only escalated through the likes of Trump. Now with Elno, sorry, Elon, at the helm, it's getting more and more ridiculous, more vile (no thanks to Ye's unfortunate return) and honestly, I think everyone has accepted that it'll never be the same again.
Ideally, I think the majority of us want a social media platform that we can all use, that has a smattering of our interests involved, with a few celebrities we like chucked into the mix. But most importantly, something that we can share moments with our friends. I know you might be thinking, "Well, BeReal gives me that opportunity", but in reality, it's Snapchat or Stories with a timer. If you're working a 9-5 and it gives you a prompt at 10:23, realistically you're going to be working. We all KNOW that we are going to be working, therefore even that platform is lacquered with the we-must-be-doing-something-interesting-at-every-minute-of-the-day coating.
Instagram and social media in general has changed my life, in good ways and bad. It has given me the opportunities I never thought possible. It has given me the chance to meet many likeminded people, and to find a community that I have been able to feel a part of. This reality is the same for many others that have managed to create an online presence, and ones that have done a far better job than I have made fortunes from being able to capitalise on it. Some doing great things. Others, not so much.