One advantage of being older is that you see ebbs and flows – you remember Friendster, MySpace, Twitter back when it was fun, and Google Reader.
Social media sites come and go. Websites come and go. It is popular to tell young folks that, before they post all their business online, to remember that the internet is forever.
But it isn’t. Not really.
I spent a few years in the middle of the last decade making websites for folks who wanted to maximize their appearance in search results. I can’t find any of those sites now. I can’t find any of the phrases I wrote, that I invested hours and hours of labor to craft. It is as if they never happened.
This is why you need a spot on the internet that you control.
And no, I don’t mean a Facebook page.
I know several activists who have been put in Facebook Jail – where they wrote content that offended someone, and as a result, were blocked from posting to Facebook for 30 days and in some cases, banned all together. In addition, multiple times this decade Facebook has changed its algorithms for how posts show up, especially posts from pages that represent businesses or organizations. Posts from pages like that get a fraction of the regular reach, in an attempt to get you to purchase ads to promote your page.
This, of course, privileges organizations that have the budget to do that, and not small nonprofits, activists, and bloggers.
The answer is the same as it has been for at least 30 years – you need your own website, and your own mailing list. Another day I will talk about your mailing list, but today, I want to focus on why you need a website.
You need your own website because you need a place where you control the images, the text, and most importantly, a place where you own the content. All the hours you have spent writing Facebook posts, all the contacts you have made, all the emotional labor you have invested in that platform can disappear anytime they decide.
So you need your own website. This is your permanent home on the internet. It doesn’t mean that Facebook or snapchat or Instagram are bad – they aren’t, per se. They are just tools you use to point people to your permanent website. Tools change. But your website is your space. You have control over what it looks like, how minimal (or maximal) it is, and, for the most part, you can write whatever you want.
The other thing about having your own website is it is platform agnostic. Have you ever written something on Facebook, and wished you could have shared it with your friend who isn’t on Facebook? By writing it on your own website, you get a permalink, and anyone in the world can link to it and share it on any platform they want.
I know it’s easier to post directly to Facebook, but the price for that is that now you gave up control. One way I have combined the informality of Facebook with the permanency of my own site is what I call backposting. When I write something I think I want to keep and be able to share later, I cut and paste it to my blog on my website, thus preserving it and making it shareable, should I so desire.
So you need a website. The bad news is that it will cost you something – but the good news is that it is less than you spend right now for an Amazon Prime subscription.
You need a domain name, and a blog hosted using WordPress software. You can do all that at a place like name.com for less than $50 for the year. I think it’s worth that to control your own space.