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Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now

Regain your autonomy online

By Jaron Lanier
18-minute read
Audio available
Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier

Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now (2018) is a modern-day cri de coeur. It offers, with ten distinct arguments, an all but irrefutable case for deleting your social media accounts. From their ethically dubious data-selling practices to the way they manipulate users, current social media companies are doing society a major disservice. Your best option right now is to delete your accounts until better options emerge.

  • Social media users
  • Smartphone owners
  • Sociologists

Jaron Lanier, one of the founding fathers of virtual reality, is a visual artist and composer. In addition to writing computer philosophy, he’s delivered multiple popular TED talks. TIME magazine named him as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2010. His previous books, Who Owns the Future? and You Are Not a Gadget, were both international best sellers.

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Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now

By Jaron Lanier
  • Read in 18 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 11 key ideas
Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier
Synopsis

Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now (2018) is a modern-day cri de coeur. It offers, with ten distinct arguments, an all but irrefutable case for deleting your social media accounts. From their ethically dubious data-selling practices to the way they manipulate users, current social media companies are doing society a major disservice. Your best option right now is to delete your accounts until better options emerge.

Key idea 1 of 11

Argument 1: Social media can manipulate your behavior, putting your free will under threat.

You may not know it, but you’re in a cage. It’s a tiny cage – so small that it fits snugly in your pocket – but that doesn’t mean there’s not enough space for you to slip right into it.

What’s more, like a lab animal, you’re being watched, manipulated and analyzed while inside this cage.

If this sounds a bit paranoid, just consider the facts. You, like nearly everyone else, probably own a smartphone – that’s the cage. Naturally, you’re not literally trapped inside, but whenever you use it to log in to social media, you are being watched and manipulated, not by researchers in white coats, but by algorithms.

The data on you compiled by these algorithms – when you log in, how long you stay logged in for, what you buy – is then compared with the data of millions of other people. This enables the algorithms to make predictions about how you will act.

How? Let’s say that an algorithm, after comparing a boatload of data, reveals that people who eat the foods you eat tend to find a particular political candidate less appealing when her picture is bordered in yellow than when it’s bordered in green.

This may not seem like a spectacular or sinister discovery, but let’s say that this politician’s campaign team gets its hands on that information. If they send you campaign ads featuring her green-bordered likeness, you will, statistically speaking, be more likely to vote for her.

And social media companies have no qualms about selling your information. After all, you’re not their client; you’re their product.

Their clients are advertisers – the companies that buy the data about you and then use it to convince you to buy certain products or vote for a certain candidate. In the author’s view, this amounts to direct manipulation of your behavior.

Sure, advertising has always been manipulative, but it’s only recently that ads could be tailored based on your personal preferences and online actions. Of course, this tailoring only has a statistical effect – that is, it’s not 100-percent accurate. You might, unlike most people whose diet is similar to yours, hate green, and therefore not vote for that green-bordered candidate.

However, over an entire population, statistical effects are reliable. Therefore, it’s more likely than not that you are being manipulated.

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