Why Steemit is a 'Real' Social Media (Posting about Steemit on Medium!)
Eeek - my first foray into writing about Steemit outside the Steemit platform. I published this on Medium a couple of days ago - you can find the original post here and you are more than welcome to share it in your networks. I'm still not feeling FUD, despite recent politics and controversary, choosing to focus on the absolutely freaking awesome things about Steemit.
Let me know what you think!
Why Steemit is a Real Social Media
Imagine earning crypto for every post you write on a social media platform. Imagine being in an online environment where you have the opportunity to meet new people from all over the world every day, as well as interact with people who have become part of an extended family, so much so you genuinely care about them and would invite them over for a cup of tea any day. Imagine an online environment where trolls are not only incredibly rare, they get hen pecked out of the coop and made invisible. Imagine a social media which has something for everyone, whether you’re a photographer, an artist, a homesteader or a philosopher. Imagine a social media that eschews censorship, does not choose friends or content for you based on spurious algorithms, and doesn’t rely on advertising to sustain itself.
This is Steemit, something I consider is a ‘real’ social media, and has caused me to lose interest in all others. I have now been a Steemit addict for nearly 324 days.
I stop short of blogging about my breakfast. Hang on, no I don't - on Steemit, anything goes. Image by Raw Pixel on Unsplash
Founded in 2014, Steemit is a social networking and blogging website that rewards those who post and curate content. If you are ‘upvoted’ by readers (similiar to claps on Medium) you are rewarded with small amounts of a crypto-currency called steem. Whilst earnings are sporadic and can be so tiny they’d make a grown man weep, if you’re noticed by ‘whales’, which are big investors in the platform, you might get an upvote that takes your post up to anywhere between $10 and $30 — at the time of writing. When the cryptocurrency market was up, a whale upvote could earn you up to $100, as I found out on one of my early posts, an Australian gothic horror story which you can read now on Medium too.
Rewards for Posting — Does Financial Incentive Matter?
Since March, I’ve posted nearly every day, as that’s how one builds followers and gets noticed. I’ve loved doing it as it’s fine tuned my writing skills, connected me to people from Colorado to Belize to South Africa, and fed my desire to be creative. I have also loved the logistics of it, as it feels like one giant strategic game. There is always something to learn and new things happening. The creative output of others is also incredible. I’m constantly in awe of my fellow human beings and what they do, and that I have a chance to interact with these wonderful Steemfolk on a daily basis.
Having been such a diligent poster, I now have nearly 4,500 steem power (the more steem power you have, the more ‘vests’ or investment you have, and thus your influence increases) which in today’s market means my account is worth about $1000 US dollars. That’s not alot for daily writing, but as most hardcore Steemians will attest, if the value of steem increases, that will be worth considerably more. Those that have been around a long time and are loyal to the platform are ever hopeful for a bull market, because it will prove lucrative indeed. And yes, it is absolutely spendable. I can easily change steem into any other crypto currency and then into AUD on Coinspot and many other exchanges which allow you to do so. Whilst earning $2 a post might not seem a lot to you, it can mean a meal for someone in other parts of the world, and it’s a lot more than I would get for posting about my life on Facebook!
The apocalyptic drop of bitcoin and other crypto currencies, however, brought a lot of FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) to Steemit. People that were used to earning between $8 — $20 on their posts suddenly were earning a lot less, and simply felt there was no point in all in continuing the effort. The place became a ghost town. We’d post and refresh the screens. No comments, no resteems, no upvotes. Nada, zilch, zip. It was like shouting into the void and we were bereft, lonely and disconsolate. Where was everyone?
Then, the magic really started to happen. Many Steemfolk realised they weren’t in just for the money. Yes, it was a bonus, especially for those who’d given up their day jobs to be part of the steem economy, but they loved the engagement far more. The rallying cry echoed through Steemit: support your community, folks, because that’s what’s going to save us. Reassessing, many of us related to this immensely and deeply. What was of more value to us? Was money as important as the other gains we’d received from being part of this innovative, experimental and alternative social media?
The answer for many of us was ‘no’ — we didn’t want to lose the friendships we’d gained in the communities we’d joined. Many had attached themselves to such communities on Steemit, providing identities that are not unlike real life. There’s a writers group, a makers and builders group, a collective of artists, a bloggers group, environmentalists, travellers, a cannabis collective, vegans and environmentalists, crypto enthusiasts and coin stackers. By being part of these communities, you are more likely to be noticed by others within that interest area, and gain upvotes and comments by using relevant hashtags on your posts.
