I Am Addicted to Social Media

One of the ways I try to get people to understand just how wrong feeds from places like Facebook are is to think about Wikipedia. When you go to a page, you’re seeing the same thing as other people. So it’s one of the few things online that we at least hold in common.

Now just imagine for a second that Wikipedia said, “We’re gonna give each person a different customized definition, and we’re gonna be paid by people for that.” So, Wikipedia would be spying on you. Wikipedia would calculate, “What’s the thing I can do to get this person to change a little bit on behalf of some commercial interest?” Right? And then it would change the entry.

Can you imagine that? Well, you should be able to, because that’s exactly what’s happening on Facebook. It’s exactly what’s happening in your YouTube feed.

—Jaron Lanier, from the documentary The Social Dilemma

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This is not the blogpost I originally started writing.

The first draft of my blogpost is quoted below:

As I lie on the sofa in my darkened apartment, listening to an LGBTQ “Queeraoke” room in Clubhouse (and wondering if I have the audacity to inflict my pitchy tenor voice on the assembly), it occurs to me that my relationship with social media has evolved significantly since I started this blog, a little over four years ago.

I don’t kid myself; my divorce from Facebook (not so much a single event as a series of steps), led not to a reduction in my use of social media, but an overall increase, something about which I have strong mixed feelings about. (It would appear that I am not alone in this: I have noticed a significant uptick in recent views of a blogpost I wrote about Jaron Lanier’s 10 reasons to quit social media, according to my WordPress blog statistics.)

Spending so much of my time in social isolation since the pandemic started 20 months ago, I find myself spending varying amounts of time every day on five wildly disparate social media platforms: Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, Discord, and (the newcomer) Clubhouse. I tell myself that it helps me stay connected to other people, but I also

And then, like so many other blogposts I write, I set it aside, literally mid-sentence, to complete on another day, when the muse struck.

Well, today is another day.

And it is a day that I started watching a one-and-a-half hour documentary on Netflix, which is also available to watch for free on YouTube: The Social Dilemma. And, as it happens, Jaron Lanier also appears in this particular documentary—along with two dozen other experts, many of them executives who formerly held high-ranking positions at social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

I full well realize the irony in asking you to watch a YouTube video on social media addiction (given the platform’s at-times-scarily accurate recommendation engine, algorithmically designed to keep you viewing long past your bedtime), but I would urge you to set aside 93 minutes and 42 seconds of your time, and watch this documentary. It is eye-opening, it is disturbing, and it is a wake-up call.

One shocking thing I learned from this documentary is that even the people who designed, created, and tweaked the algorithms that glue us to our cellphones, are addicted to social media and its attendant ills (for example, a more divisive society and increasingly polarized politics).

We are participating in an experiment that is slowly but surely rewiring our brains in ways that we are only now starting to comprehend. Particularly disturbing is the impact that social media algorithms are having on children and teenagers, something once again brought to light by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen last week in her testimony to the U.S. Senate.

According to the video description on YouTube, The Social Dilemma was only supposed to be on YouTube until September 30th, 2021, but it’s still up as of today. I don’t know how long it will be available on YouTube, so if you don’t subscribe to Netflix, please don’t delay in watching this.

As I said up top, while I might be proud of my emancipation from Facebook, I have landed up spending more time—a lot more time—on other social media, notably Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, Clubhouse, and Discord. The pandemic (and its lockdowns and social distancing requirements) have only exacerbated the problem over the past 20 months. And I suspect that I am not alone in this.

I might be free of Facebook (which I consider the most egregious culprit), but I am still addicted to social media.

Are you?

Here’s a resource to help you learn more: The Center for Humane Technology.

A Quick Guide to the VRChat Communities on Discord, Twitch, YouTube, and Other Social Media (Plus a Couple of Directories of VRChat Maps/Worlds!)

After writing up my recent blogpost about the Second Life blogging and vlogging community, I decided to investigate what social media exists around another popular social VR platform/virtual world, VRChat, which I have been writing about for four years now on this blog.

Blogs

To my surprise, there’s very little in the way of blogging about VRChat; my Google searches consistently pulled up only two blogs which discuss VRChat regularly, my own blog, and Wagner James Au’s venerable blog New World Notes, which has branched out from its original coverage of Second Life to write about other virtual worlds (here’s a link to all of my VRChat posts, and a link to all of Wagner’s).

Discords

As for Discords, there are any number of popular Discord communities:

There are also the following Discord servers, which have a VRChat section or channel:

Directories of VRChat Worlds

As I have written about before, it can be difficult to find good directories of VRChat maps (i.e. worlds) to explore (other than the Worlds listing in the VRChat client itself).

There is a Japanese-language website called The World of VRChat, a website directory for VRChat worlds (if you turn on Google auto-translate in your Chrome web browser, it works well enough). I don’t know how up-to-date it is kept, however, and I have been unable to find any other website directories like this one.

The World of VRChat Website

Also, VRChat user CatRazor has created a very useful Discord server called VRChat Maps, where users can post their favourite maps to various channels. Check it out!

