Should You Delete Your Social Media?

Jaron Lanier, regarded by some as the father of virtual reality, was interviewed about the hazards of social media. The interview is well worth your time, particularly if you’re a parent. It can be found here.

An interesting comment is Lanier’s contention that President Trump’s addiction to Twitter has not served him well. I can believe it.

As much as I enjoy following some experts and others on Twitter, I am not at all sure the positives outweigh the negatives. I’m off Facebook and LinkedIn and frequently consider pulling the plug on Twitter, too.

In any case, listen to what Lanier has to say. And if you really want to treat yourself, read Lanier’s book Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality. It’s a gem.

Is Your Connectivity Making Your Life Better?

A memo written by Facebook VP Andrew “Boz” Bosworth in the summer of 2016 contained the following controversial passage:

“[Connecting people] can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.

And still we connect people.

The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good.”

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If You’re on Facebook but Care about Privacy

Don’t delude yourself: if you really cared about your privacy, you wouldn’t be on Facebook.

Or you’d be on it but:

  • would not enter any bio info;
  • would never post anything; and
  • would never click a Like or emoji.

But if you’re on Facebook and sharing fully, while clinging to a belief that your information is somehow protected from whatever disclosures, sharing, and use Facebook deems to be in its best interest, then you’re pretty naïve.

Moreover, if you’re using Facebook as your primary source of news, then you’re probably worse off than not being informed at all. There are worse things than ignorance.

And if you believe whatever propaganda comes your way, whether it’s delivered via Facebook, Fox, MSNBC, the pulpit, the classroom, or any other outlet, without subjecting the claims to scrutiny and skepticism, then you’re a tool. You really shouldn’t vote or participate in public discourse of policy issues. Leave the decisions to the skeptics and people who at least try to discern what’s really going on in the world (as opposed to the twisted views of ideologues or devious people who are trying to manipulate public opinion merely to serve their own selfish interests).

Personally, I’m not all that concerned about privacy. But I’m very concerned about humans’ susceptibility to propaganda. And our capacity to fool ourselves.

Our Naiveté Seems to Know No Bounds

The story hit the internet today that a bare majority of people no longer trust Facebook to obey laws protecting personal information.

Which causes me to wonder: What, if anything, does it take to erode the naiveté of people?

As a species, we tend to be trusting. Even in the face of compelling facts to the contrary. Whether that’s a good thing or bad thing, you can decide for yourself. What I do know is that there is never a dearth of people willing to take advantage of it.

Is It the Beginning of the End?

Could this be the beginning of the end for Facebook?

I don’t know, but I do know that I won’t be buying any Facebook stock anytime soon. No one can dismiss the heightened risk profile –the distinct possibility that it will be downhill from here.

On the one hand, I could care less. I deactivated my FB account a few weeks ago, but I’m agnostic about anyone else’s participation.

On the other hand, I have a sense we’d be better off without it — that it’s done more harm than good.

In any case, I’m out. And will be out. I’m also reading about other people opting out recently. But they tend to get the press. People joining are less conspicuous. So I guess we’ll have to wait and see the numbers when FB next reports.

Anti-Social Media

There’s a lot of talk about the harmful effects of social media these days. Even some people who have been instrumental in developing and promoting the sites have been speaking out. Loudly and often. As I earlier mentioned, I’ve also witnessed, up close, the insidious, addictive power of Facebook and other so-called social media sites. It’s caused me to take a fresh look at the phenomenon.

I’ve concluded we’ve got the term wrong. There’s nothing social about social media sites. In fact, they tend to be anti-social. So let’s frame the issue right and start calling it what it is: anti-social.

All the mental health statistics in our country indicate my conclusions are sound. They’re all going in the wrong direction. If you don’t believe me, it’s not hard to find the data; look for yourself. Or talk to a counselor at any school. Or a nurse at a college. I guarantee you’ll be shocked by the amount of anxiety, depression and other psychological symptoms our young people are experiencing (as well as adults). In short, the degree of alienation and anxiety felt within the populace is unprecedented.