The homesteading community, for example, is one of the largest on Steemit, the tag #ghsc standing for ‘Global Homesteading Community’. They run a Discord chat room (Discord is an ‘cross-platform voice and text chat app designed specifically for gamers’ and where a lot of the action happens, including radio chat shows and the opportunity to promote your posts.). I myself run a group called ‘Natural Medicine’, designed to promote and celebrate posts about alternative healing. With Facebook notorious for shutting down what it deems as ‘fake news’, Steemit is a great way to connect to alternative healing wisdoms that might not be allowed elsewhere.
Competitions & Challenges
One of the most fun ways to engage on Steemit is via challenges. These can range from creating a DIY project, singing a song, writing fiction to particular prompts to answering philosophical questions such as ‘What would you do if you ruled the world?’. With many people writing on the same topic at once, it’s a chance to interact with others that I haven’t seen on any other social media.
Sometimes the prize on offer is liquid steem, sometimes it’s a delegation for a month (delegation is steem power that is lent out to increase your voting power), sometimes it’s an upvote for a month, which is awesome if it’s a big account. Winning one of these increased my upvote from around $2 to $8 twice a week for a month, which was a real buzz. Again, if you think this is pittance, ask yourself how much you earn on your Wordpress blog (incidentally, Wordpress now even has a plug in called ‘Steempress’ which means you can post to Steem at the same time you post to Wordpress).
The Value of Steemfolk Friendships
Last year, I made firm friendships via these groups that I treasure enormously. Being fairly isolated where I live, and struggling to connect to like minded people, it was refreshing to chat to people that shared my interests. The magical thing was that it wasn’t just connections that helped financial gain, but genuine friendships that were ready to talk when you were suffering, or needed advice. This kind of thing was what I was searching for on social media all along, and what I was missing on Facebook, where hundreds of friends showed little interest in what I was up to unless it was a happy post — an anniversary, or a photo of a sunset.
In turn, I felt good when I could support people on the Steem blogging platform and by association, Steemians on Discord. People that were struggling in their real lives with broken marriages, debt, anxiety or even more day to day dramas like sick chickens or what the best medicines might be for a flu could log on, connect and talk to other human beings, albeit miles away. One of my best friends on Steemit lives in British Columbia, and despite the fact I can’t see her or hug her, I know she’s there for me whenever I might need her.
People might say there’s no substitute for real life friendships and in many ways I agree with this utterly. When the opportunity arises to spend time with real life friends and family, I drop Steemit like a hot cake — it’s a no brainer. But the simple fact remains — for many of us, isolation is the norm. Who do we turn to when real life friends are busy or otherwise preoccupied? Where do the introverts go, the black sheep, the lost and alone? Where, for example, does the woman go who can’t tell her husband she’s paralysed with suicidal thoughts, whose family lives in another country? Where does the woman go who is bound into her farm in the middle of a political crisis in Nicaragua? How do people connect to others on isolated homesteads subsistence farming? It is one of the wonders of the modern age that we have these technologies to connect us to others, and Steemit is by far the best.
Real Life Meet Ups & a Returned Faith in Humanity
Whilst we’ve spent years hearing the warning signs about the dangers of real life meeting people we’ve met online, we’re moving into a different age where the two bleed together happily. Steemfest was held in Krakow last December and I jealously watched as so many Steemians who’d been interacting online got to party together for the weekend and cement the friendships they’d been building for months. For some, it was life changing.
Even today I just finished reading a post by someone I met back in March. Hailing from Brazil, Arthur (or @mrprofessor as he’s known on Steemit) flew to Europe to go to Steemfest and then cycle throughout Europe on his bike, where he ended up in London at a hostel and had his bike stolen, including his tent. With little money to his name, Mr P was understandably devastated and in a complete bind. No work, nowhere to stay, no bicycle and miles from home was no way to be in the middle of a British winter, and I was worried for him. Yet luckily, there was a Steem meet up that weekend, and attending would mean all the difference. A fellow Steemian gave him her unused bike to lend and lined him up a place to stay with a friend of theirs. What kindness total strangers can show!
This is not the only time my faith in humanity has been restored on Steemit. One woman was lent steem to afford a flight to Amsterdam when she found out her best friend’s child had died in a terrible accident. Another was given support when her husband left her with three small children and no means to make an income. Often this support comes unsolicited — people here just want to help.
