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The 30% tax on our friendship

So many of my friendships were first born online. Many of us met through platforms like Twitter and Instagram, eventually accepted official Facebook friend requests, and further expanded that to in-person get togethers.

Back then, these new platforms were exciting. You could connect—for free!—with others from across the world who shared your interests. You’d follow their posts, like and/or comment, perhaps even re-share the post, all while deepening that friendship.

As smartphones proliferated, so too did the amount of time we spent on those platforms, updating everyone on what we were up to. Increasingly, we used it as a primary tool for keeping track of our friends’ lives.

But those platforms began to rot. Slowly at first, then the pace increasingly quickened, devolving in a process aptly described as enshittification.

And today?

They’re completely enshittified. While we all still foolishly call them social media platforms, their owners have fully transitioned them into entertainment and shopping platforms. Algorithms now decide what which friend updates you see and which you don’t, and how much other unrequested junk is shoved into your “social” feed.

How much junk are we talking about? The exact number changes as the social media companies twiddle their algorithmic knobs to maximize profit; but in my counting, the number hovers around 30%, give or take.

You’d never watch a television show that had a one minute commercial interspersed in every three minute scene. You’d turn off the football game if they went to commercial after every couple plays. How exhausting would it be to visit with a friend if every third sentence was a pitch for you to buy something? It’d be intolerable.

But for reason, that’s what we live with on so-called “social” these days.

It’s a 30% tax on our friendships.

Platform owners can do this because many people are now so thoroughly entrenched; they just can’t seem to leave. Complain as they do, users won’t start posting on their own website or use alternatives like Mastodon or PixelFed, or any other number of social web alternatives. They continue to hold their own friends hostage to the very enshittified platforms they themselves no longer enjoy.

So I continue to pay the 30% tax for our continued friendship…