๐ŸŒฑ Uprooting the Platform Era for Independent Publishing

Tech & End of the Platform Era

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized Knurd: You may have noticed some larger changes to the Roots of Change newsletter. Now that we're a bit more settled, I wanted to share an update on our journey to independent publishing and the benefits for you. Yes, I left Substack because they platformed Nazis, but it was so much more than the Nazis! Read in for moreโ€ฆ

In Case You Missed It: Multi-Racial Democracy is Closer Than We Think

What You Can Expect
๐Ÿ’พ Why We Left Substack
๐ŸŒ More Pathways for Your Activism
๐ŸŒฑ Customizing Your Roots of Change Experience
๐ŸŒฑ Evaluating news with a social change lens
๐Ÿ”ฅ Reflections, ideas, & curiosities


Why I Left Substack

Itโ€™s hard for me to believe that the racial and social reckoning in 2020 was four years ago. The protests and energy of people awakening to the unspoken realities of the U.S. police system and the general history of racial violence in a Western-dominated world still feel warm to me. I can feel it in every union contract win and every pro-abortion referendum landslide at the ballot (progressive issues keep winning despite the odds!).

At the same time, I can feel the four years of backlash thatโ€™s come from every sector of our society. The hysterical cries of critical race theory that followed the protests in 2021 have a direct through-line to Substack now believing itโ€™s okay to defend its platforming of Nazis. They used vague claims over free speech to defend themselves. But, as much as the Substack CEO bros want us to think they donโ€™t understand the U.S. Constitution, we know theyโ€™re using the tech industry's definition of โ€œfree speechโ€ to justify the lust for profit at the expense of our societal well-being.

The idea that tech companies are beholden to free speech is a very obvious misreading of the law, but tech companies have been using it since its inception to justify not regulating itself. They claim that the tech companies must wait for Congress or another government entity to regulate them. Itโ€™s the kind of learned incompetence that leads to a $1,000 vet bill.

As the wealth gap has grown, itโ€™s been even easier to make sure that regulations donโ€™t happen. Elections are increasingly funded by corporate and billionaire donations across both the GOP and the Democratic Party. In return, Washington D.C. is increasingly gridlocked and unable to meet the peopleโ€™s needs. This has been a slippery slope for some time and we are seeing what it feels like to be in the thick and muddy bottom.

Leaving The Platform Era Behind

The pandemic has only accelerated our over-reliance on tech, while the wealth gap ensures Western governments are unable to act for the wellbeing of people. The enmeshing of the lines between government and the tech industry is a key piece to why we're experiencing so much dysfunction. It's easy to see why. The tech industry and its many white male CEOs have been central in the backlash to the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests (more on that next week). Since then, the response has been to strip away any of our digital privacy, remove content and safety moderation, increasingly manipulate our attention and emotions through algorithms, and shape the internet to work and look exactly like the people who built it, aka tech bros.

If youโ€™ve read any of my work, you know this is exactly what Iโ€™m working to change about tech and our communications.

So I chose to leave.

I was not going to stick around and watch Substack continue to make half-promises and backtrack on their real (racist) beliefs. (I am a stubborn Taurus bull after all!) I was especially not going to give 10% of your subscription to a tech company that is actively harming our movement for social change.

Over the holiday, I began the work of quietly moving platforms to Ghost, an independent publishing platform. One month later, Roots of Change Media is now officially live at www.rootschangemedia.com

Itโ€™s personalized for activists, heart-first humans, and social change communicators and completely independent from the platformization of the internet. That was what was most important to me. The flexibility to communicate with you in a customized way based on the values the movement for sustainable and liberated social change is rooted in. We can still be heart-first communicators despite the algorithm's pull.

I believe, we are collectively waking up to the harms of social media and our over-reliance on algorithms to decide where we sleep on vacation, which conspiracy theories we believe, and who we vote for. TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter may be the most obvious companies that use algorithms to decide what to show us, but algorithms are increasingly trying to drive our real-life decision-making. Airbnb, Spotify, and Netflix are the biggest brand names using algorithms, but profit-driven companies are using algorithms to shape the kinds of furniture you buy, who your close friends are, and the flattening of your entertainment choices. I just put โ€˜Filterworld: How Algorithms Flattened Cultureโ€™ by Kyle Chayka on hold at the library to learn even more about this trend. ๐Ÿค“ This topic isnโ€™t new, but itโ€™s becoming more openly talked about.

