Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Cutting the Social Media Cord

Most people I know have a conflicted relationship with their social media. Most might be too far, but the public has reason to be concerned. This post will likely be more personal than analytical, so you'll have to forgive me.

For a couple of years I've been worried about the privacy and frankly the morality of the massive companies that dominate our social exchanges to such a degree. Companies like Facebook and Twitter are not neutral. Imagine if the postal workers read all of your mail and kept careful records or who you write and interacted with. It's against the law for people to interfere with your mail. Social media provide private platforms, which means what we produce there does not belong to us. We have no protections.

If you are receiving a product for free, then you're the product. Facebook is selling us. They sell our attention, our web pages, etc. to advertisers. Ads tailored to us flood our feeds and bombard each day. If you never tried, look at someone else's account. See how different their experience is from yours. Obviously a major concern has been Facebook selling or exposing our data for manipulation and profits

Facebook especially, but other social media as well, seems highly suited to indulge in the worst of our natures: accepting those that support our biases, and rejecting those we disagree with and challenge us. This is epitomized by the fake news phenomenon. People widely shared and were influenced by for-profit propaganda. Do not simply dismiss this as a 2016 problem. It continues to exist and grow like a cancer. The most successful coarsen and erode our public discourse.

The toxicity of social media feeds into our body politic. I've heard numerous examples of people taking breaks from social media. I presume they don't quit because of the utility of the service and how difficult it is to just sever it. Seeing how awful the internet can be on a regular basis cannot be good for us, nor encouraging us to spew bile and invective at each other.

I am strongly considering deleting at least my Facebook. I don't trust that company. It may have utility, but so do other things that ultimately in the net hurt you. I would encourage other readers to consider the same. It may be time to end this experiment once and for all.  

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