Is Mastodon the solution?

By Ande Jacobson

I’ve written about social media before, most recently as the Twitter turmoil was ramping up. I originally joined Twitter back in 2011 mostly to help bolster my fledgling A Good Reed Review website. Originally, that’s all I used it for. Every time I’d publish a piece on the site, I’d have it appear on the site’s Facebook page and on what I considered its Twitter account. Then I got involved in politics in a more substantial way in 2020 volunteering for the Biden text team during the general election. At that point, I started using my Twitter account for more than just the music and theater related content on my website, and I started to recognize much of the good that Twitter could do. News agencies had long used it to get important information out quickly, particularly in times of crisis. The same was true for various public figures. Continue reading

Social media again

By Ande Jacobson

With all the hype about Elon Musk buying Twitter and taking it private to avoid oversight as a private company, it seems like a good time to revisit the world of social media. I wrote a piece about a year ago talking about the good side of Facebook (yes, it can be used for good). All of the social media platforms have one thing in common, how one uses them determines one’s user experience. Every platform can be used for good or ill, but a user can avoid most of the effects of the algorithms and advertising by using them deliberately. In this case, deliberate means not “doom scrolling” and leaving what they see to the manipulative algorithms but instead consciously choosing what content to view.

On most social media platforms, a user makes connections or follows various people and pages. To use social media platforms deliberately, one can search for or bookmark their favorite pages and go directly to those. Alternatively, one can start with their own profile and pick from there. Hiding ads also reduces the number of ads one sees pretty effectively. Continue reading

The good side of Facebook

By Ande Jacobson

Growing up, we wrote letters. We also talked on the telephone, but if people lived more than just a few miles away those phone calls could quickly get expensive, much more so than the cost of a stamp. I remember when I was in eighth grade, I had a friend who was a high school junior who lived past our local calling zone, so we would write long letters back and forth. After we had been doing this for some time, I accompanied her to school one day when I had a holiday and she didn’t. Throughout the day I went to all of her classes and met a bunch of her friends, all of whom were avid Star Trek fans. She and I originally met at a Star Trek convention, so it stands to reason that many of her friends would be trekkies. After that day, her letters became a compilation of letters from all of these friends, so mine got very long in response. Even mailing these thick letters back and forth was far cheaper than it would have been to call in those days. There was no email or social media back then, at least not for the general public, but computers were beginning to be more accessible in schools and workplaces albeit in mainframe form. In fact my letter associates were all in a computer class at their school and tried to get their teacher to find a way to let me join them. He was game, but we just couldn’t work out the logistics given I was too young to drive at the time. Two of the students in that class who were part of our letter writing group had coded one of the best Star Trek games I’d ever seen, though they took it with them when they graduated. Continue reading

The magic of the written word

By Ande Jacobson

Writing can be a powerful tool. Written words have the power to induce strong emotions. They give us a way to record history, events, and ideas. They can entertain and inspire. In telling a story, a writer is often trying to elicit a strong response in their readers. As a reader, it can be quite enjoyable to lose one’s self in a well-told story that runs us through a variety of emotional responses.

With the ubiquity of text messaging, the internet, email, and social media, many of us are thrust into the role of writer as well as reader on a daily basis. We share ideas and concerns as we connect with friends and foes, often making new friends along the way. We debate, we cajole, we support, and we entertain through our written exchanges. And sadly, we can sometimes push people we care about away. Continue reading