My relationship with social media is a complex one – not quite love/hate, perhaps tolerate/loathe – and I’ve spent a great deal of time over the last few years thinking about and studying the subtle but insidious costs of participating in these platforms.1
Yes, I tweet, and I post on Instagram. But each time I do, I know that I’ve been manipulated into sacrificing a bit more of my time and attention in feeding the machine god.
Facebook has been in decline for years, and it’s becoming more and more obvious that Instagram is Facebook’s lifeboat. In time it will become Facebook 2.0. It didn’t take long after the departure of Instagram’s original founders for Facebook to abandon all restraint and begin testing a feature whereby location data from the Instagram app will be continuously uploaded to Facebook. It’s pretty obvious that this is only the beginning.
Instagram is getting worse, and will end up as bad as Facebook.
Why do we tolerate the dystopia the internet has become? Why do people pour so much of their precious time and energy into these closed platforms that exist for the sole purpose of harvesting our data and attention? Why aren’t we clamouring to break it all down and build a web that exists for the benefit of people and not corporations?
Is it because we’re all too high on the dopamine addiction cycle built in to the fundamental design of all modern social media? Is it because most of us have no idea how we are being manipulated, controlled, and modified? Or do we just not care?
I’m still on Instagram and Twitter because, for all the immense drawbacks, I still get some value from them. But I have to participate carefully, and my usage is declining. When the balance tips too far the other way – when the benefits no longer justify the costs – then I’ll be gone, and I won’t look back. That’s what happened with Facebook for me, and I think it’ll happen here too, in time.
I’m not telling you to quit social media, but you have the right to know how you are being exploited. Do the research. Learn how social media has been specifically engineered to hijack your mind, corrode your attention span and disrupt your mental health. Use these services with your eyes wide open to the pitfalls, or stay well clear.
- I am working on a new blog, called The Entanglement, which will cover social media reform/criticism and the broader subject of the Entanglement. Watch this space! ↩