Against the well-meant advice of some friends and family members, I have been a staunch defender of using social media, but using it wisely. I’m an early adaptor, I started using a computer in 1988, and I ventured onto the World Wide Web somewhere in the mid ‘90s. So it’s been a long learning curve, and I learn as I go. I follow all the recommendations to keep information on my social media accounts protected against misuse and refrain from posting a lot of personal stuff. I’m circumspect about whom I become ‘friends’ with, and I pay careful attention to which of my posts are private and which are public. I never click on advertisement links, but look them up in another browser tab if I’m interested. My browsing behavior is heavily protected.
I’ve always figured that, used wisely and with discretion, social media has more advantages than disadvantages. But a few months ago I grew very exasperated by the umpteenth disaster story of Zuckerberg’s incapability to admit he’s making a mess of things and not being upfront about it. That felt like almost the last straw. And now we have yet another pile of disclosures. This time it seems that even private conversations have been disclosed to third parties (Netflix, Spotify, etc.) for mutual gain. And yes, the practice has been discontinued in the meantime, but only because the mutual exchange was not profitable, not because these platforms were so concerned about adhering to privacy restraints.
I mean, seriously? I happen to use both Netflix and Spotify. So those ‘You also may enjoy …’ tips are (were) partly based on my online conversations with Facebook friends? Ludicrous!
This quote is from September (The Atlantic), but says it all:
“Facebook and its kindred companies have not grown like trees, branching higher and wider to deliver the shade of their services, but like tubers: in every direction, sending roots and shoots wherever they might find soil and moisture to prosper. If it were a plant, Facebook would be an invasive species, like ground ivy or bamboo, lashing itself to any surface and suffocating out other life. Every moment of every day introduces a new expanse of its influence, and thereby a new source of exploitation. None of this is likely to slow down or stop.
And so there will be more bad news, and ever more bad news, over and over again. So much of it that eventually the least bad of the bad news will fall out of circulation, ceasing to raise enough hackles to generate outrage, or even attention. Today is just one more along that passage. Another day on Facebook’s blue Earth, a little worse than the one before.”
That passage: ‘so there will be more bad news, and ever more bad news, over and over again…’ Isn’t it high time to get out?
However, using these social media platforms has distinct advantages for me, which is leaving me with my hands in my hair now. In the first place, I do appreciate the exposure for my photography and writing via Facebook and Instagram. (Though I have become wary of posting important photos, preferring to keep them under wraps for more important things.) I’m an active member of my Facebook high school alumni class group and a photo processing workgroup. Good friendships and discussions emerge from both these, and I consider them enriching. Because of the group character, they cannot effectively be replaced by email contact. My family is spread out across the world and this is a great way to stay connected to the lives of siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews. And I do appreciate the occasional platform to vent my views.
I know: back when we were growing up we had to rely on letters and personal visits to stay in touch with people. But I am not nostalgic for those times. The world has grown much larger in the meantime, and I appreciate the possibility to be able to expand both my view of and my means to communicate with this larger world. But the Internet, which was once touted as being the only successful form of anarchy we know, is in the hands of power-hungry moguls and it’s getting to feel like I’m a helpless toy in their hands, in spite of all my precautions. Helpless is about the last thing in the world I want to feel.