The VRChat Maps Discord server

If you know of any other VRChat map/world directories which exist outside the VRChat client, please drop a comment, thank you!


Of course, it was the Twitch and YouTube livestreamers who first brought attention to VRChat, so it only makes sense that the overwhelming majority of the social media out there about VRChat is on Twitch and YouTube.

Twitch

There’s a very active VRChat community on Twitch, with dozens of livestreamers. Your best bet is to go exploring, and see whose content appeals to you!

Just a small sample of the VRChat streamers on Twitch

YouTube

There are hundreds of people who regularly post videos about VRChat to YouTube. Feedspot maintains what it claims is an up-to-date list of the most popular VRChat YouTubers, but I have discovered that many of the people on this list haven’t posted VRChat videos to YouTube in many months, if not years (for example, Nagzz21 is listed, but he stopped posting videos about VRChat a year ago, citing the U.S. FTC’s COPPA legislation).

There are so many VRChat videos on YouTube that it is possible to create subcategories! For example, there are many YouTubers who focus on slice of life or “man in the street” interviews:

Here’s a couple of examples of YouTube videos from iListen and iamLucid, to give you an idea of the content you can expect in these interview videos:

Other VRChat videos tend to be edited or unedited recordings of shenanigans happening on the social VR platform. Your mileage may vary; some of funnier or others, but overall it comes down to your personal sense of humour. Here’s the results of a keyword search for “VRChat” on YouTube; dive in! If you’re looking for the most popular VRChat videos, start here (but be warned; some of these are not for the faint of heart!).


Do you know of any resources which should be listed here? If you know of a Discord server, a YouTube channel, or a Twitch channel, or some other social media that should be included in this blogpost? Then please feel free to leave a comment, thanks!

Editorial: I’m Officially Back!

Well, I am now officially back from my self-imposed vacation from the blog, refreshed and re-energized!

However, I will still extremely busy with projects at my full-time, paying job with my university library system over the next month, so please don’t expect a torrent of blogposts. My time will be limited.


I will also be resuming sponsored blogposts for Sinespace. If you are interested in having me writing sponsored blogposts for your platform, feel free to contact me. If sponsored blogposts are not your thing, then how about advertising on my blog?

Don’t forget that you can also join the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, where 450 people from around the world discuss, debate, and argue about anything and everything pertaining to the ever-evolving metaverse. We’d love to welcome you!

Thanks for sticking around, and stay tuned for more “News and Views on Social VR, Virtual Worlds, and the Metaverse”!

UPDATED! VRChat Maps Discord Server: A Directory for Finding Cool Worlds to Explore in VRChat

Stair Hall in VRChat: A procedurally-generated maze of staircases.
Can you reach the prize in the glass cabinet, tantalizingly out of reach?

With over 50,000 user-created worlds, there is just so much to see in VRChat. However, there is no in-world directory, and you have to rely on using keyword search to find worlds to explore, which admittedly is not ideal. What’s really needed is some sort of directory broken down by category (something I am surprised has not been added to VRChat yet).

However, VRChat user CatRazor has created a very useful Discord server called VRChat Maps, which is described as follows:

CatRazor here, I made this place to sort out the maps of VRChat into categories in case someone is looking for something specific. These maps are personally picked out by me, I believe these maps are worth a visit and you will not regret it!

#adventure-maps – Maps with an objective, such as escape rooms, boss battles and etc.

#club-and-dance-maps – Dance to your heart’s content!

#exploration-maps – Maps where you can enjoy beautiful sights and seek out secrets.

#festive-maps – Maps to celebrate the holidays!

#game-maps – PVP/Game maps.

#hang-out-maps – Usually small maps where you can enjoy conversations with friends.

#horror-maps – As the name entails, not for the faint of heart.

#sleep-maps – Good places for sleepy time, make sure you use a private world for these to not be woken up.

#unique-concept-maps – Maps designed to show off cool mechanics.

For example, here is the entry for the Stair Hall world, found in the #unique-concept-maps channel. Basically, it’s a snapshot of the entry under the Worlds menu:

The world itself, Stair Hall, is a maddening maze of procedurally-generated staircases leading up and down as far as the eye can see, with your goal being to reach an elusive prize in a glass cabinet.

The only problem with this directory of cool places to visit is that it is in Discord, outside your VR headset! So you’ll have to go back and forth in order to use it. Either that, or use the VRChat Maps Discord first, in order to draw up a list of some interesting places to see, noting down the keywords to search under Worlds, then go in-world to explore.

Other ways to find cool worlds to explore are to check out the #world-showcase channel on the VRChat Community Discord, or the #favorite-worlds channel on the VRChat Events Discord. There’s also a Showcase forum on the VRCat user discussion forums for people to share worlds.

Happy exploring!

UPDATE Nov. 12th: A commenter on the VRChat subReddit told me about The World of VRChat, a website directory for VRChat worlds that I did not know about before. The website is in Japanese, but if you turn on Google auto-translate, it works well. Thank you, Warhorse07!