Photo by Artyom Malyukov
In high school, you needed to be at the mall (this was the 90s, work with me here).
During practice with the first band I was in, I remember walking to the mall on a Friday night. Some of us started driving, so then we piled in the car.
You’d go to the mall to see your high school friends in a non high school setting. See and be seen.
Where my “social media is the food court” thing breaks down is that with social media, movie stars, pro athletes, rock gods, and everyone else are there, too.
An off-hand Tweet could get you on the nightly news. It could get you fired. It could get you laid.
Getting laid was a possibility with the food court analogy, but still.
As the big conversation focus on “where do we go next,” I just see how it’s like growing up, and getting away from hanging out at the mall.
Some people went to clubs, some people went to bars or diners, some people started broom hockey leagues (it me).
We have some Discords, which feel like bars or coffee shops.
And some people are heading to Mastodon, or doubling down on Instagram (owned by another person of questionable character), or god forbid LinkedIn.
This all just feels like moving our hang out sessions from Perkins to Chilis or IHOP, where we keep putting money into the pockets of giant corporations, and where we sign up for their set of rules and regulations.
I saw a group posting about “well, if Twitter goes down tomorrow, you’ll find us somewhere.”
As if buying a domain name for $15 and setting up a SquareSpace site for $20 is some impossible, herculean task.
We all figured out how buy tickets from Ticketmaster and then installed their shitty app and showed them at the venue to get entry, didn’t we? We figured that out.
We figured out how the fuck to make Instagram Stories, and assorted video assets on TikTok and Snapchat.
Some of us printed out directions from MapQuest back in the day to get to shows.
We’re smarter than we think.
And if you don’t know how to do it, you can just ASK THE INTERNET.
Google is right there, people.
My headlight burned out. I was able to find three videos on YouTube, for my exact model car, and learned how to change the bulb in 10 minutes.
And if you have a website, everyone can find you.
Not everyone is on Instagram, or Twitter, of Facebook, or Mastodon, or whatever other tech-bro, VC backed bullshit app comes out that exists to harvest your data and sell it to ad brokers.
Will we have all the addictive qualities Twitter, with the pull down “arm” of the slot machine, always able to reload with some bullshit update from a friend of a friend talking about their favorite vegetables?
Most likely not.
And will we randomly be able to find someone who got fired from Starbucks for unionizing their store? Not easily, no, not if we’re all hiding in this digital silos, walled off from the entire fucking internet in some bullshit app.
I’m bummed for Len, I am! But if Twitter burns to the ground tomorrow, how the heck will we hear about this horrid behavior from Starbucks? (here is Len’s GoFundme link, BTW)
Well, I guess we can start with this website: Starbucks Workers United, which looks like it’s run by The Rochester Regional Joint Board.
It’s maybe not updated at the same rate as someone like Len is Tweeting, but it’s there. And there’s room for other people (like me, or YOU) who are interested in this are to start covering it, which is vital since so many newsrooms across the country are gutted.
Someone could start a newsletter on Substack and get 100 subscribers in a week, I’m sure (I searched and can’t find one). Or a YouTube channel.
Build a site, set up an email address for it, and ask people like Len to send you updates here and there. Get the word out that you’re pissed, and want to help.
The same could be done for the tragedy at Club Q, and all the senseless shootings. Or the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Or the local art scene in your city.
Will you be the biggest coolest viral website in the world? No. But it might help a few hundred people unionizing their coffee shop in a small town.
We’ve been spending HOURS every day scrolling through social media, uploading our photos and thoughts and ideas. Imagine if we spent hours learning WordPress, writing newsletters, and editing videos?
Imagine if we started building small teams around big ideas?
Yes, social media was great for a time (by design). Friendships were born, and we learned a lot, and it was VITAL work – social justice, Black Lives Matter, the me too movement, but these CEOs are not going to roll back the clock.
It will never get any easier to get the word out on social media platforms.
All the bands promoting their next show, to Starbucks unions, to the fight for reproductive rights – it was all built on rented property.
We all fell for the promise of eyeballs and audience, like foot-traffic at the local mall food court.
But Zuckerberg and Musk own the eyeballs and the audience. They own the mall, they set the hours, and they keep raising the rent.
From Heavy Metal Email
It’s time to get back to updating websites, and sending out newsletters. The web is free and open. We’re smart, but we put all the power and energy into building our storefront at the mall, and they just changed the hours.
Is “getting the word out” on social media easy? Technically, like uploading a photo and adding some text? Oh yes. Beyond that, we’re fucked.
On top of all this – no one is owed an audience.
Your band has riffs? Man, I got 50 years of riffs. What makes you so special?
You got inspirational words about doing great work? Fantastic, 80,000 similar posts were just uploaded on all the major social media platforms – today. It starts over tomorrow.
But Starbucks unionization?
State wide reproductive rights?
Local and regional show listings?
Development, homelessness, gentrification?
Lack of diversity in the workplace? In politics?
Selling records or VHS tapes from your cool store?
Let’s stop figuring out where we go next, and start building our own thing.