Social Media Needs Rethinking

9781250196682

It is so freshly pressed that there are no reviews to cite yet, but the author himself previewed the ideas here, which I remember reading and thinking that his big, important thoughts would get lost in the momentary hysteria of relatively small potatoes news (Cambridge Analytica) breaking at the time:

Be a pioneer – delete Facebook

Quitting means beating the addiction, making a political statement and redefining social life. Are you ready?

3500 (4)

‘Facebook deleters are indispensable. They should be celebrated. We all benefit from them.’ Photograph: GETTY IMAGES

When I wrote an about-to-be-published book last year about problems with social media, I thought it would be cute to call it Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. And then the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke, motivating a modest but notable wave of Facebook deletions in protest, including by prominent tech figures such as Elon Musk and Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp.

So much for the novelty of my book title. The biggest surprise was not the movement to delete accounts, but that the deleters have not been received well by pundits and commentators. The response has often been smug, dismissive, even scolding. Deleters are told they are abusing their privilege; that they are leaving behind the less fortunate, who cannot afford to quit. They are said to be abandoning society or distracting from the more important process of petitioning governments to regulate Facebook. They are accused of tilting at windmills

In early 2013 an article in Smithsonian first brought my attention to Jaron Lanier, and since then we have not featured him again on this platform, which is strange. I recall last year reading a short think piece by him, and listening to him, as he promoted an earlier book and finding him very compelling. Just today, he was back in the Guardian with another one-two punch of these ideas, in the effort to promote this new book. The book’s title tells me that even though I am already a convert to the basic principle, I want to know how he explains these ten ideas. And I admit I am susceptible to publishers’ blurbs when written by someone I respect:

Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now is not anti-tech or even anti-phone. It is one of the most optimistic books about the Internet I’ve ever read because it dares to hope for better. Profoundly skeptical of the business model that undergirds social media, Lanier demonstrates the ways in which our social media accounts make us not consumer but product, our every connection monitored by unseen third parties who harvest our data, monetize our communication, and curate and manipulate our behavior. Another online life is possible, but first we have to destroy the one we’re trapped in. The great news is you don’t have to take to the streets—you don’t even have to leave your room. You can do it all by pressing one little key . . . A blisteringly good, urgent, essential read.” —Zadie Smith, author of Feel Free

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