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A social misfit on social media

24 April 2016

This morning I gained a bunch of followers on Twitter, and got added to half a dozen lists.

I’m not going to follow them back or add them and sooner or later they, or their bots, will work that out, and drop me, or unfollow me, and when that happens it’ll look bad in the statistical trackers. That doesn’t bother me much, because I don’t work like that. I don’t solicit followers on Twitter, and I rarely follow back someone who follows unless I’m interested in what they have to say.

socialmisfitIt seems that my mind doesn’t work the way social media expect people’s minds to work.

The thing that got me so many new followers and got me added to so many new lists was that I posted something about “user experience” on my other blog. And my experience is that whenever software marketers go on about an “improved user experience” it is invariably coupled with degraded software performance. They add more bells and whistles by melting down the pistons and cylinders.

But because I posted some rather detrimental comments about “user experience” on web pages, I suddenly get people following me and lists adding me because I used the #ux hashtag. Well, perhaps it will do some good. Maybe if a few more web designers get the message and start using more legible fonts it might help.

Another example is the Patheos website, and this is a more serious theological point. I discovered that some of blogs that I used to read regularly had disappeared from their usual places, and reappeared on something called Patheos.

My initial reaction was not very favourable, and you can find more about that on my original post. But there’s something else, which I think is more important. You see, Patheos claims to be “hosting the conversation on faith”. Now that tells me right away that my blogs don’t fit there, because none of them are really part of a conversation on faith. A bunch of blogs having a conversation on faith seems to me to be horribly introspective, introverted and self-referential. Narcissistic, even.

Some of my friends have talked about “public theology” and “theology in the public square”, but Patheos seems to be doing the opposite — removing the “conversation on faith” from the public square and confining it to some sort of religious ghetto. And anyway, it shouldn’t, for the most part, be a conversation on faith, but rather should be faith conversing on life. Add the universe and everything as well — them too.

I suppose Patheos must seem like a very good thing to those militant atheists who demand “freedom from religion”. Get the “conversation on faith” neatly corralled into one little corner of the web and they know where to stay away from. Except that Patheos has them covered, and has an atheist section as well.

And then there are those web pages — usually articles recommended on one or other social medium — where you haven’t read the first sentence before something pops up, hiding what you were reading, and asking you to like it on Facebook or subscribe to some newsletter. Unless the first half of the first sentence is very, very interesting so that I really want to read it, that is the point at which I go back to the original page where I found the link.

But the point is, what are the web designers thinking?

What are their expectations of the people who will look at that page?

That they will like something before they’ve read it? That they will subscribe to every publication with a link to that they haven’t read?

A long time ago I was browsing through magazines in a newsagent, trying to see which ones had articles that interested me. I was definitely going to buy one, I was just trying to decide which one. The shop owner demanded that I put them down. I must buy them sight unseen, and read them at home. I walked out of the shop and never went back. Now web page designers seem to do the same thing. I see no problem with them asking such things at the end, when I’ve read the article, but popping them up at the beginning seems to expect a mentality that is very foreign to me.

All this makes me think I must be a social media misfit, and this article suggests that I am: Social Media & Personality: Are You a Misfit? – Louise Myers Visual Social Media.

That makes sense, except for one thing: if I find this stuff weird because I’m an introvert, why do I find the whole concept behind Patheos rebarbative because it is too introspective and introverted?

Now, if you’ve read this far, and find it interesting, you can post it on Facebook or Twitter by clicking on the relevant button below. But if I was fit for social media, I should have asked you to do so at the beginning. You don’t have to read it, you just have to “like” it.

But, better still, write a comment below (not on Facebook) to tell me where and how you agree or disagree with what I’ve written. That’s a conversation, even if it isn’t strictly about faith.




3 Comments leave one →
  1. 24 April 2016 6:03 pm

    Steve, the text which keeps moving up and down is because of advertisements that are being loaded. If you install a browser extension like Adblock then it stops a lot of those type of annoyances.

  2. 25 April 2016 12:02 pm

    On the social misfit topic, I agree with you wholeheartedly. I don’t chase Twitter followers or list adds – even though it does sometimes feel good to get a new follower, or be added to a list – and I acknowledge that the majority of those people are bots anyway, who will never actually read my tweets.

    I follow-back a little more than you do, I think, but it’s hardly automatic. I use a new follow as a cue to go and check out the person’s Twitter feed, and if I find them interesting, I follow back. Having said that, I tend to unfollow just as quickly, if I start seeing tweets from that person that don’t interest me AT ALL. Twitter’s not Facebook – it’s not expected that the people you follow on Twitter will be your friends, and you should in no way feel bad about unfollowing them.

    Regarding popups, I used to feel exactly the same way as you do, and leave a website the moment one popped up. But then I realised that the article itself is often interesting, and besides, the author of said article often has no control over the popup (if they’ve written the article for some other publication). Now I just wait for the popup to finish loading… or at least until I see a “Close” button somewhere, and click it.

    I at once agree and disagree with your views on Pathos. On the one hand, it is our responsibility as Christians to spread the Good News, and so it would make sense to be having these faith-based conversations as publicly as possible. On the other hand, it’s been my experience that when Christians get to bickering about issues of dogma and other miscellany, it often drives non-Christian spectators further away. We’re not very good at presenting a united front, I’m afraid.

    Finally, yes, some website’s font choices are terrible. I particularly loathe those that insist on putting the main font of their article in a light grey, which is impossible to read on a white background.

    Also, since my eyesight’s pretty bad, I tend to view most websites at a zoom level of around 200%, so that I can sit back comfortably and read the text. It infuriates me when sites don’t support zooming to begin with, or worse, look terrible at that zoom level. The latter is worse than the former, because at least if I see the website doesn’t support zooming in the browser, I’ll switch to the Windows Magnifier.

    For the same reasons, I very VERY seldom read articles on my cellphone. I much prefer to send the URL to my desktop and read the article there. But some links are to “mobile-only” websites, which really don’t look good at all when viewed from the desktop, and I have to take extra effort to find the desktop version.

    It’s the same thing when I click on some links from Twitter (I use Twitter from the desktop; hardly ever from my phone), and the person who made the tweet did so from a mobile phone: I get the mobile version.

    Websites should automatically detect screen resolution, and allow (and look good at) all Zoom levels up to the maximum the browser supports.

    User Interface Design definitely needs some work!

  3. 30 April 2016 9:00 am

    Also the Microsoft Edge browser has a ‘Reading View’ button which strips the text from the article and displays it in a very readable form.

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