Change: More Substance, Less Social

Change: More Substance, Less Social

TFF’s changing publishing policy – Why we reduce social media presence and what we’ll do instead

By Jan Oberg

April 2, 2019

For more than a decade, I’ve been enthusiastic about social media as a new, potentially more people-powered phenomenon that could serve change for the common good of humankind.

Not so today. Sadly, social media have come to resemble fast-food chain restaurants – no taste, no joy, no quality, unhealthy, unsophisticated and boringly predictive.

Homepages and blogs, on the contrary, still hold a potential resembling gourmet restaurants with lots of joys, health, innovation and sophistication as well as delicious surprises (and good wines instead of Coca Cola).

TFF – the peace and future research foundation I am co-founder and director of – still reach thousands of people every day on social media but what does that mean?

Too many have cared far too much about quantities of friends, followers, likes and shares – and far too little with quality of content.

And a Like from someone who has not bothered to read the article but likes only the headline on Facebook or Twitter is a very poor substitute for in-depth reading, well-intended dialogue and serious knowledge-creation.

A dialogue means conversation, listening and exploring together where every sentence ends with a question mark. It’s win-win and mutual learning. How exciting and meaningful!

A debate or discussion is always about positioning oneself, contrasting, fighting and about winning over the other, the looser. Every sentence ends with an exclamation mark. How boring and meaningless!

Some of TFF’s followers on social media (two Facebook pages, Google+, Twitter, etc) have asked why we write at each and every TFF post that the debate shall take place on our homepage, under the post article, and not on the social media. And why we are reducing our presence on Facebook, Twitter and Medium and all things Google.

As the editor of TFF’s homepage, The Transnational, I want to share with you the reasons and the future priorities as I see them.

And it is not only about TFF. It’s also about what all change-makers ought to conduct a serious discussion about, internally as well as with their supporters.

Taking the conversation out of some social media

We spend considerable energy on making The Transnational serve primarily research and educational needs among concerned citizens, students, other academic and media. We do not do news; we publish analyses that we judge will stand the test over time whether created by TFF Associates or by others.

We want the debate that our posts create to be where we post them. That is not about vanity. Many years ahead, visitors shall be able to see both the article and the debate and assess “What was it people discussed back then about this or that matter?” Or, “what did TFF actually say when Yugoslavia dissolved? Or “how right and wrong was it at the time of the Iraq invasion and occupation”?

When you watch the debate on social media, you find that most will be forgotten after a few days. It’s useless also from an educational viewpoint and for future research and studies.

Secondly, we are interested in developing a meaningful dialogue about global affairs. Frankly, we are not the slightest interested in people discussing an article they have not read. Many have never accessed the link they comment on on, say, Facebook. It’s a kind of new illiteracy. It’s incompatible with public education.

If you are only on social media and make a comment without having seen the original article, your comment will likely be irrelevant, about something you may want to say and just uses the headline as a pretext. Or s/he asks a question that is already answered in the article.

TFF and its Associates are too committed to solid research and have long experienced (TFF was established back in 1985) the development of these futile trends of our times – fleeting, superficial and post-literary.

If people are not willing to focus and concentrate on reading an argument, it’s OK. But we simply do not bother to serve them either.

Years ago we were very enthusiastic too about Facebook’s potential

Third, we publish important quality materials to be read and studied. It’s fine if it leads also to discussion but not on, say, Facebook. Why?

Because Facebook, Twitter, Goggle and others:

a) track everything you and we do and say,
b) censor various stuff which they believe to be politically incorrect,
c) cooperate with authorities that TFF struggles against,
d) profit from us being there and
e) have seriously reduced organic spread and want us to pay more and more to reach people. We won’t pay! Why not, you may ask?

Simply because we are people-funded and we do not transfer support from good-hearted, peace-concerned citizens to these profit-making, wealthy corporations that work in favour of the Empire, intervention and war and are US government-influenced.

