Social Internet Versus Social Media

One of my favorite bloggers is computer scientist Cal Newport. I found this great quote on a podcast (at 50:42) from 2019 wherein he discussed his then recent book, Digital Minimalism. The context here is Cal’s apt distinction between the social-internet and social-media:

“When you go back out to the wild social internet, it’s such a better experience. And so this is why I’ve been a blogger for a long time. I think the blogosphere, though weirder and harder to navigate is, for example, a much better repository of expression and information than, say, Facebook or Twitter is.”

This resonated with me of course; I’m a blogger on Blogger and still enjoy the blogosphere (e.g. WordPress Reader). I don’t use social media anymore and don’t miss it. And I’ve written about this before, saying The Web Itself Is The Social Network.

Though engaging, algorithmically curated silos — like the Facebook Newsfeed — are inferior to the wide open web where individual blogs once flourished. Outside of social media, many people enjoy the web’s data as the internet-backbone serves up info via mobile apps. And beyond that, most people click links no further than one Google search result deep. But it’s a privilege to surf the social internet from site to site and page to page, bookmarking, copying URLs, or commenting on someone’s specialized blog.

As Newport points out, it’s a bit harder for some people to navigate the web to its fullest, discovering new sites and blogs via ubiquitous hyperlinks. But I’d say sowing the extra effort is well worth the abundant harvest of uniquely expressive blogs, deeply informative websites, and utilitarian web apps. Staying within the confines of a limited feed strips the web, and the web surfer, of a rich internet experience.

Would you rather give up the open web or social media?