Independent Publishing

So whatโ€™s next after we all ditch the algorithms and platforms?

My hope and where I see people leaning now is the return to a personalized and independent internet. We may no longer have a โ€œtown square,โ€ if Twitter ever really was one. But what we lose in a few major places where we all congregate, we get back with many more places where deeper communities are formed. This trend is not just with the creators who have left Substack, but big names in entertainment and journalism as well. Katie Couric has gone independent with a news site, daily Wake-Up Call newsletter, and a loyal Instagram live audience. This is where the internet is and should be going.

Nazis infecting Substack is the latest example that platforms canโ€™t be a place for a vibrant community to openly share their beliefs and communicate with each other. Algorithms incentivize our fearful and angry impulses. It was simply not the right place for me to continue to write and share resources for social change activists and communicators. We need to bring humanity back to the internet and I want to lead by example.

If youโ€™re subscribed to our Tuesday newsletter for communicators, we will be talking more about platforms, email, and creating regular content this month.

Customizing Your Roots Experience

The best part about leaving Substack is you wonโ€™t get any more random promotional offers or Substack updates. As a test user of my own newsletter, I was annoyed by the spam! It was disingenuous and the opposite of what we're trying to do at the Roots of Change Agency.

By building on Ghost, I can make sure subscribers get personalized content based on how they relate to social change. I even created an an option for people who love our work, but hate inbox clutter! โ€œ๐Ÿ“ฌ Limited Emails Please!โ€ is a digest at the end of each month. I can now promise you that you won't receive extra emails that you don't want. Here's to the personalized internet future!

If you haven't already, take a second to update your preferences so we can only fill your inbox with the best juicy goodness personalized for you.

  • ๐Ÿ“š AI Deep Fakes Enters Elections - During last Tuesdayโ€™s New Hampshire primary, Democratic voters got a call from an AI Joe Biden encouraging them to not vote in the primary, but to โ€œsaveโ€ their vote for November.
    • ๐Ÿค“ The Root ๐ŸŒฑ - New tech like AI will make it difficult to know what is real vs. disinformation. Upping our media literacy, checking our sources, and validating facts will be vital this year.
  • ๐Ÿ“š GOP Wants Anti-Abortion Propaganda in Classrooms - To combat the overwhelming support (74%) for abortion in people under 30, the Kentucky GOP introduced a bill that would require middle schools to teach โ€œhuman growth and developmentโ€ with a propaganda video by Live Action.
    • ๐Ÿค“ The Root ๐ŸŒฑ - It always blows my mind when they think they can indoctrinate kids in classrooms when they have TikTok at their fingertips. The more we educate everyone, the more we can all have more choices and freedoms.
  • ๐ŸŽง Writing Diverse Stories vs. Cultural Appropriation - The Offline podcast, which covers how tech & the internet impact us, spoke with Yellowface author, R.F. Kuang, about how internet culture has changed publishing and the line writers face around cultural appropriation.
    • ๐Ÿค“ The Root ๐ŸŒฑ - I appreciated R.F. Kuangโ€™s stance that we should all be telling more diverse stories from many perspectives. It's a "both and" situation. We should elevate more writers from marginalized identities and we can accept that writers can write characters that aren't from their own identity. She also shares how sheโ€™s reclaimed her focus and life since getting off social media.

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About the roots of change agency โ€” Navigating heart-first activism & storytelling. We explore the ๐ŸŒฑ roots of our world to support organizations and activists ๐Ÿฅต avoid burnout and ๐Ÿ“š tell empathetic stories that cultivate connections that ๐ŸŒ empower โœŠ๐Ÿฝ social change.
๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿ’พ Tech & Media๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ for activists & heart-first humans ๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿ—ผ๐Ÿ—ž: Newsletter

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.

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Navigating heart-first activism & storytelling. We explore the ๐ŸŒฑ roots of our world to support communicators, organizations, and activists ๐Ÿฅต to avoid burnout and ๐Ÿ“š tell empathetic stories that cultivate connections that ๐ŸŒ empower โœŠ๐Ÿฝ social change.

Learn more about the Roots of Change Agency.