Social Media and Tribes

I propose the notion that humans tend to flock together in tribes. It’s the group of persons that you want to know what they are up to, you want to know their opinion on things (because that will reaffirm your own beliefs. Some also do this to test their own beliefs and some even smaller number does so to actively challenge and change their own beliefs.)

Social Media tools and platforms largely fail at tribes, even though especially newer systems like Diaspora or Mastodon claim they would do better.

The main problem is not that things are technically impossible (with all the new systems you can still follow people on other instances, you can use clients that show you the stuff from other instances, etc.).

The main problem is that there was this idea of “your instance is your tribe, and thus they feed your local timeline” was instead widely adopted as “this instance is your hub for this particular interest”, because internet tribes form over shared topics.

If the tribe-forming is successful, they usually transcend the particular topic they initially bonded over. And Mastodon (to pick an example that really does this), kinda assumes that the tool is adopted by an existing tribe, instead of actively offering a crystallization point for new tribes to grow from. (the latter happens though. I see it in partial effect on octodon.social)

The whole thing gets compounded by the fact that nowadays, we are members of several tribes at the same time. Each of those may have formed over a different topic, but it is not necessarily bound by just that.

Hence the problem: You sign up on an instance, and then another instance, and another, and at some point you realize that your people are scattered all over the instances and each of them are also part of another tribe that you probably don’t even know of!

How the heck is a system that assumes that the majority of a given tribe has already converged when starting an instance while also assuming that you are probably only a member of one tribe is supposed to cope with that?

It would be much more sensible if the system would help people create feeds based on Topics and another feed (or even set of feeds, although I’d argue that those would be condensed back into one pretty fast) based on people.

And then help you navigate those.