Contemplations, Ramblings, and Rants


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?

#socialmedia #read

Over the past couple of years I've slowly backed away from social media. Most of my accounts are gone now. Facebook is really the only thing I have left. I'd love to ditch it too, but I do find some value for specific things. I tend to go in to get what I need (mainly event notifications and details) and get back out. Scrolling the feed is avoided.

After reading Messing with the Enemy by Clint Watts over the holidays, I have to question whether I want to stay in the social media world at all. I've viewed Facebook as a necessary evil. Now I wonder how necessary it really is for me.

Watts gives a historical view of how social media in general has been leveraged by those wishing to cause harm, be it through recruiting to terrorist organizations, distributing misinformation, encouraging divisiveness, or promoting hatred. We've probably all heard about social media being infiltrated by Russian hackers and trolls, particularly since the 2016 elections. The extent of the problem is greater than I realized.

It's not just that systems are being hacked. That's “old hat,” as Watts says. Hacking to influence people is the real game these days. Who and what can you trust anymore? It's exactly that uncertainty that mind hackers are after. Watts states, “...nothing can be trusted, and if you can't trust anyone, then you'll believe anything.”

What has me concerned more so than the legions of hackers, bots, trolls, and the like is how social media platforms tend to create tribes that latch onto belief systems that are all too often based on the various bits of misinformation and divisive rhetoric that we are constantly bombarded with on these platforms. Watts refers to these as “preference bubbles.” People end up being herded into bubbles of like-minded people where their preferred views are hardened, whether based in fact or not. This is large scale confirmation bias, affirmed by equally biased peers in massive social media networks. Viewpoints and facts that contradict the bubble are met with hostility.

Can we survive in today's online world? Sure, but it's not easy. Watts offers some helpful advice to close out this sobering book. Healthy skepticism and fact checking comes in to play here and unfortunately too many people just aren't willing to do it. The sheer volume of information and misinformation we are subjected to daily in social media is staggering and the allure of a preferred belief system is powerful when it is reinforced so easily in social media.

This is a quick and engaging read. Definitely worth your time and it will get you away from the social media screens for a while if nothing else.


I recently finished reading Cal Newport’s “Digital Minimalism” and it got me thinking more about my personal struggle to reclaim my focus from the grips of technology. I was happy to find that I’d already been following a lot of Cal’s suggestions, even though I haven’t done the actual digital declutter he recommends — stepping away from all optional technologies completely for 30 days, then reintroducing things that are truly valuable.

Over the past year, I’ve slowly backed away from technology traps that were sucking up way too much time. Almost all social media is gone. Facebook is still there, barely. In the book, Cal talked about finding ways to use technology smarter and that is something I’ve done to keep Facebook around, at least for now. You won’t find me lingering on it these days.

I thought I’d share some of the changes I’ve made in my online habits and life in general. For me, it came down to wanting my focus back. Today’s technology is an outright war to capture and hold our attention. I realized it was a problem that needed to be addressed in my life when I was feeling the twitch to check my phone throughout the day, having trouble focusing when trying to get lost in a book, or struggling with racing thoughts during meditation sessions. It was time to join what Cal calls the Attention Resistance.

Here are some of the things that have helped me:

  • No social media on my phone. Not that I have much left besides Facebook, but I don’t want the temptation to scroll through the feed. I have to be at home to access it, so there is no temptation during the work day.

  • Avoid Facebook itself as much as possible. Most of the value I get from Facebook is from Messenger and events. Messenger is grudgingly there for me because it is the best way to communicate with a few people. Still, I don’t need to be immediately available. For events, Facebook has an app called Local that I use as a calendar for things I want to attend. I can do this from my iPad at home. None of the peripheral Facebook apps need to be on my phone.

  • Check any social media or email in designated time slots with a predetermined limit. I check Facebook in the morning during my one cup of coffee, along with email and a few other things. 15 minutes total time allotted to get in and out with everything. Same in the evening — brief check of messages or emails before moving on to more productive things.

  • Unsubscribe from distracting email. I was spending too much time deleting emails I didn’t want to begin with so I started killing the subscriptions.

  • Be intentional online. If I need to go online to look something up, research something, check news, etc., there is an intentional purpose. No aimless Internet surfing. Time limits apply here too. Rather than watching a clock, I tend to use a somewhat flexible time, such as the time it takes to finish a drink or snack. Alternatively, I might also fit in some online time in a short time span before I have a hard stop for something else. Setting a limit is key.

  • Use curation to gather together truly valuable online resources. When I find a blog that I get value from, I’ll add it to the Feedly app on my iPad. When I have free time to devote online, I’ll go to my own curated feed instead of hitting up Google.

  • Find something else to do that involves a physical activity, learning something new, or doing something creative. I take long walks, read, write, meditate, practice photography, or work on post processing. Recently, I took up archery. It is a wonderful and very mindful activity.

If you struggle with technology keeping a strangle hold on your attention, consider starting your own resistance. Cal’s “Digital Minimalism” is a good resource for starters.

#read #minimalism