Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Re-framing social media

I haven’t been on twitter for a few weeks, and its been good. Here is why.

I started doing a lot of thinking about the internet, and social media specifically, and I really do not like the current state of things. I read a truly excellent long blogpost about the bloat in web pages these days, that would be funny if it was not so tragic. It reminded me of a time when people in IT gave a flying fuck about performance, efficiency, and common sense, rather than ‘user engagement’ ‘metrics’ and ‘stock options’.

The moment you step aside from social media, you start really seeing it properly for the absolute dystopian hell that it is. Anybody with common sense would absolutely leave it immediately for their own health, and no doubt many do, but the rest of us who are still there do not even know that happens because… we only know about what happens on social media.

With thousands of ‘followers’ on social media, we are part of a rich ecosystem of always-on, always updating action. The fact that 10 people we knew just stopped posting entirely and disappeared will not even register to us because…oh look a kitten video.

Lets be perfectly clear. Twitter is a private company, not a service. Its sole reason to exist is to make as much money as possible. if that means destabilizing governments, wrecking democracies, driving people to suicide, and destroying the mental health of an entire generation or two, then nobody at twitter is going to care one bit. They have shown this to be true time and time again. Its still rife with abuse, hatred, misinformation and crypto-scam troll-farm bullshit.

If you are anything even vaguely like me, then you will know, deep down, that twitter, and similar sites like Facebook, are absolutely disastrous for your mental health. By participating in these sites you are putting up a big ‘open for business’ sign next to the emotional center of your brain, with an open invite to people with extreme, warped views and aggressively evangelical personalities to come unload their hatred and prejudices into your skull 24/7. Its the most destructive drug imaginable. Even with heroin or cocaine, you actually run out at some point, and need to call your dealer. With social medial, the dealer is right there, right next to you, with a constant fine-tuned supply being injected straight into your veins all the time, for free. Best of all, hardly any of you, statistically, will kill themselves, so the dealer can keep it up for longer.

The whole idea of craving more ‘followers’ on twitter is absolutely insane. Jesus had followers. I guess Gandhi did too. Maybe Martin Luther King. Certainly some horrible dictators also had many followers. But does someone who makes videos about knitting on the internet need ‘followers’? and do they need to know the exact number of them, all the time, updating hourly? This is objectively insane. Its a skinner box for faked charisma. Its pure evil. We cannot cope living like this.

I think I have 10-12,000 twitter followers the last time I looked. I don’t think its changed for years. Many are likely bots. Its depressing that I even know the number to that level of accuracy. We should not want to know. We should not want to play such a game. Many people I know DO play this game, because they are content creators (indie game developers) and they think this will raise their profile and sell more games. I think this is a mistake.

Here is a top tip: Take all the time, effort and energy you spend tweeting, replying, re-tweeting and scrolling on twitter and spend all that effort instead working in a coffee shop waiting tables. Then take the money from that 2nd job and spend it on advertising or improving your content (whether its indie games, art, books, whatever). Your ROI will be WAY better.

We all know people who ‘got famous through twitter’. Of course we do, because twitters algorithm will take any story along those lines and promote the fuck out of it. How many people do you actually really know personally who owe their fantastic success to their twitter account? Do you actually ever do any analysis on whether or not being viral on twitter sells more video games? Let me help you with that.

Here is one of the most famous people on the planet replying to a tweet at him by me:

WHOAH. I bet a TON of people checked out my twitter profile and then went and bought my games on apr 14th 2021 right? Lets see the spike:

Oh dear…nothing… ok Here is a tweet I did on a random whim after I saw a link about it. I didn’t even create the original content.

Ok… now we are talking. Thats pretty cool right. A tweet with 48,000 likes. Not bad cliffski, not bad at all, this is where we see the sales spike:

yeah…I’m kinda not seeing it. But maybe I’m a freak and my steam sales are never spiky. Lets looks at the current Christmas steam sale to check that theory:

Hmmm.

And YES, I get it… MAYBE some small number of people who see you tweeting something viral are going to check your profile and MAYBE some of those people will then be 1% more likely to buy your game in the next year and YES maybe its hard to track but…

I’ve been on twitter forever, and I basically have had about half a dozen ‘viral’ moments, and none of them have led to any noticeable boost to my business. If I could go back in time, never join twitter, and never join reddit or facebook, and get back ALL that time and convert it into more direct work on marketing or developing my game would I do it? Of course.

For those who like the numbers. Lets say those 48k likes represented clicks on an ad. Thats 48,000 clicks at maybe $0.05 CPC because its poorly targeted. $2,400. Assuming I’m due another viral tweet every 10 years, thats $240 a year for my social media addiction. yay?

Apart from anything, I really resent putting any effort into these social media platforms in the past only to realize way later that I’m basically an unpaid content creator for a billion dollar US-owned social media company. At least twitter have not YET started charging people money to ensure all your followers see your tweet (thats coming though…), whereas facebook blatantly flipped that switch years ago.

Twitter is disastrous for your mental health, and sites like facebook and reddit are even worse. Actually RANKING peoples opinions with up and downvotes? Are we serious here? Imagine going round a friends house for a few beers and a chat, and every time anybody said something people all held up up and downvote paddles. Does that sound like fucked-up psychotic behavior to you?

Full disclaimer: I advertise on social media. It works reasonably well, I wont stop doing that. But I left facebook a few years ago with no regrets, and only maintain facebook and reddit accounts because my games have pages on both networks. I’m not on tiktok or snapchat or instagram.

I’m calmer, and happier since I stopped using twitter, and I have a very, very hard time seeing any way in which its affecting my business. Frankly I have more time now and less distractions to actually improve my game. If you follow me on twitter you may see the odd post for some big event that I want to ensure any press following me see (like the upcoming release of Democracy 4 from Early Access), but in terms of casual day-to-day tweeting and banter on twitter? I think I’m going to save that for real-life friends from now on.


6 thoughts on Re-framing social media

  1. I’m curious to hear your opinion about Reddit. It does not nearly do as much of the algorithm-driven content promotion thanks to the siloing of content into subreddits, and while the upvote/downvote system obviously promotes clickbait, it also does really seem to help in surfacing quality content (especially among comments in well moderated subs).

  2. I always bounce off social media very quickly. It amazes me that people stay. It’s like nobody ever watched Forbidden Planet.

  3. I think that there are some benefits to social media, mass information, disaster relief, connecting with old friends, niche hobbies which the internet makes easier to find and connect with like-minded people. My advice would be to ignore the negative stuff and not let it bother you so much and focus on the positive things, Cliff.

  4. I think most of ‘social’ media is theater and marketing, specifically twitter. You’re right, it’s hard to notice people dropping off, maybe by design.

    Group focused sites (ie reddit/discord) or youtube, still have normal people in them, less activity is more intimate and real social.

    I like niche discords… and the old newsgroup now and then.

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