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Private messages are the new (old) social network

Facebook is on us.

It's with me anyway. I'm just an anecdotal of billions, but I'm sure I'm not the only Facebook user to shy away from the public, often performative and even tiring of regularly posting updates on Facebook and Instagram. Last year I did not think about giving up social networks, but about their redefinition. For me, this process has brought much more private messaging.

Facebook has apparently noticed. Last week The New York Times reported Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was planning to unify Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram messages on the backend of the services. This would allow people who rely on different Facebook apps to watch everyone at a messaging table. On the one hand, the move is really Facebookian ̵

1; just try to get rid of Facebook and everything will be done to pull you back. On the other hand, it makes sense for Facebook for several reasons.

My personal relationship with Facebook is diverse. I have a personal account and a journalist page. I also use Instagram and WhatsApp. But last year I let my professional side be reviled. I have so often stopped posting in my personal feed. Instead, I turned to private messaging.

During a trip to Europe last fall, I shared everything I wanted to hold for a small group of people in Apple Messages. The excursion to see one of the biggest waves ever surfed by a human? I shared the photo with colleagues in a private Slack message instead of posting on Facebook. Wedding photos are no longer uploaded to Instagram. During the holidays, I'm happy to be a halfway decent photographer, but sharing photos with friends and family is only possible through Messages, WhatsApp or private photo albums.

These tools have become my favorite method of communication. It is not a big revelation or something new. Peer-to-peer messaging or at least the form of "private" messaging is as old as the consumer's Internet. As our worlds expand in ways that are unmanageable, our instinct is to scale them down until we feel well, for better or for worse. Do you remember Path, the social network restricted to your immediate circle? That did not work, but the entire app was built on the Dunbar theory that our species can not handle more than 150 close friends. Only something could have belonged to it.

"I think many people are experiencing this," says Margaret Morris, clinical psychologist and author of Left to Our Own Devices. "When you publish something in public, the question is: what are the reasons? But if it's in a private thread, it says, Why am I sharing that? Oh, that's because I think you like that. I think we will connect with it. The altruistic motivations can be much clearer in private news. "

Of course," altruism "in this case refers only to the friends who exchange messages, and not to the providers of intelligence services. Facebook's drive to standardize its messaging platforms is based, at least in part, on the effort to monetize our activities, whether by sticking to an outbound news feed or a small chat box. And there is a big difference between so-called private news and what Morris calls "privacy with a capital P".

"There is some kind of privacy, namely: What does my cousin know or what does my colleague know," says Morris, "and then there is some sort of privacy that relates to Facebook's data. "Facebook's plan is supposedly the end-to-end encryption of all its messaging apps once the backend systems have been merged, as my WIRED colleague Lily Newman writes, privacy and privacy advocates already see obvious hurdles if this works.

Because of this, I often use Apple's messages and even share iCloud photos.There is an explicit agreement between the service provider and the user: Buy our ridiculously expensive hardware, and we will not sell your data. (While iCloud is already Apple hijacked end-to-end encryption between iPhone users and said that it does not share any message data with third-party apps.) But only using messages is unrealistic – the platform only works between Two iPhones: Apple products can not afford anybody, and in other parts of the world like China or India dominate App s such as WeChat and WhatsApp private messaging. This means that you will end up using other apps if you want to communicate outside a bubble of iPhone enthusiasts.

But beyond privacy with a big P – which for many is the most important consideration when it comes to social media, there is the psychology of privacy when it comes to sharing updates about our personal lives and to connect with other people. Social networks have made human connections infinitely more possible and also turned the whole idea upside down.

Morris, for example, sees something in a Facebook feed as a craving for networking, while a private messaging thread is an email looking for what they call attunement, a way to strengthen the connection between two people , However, some people take a screenshot from a private message and, after failing to find their vote, publish an identity-mocked version of it in their feed. Guilty as charged. Social networks are no longer just a feed or an app or a chatbox or SMS, but a merger of everything.

Sending private messages is not something I want to learn, but sometimes there is the urge to share . I'm still on Twitter. I will probably still post on Facebook and Instagram from time to time. At some point, I may be looking for a sense of community that exists beyond my own small private messaging groups, for a tantalizing blend of familiarity and anonymity in a Facebook group of like-minded hobbyists. For some people, larger social network communities are fun-loving when they are struggling with health, with the family, with work concerns, and with life. But right now, "private" messages are the way to share my life with the people who matter most, an attempt to split my social interactions into something more satisfying – especially if posting on Facebook never seemed less appealing.

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