Contributed by Sharon Butler / The time has come to leave Facebook and engage in online activities elsewhere. Difficult though it may seem to leave the art community that we’ve established on that platform, and the ease we feel with the software, I’ve decided to encourage a migration to Tumblr, a microblogging tool that has many of the features of Facebook as well as Instagram, WordPress, and Twitter. For those of us who have been engaging in online life since the mid-2000s, when our analog friends were still fearful of joining Facebook (until Jerry Saltz joined in 2009), we may have old accounts that we simply need to dust off and reinvigorate.
Why now you might ask? Because the hypocrisy has become burdensome. We rant on Facebook against Trump, and yet we all have rationalizations of why we won’t quit, why we refuse to punish Mark Zuckerberg for his complicity in this death match Trump has fomented against groups he doesn’t like and against democracy itself.
Earlier this month Mother Jones ran an(other) insightful and dunning article about Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg: his greed, lies, and unwillingness to stand up to the propaganda and disinformation created by the Trump campaign and their allies. Pema Levy wrote:
advocates have warned Facebook that the platform was being used as a weapon of hate against their communities. In some instances the problem was hate speech, in others the doxxing of Black Lives Matter activists. In 2016, Facebook became a source of disinformation and voter suppression, much of it directed toward African Americans. Facebook allowed its events pages to be used to organize anti-Muslim rallies and the white supremacist protests in Charlottesville that turned deadly. As Facebook’s powers of surveillance grew, so did its relationships with police departments. All the while, it transformed into an advertising business, bringing in tens of billions of dollars annually, while failing to apply the civil rights laws that could have prevented those ads from becoming a bastion of discrimination.
When I suggest leaving Facebook, friends generally understand and often say they, too, are thinking of severing ties. Some have deleted their accounts. Instagram, also owned by Zuckerberg, presents a knottier challenge because it seems like such an important networking tool for the art community. Originally it was created to be used as a quick snapshot posting service with fun filters that we used with our smart phones. Over time, especially after it was bought by Facebook, it has become less a lighthearted outlet than a corporate tool. Features have been added to make it a combination of a Facebook and an our websites, and it has become a site to post images, get feedback and “likes” of our work, and respond to images posted by friends. Galleries and curators get a chance to see how popular we are, if we have a following, and who likes our work. Younger artists spend hours on the app trying to game the algorithm because they know galleries care about the numbers they generate. Galleries look for artists who already have an established following. It’s easy to appreciate why many people – including me – are so reluctant to leave the platform. If media companies at some other point in history had collaborated with an authoritarian regime, wouldn’t a left-leaning, freedom-loving art community have vilified the practice?
A move to Tumblr, although it may worry those who are loath to leave the technology with which they have grown comfortable, could serve substantially the same purpose. Many of Tumblr’s features are actually better. For instance, unlike Instagram, Tumblr was designed to be a sharing platform, which means that adding external links to posts is easy, and commenting on and reposting other people’s images is as simple as Facebook. Although there’s an app, smartphones are not required. You can post from your laptop.
The interface at first seems odd because it incorporates both blogging and social media. It’s owned by Automattic, the same company that owns WordPress, so it’s no surprise that you can choose your own page format. Here’s a tip: choose “Basic.” It’s fine. You can always change it later if you want to. Add an avatar and a header image, and you’re good to go. The reality is that the design you choose makes no difference whatsoever because most people will be interacting through the dashboard, which looks quite a bit like a Facebook feed. I suggest bringing your five favorite people along with you so you won’t feel alone. Exploring Tumblr, which has a trove of fascinating art content, takes me back to the days when online life was fun.
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