Don't take the easy way...

Don’t take the easy way…

How did you end up here? Did you scroll through NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION and managed to find this article? Did you find this article via the start page of Google? Probably not. It was likely through some social media network, maybe Facebook or Instagram. Well, thanks for ending up on our magazine, anyway. Feel invited to look around; we don’t take it for granted and nobody should these days. With Instagram now also changing its algorithm to a more user-friendly selection of visible posts the last of the big social media networks now distances itself from its original purpose and system. Facebook did it a while back and Twitter just a few months ago.

Who benefits from Social Media?

According to the people of Instagram this happens ‘to improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most.’ Obviously, there’s more to this than meets the eye. The system tends to favour the big ones, the users who already got a massive amount of followers and create fan-pleasing posts over and over (Hello there, Mrs. Kardashian).

Sooner or later official post sponsoring will happen, making the use of social media only useful for those who can rely on a big marketing budget.

While the original idea of a certain algorithm that based on your personal taste isn’t that bad it becomes highly predictable and sooner or later keeps you from discovering anything new outside of your comfort zone or to keep track with artists or pages you haven’t followed in a while. Facebook became a perfect example for the decline of this system. Remember only four or five years ago when it was a viral place to keep yourself updated on the latest adventures of your friends and favourite artists? Now, it more or less became a bored place where your timeline is packed with the same old Buzzfeed-like posts all over again. You don’t know what your friends are up to or just happen to overlook their updates because they only appear in your timeline for a brief second. If those posts aren’t followed by a direct reaction they are doomed and destined to vanish in the graveyards of the world wide web.

Twitter just started to introduce that feature. It’s more subtle but be sure it’s there and it’s only a matter of time before it becomes the same digital wasteland Facebook already is. Once people start to notice the unfair algorithm and the lack of visibility of their social media effort they just tend to stop trying. And that’s the main reason why your Facebook timeline became so boring over the past years.

Because the funny contradiction in all of this: Although the Social Media bosses state that they are doing us a favour in moderating our feeds a lot of users never asked for it. Still, the majority just doesn’t seem to care.

The change of Instagram’s algorithm already caused a petition to get back to the chronological order. The majority of the ordinary people agree: never change a running system; in this case the good old chronological order. The problem comes in the form of the legendary capitalistic conflict by those who are able to invest a bit more money and therefore to force the companies into this rat race. It’s the fuel that keeps a Billion dollar company like Facebook running.

While social media is super fun for people who want to keep up with their friends or a Kardashian, it has also been one of the greatest boons to independent artists we have ever seen. While in the past one needed the support of a major label to run print ads in magazines and grease the palms of radio station to promote the release of an album, social media allows independent artists to connect directly with their fan base. Now that direct line is being cut off. You think Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are just trying to make your experience more custom tailored to you? Really? Didn’t you already do that when you decided to follow or like the people in your feed? What’s really happening is the monetization of their platforms, which, in the end, will destroy the direct line from independent artists and small businesses to their fans by forcing us to pay to promote our own content to the very fan base that is already following us. Of course, they have the right to do that. They designed the platform! But what was unique and different about social media, as opposed to the print or TV or radio ads of the past, was the personalized aspect to the content. Gone were the glossy, splashy, industry-standard advertisements of the past. Now you got to hear directly from the artist or small business, and not just about whatever they were peddling that day. You got to peer into our lives and experiences on the road or in the studio or at a friend’s wedding or from the cockpit of a Scandinavian Airlines jet (all of which, yes, are in my feed). Now if you want to see those experiences, I have to pay to promote them. I believe this flies in the face of independent artists and is antagonistic to the very spirit of social media. Facebook is even worse. Even though you might “like” me or my band, notifications from pages (as opposed to people) are pushed to the very back of the algorithmic chain, forcing us to pay to promote our content to the very people who have already requested it. So until this gets changed, you can turn on notifications from me to ensure that you will see my content. It’s a shame that the middle class is getting squeezed even on social media.

Ein von Alex Dezen (@alexdezen) gepostetes Foto am

While the big companies profit from the network the ordinary, every day user might not notice these changes. It’s the smaller artists and independent companies who heavily rely on their social media following. We live in an age in which record companies lost their value and the importance for artists lies in a strong mobilization of their following which buys records, merchandise and concert tickets. Social Media is forcing the ones to pay who are already running short on money. One could argue that it is fair to pay for the services Facbook, Twitter and Co. are providing which is absolutely right. But on the other hand shouldn’t a peoples’ network act in the interest of those people? Shouldn’t a company like Facebook have a societal responsibility by now, one that supports the people who actually keep their platform (and therefore also the company itself) alive?

A question of societal responsibility or not?

It all comes back to the general discussion about the value of digital content. Facebook might not even be the worst example here – just take a brief look at Google and how their algorithm easily decides whether you can or can’t be found in the world wide web. You need to pay Google, which is literally ‘just’ a search engine so that the lazy majority can find you in the world wide web. They make Billions out of content they didn’t create. Whether it’s YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter or whoever – they live on the benefit of those who create art, articles, music and more for their platforms and now they even want to charge these people on a more regular basis? Fair or not fair but this is a slightly dangerous tendency and we – the people and customers – should raise awareness for it.

Running an independent online magazine I’m at the same mercy of those big companies like all independent musicians. We rely on your visits and support on a daily basis and all of us couldn’t be more thankful for it. But in an age where pretty much every digital content provider relies on economical support one tend to become a slave of those greedy social media channels. And once you give in it’s hard to get out of this deal. Did you know that the visibility of your Facebook posts gets worse once you start paying Facebook? They want you to regularly pay them to keep the algorithm intact; same goes for Google. You as a user got a choice, whether to fall for it or not. So, yes, you can follow NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (and even switch on the ‘Notifications’ although I guarantee you’ll be annoyed in an instant) but maybe there’s a different way. Simply bookmark the media and artists you love in your browser (so 00s), visit them on a regular basis like a good friend. That’s something you should do in real life anyway. If you trust us and other artists take the direct way, support them by regular visits, attending shows and paying them directly for their effort and work in some form. You don’t need to take the Social Media detour, it just takes a little bit more time, effort and passion to avoid all of this. Personally, I prefer the human brain over any algorithm, that’s all.