πŸ“† 22 Sep 2022 | ⏱️ 8 minute read

The Perils of Social Media

I’m exhausted of people recording everything they do wherever they go and posting it to antisocial media[1]. I don’t have antisocial media for a reason. I don’t consent to pictures/videos of me being uploaded to antisocial platforms. I don’t agree to the terms and conditions. I don’t want to be featured, not even in the background.

I hate it when I’m out somewhere doing stuff and I get peer pressured to take group photos. I wouldn’t mind taking pictures, but they somehow always end up on platforms I take issue with. Even if I ask people not to put me on antisocial media, that doesn’t exclude all the surveillance apps they don’t think of as social media. It inevitably ends up synced to Goolag or crApple’s iCloud anyways.

When I say I don’t want to be in pictures, it doesn’t mean take a picture of me behind my back. It doesn’t mean keep pestering me for the next half hour and act like I’m a jerk for not wanting to end up on platforms I never consented to. It may seem to you like I’m splitting hairs, but I’m not. I’m simply declining helping you feed the surveillance state with information about myself.

Not Being in The Moment

It’s more than just privacy though. When I go places, I go there to be there. I don’t go there to take a photo shoot so I can be part of an online social posturing contest for meaningless internet points. That’s boring and doing it makes you boring.

It drives me nuts when I go to social gatherings and suddenly everybody’s a photographer recording the event instead of experiencing it. If you’re just gonna record the entire time, why even go? Just watch a video of it after the fact. Trust me, there’ll be plenty of other boring people to record in your place and at least a few will upload it.

A lot of people have the idea that if there’s not a permanent digital record of something online, it never happened. In reality, the world you see through antisocial media is less real than real life. People only post their best moments, so everything is heavily filtered. The platform’s algorithm manipulates your feed so you see only what it wants you to see in the order it wants you to see it at the time it wants you to see it.

Stop living your life through a screen filled with platforms that manipulate you for money. Go connect with real people face-to-face. Maybe you don’t remember this if you’re very young, but there was a time when people enjoyed themselves with others without the need to create a permanent digital record of it. People just went out, did things together, and had a good time. And since nobody else knew about it, they had something to talk about.

I’m not saying that never happens any more, but it surely happens a lot less often. Nowadays, there’s hardly any need to talk because we know what our friends are doing in real time. All we have to do is check their feed and there it is. Rather than them telling us about their great time the way they remember it, we experience it alone through a glowing brick. How boring!

Poor Communication Skills

Another reason I hate social media is it cultivates poor communication skills.

When you’re communicating behind a screen, it’s not the same as communicating in person. People say things behind screens they wouldn’t dare say to someone’s face. There’s also a lot more miscommunication. People ghost. I admit that in some ways the safety of a screen is beneficial, but I think it’s mostly a bad thing. We’re just not evolved for text-based interpersonal communication. There are too many ways it goes wrong.

I believe text-based communication can be useful, but that it often does more harm than good. I don’t think school programs teaching students to be mindful of what they say online to others are sufficient and I don’t think they can be. When you’re online, you aren’t receiving the same social signals you would in-person. So it’s best to stick to in-person communication if possible.

It’s hard to imagine how many social connections would probably still be intact if people just communicated in-person instead of online. Communicating in-person forces you to own up to what you’re saying and face the social consequences whereas being online doesn’t.

Yes this was a problem before antisocial media, but it became way worse after. Young people especially are socially crippled and lonely with only fleeting shallow social connections thanks in part to living their entire lives on antisocial media. It’s a pity how much they’re missing out on real connection and real communication.

Addiction

There’s no denying that the killer app of smartphones, the reason they’re so addictive, is antisocial media. What annoys me to no end is when I can’t even have a meal with someone, go to a picnic, admire a beautiful view, or whatever we’re doing because the other person is too busy scrolling on their phone.

