Gen X Tip: You Don’t Have to Take This Shit

TL;DR: Own. Your. Content.

Considering we have the entire internet of things at our disposal, I’m amazed that we are more frequently seeing the lamentation of the masses. Ongoing complaints about the state of social media and the subsequent censoring of content. Now, the censorship argument most of us long-time internet users have been accustomed to, usually reared its head in the form of alt-right, conservative bros constantly trying to toe the line between outright racism and being a “thought provocateur.” Naturally, the non-bigoted of us understand that the existence of marginalized groups is not a “thought exercise” or something to be debated as a “difference of opinion.” Nevertheless, the close-minded horde has spent endless hours interjecting themselves into 3rd party conversations, social media platforms, and political debates. All the while screaming about “censorship” and “1st amendment violations” from private businesses.

Unfortunately, present day discourse has required an increase of voices in, and on behalf of, marginalized communities. Due to a global trend toward right wing political stances and outright support for fascist ideologies here in the United States, there has been a serious need for vocalization and action as it pertains to civil and human rights domestically, and abroad. Add the current genocide taking place in Gaza, made worse by the media, financial, and military support provide to the Israeli government, and we begin to see the root of the current climate around online information sharing, organizing, and activism.

All of a sudden, social media platforms known for trendsetting as well as being the voice of a younger, more progressive populace are suddenly concerned about “political speech” and “supporting terrorism.” The thinly veiled excuses around community guidelines violations and abused reporting by bad actors has the entire social media landscape looking very one-sided with a lot of angry people frustrated and confused about why their well-meaning and humanitarian-based content is being removed, demonetized, or resulting in account bans — in the most egregious cases. Why are you willing to take the disrespect, the gaslighting, and the open warfare on you as a member of a marginalized group? Twitter’s descent into an alt-right hellscape was immediately predictable upon acquisition by its new “free speech” touting owner. TikTok, the fear of geriatric Luddites nation-wide, is well-known for not only its anti-Black moderation policies, but its clearly lopsided silencing of pro-Palestinian content. In addition, Instagram has declared that it will stop promoting “political content.” This new “policy” is definitely vague as it makes a for-profit corporation arbiter of the definition of "political content," and if life on the internet has taught us anything, it’s that corporate entities rarely side with marginalized citizens.

This is the space where the complaints and cries of unfairness live. You will find no shortage of content creators, particularly on TikTok, airing their displeasure with the platform’s clear bias and active minimization of not only Black content, but revolutionary content as well. Nevertheless, these creators continue to bring their content to these platforms. They continue to try to tap dance the fine line of community guidelines, restrictions, and recommended practices to bring their content to the masses. But, why?

Why are you continuing to suffer under the thumb of platforms and moderators who clearly don’t want you spreading your content far and wide? c What good is this masochism? What purpose does it serve? You will not force them to accept you or your content and continuing to bring them views and content for the sake of a few pennies from the ever-changing creator programs and payment structures does nothing to help your causes or your mental health.

Angled view of a WordPress post editing page/interface

What do I suggest?

As a member of Generation X, and more specifically, modern technology’s guinea pigs, I implore you to own your content.

I’ll say it again: Own. Your. Content.

Your Gen X aunties and uncles are detached because they took the one overarching message away from the film WarGames: "The only winning move is not to play." Do not allow yourself to be limited by a platform or an app. You’re putting your likeness, your ideology, your support, and your intellectual capital into the hands of a corporation that will either A) take great strides to profit off of you with little to no return for your investment or B) aim to dictate to you what content is and isn’t acceptable or worthy to be seen by others.

One of the greatest things the internet has provided is with is digital autonomy. Sure, there’s obviously a non-zero amount of F.O.M.O. when it seems like the whole world is getting their information on one platform versus another. However, consider this: What’s the one constant regardless of social media platform?

Great content will find you. There will always be a share, a re-post, a link out to something useful, something heartwarming, or even something hilarious. It WILL make the rounds and therein lies the beauty of the internet. You can always build your own space.

GeoCities login page (no longer active)Now is the time to do this. We may even be “bringing it back” in a way because just like the old GeoCities pages, the answer may reside in a proliferation of personal websites, blogs, mailing lists, link trees (actual ones), and direct communication. Social media platforms can’t take down your video if it’s on your own blog and being shared amongst a group of people. If you don’t want certain people commenting on your blog posts, you can not only ban individual commenters, but whole IP addresses. Appeals for “community guidelines violations”…what are those? Do not allow yourself to be limited by a platform or an app. Personal blogs, like WordPress, allow you to set up your own space to write, share content, and comment for literally a few bucks a month and have RSS feeds that anyone can subscribe to, given the proper RSS feed tools. Patreon gives you a whole closed ecosystem to dictate who can and cannot participate in your community. Mailing lists give you an entire directory of like-minded people who’ve opted-in to ingest your content. You can maintain your entire community while still providing links to your content on social platforms or vice versa. Despite a mild learning curve, Mastodon gives you the ability to own a profile on your own server for less than $10 a month. With that you have a profile that can still engage with the larger "federated" (fancy language for networked) servers which, again, gives you a means for following, re-posting, "favoriting," and building a community/following just like any other platform. This format means you can simply join an existing mastodon server that aligns with your persona and create a profile or set up your own server where you're the only account and no one gets to dictate what you can post.

Now’s the time. You can control your online content, mediation, and distribution with not much more work than you do now managing multiple social media profiles. Many of you have shown the dedication to organize, build community, and actively protest in the midst of everything happening around us and I, personally, see this kind of self-determination as equally vital.

I’ll likely put together a “part two” of this post to give you some more concrete solutions (complete with costs), and the solutions are cost efficient, numerous, and powerful. Let me know in the comments if you might find this helpful. I'll show you how to get set up and then no one can “community guidelines violation” you or your content.

We don’t have to take this shit. So, are you ready to own your content?