I write this by way of a Public Announcement, I have gone Social Media Lite.
Somewhere between pictures of food, a near constant flow of what are little more than sales posts, the use of the word doggos and finding myself looking at nonsensical drivel at two in the morning, I got bored with social media. So utterly bored that it began to frustrate me. While sleep evaded me I decided there must be other ways to entertain the mind, sudoku, books, or perhaps sleep inducing apps or rain noises. Something had to be better than a late night stream of (un)consciousness. I’ve gone back to books. Or at any rate, a near-addictive ten pin bowling game, depending on the mood.
The recent news of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal added a little oomph to the decision to lessen my intake so I deleted Facebook, Messenger, and Twitter from my phone. Deleted, gone, finished. I downloaded messenger again (briefly) as there was a flurry of notes about gigs, editing, and other useful stuff but to be honest, it didn’t make it a full day. There is but one social media app left on my phone. Instagram lives on to fight another day but only because there are no desktop options.
These past two weeks have been a bit of a revelation. I look up again, I’m not glued to a screen almost constantly and I worry so much less about whats going on in everyone else’s world that it’s remarkable. If removing the apps did anything it highlighted the pervasive nature of social media and apps in general. These things are designed to be addictive, the likes, thumbs up, the little dots telling you someone is typing, its all designed to keep you there, keep you watching and give the apps more data on you.
I found the Strava heatmap story absolutely fascinating, like everyone else I imagine, I scoured maps for strange patterns, apart from anything else it was beautiful to look at. Yet the scale of the eye the app had on people was slightly alarming. The fact that the Strava app appeared to highlight the movements of military personnel was the bitter pill for Governments and one would guess caused alarm in board rooms the world over.
We assume that apps track and watch where you’re going, fitness apps are based on your movements. We assume that social media exits to collect information, we accept that that is how Facebook, Twitter, and others, make their money. Advertising will only give them so much, we are their income, us and our doggos. The ability to really hone in on target audiences on Facebook ads is based entirely on the fact that people choose to share their information. The question is, are we getting to peak sharing? Have we had enough? I think I have.
I’ve always been skeptical, it’s in my nature. Ask anyone that knows me, I am wary about trusting people, let alone computer code. I make decisions on apps based on what they need access too, if it seems too much then I ignore it. I ignore games on facebook because the permissions have always been extreme. I did not sign up for ‘Your Digital Life’ and I avoid pages that I don’t trust wanting to log in via Facebook.
Looks like I was right to be cautious. Not so for some fool.
The data of 87 Million people basically fell into the wrong hands, was used inappropriately and may have swayed the US election and the Brexit vote. Nothing alarming in there at all is there? And here we were worried about Russians setting up Fakebook accounts. Ha, those were the halcyon days.
87 Million people though, that’s a staggering number.
In the last day or so the CEO of Wetherspoons has announced that the entire company is deleting its Social Media apps. Everything, even the core corporate ones. That’s a pretty remarkable move when you consider it, in a world awash with information.
Wetherspoons suggest that chatting to the barman is the best way to stay informed. They cite the misuse of data and the addictive nature of social media, reckoning staff time is better spent ensuring that the bars serve customers and improve the experience.
“I don’t believe that closing these accounts will affect our business whatsoever.”
I think he might just be right. We give away huge amounts of personal information, that it has been used for nefarious purposes is alarming, that we are all found staring at screens is damaging social interaction in the real world. Seriously, get a bus. Watch what people are doing. 90% of passengers will be glued to screens.
We can’t go for dinner without everyone being glued to screens, and ‘Phonetentiary’ is a thing. Restraunts are now offering discounts to people who lock up their phones and talk to each other over lunch, imagine the horror.
But here’s the rub, our lives have moved online and its hard to avoid it. There are advantages, of course, Facebook is good for stories, connecting and keeping up with family members who are far away, and keeping an eye on the things we love. Twitter is the first port of call for breaking news stories, banter, and snippets of fun.
But, what do we give away, what do we expect to happen with it, those are the eternal questions. For me, it’s about control. You control the data you share, the way people see your life and you control who can access what. For now, I’m keeping a lid on it, watching what I’m sharing, keeping it off my phone and reading more books.
If it’s a fake empire, it’s my fake empire.