2018 was the year when Facebook was hit with massive privacy issues, compromising the privacy of literally thousands and thousands of people. Data was breached and people’s photos and conversations were accessible.
There are also enough studies out there showing how social media usage has been affecting its users, especially the younger generation. From social comparisons to being led to believe that lives on Instagram are perfect, to being trolled and bullied, people are not getting the benefits of social media as much as they ought to.
In comes, Jaron Larnier, the world-famous Silicon Valley scientist-pioneer, with his extensive experience at Silicon Valley, raising the alarm on the dangers of social media. The title of the book may seem alarmist and desperate, but give the book a chance, you will realize how much truth there is.
Personally speaking, I know I myself have stopped using Instagram for almost four months now—and I have indeed become calmer and a happier person. I have deleted Snapchat and filtered out a lot of “friends” on Facebook. Instead of allowing technology to control me, I have taken back the control—thanks to Larnier. I have also understood, now that I am aware, how these social media giants are able to manipulate. That random video showing up on YouTube is not random. That suggested video to watch on Facebook is not random. The advertising that shows up on Gmail inbox is not random. I am being subconsciously influenced and manipulated if I allow myself to.
The book is split into ten chapters, hence the ten arguments. To summarize, they are:
- You are losing your Free Will
- Algorithms are running your life. You don’t have free will
- A lot of money is pumped into Behavior Modification, and advertisers manipulate social media users to manipulate their emotional needs- where negative emotions are being amplified more than a positive one
- Millions fall under influence of celebrities and influencers—and we lose out on our individuality and come under pressure of social comparison
- We are addicted. Netflix shows you what movie to watch next. YouTube shows what suggested videos to watch. We are being controlled.
- Quitting Social Media is the most finely targeting way to resist the insanity of our times
- Users are being spied upon. That’s how data is collected, and then used to develop “customized feed” to further engage the users
- There are lots of fake bots, fake reviews, fake influencers, fake friends, fake followers—all to create a false sense of social pressure.
- Social Media is making you into an asshole
- Users often retort to creating envy-inducing content or have an aim behind their reasons for sharing their pictures, latest gadgets
- Larnier suggests looking into yourself and reassessing your character. Don’t let social media degrade you
- Social Media is undermining Truth
- When you have fake people, you have fake reviews. Next time you are reading reviews of a product on YouTube, notice how many of them are “amazing” reviews.
- Fake news took the main stage and undermined the reality of the matter—and people still fall for the notion that if it’s on the internet, it must be true
- Social Media is making what you say meaningless
- What you say isn’t meaningful without context
- Social Media is destroying your capacity for empathy
- Social media users often see a limited view of what’s online. They truly don’t see the full picture, and thus empathy is reduced as a worldview is distorted
- You have less awareness of other people’s worldview—and you can’t understand them fully as a person
- Social Media is making you unhappy
- Research has shown social media has isolated people more than connecting them
- Facebook has bragged about how their product can harm people and are making people unhappy
- Constant social pressure, constant judgment, constant comparison creates unhappiness
- Social Media doesn’t you to have economic integrity
- As long as the social media platform is free, we are merely products
- Advertising has been morphed into social media and causes behavior modification
- Social Media is making politics impossible
- US Election was heavily influenced by Facebook
- Social Media hates your soul
- Social media users don’t have free will, are being manipulated by hidden parties
- Constant surveillance of social media users will help these companies develop sophisticated AI systems
How can you remain autonomous in a world where you are under constant surveillance and are constantly prodded by algorithms run by some of the richest corporations in history, which have no way of making money except by being paid to manipulate your behavior?
How can you survive?
- Don’t reject the internet but embrace it!
- You don’t need to give up on friends- email them, call them- don’t use social media to reach them
- You can read news elsewhere outside of Facebook.
- Quit them all. Instagram and WhatsApp are still Facebook and will still scoop your data and snoop on you.
This is not easy. Change is hard.
I haven’t deleted my Facebook, Instagram, and Whatsapp. That’s how well played these giants have become. These apps (perhaps not Facebook/Instagram as much as Whatsapp has become) are so well ingrained that I find it hard to not use them. However, I have taken control of reducing my time spent on social media. I have filtered out “friends” who haven’t kept in touch with on Facebook for more than a year (why are they even there in the first place?)
I have also downloaded an app called Moments which tells me how much time I am spending on my smartphone. I was shocked to know that I spent at least 8 hours in a 24 hour day (this was back in August when I was in London for my summer break). Thankfully, that time has been reduced now to between 2-3 hours per day. I have found that I have time to pursue other productive activities, and am leading a more fulfilled and happier life.
Larnier suggests that we should self-explore to see where we stand with our usage of social media. “But whatever form yourself exploration takes, do at least one thing: detach from your behavior-modification empires for a while, six months, say? Note that I didn’t name this book Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now and Keeping Them Deleted Forever. After you experiment, you’ll know yourself better. Then decide.”