Since June 1, 2022, the date on which I began my homelessness and roamed across the United States and Canada as a nomad, I’ve published 115 blog posts, 94 of which were related to my travel in some way. I like taking photographs of everything around me, not only because I want to save them as memories, but also because I want to share them with the rest of the world so they can see what I see from my perspective, and I think blog posts are a great way to achieve this.
Naturally, one of the questions I regularly receive is why I do this on my own website and not on social media. In a broader sense, I get asked once in a while as to why I tend to just avoid using much social media in general. After getting my fair share of “you could have a cool Instagram account with all these travel pictures,” I decided to address why I have been running a personal website since 2003, blogging regularly since 2007, and avoiding social media platforms.
I do not want to give free content to other companies.
I’m not a particularly money-hungry person. You may have noticed that my website (at least as of today) does not have any advertisements or promotional content, because I want my readers to be able to enjoy my content without interruption. I’m also willing to do things for friends without charging them—for example, I’ll give them rides to places or run errands for them without an expectation of mileage reimbursement or payment, just as a way for me to have an excuse to go outside, move my body, and get some fresh air.
With that being said, I do not give anything for free to people who do not deserve it, and especially not to companies that do not deserve it.
If I upload content to social media, I perceive that as giving my content to massive social media corporations for free. A majority of social media platforms would not pay me for my content, and even if some of them did, the amount of money I would receive from them is so negligible that I’d rather just decline it and keep full ownership of my own content.
Sure, you could look at it as the social media platforms paying me with exposure by promoting my content to a wider audience, but my objective here is not to try and get famous off my content—all I want to do is leave behind a memoir of my life and share it with those who care enough to come searching for it on my personal website.
Social media doesn’t last forever.
I pretty much do not delete anything. Ever since around the middle of high school, I have obsessively kept everything that I’ve ever created from that point forward, and also went back and archived a lot of content I created as a younger kid. I believe in keeping as comprehensive of a library of my creations as possible, so I make sure to keep backups and never put the “primary” copy of things anywhere it could be easily lost.
The stuff from high school that I mentioned above? It literally still exists, live, on this very website. I have intentionally made the navigation to older content pretty difficult in order to avoid people from uncovering some of my cringey content from my past, but it’s still technically all there for the particularly dedicated detectives who want to see what I was like as a teenager.
Imagine if I had written all that content on social media instead. Back then, I guess I would’ve been writing blog posts on MySpace. After MySpace basically died, I imagine I would’ve transitioned onto Facebook. Nowadays, Facebook is sort of falling out of favor… and there isn’t really even a great platform to write long-form content anymore. Would I post my photos on Instagram now, then write 3,000-word captions to the photos?
Not only would this make my work spread out all over the place, but if any of these social media platforms go out of business, my work that was originally published there would be lost unless I go manually transfer them over… but it wouldn’t be a one-to-one transfer, because then that would modernize the date stamps.
There are plenty of examples of companies going out of business and nuking their users’ content along with it. In a milder-case scenario, even if your content doesn’t get deleted, these websites could force you to pay to continue using their services—which is exactly what happened to Flickr, and precisely why I no longer use them and instead just decided to stop worrying about bandwidth and start hosting all my media in-house now.
I want to have full control over the presentation of my content.
If I want to write something short and make it look artistic, I want to be able to do that. If I want to post photos of varying different dimensions and wrap text around it, I want to be able to do that. If I want to do a massive personal finance breakdown with charts and tables, I want to be able to do that. If I want to publish a humongous block of text like I am today, I want to be able to do that.
Social media platforms heavily restrict the amount of personalization and customization you can implement into your publications. In the old days, I remember social media platforms being far more liberal with the types of HTML and CSS you could integrate into your profiles—I remember going majorly overboard on my Neopets and MySpace profiles—but with so many web exploits nowadays, it’s not really safe or practical anymore.
For example, in the website theme I’m using today, you might think that it’s just plain black text on a white background. However, that’s not actually true—the text is a very dark charcoal, and the background is slightly off-white to resemble paper. These extremely subtle color changes are supposed to make the website subconsciously look a bit classier without a majority of readers even realizing why, and it’s something that I can do because I have the full power to do whatever I want to with my website.
I want to stay true to my own voice without falling into the trap of optimizing to an algorithm.
No matter how stubborn someone may be, the number of interactions on social media posts eventually gets to almost everyone’s head. Low interactions can make a creator feel like they’re doing something wrong, while high interactions can lead the creator astray from what they truly want to do.
The most dangerous kind of bias is one that you don’t know exists. I don’t want to become overconfident and assume that I’m able to ignore the peer pressure from social interactions, only to be betrayed by myself.
The target audience for my blog is … myself. I literally create content on my website to please myself first, and to please everyone else second. Because of this, I don’t see any reason to put myself in a situation where I may subconsciously change my core objective by trying to satisfy a social media algorithm to earn the approval of people who I consider to be less important than myself when it comes to the scope of my website.
The best part about this is that this is usually the best way to retain long-term followers and supporters. Optimizing your content just for the surge of views and interactions by conforming to the latest trend will help you in the short-term, but those people will come and go. Staying true to yourself and consistently putting out content that you think is great content will result in slower growth but more reliable retention.
In a similar vein, I have noticed that social media platforms nowadays have become dangerously liberal, as opposed to remaining neutral. I have personally seen instances where people who wish to debate liberal and progressive viewpoints have been shut down and removed from the platform under the guise of being “hateful” or “spreading misinformation.” I, as someone who is non-partisan and moderate, have opinions that lean in both directions of the liberal-to-conservative spectrum, and I do not want to have to think twice about what I write out of fear that the social media platform may unjustly ban me and lock me out of my account.