My Website is a Personal Museum
the creative freedom we lost in the age of social media

I read an article a few months ago about how the blog broke the Web. In it, the author talked about how chronologically ordered posts not only influenced how social media platforms are structured, but also websites which didn't even revolve around chronologically ordered content in the first place. And as a result, we lost the personally curated webpages that characterized the Old Web.

In a way, this article has influenced my website's structure in some way. If you were here to see my website a few months ago, you would find that my articles page used to be entirely in reverse chronological order. It wasn't until November that I started categorizing my articles into separate topics, and I think that small little change has done wonders for both myself and for those who want to read something more specific to their interests.

The more I think about it, the more I see that the rise of chronologically ordered content for all of these platforms has impacted content creation in a way which I think is detrimental. Not only has it affected a piece of content's lifespan and long-term influence, but it has also normalized a structure which doesn't suit the majority of content in the first place.

Content Longevity, and the Dreaded Feed

Something which I realized about the structure of social media platforms is that they revolve around this idea of the feed.

You post something, and all of the people who follow you receive said post in their feed. If the post has any tags on it, then it gets lumped together with similarly tagged posts inside the global feed. Quite a simple premise.

The problem with this structure, however, is that the feed is the only real source of content. And an even bigger issue: all types of content are fed through this system. It could be a piece of artwork taking many hours, or it could be some person's incoherent thoughts at 3 in the morning, they all fall under the same umbrella in the feed. As a result, content which is streamed through such a fast-paced system just doesn't last. A post will catch the eyes of a handful of people at most, and then it's gone, never to be seen again as newer posts come and take the spotlight. This is why reposting is rampant on social media: people want their content to last longer than it typically does on these platforms.

Another issue which holds for platforms with this type of structure (especially IG, Twitter, and Tumblr) is that looking back through another person's archived works is an absolute chore. If you want to look for a particular piece of work in someone's account, have fun wading through years of work in reverse chronological order just to find it. Because of this, people just end up resigning to have content spoonfed to them through the feed, as opposed to searching for all of the hidden gems that have long since disappeared from the public eye. It's a real shame, because there are possibly plenty of great works that will not be seen ever again because it's such a nightmare digging through all of this stuff just to find something specific.

I do want to note that the feed itself isn't bad. It has its uses. Blogs and journals work perfectly fine with a feed. The main gripe that I have with it is that with the normalization of using social media as a platform for content creation, the feed became the structure which everything was forced into, regardless of what type of content it is. And because of this structure, all the content which is created in these platforms is now heavily context dependent. Context dependent in that the recency of said content is now of some significance.

Looking through a writer's perspective, I don't want only my newer writings to be seen. I have some older writings that I like which should get the same opportunity to be seen as newer works. The influence that a piece of work has should be independent from when it was created. This reason is exactly why I switched my articles page to be categorized as opposed to reverse chronological order. The same exact thing goes for my art pieces. The huge issue with social media is that I don't get to make that choice between sorting my content in chronological order or not. It's all streamed through the same tube, and as a result a lot of my older work is practically non-existent because it's so far down the tube that no one is willing to fish it out.

Breaking the Mold

As a result of social media constraining its users to use the feed as a main place for content output, we've reduced the lifespan of all manners of content to mere blots in time. For a lot of content out there, chronological order is not the best way to structure it. This is why when I was trying to look at how to make content have a longer lasting influence on people, I started looking at the bastions of the Internet: webpages.

What's amazing about webpages is that you can structure them however you'd like. It could be a feed, or it could be a well-curated list of links and resources. The choice is yours. You're not forced into the structure which a platform is set up in. If a certain type of structure suits your content or personal preferences the best, then have at it.

The issue with these media platforms is that they are not at all flexible. So what creators tend to do is that they start managing multiple accounts on different platforms which suits certain types of content. For example, I could have Instagram for my artwork, Medium for my articles, and Tumblr for my blogging stuff. It makes sense for industry professionals and aspiring individuals, but for hobbyists and enthusiasts who just want to put their work out there, having to manage many different accounts is very cumbersome. Why stretch myself so thin when I can just have it all on one platform: my website? It's convenient, it's flexible, and it's practical. What more do I need?

I think one of the possible reasons why people are shy to create webpages is that the potential for viewership and engagement is low. If you're hosting your website independently, you'll especially be hardpressed to find traffic given the sheer the size of the Internet. But really, the more I think about it, it's the same exact case for modern social media these days. Not only is the population of those platforms beyond innumerable, but you also have to fight against the algorithms which are constantly screwing over its users. At this point, I'd be willing to sacrifice the potential for fame for greater content longevity, long-term influence, and most importantly my sanity.

This is exactly why I think Neocities' structure is great (unlike some other platform *cough* *cough*). Neocities is closed off enough that a sense of community can develop that is separate from the rest of the Internet, but it's also open enough that all sorts of content and websites are present, along with flexible tools to boot.

What is Your Website?

These thoughts about structuring one's content led me to think: exactly what is the structure that houses my content? Sure, my content is housed inside my personal website, but what does my website represent? I am a person who often thinks in metaphors, so to concretely represent something in a nonliteral way helps out a lot.

Since I house all of my artwork on here, along with my non-fictional writings, I could characterize my website as being both a personal art gallery and a personal publishing house of sorts. So I settled on the idea of my website being a personal museum, an archive to all of my creative work. With all museums, there are curators. I curate and display my personal content in a way which is accessible and people can easily find the things which pique their interests the most.

The powerful thing about having a website is that it could literally be anything. It can be structured however you'd like, and you can share about whatever you want. Your site could be a library of information about wildflowers; it could be a shrine for your favourite anime; it could be an alternate reality game. Heck, it could be all of these things combined: an alternate reality game in which you collect and document wildflowers in real life, whilst featuring characters from your favourite anime. The world is your oyster.

What We Lost

This level of creative freedom is what we lost in the age of social media. Our creativity is stunted by closed walls, limited tools, and stupid algorithms. My social media account isn't a personal museum - it's just a lifeless husk of a personality who's forced into this structure, like a bird stuck in its cage. We're at the hands of the people who run these platforms. No longer is it about sharing that cool thing one has created to friends and strangers, but trying to beat the system, and trying to beat others.

Social platforms should aspire to be flexible, open, and fun. A place to share our humanity, not merely a place to sell a product or to take people down in an attempt to rise to the top. When social platforms reduce to cold, rigidly structured competitive bloodbaths, that's no longer a social platform - that's a bloody colosseum.

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