What do we mean by “social media”?

I often wish we didn't have the phrase. We didn't in the beginning. There were tools that we used, different tools for different purposes at different times, and that was it. It was clear that it was an ecology rather than a single thing. We used the tools that helped us achieve our ends, in my case better conversations, and moved on when they stopped doing that. It was up to us what we used, how, and for what purpose.

And then people started calling them "platforms" and their owners started calling themselves media companies, and then social media became a thing, and for many millions of people it became the de facto way of using the internet to discuss and connect.

Advertising began to dominate, algorithms started to steer users, and the whole thing ended up looking like pretty much any other media activity with a small group of disproportionately influential, and wealthy, individuals acting like gatekeepers and thinking that they are in charge.

When people say that "social media is broken" it is often taken to mean "it", "them", something other than "us". When I unwillingly use the phrase "social media" I mean our collective use of, and responsibility for the consequences of our use of, the tools that allow us to connect. I don't mean the people who think they are in charge.