Fourth, we do not want Facebook to benefit from the quality debates we may produce and we do not want to risk censorship by decision and/or by mysterious logarithms. If you are there all the time, you help them, legitimize them and confirm them in being good, social and pursuing the right policies.

Therefore, we use social media as a shop window: People can get a sense of what is inside, i.e. on our homepage. If they don’t want to go there and see, they are hardly seriously interested. We use social media as a billboard to tell what we do and how people can benefit from TFF’s work – not from Facebook or other a-social media.

It has, since we started out in 1986, been absolutely basic to TFF to remain independent of corporate and government support. We’re 100% people-financed. We will never be dependent on the existence of social media. As long as they exist or exert influence, we will let them assist us, not the other way around. Extremely scarce peace funds shall never end up in such hands.

The day some of these media may disappear, or have their importance reduced – which I consider quite likely – we shall be elsewhere, proudly continuing to do what we have always done: Work for peace – and not go down because some social media did.

When it comes to Google+ – well, we never got the response or saw the benefits and it is going to be closed down shortly anyhow. Twitter is too superficial for meaningful dialogue and education. We have discontinued our presence on it blog platform, Medium, because there is some kind of manipulation going on; TFF immediately achieved 262 followers and then, for about two years, not one new and not one lost. And repeatedly it has been difficult to even access our page!

We never posted stuff on these media one-by-one. We use a publishing management tool called Sendible which allows us to press just one button and publish to a series of social media on one go. We’re there by automatic technology, not because of individual curation.

Facebook and Google – a chapter of their own

Up until spring 2017, after I had returned from fact-finding in Damascus and Aleppo in Syria and published a series of politically in-correct articles, TFF and I got thousands of new and active friends on Facebook from around the world.

Then during that spring, we experienced a huge reduction – much fewer responses (likes, shares and comments) on any subject. And those that appeared were 90% by people in Denmark and Sweden.

To us the algorithm suddenly looked like political censorship: from a wide reach on a controversial global issues to – boom! – losing almost all of it. When I access my Facebook feed, it is filled with stuff by people who are neither my friends nor share my or TFF’s interests. Here is a technical article on what seems to have happened then.

Step-by-step, Facebook became virtually useless for us at The Transnational.

In 2018, Facebook rolled out a new algorithm which gives priority to family, friends and groups and made itself irrelevant from the perspectives of policy-oriented users, education, brands and much else. If you are trying to advance a cause – like we do the cause of peace by peaceful means – the whole thing has become a walk in the desert. Here is another technical article about the 2018 changes.

Facebook also insists on advancing “meaningful interactions” – whatever that is! But how meaningful is it when you’ve been geographically circumscribed and your social media are suddenly narrowed down to friends, family and groups?

We have tried all kinds of things to boost our “organic reach” but: There is no way you can advance global causes unless you are willing to pay lots of dollars. And we are not for the reasons stated earlier.

During the last few years, we’ve witnessed more than enough of political Facebook scandals. Thus, for instance, that it deletes accounts at the direction of the Israeli and U.S. governments. There was the Cambridge Analytical scandal. And the partnership with the Atlantic Council that promotes NATO policies, the New Cold War and Russophobia in the extreme. And, oh yes, it shares users’ personal data with tech giants to an extent never disclosed, according to New York Times.

And now to Google! Google Search has been so kind to de-rank a series of “leftist”, critical and anti-militarist sites. Eric Schmidt of Google’s parent company Alphabet is known to gladly admit it. See hour 2017 analysis here.

How amazing, Google, we have about 7000 posts on our old and new homepages!

For all we can see, Google’s “de-ranking” policy has hit TFF too. That is one more reason that I recommend wherever I can: Boycott Google Search and use one of the man other engines; don’t use Google’s Chrome browser but one of the others such as Firefox; boycott YouTube when you can and enjoy Vimeo instead; and drop every other relation to Google such as ads and statistics that you can avoid. You probably can’t do it 100 % – I can’t – but you can do a lot. Because:

They want to know everything about us and we never permitted them to. Shamelessly they do what they please and violate every definition of the right to privacy. Associated Press has told us that.