I’ve seen people fundraise and donate post payouts for people in need, and the Steemit DAPP ‘Fundition’ allows for fundraising across the blockchain in a similiar way to Go Fund Me or other crowdfunding platforms. Charities such as @walkofhope (that bring livelihood training to people in the Phillipines via music and art), @littledisciples (which supports children’s education in Venuzuela) and @adollaraday (which distributes steem funds to those who need it) are all beautiful examples of Steemfolk doing what they can to support those who need it.
This is real social media — a ‘medium’ where people have the means to ask for, and gain support for, real life projects and needs, and be able to help.
Steem OnBoarding & Other Issues
If you’re expecting a neat and easy to use platform, you’d be in for a shock. It took me months to figure out the tricks of the trade. This is indeed a pitfall for many users, and since a change to the platform meant that new users would run out of bandwidth very quickly, coupled with a tricky sign up process that can take weeks to get an account, many leave before they’ve found their feet.
However, it’s not all bad news — I’ve lost count of the Steemians willingly to delegate (that is, lend some of their own steem power) to ‘newbies’ (or plankton as they’re known in the ocean metaphoric hierarchy of the steem ecosytem) so that they are able to use it. If you’re thinking of joining up, write an introduction post and watch people flock to your assistance. We want you to love it as much as we do, and we want you to succeed because every single one of you are worth it. Us Steemfolk KNOW that people are freaking awesome.
Steemfolk are always willing to help. Photo by Guilli Pozzi on Unsplash
There is also the management of Steemit by Steem Inc. Lack of transparency and communication has meant many are angry with how the CEO sees the operating of Steemit and the future of the platform — or not, considering SteemInc is ‘powering down’ much of it’s steem (to power down to convert steempower to steem and then likely onwards out of the blockchain). Whilst this post is not about the politics of Steemit, it is worth noting that it’s difficult to avoid it. And, by the time I got this far writing this article, ads were appearing on Steemit. It’s something most of us agree is necessary to keep it going, but we’re still unsure where the revenue goes, as it’s certainly not advertising and promoting it.
It’s also tricky to figure out what the hell is going on. Multiple platforms for posting can be confusing — I use Steempeak, for example, to write, save and schedule posts as well as distribute funds, but I use Partiko for my mobile comments. They are simply different ways to interact with Steemit and I enjoy the choices they bring, as well as a competitive element as developers work to create the best for their users. This might overwhelm new users. However, there is always someone to help should you need to ask.
Something for Everyone
DApps are also springing up like crazy. These are decentralised apps where back-end code runs on a decentralized peer-to-peer network rather than centralised servers like Youtube. This means less censorship and control, but storage and other problems (such as lack of funding) means they don’t always run as smoothly as possible. However, the future is bright for this kind of technology, breaking away from the totalitarian rule of establishments like Google, Youtube and Instagram and allowing more freedom for their users. Whilst initially hard for users to get their head around (so there’s blogging on Steemit, right, but you can also post to Steepshots or Actifit or Dsound and earn steem that way) they are the reason most of us have confidence that despite what happens with Steem Inc, Steemit and the steem blockchain are here to stay. They invite more ways to interact and are as diverse as the users that engage with them.
This is another reason why I believe Steemit is truly a ‘social’ platform. Imagine a party with guests from all over the world. Some will be writers and will prefer long form articles. Some will be photographers and hate the idea of writing more than a line to explain their work. Some will be poets. Some will be musicians. Whilst photosharing apps (Instagram), blogging platforms (Medium), shorter blog platforms (Twitter, Tumblr) all separate out into different types of users, Steemit brings them all together. You choose what you want to engage with, and what you want to write. Whilst for a long time poeple bemoaned ‘shit posts’ — poorly edited, poorly sourced — many are realising that this kind of diversity is what makes the Steem platform awesome. There’s a great deal of freedom in that. Whilst I used to spend hours making a piece word perfect and beautifully formatted, sometimes I can let that go and simply write a couple of paragraphs about what’s going on in my garden. The wider appeal might not be there, but the people I interact with will comment and question and add value by sharing their own insights about what I’m doing, and in turn, I’ll visit their posts and see what they are up to.
It’s thus not always really about the content. It’s about the people.
The Steemit platform has many failings, and some may argue that they left the platform because of it — plagariasm, bots that upvote poor content, the invisibility of underdogs, low rewards for content that hearts and souls have been poured into, and so on. Yet for me the ability to connect with people in ways I don’t on other platforms make Steemit a more ‘real’ social media, and I’m hoping it’ll be around for a long time to come.
Have you posted about Steemit on other media?