On the cozy web, who are you?

In the last 6 months, I’ve stepped away from typical social media sites and turned towards cozy web spaces. The [[ cozy web ]] is the name for the areas of the internet where you interact with others but are largely safe from uninvited eyes, like ad trackers, trolls, and the general public. It was originally coined by Venkatesh Rao.

Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit are not cozy web, but the following are:

  • Slack communities
  • Discord servers
  • Whatsapp groups

Something I’ve noticed about these spaces is that the question Who are you? is answered very differently than on social media.

On the cozy web, it’s not enough to glean who your interlocutors are through their profiles alone. Other than an avatar and a display name, cozy web profiles offer very little information about that person. In order to get a real feel for who someone is, you need to actually see them interacting repeatedly over a period of time – how do they type? What do they say? What reacts do they use? Identity is developed actively, and over time.

This is the opposite of sites like Instagram or Twitter. The whole point of those is that everything you’ve said or posted is cemented into a bundle of “who you are”, ready for anyone to stalk for years to come and devoid of all context in which it was posted.

On the cozy web, for anyone to develop any sense of who you are, you have to actually participate in conversation – but you’re also not necessarily beholden to everything you’ve said in the last few years. And on the flip side, if you only ever lurk, you never quite develop an identity. (This can also be said for traditional social media, though.)

Identity as brand

The other thing about cozy web spaces is that brands don’t live there (unless it’s a space made by the brand, for the brand). Corporate content doesn’t get mixed with layperson content: you don’t interact with corporations, you don’t consume a cool piece of content only to discover its a sponsored post. There’s no careful crafting of brand identity by professionals, whether it’s for a corporate or personal account – it just doesn’t make sense to invest in.

Does this mean that cozy web presence is more authentic than social media presence?