And, as if this was not enough, Alphabet/Google’s Eric Schmidt is related to the US military intelligence establishment.

See also how Facebook has censored sensitive info about Google’s relations with Pentagon here. (Fortunately, Google employees protested).

But virtually everybody ignores these facts when they “google” something! Or use Chrome and YouTube etc.

There may be security reasons for this, but is this where we want to be?

Isn’t it time to show just a bit of internet ethics? Boycott the unethical super-profiting and censoring/tracking social media that, for all practical purposes reduce freedom of speech, ally with neo-liberal warmongering and – paradoxically, in fact, undermine democracy.

The dangers of such policies were well spelt out years ago. Here a very good example.

Instead TFF invests its energies here

Of course, the most important place is The Transnational. But here is how we will prioritize in the future while reducing our reliance on the mentioned social media above:

Flipboard magazine
More and more people read their news on phones and tablet. So TFF is there. Our choice is Flipboard where we have never experienced any attempt at censorship and where you’ll also find virtually all other important media and institutions.

Good news is that we have re-started our Transnational Peace Affairs magazine on Flipboard. It’s a quick and easy design at which you “flip” through our posts directly on your phone and can read everything and comment there too. And it is on your desktop too. More about Flipboard.

This is a news platform that has sky-rocketed in recent years in a highly attractive design. You can customize it to select the isssues you are particularly interested in – TFF and all the rest you love.

And very importantly: We do not only post stuff that you can also find on our homepage, we publish much more than we do there – things we find important, worth remembering and educational but which we do not have the resources or right to post on The Transnational.
And more good news: It’s free, so subscribe!

We believe Linkedin is a serious network for professionals, students, researchers and concerned citizens. And it is much less “political” and cluttered than the others and it practises no censorship.

I have been on Linkedin for years mainly with a focus on my art photography and so far with about 2600 connections.

Good news is that it is now also a place where you find TFF’s articles and videos and other stuff we consider essentially important in terms of global affairs with a touch of peace.

So connect with TFF and myself on Linkedin and contribute to the debate.

More videos
Even the shortest glance at marketing sites today will bring home one major point for the future: Use video to reach your audience and your future, potential audience!

TFF has done that all along – on YouTube, on the more serious Vimeo and on TFF Live on Facebook. Regrettably, we have not done it regularly.
But now technology has advanced and it is possible to make small videos without investing days and weeks. So, we are going to step it up and publish them on The Transnational and less on Facebook and Google’s YouTube.

We’ll also publish more education-oriented videos by others and not only TFF Associates.

The day it becomes more easy to use, you will find us on the amazing Chinese WeChat and Russian VK too and whatever non-Western future platforms and apps that appear.

Last but not least: Different contents

Most people today hardly believe it but – yes, beyond the social media and fads, pop and fleeting mainstream media news, there are some interesting fields and we shall meet other interested, curious travelers there. (Yes Rumi inspired that sentence!).

From 2019, you’ll find that The Transnational and our social media outreach carry:

• More background, explainers and other stuff of long-term quality, less topical news-related stuff.

• More constructive alternatives and, in particular, facts and perspectives omitted by mainstream research, think tanks and media.

• More about the non-Western world – China, BRICS, Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – and less about the decline and decay of the West whose navel-gazing and militarism seem to be the only things not crumbling.

• More about peace, less about violence (violence gets far too much attention because it is assumed to catch more attention and sell better).

• There will be research, yes, but we shall increase the sections on values, ethics, theories, art, philosophy, cultural ways of thinking, and offer less hard-fact political analyses.

In short, more positive energy, vision and hope for us all.

Welcome onboard at The Transnational – the intellectual gourmet restaurant that serves intelligent peace-oriented knowledge, thinking and policy proposals.

One Response to "Change: More Substance, Less Social"

  1. Pingback: Forthcoming: TFF Live Streaming and Video Channel updated - The Transnational

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