Book notes: Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (Lanier)

Cover of Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (Jaron Lanier, 2018)

I found Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (Jaron Lanier, 2018) entertaining and thought-provoking. Although nothing in here struck me as particularly new – these ideas have been in the public discourse for some years now – the book is an engaging summary and exploration.

The main point Lanier makes is that modern social media’s business model – selling ads, which require them to be constantly maximizing “engagement” – inherently amplifies bad content and behaviors:

Engagement is not meant to serve any particular purpose other than its own enhancement, and yet the result is an unnatural global amplification of the “easy” emotions, which happen to be the negative ones.

The ten “arguments” explore the different ways in which this main idea plays out:

  1. We are losing our free will. Modern data-driven feeds and advertising are a “continuous behavior modification” machine, continuously affecting us in ways we don’t realize.

  2. Quitting our accounts is the best targeted way to resist this trend. It hurts the business model, which is the root cause of the problem.

  3. Social media tends to make us into assholes.

  4. Social media is undermining truth. Fake news, bot accounts and algorithmically-curated feeds are undermining even the idea that there is such a thing as “truth”.

  5. Social media makes what we say meaningless, because it strips it of context.

  6. Social media destroys our capacity for empathy. Because we are also seeing other people and what they say out of context, it is not possible for us to truly understand them or empathize. Lanier argues here that social media is “robbing us of our theories of one another’s minds”.

  7. Social media is making us unhappy.

  8. Social media doesn’t want us to have economic dignity. It is economically unsustainable, with millions of “users” giving their data and attention in return for being manipulated. Meanwhile, the tech companies that run these services make billions.

  9. Social media is making politics impossible, by normalizing fake news and insults (a natural consequence of point argument #3 – it is turning us all into assholes).

  10. Social media hates our souls. This final chapter reviews all the previous arguments from a spiritual standpoint.

While a little repetitive, these arguments resonated and got me thinking more deeply about social media, both my personal use of it and what might be alternative models. I don’t plan to delete my accounts just yet, though.