Check out our suicide rates, too. And ask yourself why there’s a positive correlation between Facebook use and depression.

And then check out any Starbucks or restaurant the next time you’re out. Observe how many people have their faces glued to their smart phone and how little face-to-face conversation is taking place.

I also can’t help think how we used to not have mass shootings like we do now. It seems to me that it’s connected to a national psychic pain, a condition that seems to be aggravated by our disconnectedness which, in turn, is exacerbated by our technology (as well as other factors, such as our obsession with money and things and our disregard for the weakest and suffering among us).

I could go on with one example after another that supports my thesis — that these supposedly social devices and programs are actually having an anti-social impact. But my purpose isn’t to convince. Rather, it’s to share my decision and perhaps spur parents to question whether their kids are being helped or hurt by all the new technology that dominate many lives.

That’s not to say technology is inherently bad. It isn’t. But it is to say it’s important not to lose sight of our real goal: happiness and fulfillment. If we assume the unfettered use of technology will make our lives (or the lives of our kids) better, then we may be making a grave mistake.

I confess I’m glued to my iPhone and computer too much. I’ve recently taken one step to help rectify that, by deactivating my Facebook account. Today, I deactivated my LinkedIn account, too.

It’s not that I’m going to swear off digital technology. I’m not. I’m not trading in my iPhone for a flip phone and I’m not swearing off Twitter (at least not yet). But I’m going to focus more on the things that lead to happiness and a sense of fulfillment and purpose and less on the distractions.

The Fear of Missing Out

Social media and internet usage are driven, in part, by the fear of missing out. In my case, despite knowing better, I check news sites, Twitter and Facebook far too often. I want to be sure I don’t miss something important. Unfortunately, the internet does a poor job of separating the important from the trivial, which means I spend too much time and focus on the unimportant.

The problem is, all of this is time consuming and distracting. It interferes with other things, namely, things that have the potential of being far more meaningful and valuable to myself and others.

The other aspect of the problem is the lack of discipline being exhibited. A well-disciplined person would not succumb to the temptations of immediacy that the internet provides. The person would be in control.

Finally, there are the detriments of information overload. Simply put, I know too much. And a lot of what I know is utterly useless — sheer clutter and noise. It doesn’t make me a better person or better informed, and it certainly isn’t useful in making better decisions. It’s just information overload, plain and simple.

That’s the problem as I see it. So what’s the fix? Here’s the plan I’ve been implementing.

The first step is to be clear about what I need to know. I have a national newspaper delivered daily so there’s no danger of missing something of national or international importance. Hence, I’ve been reducing dramatically my checks of internet news sites.

But it’s not that simple. There is some news that is critical to what I do, namely, investing and trading financial assets (stocks and bonds primarily). So I do need to keep in touch with developments that could impact significantly the value of those assets and the markets generally.

Which brings me to Twitter. It’s a great resource; however, like other sites, it can get out of control. So I’ve been culling the list of people and organizations I follow to focus on those who are more regularly adding new insights or material information that is more likely to have a bearing on investment decisions.

I’ve also stopped reading most of the president’s tweets. At first, they were entertaining and insightful, providing a window to a deranged mind. But, frankly, by this point he’s become a bore. A potentially dangerous one, but a bore nonetheless. I don’t need daily reminders of just how crazy it is that an individual like him occupies the White House.

Finally, on the email front, I’ve been unsubscribing from all but what are essential sites for purposes of investment decisions. And have been converting daily Google Alerts to weekly ones and dropping ones that have only marginal value.

I often say that fear is the most insidious and injurious force in the universe. I believe that. But fear takes many forms. It’s taken me far too long to appreciate the grip that the fear of missing out has on my life. Finally, I’ve reached the point where denial is no longer an option. It’s time to take control.