This might end up being more of a rant than a post - and I apologize in advance for that. I will certainly try to be as cohesive as possible. So as the title suggests, I want to question the role that social media plays in the current hyper-connected⧉ society. Now I should preface this by saying that I don’t hate social media. I am all for connecting with people, I love people! All of the peoples. That being said, I do have an issue with the way tech companies have essentially forced us to approach how we connect and interact with friends and family (and strangers) online. This really was my primary reason for deleting my Facebook account four or five years or so ago. I wasn’t getting any value out of it but was putting time into it. Now I’m not one to try and min-max every second of every day. But I do think about the long term value of the things that I dedicate my time to. So, with Facebook, it became a time sink that I kept around because I felt like I needed it to stay in the know. To know what’s going on in people’s lives. I got over that be realizing (or deciding) that I don’t need to know what everyone is doing, all the time. And when I do want to know how someone’s doing, I’d simply ask them. I’m not the best at it (even after so long of doing it). But I try. And most importantly, it works.
Maybe I don’t feel as connected to everyone as I would if I had social media. But really, I doubt if that’s what I really want. It’s not like everyone’s going on social media to be real. Most create a persona. Which is fair. But because of this, it’s hard to know just how ordinary/vulnerable/imperfect everyone is. Maybe things have changed since I left but I doubt that’s the case. Now, even though this sort of unhealthy “hyper-connectedness” was my primary reason for deleting my Facebook account, another aspect was privacy. This was going to be the subject of this post but I will probably address it on its own. Privacy is not just a social media problem. It (or the exploitation of it) is the root upon which most free (and some paid) internet services/apps are based on. Knowing this, I was more emboldened to jump ship from Facebook because not only was it a time sink for me, my life was being farmed for 💰.
And that’s what this all boils down to. As much as Facebook can claim to be on a mission to connect the world - I don’t think Facebook did this, the internet connected the world, but I digress - at the end of the day, Facebook is a company, with shareholders. And it’s primary goal is to make money for them. Not to connect the world or make anyone’s life better in anyway. Those are the means. For this reason, it’s only logical that the decisions Facebook makes, are primarily to keep the money coming. And they’ve been doing a great job at it.
This is not bad by itself. Where things go wrong is how the money is made. As I mentioned, a lot of internet companies make money by undercutting the privacy of their users. This is probably a harsh way to put it but it’s my brutally honest description. These companies sell ads. Targeted ads. To target these ads. They need to know as much about their users as possible. I don’t need to explain how advertising works but the first point is Facebook needs to harvest as much information about its users (or
useds as Richard stallman would put it⧉). Another part of this is getting people to look at ads. A lot of them. For as long as they can. Facebook would love to have our phones glued to our eyes, all the time. So they can get all the
Impressions bring the money. And as the valuation of Facebook and Google show, tons of money. And this is where things like Dark Patterns⧉⧉ come into play. These things are so good that we’re aware of them. But still fall for them. At this point, every person’s time, attention, privacy, even thoughts and feelings are just data points that these companies use to make money. This may not sound new. But this is new to our society, our species - an undermining of our subconscious at such a large scale. It’s important to be aware of this. And if you are aware of it. My plea is this. Be Intentional. This is generally good advice in, well, everything in life. But it’s especially important here. This is not a losing fight. I know a lot of people feel powerless.
You don’t have social media? haha, you don’t exist then!
This is something someone I just met actually said to me. They were sort of joking, but I’m sure a part of them also thinks having a social media presence as their anchor to being relevant. I think it stresses the point I’m trying to make (and it may or not be the reason I decided to write this post)
I understand not everyone can go ahead with just deleting their Facebook account cold turkey like me. I also never had Instagram, by the time I realized it’s potential for greatness, I also realized the dangers of such a platform in the hands of Facebook, so I never joined. I know not everyone would be willing to quit Instagram too. In fact, I think quitting Instagram is an even tougher sell than quitting Facebook. What I would urge though, is to think more carefully about all the endless apps on your phone and the amount of time you spend on them. Websites you visit everyday. And always think this: “if I’m not paying for it with my money, then they’re getting something else from me.” And for this reason, think about what you’re getting out of these apps. And either try to find an alternative that’s paid or find a way to live without the app - unless you absolutely need the app (and maybe question why you absolutely need an app). I think we can all do with less apps on our own phone. Actually, I think we can all do with less everything (can I get a heyoo for minimalism⧉)
Now the rest of the post was going to be a rant about how Facebook is undercutting the fabric of our society. I could do that. But I’ve chosen not to. Because I don’t need to. If you are curious about what the heck I’m on about, well, here are a few articles written by people much smarter than I am. Enjoy!
- Opinion | Facebook Isn’t Just Violating Our Privacy - The New York Times⧉
- Is Facebook Destroying Society and Your Mental Health? | Psychology Today⧉
- The Attention Economy: In The Future, Our Attention Will Be Sold | Mark Manson⧉
- The Problem - Center for Humane Technology⧉
I have a LinkedIn profile⧉. Technically, a social media platform but, this is one of those cases where I had to make a decision. And I chose to keep it. Shameless plug but, add me! Add a note if you read my blog, it’ll make my day! I also use Whatsapp (an unfortunate situation that Facebook bought it.) I also decided to keep it. Maybe I’ll have a separate post on that, maybe not. But it has end-to-end encrytion (backed by Signal) so I still feel like the positives outweigh the negatives.
Last updated: February 16, 2020