Tantek Çelik, Web Standards Lead at Mozilla and co-founder of IndieWebCamp, delivered an inspirational talk titled “Take Back Your Web” at the most recent beyond tellerrand conference in Düsseldorf, Germany. He opened the presentation with a litany of Facebook’s wrongdoings, taking the world’s largest social network to task for its role in increasing polarization, amplifying rage, and spreading conspiracy theories.
Çelik challenged the audience to “stop scrolling Facebook,” because its algorithms are designed to manipulate users’ emotions and behaviors. He noted that it is the only social network with a Wikipedia page dedicated to its criticism. This massive document has a dizzying number of references, which Wikipedia says “may be too long to read and navigate comfortably.” As an alternative to scrolling Facebook, Celik encouraged attendees to spend time doing nothing, an activity that can be uncomfortable yet productive.
The “Take Back Your Web” presentation is a call to action to join the independent web by owning your own domain, content, social connections, and reading experience. Celik recommends a number of IndieWeb services and tools to empower users to take control of their experiences on the web.
With a free site hosted on GitHub, he said the costs of owning your own domain are less than owning a phone or having internet service. Suggestions like this are targeted at developers who share Twitter names instead of domains and post articles on Medium. Setting up a site on GitHub is not a simple task for most. That’s why networks like WordPress.com, along with hosts that provide instant WordPress sites, are so important for enabling average internet users to create their own websites.
Celik referenced Matthias Ott’s recent article “Into the Personal-Website-Verse,” highlighting the section about the value of learning new technologies by implementing them on your own website: “A personal website is also a powerful playground to tinker with new technologies and discover your powers.” It’s one of the few places developers can expand their skills and make mistakes without the pressure to have everything working. Ott enumerates the many benefits of people having their own enduring home on the web and encourages developers to use their powers to make this a reality:
As idealistic as this vision of the Web might seem these days, it isn’t that far out of reach. Much of what’s needed, especially the publishing part, is already there. It’s also not as if our sites weren’t already connected in one way or another. Yet much of the discussions and establishment of connections, of that social glue that holds our community together – besides community events in real life, of course –, mostly happens on social media platforms at the moment. But: this is a choice. If we would make the conscious decision to find better ways to connect our personal sites and to enable more social interaction again, and if we would then persistently work on this idea, then we could, bit by bit, influence the development of Web technologies into this direction. What we would end up with is not only a bunch of personal websites but a whole interconnected personal-website-verse.
Check out Çelik’s slides for the presentation and the recording below for a little bit of inspiration to re-evaluate your relationship with social networks, create your own site, or revive one that has been neglected.