Until relatively recently, I took about an eight year absence from social media. I didn't miss it. I don't miss items I don’t know about and never had. I thought I would observe what I've seen coming back.
I left at – what it now turns out to be – the height of blogging. I look at my old theatre blog roll and vast majority of bloggers have stopped. My little blog here remains mainly for friends and people who've met me, and is my small response to producing the type of content I want to read.
If you don't see the stories you want – write them!
I do miss those blogs. The theatre ones gave me a lively insight from critic to practitioner to audience. What I see now is a shadow of then. Ever pragmatic, I do not see that short era coming back.
I've seen many short form tweets, as noisy and divisive. I have seen pockets of wonder there, Robert MacFarlane's words of the day. The story of Megan Phelps-Roper leaving her religious cult. The way you can dive down into one person's threads of thought. But, despite Phelps-Roper's story, I am with Ray Dalio that we've mostly lost the art of thoughtful disagreement.
The weaponisation of Facebook and its response (with links to thoughtful early investor and critic) was as surprising to me as it was initially to Mark Zuckerberg, but obvious in hindsight (perhaps the clearest but least useful of the 4 sights: oversight, foresight and insight).
Still, I see social media reflect humanity. The best of us, the worst of us. I've seen a post on the death of a partner, next to a birth of a child; the sorrow of a sudden infant death, the joy of a cancer cured; cake recipes next to diets; incredible generosity for a struggling homeless lady next to streams of hate.
I've observed Zuck's stated purpose – of connections – flourish, when bringing together vehicle transport enthusiasts in a way unthinkable 20 years ago.
It's allowed me to reconnect with an early dramaturgical teacher, many theatre people and allowed me insight into disabled and other communities, I would have struggled to find.
Like does seem to connect with like, which leads to less thoughtful disagreement and less creativity to difficult problems; and my small contribution leaning against that is in the Mingle and in pushing for real world connections. Minglers have really enjoyed it.
Taking a step back, like so many tools of human ingenuity, it can be used for good, or used for ill; or used for cat memes.
But, if those who know better, or can do better – if those people step away – then the eco-system will be poorer.
Social media embodies many facets of humanity, it's not going away, and it will be what we make of it, for better or worse.
More thoughts: My Financial Times opinion article on the importance of long-term questions to management teams and Environment, Social and Governance capital.
If you'd like to feel inspired by commencement addresses and life lessons try: Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; or Nassim Taleb's commencement address; or JK Rowling on the benefits of failure. Or Charlie Munger on always inverting; Sheryl Sandberg on grief, resilience and gratitude or investor Ray Dalio on on Principles.