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An Alternative To Social Media

An alternative to social media Posted by Admin on November 28 2018

I've been jokingly saying for years that if Wal Mart ever goes out of business - especially here in Kingman - there'll be hoards of people wandering aimlessly in the streets asking, "where does food come from?"

What people apparently fail to appreciate is that social media has virtually replaced the telephone, yet there are currently ZERO regulations in place to assure that it will be available tomorrow or that anyone will be able to use it unless the operators of such sites permit them to. Imagine a phone company that determines what you can and cannot say on their lines, or mutes you when you try to say something they disagree with.

I have also said for years that the absolutely stupidest thing that any business can do is to encourage their customers to "Like us on Facebook", "Follow us on Twitter", etc. In a way that's like Sears opening a kiosk at Wal Mart where they expect their customers to look for special deals. The problem, of course, is that Facebook, Twitter, et al, are "free", so businesses think of them as "free advertising". News flash: TANSTAAFL! (That's an acronym that stands for 'There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch'). The reality is that if those social media sites go down, decide to stop giving businesses a free pass, or are regulated, the companies that have made them an integral part of their business are, as they say in New York, "S.O.L." (Stands for something like simply out of luck).

The same is true for everyone else. If all your contacts use the same one or two sites and those sites shut down, how will you communicate? If you're like most people these days, you probably don't even remember how to use a voice telephone or email without the trappings provided by the monopolistic social media sites.

Those of us who are more focused on the world around us than watching bits and pieces of it play out on social media see the writing on the wall, and take steps to prepare for it. In many cases the inevitable outcome is definitely not what we want to see happen, but we realize it's going to happen anyway. Like, for example, that land line telephones will be extinct in a few years. With more and more people being lured to cell phones (why again do people think they need to be in constant contact with their "friends", many of whom they've never even met?), there are fewer and fewer people paying for land line telephones. That, coupled with the fact that wires cost more money to add and maintain than cell towers, and I can predict with 100% certainty that because of people who think they have to talk and text constantly, land lines will disappear soon.

This is unfortunate for people like myself who understand the differences between cell phones and landlines and the benefits and shortcomings of each. My biggest complaint with cell phones, social media, and all things related is that 100% of the information shared over them can be, and generally is, intercepted, analyzed, and used as a marketing tool against the people using them by companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, etc. Cellular information on its own is slightly more "private", but once you interconnect your social media accounts with your smartphone, it all becomes basically a vast platform controlled by a super-monopoly of companies who are robbing people of their ability to think independently, more efficiently than any mind-controlling drug ever could.

It's hard to predict at this point which way the future will go; whether the social media, connected-at-the-hip 24/7 craze will continue until people are basically brainless androids, whether governments will wake up in time and regulate the offending companies as utilities, or whether a mass revolt, EMP pulse, or some other phenomenon will cause their sudden demise. What isn't hard to predict is that no matter which of these scenarios plays out, it will cause a lot of misery for a lot of people.

Most people today probably have no memory or understanding of what the Internet is or how it came to be. In a nutshell, it started as a handful of university computers networked together to allow researchers to share data. Back then, the connected machines used actual hard-wired phone lines, so you had to have actual physical access to a connected terminal to link to the system. Over time more and more computers were linked, and people started using the system for different uses. Initially there were local bulletin board systems where people could connect to chat and share ideas, and before long the system became big enough to function as an alternative to postal mail and telephones, allowing people to communicate worldwide through FAX and email. Fast forward to today, where our government believes it necessary to upload all of our strategic military data to the Internet so that generals can lead troups from the comfort of their laptops and drone pilots sitting in a bunker in Des Moines can bomb targets in Afghanistan, but we have to take special precautions to prevent the Chinese from stealing our secrets. If someone had written a work of fiction describing a situation like this, it would have bombed because no one would have been able to read it without laughing.

So what does the future hold for the Internet? I'm not sure, but I suspect that it will be around for quite a while and suggest that it's time to go back to using it the way it was intended to be. You see, the biggest advantage of the way the Internet is designed is its redundancy. Instead of relying on a single wire to get information from point to point, the Internet is exactly that - a NETwork with redundant connections, such that if part of it fails, it still operates... kind of like a neural network, like the human brain.

But, while Facebook is hosted on multiple servers around the world, if Facebook goes belly up, it takes with it everything that was connected to it, and that is basically the antithesis of how the Internet was designed to work. The solution is to stop using monopolistic platforms as a communication network and go back to using local nodes that are independent of one another but share information, the way university computers did back in the early days.

Physically speaking, within the range of price and availability that interests us, individually or in small groups, connections to the Internet can range from a dialup modem connected to your personal computer to a dedicated server that provides dozens or hundreds of high-speed connections. There are numerous companies who provide such server connections and storage space, so as long as everyone isn't using the same server (which would result in the same problem as everyone using the same social media site), redundancy can be easily and naturally achieved.

In terms of creating such redundancy, my suggestion would be for each individual or group who wants to participate in a particular - let's call it 'platform', for lack of a better word, to create an independent web site (like the one you are reading this on) and link to the other sites comprising that platform in such a way that the content of each site is stored on that site but linked to the other sites on the platform. With other words, if (there's actually a Kingman, Kansas) were a part of the same platform as this site, the folks in Kansas could also read this.

Now expound on that concept, and let's say there were 1000 sister sites to a platform instead of 2. If each site had 500 active users, there would be half a million connected users just on that one platform, but instead of the system being under the control of one company or a handful of directors, control would be spread over 1000 individual nodes, each of which could create rules and regulations as they saw fit, in much the same way as states exercise autonomy over their own governance, while still operating as part of a larger entity.

For reference, this site uses a shared server, which simply means that it doesn't have - or currently need - a lot of bells and whistles. Such server use, including a fair amount of data throughput and storage space, can be had for as little as $5 per month, meaning that for the example above, connecting half a million people would cost around $5,000 per month, or about a penny per person per month, for an alternative to the monopolistic social media sites. While I'm not sure you'd see this as a benefit if you're a social media user, that penny a month would provide all the necessary connection, bandwidth and storage space with absolutely no need to generate revenue through harvesting using data, advertising, etc.

Always there's an alternative, but that's of little consequence if no one thinks about managing the forest until it burns down.


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