What started in February, with my resignation from Facebook, continued into the spring, with my closing of all my Google accounts, including the ones I used to access YouTube. I had already closed my Twitter account because Twitter wouldn’t delete the account of that orange madman in Washington. As for Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest, I use them so little that I don’t really care if I’m on them or not. And I don’t do Amazon.
So, I am basically free of all social media.
Yes, of course, I still communicate with friends and relatives over the internet, via text, email, and blogs. But I don’t participate in those hives of “friends”, “followers”, etc., that constitute social media. My provisional definition of social media is any website where connections between people are defined by links called “friends” or “followers”, and where the currency is “likes” of any kind. It’s the social feedback of likes among networked users that is the poison. Microsoft, a company that once sold software in the traditional marketplace, came late to the game, but moved in swiftly by buying the social network LinkedIn, and installing the always-on virtual assistant Cortana on millions of computers, phones, gaming devices, and “smart speakers” around the world. It was surprisingly easy to disable Cortana on my laptop.
There is a vast literature out there, largely ignored, that explores the psychological impact of total immersion in social media of people, mainly young people born into the internet age, who spend most of their waking lives on-line, who have no means to define themselves other than via their network of “friends” on social media, who have no means to evaluate their social worth other than the number of likes they receive to their posts, who have no route to adulthood at all other than reconciling the thin tissue of their personal self-image with the unrelenting judgement of their networks on social media. The only way forward for many of these young people is to act just as the social media want them to, that is, to follow their influencers and buy the products and use the services that they think will gain them acceptance and membership in their social network. And that is the goal of surveillance capitalism. It is not an overt goal, and not one stated by the executives who lead the powerful companies that drive the surveillance economy. But it is the statistical goal of the algorithms underlying surveillance capitalism: If they can nudge the consumer towards buying one of the company’s advertised products or services, by whatever means, or by acting in ways they want usersto act, they will profit in the long run.
If you think this theory lacks weight, that Google, Twitter, and Facebook couldn’t operate on such a thin business plan, consider this: They offer all their services for free, they only gain income from advertising, and yet they are among the wealthiest, most powerful corporations on Earth, in history. And that is why I’m abandoning them, and why you should, too.