Recently Motherboard carried a piece on The Rise and Demise of RSS – a fascinating account of how the web has changed over the past two decades. Underscored in the article is the shift to social media that has occurred over the past decade. Most young people consume their news from social media, so it is no surprise that the need for a turn-of-the-millennium technology like RSS might be waning.
But, what about the personal website, the blog, the core of our online persona? While the Motherboard article did allude to our changing online personas, it did not explicitly link the death of RSS to the death of the personal website – a more fundamental trend in my opinion.
Back in 2006 when I started this website, personal blogs were an up-and-coming thing and had not yet hit their peak. Sure, social media was a thing. Facebook itself having existed for 2 years, and Twitter being entirely new that year that nobody knew what to make of. Back then social networks were an extension of our online selves, not the entirety. Long form content still existed outside of news outlets and sites like Medium.
At this point, I feel like I’m being overly romantic for a bygone past, but this shift isn’t simply about tacky blog badges or a loss of content variety on the web (though the latter is a problem). The deeper concern is the loss of individual control. When I read long-form content on LinkedIn it is difficult for me to remember who wrote that piece. Equally as damning is that it is much harder for authors to have meaningful relationships with their readers. By contributing to social media platforms they’re building engagement in someone else’s brand, not their own.
The solution? People can take it unto themselves, and leave social media entirely – but this is not what they are doing. Despite the popularity of such trends as #DeleteFacebook, it doesn’t appear to actually impact the social media platforms growth. People are just too addicted to the false sense of socialization. Even if they do leave, where do they go? Certainly not back to creating their own websites – the personal website is dead.
The only way to meaningly impact this trend would be for people to not just leave social media but move to a different platform for their dialogue. This amplifies the effect of those exiting leaving social media by creating a dialog vacuum. Nobody cares if you leave social media, but nobody wants to miss being part of the conversation.
I ditched my Facebook account over a year ago, and haven’t looked back. Until recently this website had its own Facebook page that I syndicated articles on. I still maintain my LinkedIn, and still syndicate there, but Facebook is gone. It represents too much of what is wrong with social media. In its place in the footer? An RSS badge.