Updated: Dec 5, 2019
You're probably reading this post because you saw it on your social media, which means it came from my social media, which makes me a hypocrite. But I am 'this close' to pulling the plug completely on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and here is why.
1) The business model for Facebook is not good.
Think about it, what is Facebook's product? Social connection? Information? No. YOU are Facebook's product. You and I willingly give Facebook our attention and even more dangerous, our data/metadata, for FREE. They turn around and sell our data to the highest bidder, which is usually advertisers, which is bad enough but sometimes it's people in power who want to manage the masses in nefarious ways (influence elections, incite riots etc.). Facebook's customers are looking to modify behaviour by the masses and these customers are paying top dollar to get information that we gave to Facebook for free. They know us so well that they know which posts are going to get us riled up enough to comment and share and add enraged emoji's to, just enough to keep us locked in to the rage machine and manipulate us. The deal is, "Let us spy on you and we'll give you free services."
2. Most people on social media appear incredibly insecure
"Social media addicts have an arrogance, a fetish for exaggeration, that by all appearances is a cover for profound insecurity." - Jaron Lanier (Silicon valley billionaire and insider).
We act differently online. We post things that we normally wouldn't say to people face to face. We make declarations that signal our allegiances to certain tribes and sides with the hopes of winning the approval of like minded souls. We post our accomplishments in such a way that if it were done anywhere other than social media we would look desperate for praise. I'm guilty of it. In many ways, this blogpost is evidence of that itself. But in general, for every person that likes or comments on your post, there's another few who have cringed in embarrassment from reading it.
3. Social Media is where nuance goes to die.
You're either the victim or you're victimizing someone else. There's very little in between that happens on social media. It becomes increasingly difficult to see someone else's point of view online, partially because of deindividuation which is the phenomenon of not seeing people behind screens as real people. The other reason is that you can say something in one context but the context can be altered by someone else later, potentially for someone else's profit. It becomes almost too easy to take the words one person posts and apply it to a new context, making them horrendous. To add to this mess, "The version of the world you are seeing is invisible to the people who misunderstand you." There can be no nuance to your argument because other people are seeing your comments from an entirely foreign vantage point. The algorithms have created a completely different Facebook for them than yours. Your comment, in their feed, looks insane. You could try and balance your feed by following people across the political, religious, racial, etc. spectrum but that is happening less because now one of the best ways to signal how virtuous you are is by unfollowing anyone who doesn't agree with you. Just make sure you do it publicly, you score more 'woke' points.
4. It's making all of us more crusty
"Appealing to outrage and fear is much more successful than appealing to happiness." Roger McNamee (one of the original investors in Facebook, author of "Zucked").
Theory of the mind is basically the ability to predict or imagine what other people are thinking. It's necessary for social interaction, empathy, and connection. Social media alters or even takes away our theories of each other's minds. We seem crazy to each other and we feel justified to stand up for our truth and our version of righteousness. We have no idea what each other is thinking anymore and it has, and will continue to cause tension and violence in real life.
5. It's making us lonely
But social networks have connected the entire world! We can communicate with everyone we've ever met instantly no matter where they are! The truth is, our world is not more connected. We now have a heightened sense of isolation. We know exactly how excluded we are. We can quantify how few people give the slightest damn about us. We see all the great and happy aspects of everyone else's life and compare it to our crappy existence.
Social media is to connection as porn is to sex. It's an imitation and it won't fulfill our basic human needs. People who use social media less or not at all are far less lonely and have more meaningful connections.
I'm also going to list Jaron Lanier's top ten reasons to quit social media. Remember, he is a silicon valley billionaire who saw these companies start from scratch and wants nothing to do with them. If you look at all the silicon valley billionaires' kids you find out that none of them are allowed on social media and they attend Waldorf schools where they teach without computers or iPads. Think about that while you skim his top ten:
You're losing your free will
It's the best way to resist the insanity of our times
It makes you an asshole
It undermines truth
It makes what you say meaningless
It destroys your capacity for empathy
It makes you unhappy
It restricts economic dignity
It makes politics impossible
It hates your soul
Also, here are some footnotes about some academic studies that have looked at compulsive social media use:
Risk for self harm, especially in young women, goes up the more active you are on SM
Traumatic experiences are made worse if you're on social media
The more you express yourself on social media the more you lose self-esteem
The "cuter" your family appears in SM pictures the less time you spend with them
Give it a thought anyway. I'm hoping to start a brief therapeutic group for people looking to reduce their social media and technology use but I'm not sure how many are interested. Maybe if they read this post they might start leaning in that direction. Spread the word.