Digital environments and social media

[Updated 16th November 2022]

Having recently written a post reflecting on aspects of power relationships and control through digital systems, I just thought that it might be helpful to share the list below of those digital systems and social media that I generally use so that others can know how to interact with me should they wish:

Digital environments that I use for public interaction

  • e-mails – multiple accounts, some integrated through Outlook/Office 365 (mainly formal work-related – contact via Royal Holloway, University of London) and others (mainly private) through Apple Mail. This remains my main mode of digital communication, largely because my e-mail account is one central place where people can send me material they want me to read!
  • WordPress (since 2008, although I began blogging earlier in 2007) – mainly for work-related issues, but also for personal views and opinions – for links to my various blogs see Interestingly, I am now blogging much less than I used to with views in recent years being half of the 30,349 I had in 2011.
  • Zoom – as have so many people during COVID-19, I have come to use Zoom quite extensively for large group meetings as well as personal ones, and it has largely replaced my former use of Skype. I particularly like its ease of use, and the way that it enables me to deliver live presentations through using its background feature.
  • Elgg (Open Source social networking software) – but sadly this is little used by others, and so I only tend to use it for small work-related groups (and in part as a replacement for Moodle).
  • Slack (sadly bought by Salesforce in December 2020) as a group communication platform – no longer sure how long I will continue to use it.
  • Moodle – the environment we’ve used for various courses at Royal Holloway, University of London and beyond; also where we used to make our ICT4D course materials freely available.
  • Twitter – joined in January 2009 – mainly for sharing information about our research and practice (several different accounts including @unescoict4d and @TEQtogether for research, and @timunwin for personal) – am using it much less than I used to, because the character limit tends to lead to short soundbites that oversimlify issues, and it has become a place dominated by “politically-correct” resonating rhetoric. Following Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter on 27 October 2022, I have almost completely stopped using Twitter for personal tweets, and have started using Mastodon (see below) instead.
  • Facebook – joined in November 2006 – mainly used to share things that interest me, but also use for work-related groups (such as the ICT4D Group created in April 2007 and now with around 5.5K members, and the TEQtogether Group) – I’m again using it much less than I used to, especially since the dreadful new desktop/laptop version was introduced.
  • Microsoft Teams and assorted other Microsoft apps such as Skype for Business and Yammer (social networking; bought by Microsoft in 2012) – the basic environment adopted by Royal Holloway, University of London some time ago (and so I really have to use it to communicate with colleagues there), but also widely used in other enterprises. I find it rather clunky, in much the same way that I also never liked Microsoft’s Sharepoint (launched back in 2001); I still try to use these as little as possible.
  • Mastodon – ( – began using this in November 2022 – but too few friends are yet using it to make it a really viable alternative to Twitter (see above) for the moment.
  • I’m beginning to use Miro (an online whiteboard) for team work and collaboration.

Environments that I will not use if I can avoid them!

So, definitely don’t ask me to collaborate with you using the following:

  • Any Google environment (including Cloud, Drive, Chrome, Meet) – and especially if I have to sign in with a Google account (I refuse to have one). Exceptionally, I will occasionally use a Google environment providing I don’t have to sign in – but I would prefer to be sent documents in a way that is easier for me, such as by e-mail. That having been said, Google Maps is a phenomenal piece of software design, and I confess that I do use this.
  • WeChat – I may well have to use this one day to be able to communicate in China and with Chinese friends since it is becoming so ubiquitous and essential there, but for the moment I don’t want too many governments having easy access to too much information about me.
  • Sina Weibo – similar reservations to the above, but I am also getting too old to learn to microblog in Chinese.
  • Microsoft Teams – I find it clunky and not always intuitive, and so if at all possible I try to avoid it. It’s depressing that so many universities and organisations now have it as their default, and this causes me some problems when I prefer alternatives!

Environments that I use for private communication

The following are some of the environments that I use for private communication, and will not use for professional purposes (so please don’t ask me, for example, to join a work-related WhatsApp group):

  • WhatsApp – although I almost stopped using it when it was purchased by Facebook. I only use it with family and friends, and most definitely will not use it for public or professional groups (so there is no point in asking me to join a group).
  • Signal – I use this privately because of its security, usability, and open source build – and it’s also free.
  • Instagram – for posting images of things that interest me (I may well soon start to use it to share information about our research and practice, since Instagram is increasingly being used effectively by businesses for this). However, by late-2022 I have become quite disillusioned with it because so much of the content is now advertising, and too many reels last fot too long.
  • Dropbox – for sharing large files with friends.
  • Skype – for personal video discussions – although I have used it much less since 2011 when it was purchased by Microsoft.

Since the beginning of 2022 I have also become increasingly disenchanted with social media, and am using it much less than I did in the past – in essence, because I now consider that its harms may well be outweighing its benefits. I am also encouraging others to reduce their use of all digital tech by promoting #1in7offline, in part for their own physical and mental well-being, but also to reduce the adverse environmental impact of digital tech. If you can’t take a whole day away from digital tech each week (let alone one week every seven weeks), then try at least one hour every seven offline!

(First written 29 December 2020; latest update 16 November 2022)


Filed under digital technologies, ICT4D, social media, Social Networking

6 responses to “Digital environments and social media

  1. Pingback: On managerial control and the tyranny of digital technologies | Tim Unwin's Blog

  2. Nicely written Tim. Loved to read your platform/tools journey. I am curious to know why google suits are not in your choice list.

    • Tim Unwin

      Long story, but goes back to its motto until 2015 “Don’t be evil” (when to my mind many of its practices were indeed evil), but also because of the huge amounts of money it makes from using people’s data – and many of the people it has enslaved are actually very poor. Its profits are thus hugely exploitative. I’ve written more about this in various of my previous publicatios, not least “Reclaiming ICT4D” (2017).

      • Thanks a lot Tim. I have your book. Probably did not follow that chapter. Will certainly read that portion. Agreeing with your point, different other platforms and solutions also use personal and people’s data. And we the ICT4D practitioner and implementer also need to have that ethic in mind (Although many service/solutions in Dev sector do use people’s data for other projects without getting the consent from beneficiaries)

  3. piftikhar

    Excellent! My preferences are similar, except that in my country I am forced to use WhatsApp much more – including for semi-official correspondence. And thanks for introducing Miro. Looks good. I shall be using it in near future.

    • Tim Unwin

      Great to hear from you – and glad you liked the post. Very much hope you are keeping well, and that 2021 will give us another chance to meet up again!

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