Main menu


Social media .. “You are the opponent and the judge!”


Social media .. “You are the opponent and the judge!”  

Quitting or limiting your use of social media apps can be a big New Year’s resolution. Recalling studies that so Physical and mental health benefitsAnd many of those who did it permanently or temporarily report increased productivity, focus, and even happiness.

But Getting rid of so-called digital toxins is not so easy. Many of us use apps Social media Because it’s a convenient way to stay in touch with friends and family and keep up with news and discussions online.

The problem, however, is that the algorithms of all major platforms, designed to maximize the time users spend in their apps, aim to drag us into a maelstrom of commercial and entertaining images and videos.

The solution for the Dutch doctor, Elslyn Kupers, 33, was to switch to a non-commercial and less popular app. “It gives me a more authentic and relaxing experience,” she tells DW. The BeReal app used by Coopers allows a user to post one snapshot of their daily life each day.

It also sends out daily notifications at random, unspecified hours, and gives users two minutes to take and post a picture of themselves. and “two minutes isn’t enough time to show a good-looking fake photo.” “The app doesn’t even allow filters. So what you post is an actual view of what you’re doing at that moment,” says Coopers.

On her homepage (timeline) in the app, Coopers see pictures of people playing, hiking, or eating their food. Some of the images are angled and some people only show half of their faces. She says she finds it “more exciting than Instagram, which is full of remastered photos”.

The number of users of the BeReal application in the summer of 2022 increased very significantly, as it was ranked 10 among the most downloaded social applications, which highlights the great appeal of a different and less problematic social media experience.

In recent years countless startups have sprung up, with varying degrees of success, or opportunities to compete with the tech giants.

Solving usual technical problems in an innovative way

The controversy surrounding most of the classic social platforms such as TikTok or Facebook Or YouTube, because of the way the algorithms work or the business model.

The time an average user spends on social media apps is fragmented and sold to advertisers by social media companies, as the platforms analyze their users’ data to improve the apps and sometimes sell it to a third party.

This business model is what essentially drives the most notorious social media problems:Adverse effect on physical and mental health and potential for addiction data privacy issues, the proliferation of misinformation, and the formation of so-called “echo chambers” where users receive and are shown essentially ideas and users that align with their own views.

A paper published in December 2022 by Christian Montag, a professor of psychology at the University of Ulm in southwestern Germany, points to the connections of functional models to big technology. “As long as users pay with their personal data to use social media services, I think these problems will not be resolved,” Montag told DW.

How do new applications want to solve problems

Alternative social media platforms try to avoid these problems by designing decentralized network structures, where instead of algorithms, users or groups of users control the flow of content across the social platform.

Mastodon is one such social platform. Instead of one main server, a group of interconnected servers manage accounts and what users post, with each server having its own rules and protocols.

This configuration and connection method, known as Fediverse, allows users from one server to interact with users and groups from other servers.

Compared to a platform like Twitter, groups on Mastodon have more freedom to set their own guidelines. But its content is exposed to the public through its users who are often members of multiple groups, which prevents them from turning into closed circuits in the so-called “echo chambers” that currently exist in the well-known large platforms.

Dutch doctor Elslyn Koeppers uses the Be Real app

BeReal is one of the newer apps that has a shorter posting time and no filters

Like many other similar applications, Mastodon also attempts to delegate or give the decision to delete harmful or offensive posts to users’ votes. Some applications leave the decision to randomly selected bodies or committees.

And after Elon Musk’s acquisition of the platform Twitter Mastodon is making headlines as one of the apps that Users started subscribing to it after they left Twitter.

Some other alternative apps such as Steem or Mind have also incorporated blockchain technology into their monetization functions. In order to reward a post a user can use encrypted tokens which are traceable and therefore often more transparent than normal transactions.

This means that all transactions occur within the platform, and how the publication is sponsored and by whom is a clear matter.

Some experts have raised doubts about whether applications based on the “Vidiverse” linking method can be sustainable. The decentralized nature of these platforms can make it difficult to moderate content and address inappropriate or harmful posts. With no central authority overseeing FedEx, it can turn into a less safe and welcoming environment for users.

However, Christian Montag, a professor of psychology at the University of Ulm, is optimistic about the future of these experiments and tells DW that he believes “the future is for Fediverse”, citing the fact that competing with the current major platforms will not be easy. He adds that the new applications have complex systems in terms of ease of use, while the existing giant platforms have been formed through years of testing and are More convenient and has experience in attracting users.

Mastodon app logo

Many users turned to Mastodon after leaving Twitter, which was acquired by Elon Musk

Treat social media as a public good

As startups strive to create better alternatives, some groups and initiatives are pushing tech giants to account. One of them is The Center for Human Technology (CHT), which has been campaigning for tougher policies to control social media companies.

Montag points out Regulating and controlling social media giants Mitigating the damage they cause is as important as market innovation. Besides mitigating the damage caused by the tech giants, introducing regulation can make competition possible for new startups.

Montague says: We need protocols that enable users to communicate across platforms, such as the way two people are on the phone with each other from different providers.

There is currently “a debate among researchers about whether social networking sites can best be described as a public good. In such a case we should imagine paying subscription fees to decentralized platforms that respect our privacy,” says Montague.

Montag asserts that decoupling social media from a business model that relies on users’ data and time is the only way we can achieve “healthier!” social media platforms.

Mounir Ghaidi/ A.J