Here I am, a real human being in your company trying to spend time with you, but instead you’re staring at a glowing rectangle. Frankly, it’s rude. God forbid there’s a pause in conversation or you can’t find something exciting to do every single moment. Living in that constant haze of mindless distraction and overstimulation is no life.

It’s amazing how people rationalize antisocial media addiction. Some studies show the majority of people checking their phone a hundred times a day with young people checking it up to two or three times as often. Checking your phone every five minutes is addictive behavior, even if it is normalized.

Among the worst things antisocial media does to our species is robbing us of the benefits of spending time truly alone. Again, this problem didn’t start with antisocial media, but antisocial media has worsened it. Take a few hours to sit quietly in your room alone without being on your phone or watching television. Observe your own thought patterns. Reflect on your habits, relationships, goals, health, and career. There’s so much more to life than watching the next Youtube video.

Being Sucked In

I also hate the way antisocial media forces people to sign up and sucks them in. I’ve already written at length about how antisocial media and online disservices are making it practically impossible not to sign up in my entry titled “Manufacturing Agreement”[2].

I currently reside in MΓ©xico and there are many activities I’m outright excluded from because I refuse to download WhatsApp, Facecrook’s disgusting proprietary malware. As much as I’ve tried to insulate myself from WhatsApp, refusing to use it isn’t easy. I’d say it’s the equivalent of being without a phone number living in the U.S. At some point or other, you almost have to either use WhatsApp yourself or use someone else’s. It’s not illegal not to have it, but refusing is very impractical.

Antisocial media companies must not be allowed to infect the communications infrastructure of a country, especially not to such a degree that one can’t practically refuse to use it.

Summarizing

Antisocial media encourages people to record everything without consent for the sake of imaginary internet points rather than being in the moment with the real people that surround them. It makes everybody worse at in-person communication and destroys people’s ability to pay attention. It’s an addictive cesspool of advertising, surveillance, mindless distraction, fake social connections, and misinformation.

And, by their very nature, large antisocial media networks make it impossible for people to refuse to use them without being excluded from society. So they infringe on individuals’ practical ability to control their own lives.

None of this is to deny that antisocial media has some good qualities. I’m just pointing out that it does more harm than good and almost everyone would be better off without it.

A Common Objection

Now I know what some people are thinking: “These are problems with the way people use social media, not social media itself.” The problem with this assertion is the hidden assumption that technology is independent of the way people use it. It’s not. Certain technologies and certain platforms lend themselves to certain ways of being used.

The safest assumption for popular technologies and platforms is that the way people currently use them is the way they lend themselves to being used. So I’m highly skeptical when people say “The solution to social media is telling every individual person to will themselves to use it differently than the way it naturally lends itself to being used.” Why is the burden always put on individuals to adapt to collective problems?

As individuals, we must do everything we can to adapt to collective problems for the sake of our own well being. But we must also recognize that these platforms are made to get people addicted and realistically, very few people can successfully abstain from antisocial media through raw stoic effort. Their individual success stories are not a substitute for a real collective solution.

What About The Fediverse?

So far, I’ve been specifically addressing traditional proprietary antisocial media platforms. I haven’t mentioned free/libre social media protocols like the Fediverse[3]. A lot of the criticisms I’ve made here could probably be applied to the Fediverse too, although it being free software and not invading users’ privacy already makes it infinitely better than proprietary antisocial media platforms.

I’ve heard good things about the Fediverse, but I’m skeptical that its communities would be as healthy if all antisocial media users migrated there. Protocols like Gemini and those of the Fediverse have benefited from a self-selection bias towards techies that care about privacy and free software. So basically, they’re non-random samples of the highly educated population that already has some core values in common.

I wonder if it would be more effective to encourage people to give up antisocial media altogether or try to get them to migrate to the Fediverse. Let me know what you think.[4]

Links:
πŸ”— 1: Glossary: Antisocial Media
πŸ”— 2: Manufacturing Agreement
πŸ”— 3: The Fediverse
πŸ”— 4: Contact Me