Stuckness is also the inevitable result of a commercialized social and civic space built only to grow. Stuckness isn’t exactly the same as “having to be here for work”, but it’s not entirely different either.

One educational way to think about it is to think of each social network as a version of LinkedIn, the platform that is helpful explained the space between what we think of as social platforms (feeds) and what we think of as more commercial platforms (something like eBay).

It’s fair to say that LinkedIn offers some of its users a less enjoyable experience that requires work, attention, and certain performance styles while subjecting them to upselling, focusing notifications, and an endless stream of content on recruiting, job search, and related topics. Lots of people joined for one reason: It was a new place to get a job or hire people. Years later, however, they are stuck. Leaving the company has fuzzy but material costs, even for the happily employed, and LinkedIn’s dominance has ensured that those costs remain at least real enough, if not high, to prevent the leaving. Now consider what makes LinkedIn different from Facebook or Instagram. Some “mechanics”? User intentions when logging in?

None of this means that the stuck’s attention isn’t drawn elsewhere to newer platforms promoting new ways of communicating with freshly assembled networks of people. Joining and forming other networks is one of the more obvious responses to feeling stuck, even assuming new kinds of stuck down the line. TikTok and Discord, for example, offered mechanics and experiences that Facebook, Twitter and Instagram did not have, at least initially. For those already deadlocked, however, these networks are often additions, not replacements.

This type of blockade has inspired some tech investors a fresh take about what’s happening to platforms in the long run: not a death spiral, but the slow bleeding of time and attention by more focused competitors that keep users present, distracted, but – crucially – available to be withdrawn (consider the rise of Facebook- Groups in recent years or the continued growth of the Facebook marketplace). Users who stay to talk about how much they hate staying around are only reproducing themselves.

This type of traffic jam is not permanent or completely unexpected, but the distinguishing feature is that it lasts longer than expected. And while recognizing your blockage may not make leaving a social media platform easier, it has other advantages.

If nothing else, it’s a truer form of connection with our fellow users than any platform-generated mechanic can offer: a shared feeling that whatever it is is not what we signed up for.



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