Is It Time to Ditch Social Media?
I don't have much of a social media presence these days. It has been a couple of years or so since I dumped most of my accounts. I've still got Facebook and LinkedIn, although I've never considered the latter to be a social media outlet for me personally. Over the recent holidays, I've put a lot of thought into whether Facebook is worth sticking around on.
After watching The Social Dilemma on Netflix, listening to various podcasts, and reading books along similar lines, I have to question whether any value I get from Facebook outweighs the negative stuff. I just finished reading Jaron Lanier's “Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now” and that really has me leaning toward leaving Facebook for good.
Honestly, Lanier didn't discuss anything I didn't already know. The main gist is that free social media amounts to behavior modification. It's meant to keep users engaged in the platform by whatever means necessary for the purpose of harvesting data and pumping ads in order to make loads of money. Lanier calls this BUMMER, an acronym for “Behaviors of Users Modified, Made into an Empire for Rent.” That probably sums it up as good as anything. Word of warning though, if you read the book, you will get tired of seeing BUMMER on nearly every page following its introduction.
Do we need to quit social media or can we just cut back a bit? Maybe you can curtail your usage; that's what I've done for quite some time. I only look at Facebook briefly daily-ish. It's not on my phone – I have to be at my home computer, the device I use the least. Mostly I use it as a calendar so I can wish friends a happy birthday, check on local events, message friends, etc. I try to avoid scrolling the feed.
Still, even though I'm quite intentional in my usage, I'm participating in something that just doesn't sit right with me. If I do find myself doing a quick scan of the feed, I may see a number of good things. Inevitably though, there's something that's going to make me feel badly. Is it worth entering a hostile territory for minimal value in return?
Negative feelings from a social media feed shouldn't come as a surprise. As Lanier puts it, “ Social media is biased, not to the Left or the Right, but downward. The relative ease of using negative emotions for the purposes of addiction and manipulation makes it relatively easier to achieve undignified results.”
Facebook has made staying in touch with some people a bit easier and it has helped me stay in the loop on things I enjoy, such as the local music scene. It's a convenient way to connect with bands that I photograph. Certainly, there are ways to get the information I want and stay in touch with people off of social media and those would be less convenient, to be sure. Convenience comes at a price and I'm not sure I want to pay it any longer. I'm reminded of the computer's conclusion in the movie War Games, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.”
After making sure I've got current non-social media contact information for the people I want to keep in touch with, I'm planning to take the first step and disable my account soon. If, in fact, I find I can get along just fine without it, why stick around?