In all honesty, I really didn’t anticipate that my readings as of late would radically change my tastes and opinions. But, what’s the point of reading for growth if you aren’t gonna grow?
Let’s get into it.
You already know that I think that there are diseases about us that far surpass any kind of epidemic that is touted on the news. In spite of this, you know that I have taken it upon my self to pursue happiness with alacrity. What’s more, if you have been following this blog for a little bit, then you know that I take habits very seriously. And so what I want to get into today is a problem that I had never thought I would face. Not the problem of being too nice, which I think is a problem for many. Nor is it the problem of limiting self expression. No. I want to talk to you about social media.
I really never anticipated that I would get into thinking about social media as a problem. Heck, I thought social media is the medium that we all use as professional marketers to do marketing. But after some careful consideration of my history with social media and also what I read from Jaron Lanier’s book, I don’t know if I could ever go back.
Okay, I think that the best place to start here is from the beginning. And when I say the beginning I mean, when I was a kid. I sound so old saying that, but when I was kid there wasn’t social media. There was video games, sure, and websites that we learned about from friends (Google was only just barely becoming a part of internet surfing); but, there wasn’t social media. The first social media company that I got involved with was, of course, MySpace. I think I started using MySpace in 2003 while going to middle school.
You better believe that MySpace was a game changer for the social world of school. You now could know every single person in your school and you could know everything they like. That was unprecedented as a child. Most of the time, when making friends, you just had to guess at what kind of person they were and, through trial and error, become friends. With social media, you could weed out in advance the kinds of people that you wanted in your life. Whether someone was your friend depended entirely on how they styled their MySpace account, and who got involved with their wall.
Now, as it so happens with social media, you never just take on one platform. That seems like common knowledge now; but when Facebook became available in like 2005 for my high school, there was a huge debate about leaving MySpace for Facebook. Truth be told, I am not sure why kids at that time were having to make the decision to leave one platform for another. But that’s just how the idea of social networking was at the time, there could only be one platform to rule the school.
So leaving a social media platform is nothing new. We all left MySpace to take advantage of the clean design and the professional appeal that Facebook offered. We were all going to college soon and all the college kids were using Facebook, so we needed to shape up and curate our accounts.
As an aside, LinkedIn would came on to the scene around that same period and most people I knew weren’t interested in looking like a professional. We were just looking for friends. Where I went to college, most people didn’t use Twitter. Sure we all knew what it was. But most people I knew wanted their content to be a little more exclusive to their immediate communities instead of the world at large. They had been curating their network for half a decade at this point and so the idea of taking on a global audience seemed daunting and difficult.
You are probably wondering what this has to do with arguments for deleting social media accounts. Well, I am going to get to that. Please bear with me as I explain that the deleting of all my social media accounts happens to coincide with that time of year that Catholics love/hate: Lent.
Now, I am not Catholic by any means. And I hardly know anything about what Lent is for and why Catholics observe it. The only thing that I truly know about Lent is that Catholics use it as a time to let go of their sinful or destructive behaviors. For me, I thought, ‘Heck, what would I give up?’ And the first thing that came to mind was social media.
As it turns out, there are literally hundreds of social media platforms at this point. If not thousands. And every single one of them caters to a different audience, a different community, and uses a different means of delivering those sweet memes, memories and memoranda. As you can imagine, you are afforded a tremendous menu of options when it comes to social media now compared to years ago. And nearly all of it is free.
For fun I started listing all of the social media accounts that I have, or are listed under my name. What I found was that I had seemingly joined more than over a dozen different platforms. Never once along the way did I think that I was leaving one platform behind like I did when I was younger. It was just another platform, and they’re all free. And so when I started thinking about all of the work that leaving social media would take, I thought it would just be easier to “take a break”. Little did I know that one book would completely dispel my interest in social media completely.
So I tried reasoning with myself that I wasn’t going to delete my accounts. There was just too many of them. The work of deleting them and letting all of my connections know that I was done using social media, seemed altogether impossible. Truth be told, I simply didn’t have a big enough of a ‘why’ or a big enough of a reason to get motivated and delete my accounts.
Feeling that this decision to give up social media was a little bigger than just for a religious holiday, and for a religion I don’t follow, I did what I do when I have a question: I go to the library. Now, not just any library, I visit lib genesis. Truly, Lib Gen is an incredible resource. I can’t stress enough that whenever I want to know something, or when I have a question I’d like more information on, I simply search their database for books and start reading what other authors have to say about my query. And it is all free like digital knowledge should be.
When it came to searching Lib Gen about social media, Jaron Lanier’s book happened to be the one I came across. What Jaron proposes in his book (.epub file from cloudflare) are a series of arguments for deleting your social media because to do otherwise and continue using social media means you are complicity:
- Losing your freewill
- Going insane with the rest of the world
- Becoming an A-hole
- Undermining truth
- Saying meaningless things
- Losing your empathy
- Being unhappy
- Losing your economic dignity
- Making politics impossible
- Hating your own soul as much as social media does
Now, before I break down some of the things that I learned from Jaron, I want you to slow down and think for a moment. Ask your self:
- Am I getting defensive about my usage of social media?
- Am I being dismissive towards scientific evidence?
- Am I denying that there is a problem?
- Am I justifying my usage because everyone else uses it?
If the answer is anything close to a yes for any of those questions, then you need to dare to think more clearly. Otherwise, you are not ready to learn what social media is doing to you.
However much I want to say otherwise, I said yes to those questions for much longer then I’d like to admit. And so I have to share with you that when you are able to say no to those questions, any of those questions above, you are ready to read Jaron’s book.
In reading his book, what you will find out about social media is:
- You are being manipulated
- You are being packaged into aggregate groups of people
- You are being pitted against other aggregates of people
- You are being trained to participate in group think and pack mentality
- You are perpetuating content, regardless of its truth, simply for engagement
- You are being stripped of your ability to contextualize your social behavior
- You are being encouraged to say things online for the sake of engagement
- You are comparing your life and the lives of others against pixels on a screen
- Your personal information is being rented out for crazy money
- You are facilitating civil unrest because it generates engagement
- You are being fed a belief you are going to be uploaded into Cyber Consciousness Heaven
Now ask your self, are you okay with any of that? Are you feeling fear about the idea of leaving social media? Are you rationalizing your behavior because it is only a little bit here and there? Or that you are only on this platform, and this platform is the good one, and that platform is the bad one? Let me be the first one to say that I was very much trying to defend myself against these arguments, but once the world of social media was laid bare and the whole BUMMER of a problem exposed… well, I made a point to get rid of the baggage. Because social media is just another super normal stimuli, except with algorithms on NOS
This has been a rather long article, longer than I usually write them. But it was very freeing. Each day that I go with out the use of social media, the happier I find myself becoming. And each day that I fight back my rights for privacy and personal dignity is another day well won. If this sounds like something you want, freedom, I invite you to imagine what your life would be like without social media. Pretty dreamy right? Now go ahead and delete all your social media accounts.
When you have questions about quitting social media and how I, and others, have done it – you are welcome to send me an email: me(at)alixandercourt.com.