Earlier this week, I read Jaron Lanier’s ‘Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Accounts Right Now’. It’s a short book at only 146 pages but it packs a punch, delivering a number of compelling arguments against social media.
1/ You are losing your free will.
Social media is designed to use rewards and punishment in a way that’s altering your daily behaviour. This is behavioural modification on an epic scale by unelected leaders who are now starting to regret their actions. Or, as ex-VP of User Growth at Facebook Chamath Palihapitiya said:-
“The short, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works”
2/ Quitting social media is the most finely targeted way to resist the insanity of our times.
It’s a fact that negative posts drive increased engagement from users. The algorithms that power the growth of social media platforms thrive on engagement. Yet as the situation deteriorates as a result of such misaligned incentives, people are increasingly demanding that the very same people should get increasingly involved in solving the very problems they were responsible for causing. Its akin to asking the turkeys to vote for Christmas…
3/ Social media is making you into an asshole.
Humans have two basic settings: we act as individuals or in a pack. When we’re in a group, we’re ruled by the pack. We seek the approval of the group in order to validate our existence. But in a disembodied online world, one of the only ways to get that validation is by seeking feedback by provoking a reaction. Welcome to Troll Central.
4/ Social media is undermining truth.
Even if you think you’re aware of the problem, you are grossly underestimating just how much of online conversation is false, driven by fake social media accounts that comment, support and attack specific points of view. Believing that most of what you read online is genuine and represents the sincere view of a real human is a fundamental error that creates imbalance across the system.
5/ Social media is making what you say meaningless.
Fake news is replacing real news on these platforms – for the simple reason that there is so much fake news being shared and interacted with, that the platforms – which use such metrics to define successful content – are actively supporting inaccurate narratives in the face of less engaging truths.
6/ Social media is destroying your capacity for empathy.
It is impossible to understand the context of anything that has any form of subtlety when it is reduced to a pithy soundbite, devoid of its context.
Furthermore, with people increasingly viewing the world through their own personalised news feeds, there are no longer any shared experiences. So with any significant event, we are understanding less than ever before of what that event actually means to each individual.
We each have our own filter bubble which influences our experience of the world. And it’s impossible for any of us to experience the world through the filtered history of others.
Platforms are designed in a way that encourages increasing numbers of people to attack your ideas more freely.
7/ Social media is making you unhappy.
Individuals are becoming increasingly isolated whilst the world becomes more connected. Platforms see engagement rise with the level of outrage. By participating, we’re encouraging precisely the opposite behaviour to the type that most people want.
8/ Social media doesn’t want you to have economic dignity.
The online advertising model and the growth of the gig economy has increased the reliance of society on these platforms to a ridiculous extent. By doing so, “we have enshrined the belief that the only way to finance a connection between two people is through a third person who is paying to manipulate them”. Total nonsense…
9/ Social media is making politics impossible.
Lanier’s point is that there used to be a belief that once a country had adopted democracy, there could be no turning back. Yet the indications now are that democracy is under attack. He argues that we should be paying for services instead of simply accepting ‘free’ services – and we should be demanding total control over our own data.
Of course, we all know about some better ways to do that don’t we….;-)
10/ Social media hates your soul.
According to social media and the large tech companies, the ultimate goal in life is to optimise. Continually. To increase your number of followers, rise up the search rankings..
But its a view that obscures the ‘point’ of life and forces the subservience of real meaning to metrics. Scores, let’s not forget, that are determined behind closed doors and huge secrecy within the depths of these new ruling techno-hierarchies that increasingly control the world.
All in, the book’s definitely worth reading. It won’t come as a surprise to many that social media brings with it many problems. But it’s only when you start to focus on what they all represent in their totality that the size of the challenge becomes more readily apparent.