Toward Universally Followable /Now Pages

Today my therapist and I had a whole conversation about social media and /now pages, prompted by my decision, once again, to quit social media after attempting, once again, to make use of Mastodon.

The issue basically is this: why do I regularly keep trying to do social media when I know from lived and proven experience that it is overwhelming and unwieldy for my brain? The organizing principle of the feed is more database than narrative, and that’s simply untenable for me. This is before we even reach the fact that exposure to successful, happy people via social media quickly comes to facilitate an imposter syndrome just as human being.

So we know what social media does to me, but why do I keep trying to come back to it?

What’s frustrating is that I already know the answer: I miss being able to keep up with what people are doing and what they are interested in. It’s why I tried to posit a website where people could fill out simple /now page-like profiles, and when you logged in you’d be presented not with a feed but with a simple list of people who’d updated their profiles since the last time you’d looked at them.

(It’s worth reading the manifesto because it really explains why I think this sort of thing is needed.)

If I know what it is I actually want, and I know that while social media is the way I previously was able to get it that the social media feed is damaging to me, then why do I keep trying?

According to my therapist, this actually can be a thing for people with anxiety—this returning to something that’s almost right but not quite, and trying to make it work despite the damage.

That’s when it occurred to me: that also was my entire life prior to my midlife autism diagnosis. Everyone and everything kept telling me I needed to do this, that, or the other, so I kept trying to do these things despite the fact that they almost always failed, and despite the fact that sometimes they only were causing me (mostly unrecognized at the time) harm.

I’ve had four decades of training in continuing to try to do things that were presumptively beneficial but never were going to work. It’s literally how I learned to be.

Here’s what I came back to today, though: technically, we don’t necessarily need a site like the one I’ve described and proposed. What we need is a way to follow people’s /now pages, no matter where they are maintained. In truth, this idea already lurks beneath the surface of my proposal: I’d included the idea of being able to publish one’s profile via RSS and/or ActivityPub, as well as follow external profile pages that adhered to some commonly-held underlying format (or microformat).

So that’s my pitch to the /now page community: develop tools that publish these pages not just to a webpage but to RSS and/or ActivityPub, as well as tools to markup, perhaps using some kind of microformats, the underlying HTML in ways that would allow for a crawler to parse them even absent an RSS or ActivityPub feed.

Then we can make apps to follow /now pages all in one place, from such a place of our own choosing. For those who want them in the style of social media feeds, they could have that. For those, like me, who’d simply want a list of people whose /now pages have been updated since the last time we looked at them, we could have that.

We don’t need a “platform” like Currently, but with /now pages made available or accessible via RSS, ActivityPub, and microformats, we could still have a site, services, or app like Currently. It just would be one among many, the way the web should be.

Referring posts: Spring Ahead, Or Fall Back?