Recently, Facebook's use of algorithms to manipulate users and create traffic with anger has aroused heated discussions, and people's dissatisfaction with social platforms has also flooded .
When did it begin when users changed from flesh and blood individuals to data indicators of advertising exposure and considerable income?
When most products are grabbing time and attention, Ben Grosser, a professor of new media art at the University of Illinois in the United States, decided to go the other way and launch a new social network called Minus ( https://minus.social/ ), hopefully Can "lighten your burden" for you.
Minus: Only 100 tweets per person, no likes, no reposts
Minus is like a minimalist version of Facebook/Twitter/Weibo. In this "social utopia", Grosser has almost removed all the functions that can make you soar and addictive.
First of all, its web design has no extra colors, only black, white and gray.
Only text can be posted here, no pictures or videos, even if there is a message reminder, there will be no bright and eye-catching red dots. The only thing that makes you feel less plain is the small custom avatars of users.
▲ Homepage of Minus
Minus has no likes, reposts, and following functions. Naturally, there are no likes, reposts, and fans, and the number of comments will also be hidden. The ranking of the information flow is roughly based on the release time, and it will only be vaguely displayed as "recent" or "a period of time ago."
Here, the only data that will be repeatedly emphasized is the "number of remaining tweets" for each person.
After registering at Minus, each account will have (and only) 100 opportunities to tweet. Every time you post a piece of content, the system will automatically calculate how many tweets you have left to post. 99, 98, 97, 96…… This number will always follow you like the health bar on the head of the game character.
In other words, from the time when you first arrived and became bored with the word "Hello world", your social life at Minus has entered a countdown.
When the number of remaining tweets becomes 0, you will not be able to post content on Minus and can only participate in the comment section.
The published content can be edited and deleted at any time. But Minus is different from your phone's storage space, and you can't revive the quota even if you delete a tweet. 0 is 0, 99 is 99, at the moment you press the send button, all the numbers are a foregone conclusion.
Is it too restrained? How can such a social platform make money and survive?
Grosser never considered such a problem, because Minus is just an art project he used to rethink social networks.
▲ An exhibition recently held by Grosser in London with the theme of Software for Less
Less is more, return to the essence of social
In the past 20 years, the development of the Internet has made the world more open and brought more unexpected connections.
At that time, Grosser was excited about the emergence of Facebook and Twitter. However, in his view today, Silicon Valley has become obsessed with traffic and data growth, even at the expense of users' mental health and privacy.
Grosser once did an art project: He compiled videos of Zuckerberg's interviews with the media from 2004 to 2019, and edited and edited clips that mentioned "more" and "growth", and finally got a long A 47-minute film. However, the same material, using Zuckerberg's "fewer" clips, can only cut out 60 seconds of content.
Facebook is not the only "evil dragon". From overemphasizing the number of likes, algorithm manipulation of users to crazy attention squeezing, technology companies are racking their brains hoping to get more users, more data, and more profits… and the emergence of Minus is like an experiment of "returning to basics" , It also represents Grosser’s thinking :
How would users feel if the social platform worked hard to reduce engagement rather than increase engagement? What if it encourages you to slow down instead of keeping up with hot topics? Why must it be "more" and not "less"?
When "posting on social networks" has become a limited resource, I really can't help but think about it before I press release-is this nonsense literature? Is it worth my 1/100th of the precious quota? Will I soon regret it after the release?
My first tweet on Minus, I typed "Hey there!" at the beginning. After thinking about it, it seemed that there was no nutrition, but it changed to another question that I was curious about. Unexpectedly, I got a reply from Grosser himself.
▲ Well, although I still haven't answered my question directly…
Now Minus, the information flow is full of tweets in different languages.
Some users are pure "tourists" who come with curiosity and leave their footprints here. Some hope to discuss the future development of Minus with Grosser and reflect on the status quo of social networks such as Facebook. Some people share life, some have written poetry, and some are thinking about life.
▲ A user exchanged his thoughts with Grosser: I hope there is such a social network, everyone chooses their own 3 topics, and can only post content/participate in comments around them
There is no hatred, no abuse, no one talks about politics and social news, and there is no extreme public opinion that can arouse anger. User @heldinea said that Minus asked her to think about what she really needs: "It reminds me that less is more, and that everything in our lives is fast passing by."
Without pictures and videos to attract attention, words and thoughts become the C-bit of attention again. Without following, private messages and likes, people lose the pressure of data and talk freely in the public comment area. Grosser reminded that this was the usual way of interaction between people before the advent of social media.
▲ Picture from Unsplash
When most people choose to cherish the 100 tweets in front of them, there are also some maverick Minus users who have squandered them early.
What the user @countdown does is very performance art. He finished 100 tweets in 8 minutes, counting down from 100, 99, 98 to 3, 2, and 1, recording how he lost the initiative to speak on social networks a little bit.
Another user @elonmusk reproduced the style and topic of Musk’s usual Twitter posts . Talk about physics, talk about AI, talk about Mars, promote Tesla's new car, reveal company dynamics, post photos of dogs, send funny emoticons…
▲ Not Musk, better than Musk
People who are familiar with Musk may laugh out loud watching these 100 tweets. But even if you don't know him at all, you can still think of your usual "social network mode"-what will be made up of the 100 tweets that belong to me?
Social networks that drain attention need a change
Although not a serious product manager, Grosser has been paying attention to how to promote healthier social networks. In addition to the aforementioned Minus, he has also fiddled with several experimental "Internet products."
In 2012, Grosser launched the web plug-in Facebook Demetricator, which can hide data indicators such as the number of likes, reposts, comments, and friends on Facebook pages with one click. In 2018, he released versions for Twitter and Instagram.
▲ Facebook Demetricator
Grosser believes that social networks have created an "overweight" environment for us, which not only affects how we view the world, but also brings anxiety and pressure-we are more and more accustomed to using data to measure the quality of content. Divide the participants of the social network into three, six or nine classes.
The ideas for these web plug-ins were later reported by the New Yorker, Washington Post, Atlantic Monthly and other media, and even attracted the attention of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. To this day, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have all introduced features that allow users to hide the number of likes, but the user needs to actively set it up and enable it.
▲ Picture from Unsplash
In addition to data quantification, the monitoring and manipulation of users by algorithms is another worrying topic. In 2017, Grosser launched the web plugin Go Rando , which will randomly select reactions for you when you like Facebook posts, so that the algorithm can't guess your true emotions.
▲ Go Rando
In 2020 when TikTok conquered the world, he launched another web plugin Not For You (not recommended for you).
TikTok's algorithm guesses that you like it every day to make you addicted, and this plug-in can break the information cocoon, allowing you to see content other than system recommendations. In this state, your behaviors such as watching likes will help to confuse the TikTok algorithm.
▲ Not For You, only available on TikTok web version
Today, when Facebook’s “angry algorithm” is frantically accused, what changes will be made in the next step of social products?
Although Minus looks interesting, Grosser also understands that it is unrealistic for everyone to immediately uninstall and exit existing large social platforms such as Facebook. He hopes that these highly experimental art projects can bring changes to the future of the Internet.
Minus is a (boldly subversive) idea that tells you that social media can have a completely different look.
What is this generation thinking, looking for, and believing?
The answer may lie in the Internet products they use, indulge in, and create.
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