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Ten arguments for deleting your social media…

Ten arguments for deleting your social media accounts right now (edition 2018)

by Jaron Lanier

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17610103,640 (3.8)2
Lanier offers powerful and personal reasons for all of us to leave the dangers of online platforms behind. He has seen their tendency to bring out the worst in us, to make politics terrifying, to trick us with illusions of popularity and success, to twist our relationship with the truth, to disconnect us from other people. And he asks: How could the benefits of social media possibly outweigh the catastrophic losses to our personal dignity, happiness, and freedom? -- adapted from jacket.… (more)
Title:Ten arguments for deleting your social media accounts right now
Authors:Jaron Lanier
Info:New York : Henry Holt and Company, [2018]
Collections:Your library

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Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier (Author)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Jaron Lanier makes a good case for deleting our social media accounts. A very good case--from explaining how they are addictive to the negative influences that social media use has on us as individuals and as communities and throughout society as a whole. I won't go into them here but after posting this review, I am posting a notice to friends and family on my Facebook and Instagram accounts--haven't made up my mind about Twitter--explaining that I am deleting them on July 31. ( )
  nmele | Jul 25, 2019 |
His presentation is a bit too glib, but it's hard to naysay his positions, which include that social media not only gets you addicted and makes you lonelier, but helps turn you into an asshole. Not to mention its extraordinarily deleterious effects on the world body politic, as we've all seen; Lanier says that the alarming turn so many countries have made from democracy to authoritarian nationalism cannot be fully understood without factoring in the influence of Facebook and similar services. I think he's right. In any case, despite the cute acronyms and offbeat humor, this is a serious book that needs to be read by people on all sides of the issue, because there's an argument we need to have. ( )
  john.cooper | May 13, 2019 |
Devoured in a day. Accomplishes the not insignificant thing of making social media slightly more bearable. ESSENTIAL ( )
  davemcleod | Dec 28, 2018 |
Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist who has contributed to the field of virtual reality. He is not a Luddite, so I thought it should be worth reading his arguments against social media. His arguments weren't new to me, but they're significant because of the source. For me, the main takeaway is the reminder that social media users are not the customers, they're the product. If you forget that, you're more likely to allow yourself to be manipulated by the real social media customers – the advertisers.

This review is based on an electronic advance reading copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley. ( )
1 vote cbl_tn | Aug 2, 2018 |
For such a short work, Jaron Lanier's Ten Arguments conjured quite a lot of feelings in me, and most of them smacked of frustration, embarrassment, and exasperation. It's not that I find myself disagreeing with his core ten-point encapsulation of reasons to remove one's self from the influence of social media, which is satisfyingly listed on the back of the book (and which caused me to purchase it in the first place). These feelings are instead much more the product of having so many problems with Lanier's logic, opacity, and style – all of which feel plainly pedestrian and in fact belie the back cover's promise of what should be a vital read.

No question that Lanier has established his chops as a seasoned veteran of Silicon Valley, contributing to the early days of the Internet in both structure and service, including AI and VR tech as well as digital models of economic sustainability. Despite these accomplishments, he is not so adept at putting his ideas down into a digestible form with any semblance of cohesion, flow, or professionalism. The book is therefore a slog and his scattered and terribly flawed presentation undermines the arguments he is attempting to posit.

If the difficulties were all about style and layout, Ten Arguments might be more readily accepted as a definitive treatise on shucking the behavioral control imposed by the social media corps. But even these issues make what should be a simple read into something more akin to copy editing a high-schooler's conspiracy manifesto. Lanier's prose is informal, self-congratulatory, and overly precious, and he repeatedly falls into bad writing habits like incessantly asking questions without answering them in situ, instead choosing to waste space by explaining that he will explore those answers in a later chapter. This happens nearly a dozen times in a 146-page book, which is well beyond annoying. He fails to understand how footnotes should be used, choosing to attach them to word rather than sentence – and this results in one of his sentences having six distinct footnotes where a single one would have sufficed at the end of the sentence. His citations are maddening, almost every one being long strings of arcanely formatted URLs with no titles, dates, or author information contained within. I cannot see anyone in their right minds trying to type some of these in to their browser to further examine his sources; at the very least, a simple title would be far easier to look up. I even checked his personal website (which looks like it was designed in 1987) for live links to these sources, but the only "web resources" associated with the book were self-promotional ones. I also found the titles he has chosen for the many sections within his text to be overly clever, needlessly twee, and often simply irrelevant to the matter that follows.

The real issues with Ten Arguments, however, go beyond Lanier's style and are products of a handful of anemic thought experiments and many pages of pop-psychology standing in for what should be (and apparently could be, if his sources were more incisive) investigative journalism from the unique perspective given to him by his many experiences in the industry. Lanier is a computer scientist, but his bio simply states "scientist", perhaps affording him the freedom to intermittently ramble about utopian philosophies and posit unfounded psychological models ("addiction is a neurological process that we don't understand completely") that come off as uninspired café-counter conversation. He makes some valid points at times, but these are often engulfed by what reads as mental riffing that Lanier, himself, is not necessarily convinced he believes. Terms like "universal cognitive blackmail" and "the unbounded nature of nature" are particularly cringeworthy, as is his forced, ubiquitous acronym of "BUMMER", the anthropomorphized villain of this cautionary tale. The latter is so omnipresent in the text and stands out so greatly on the page that it actually derails the comprehension process of reading the book. And flaccid political statements like "something is drawing young people away from democracy" hang by themselves in the room like dirty jokes cracked at a funeral. There is no exploration, no exposition, no definition of this aphorism, so what, exactly, is its point?

I can appreciate the underlying dangers of which Lanier warns and it would be difficult not to believe the general social trajectory that he describes, but I just don't feel that his arguments are as effective as they could be. Despite the fact that he has witnessed a lot of what happens behind the scenes, he is reluctant to satisfactorily describe what is going into the sausage and who is ultimately to blame. It's a cop-out to repeatedly incriminate Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Google, etc. while simultaneously condemning the vile "unknown third parties" who are paying these companies to conduct "mass behavior modification" and promulgate destructive "network approach". The fact that he is currently employed by Microsoft might have something to do with that opacity, and this might even be construed to brand Lanier as some measure of evangelical hypocrite, but since I do not know the man, I can only speculate. Yet I cannot help but think that his contribution here would have been better served and more instructive to unmask those third parties, if not with direct evidence, then at least with more detail about the algorithmic secrets that Lanier claims are more closely guarded than national intelligence. Even a mockup of one of these schemes would be more insightful than the final chapter of the book is, which instead argues that social media "hates your soul" and allegorically contends that BUMMER is essentially a religion with a goal of subsuming our free will, which presumably will be sacrificed to the god of virality. That last chapter is a real doozy and closes things out on a pretty low note.

Despite these moral and ethical imperatives that threaten to undo us all, Lanier repeatedly absolves himself of any responsibility for telling us what we should do, and he meekly liberalizes his manifesto by acknowledging that we know what's best for us individually – just in case he appears to step on any toes (thanks for that indulgence!). All of this is then invalidated by his fatuous assertion that "if you want to be a real person, delete your accounts", and others like it throughout the text. Furthermore, Lanier has a tendency to speak of himself as part of the Silicon Valley apparatus from an elitist perspective, claiming that despite all the best intentions that were seeded as the industry was ramping up, everything has gone south and it's now up to the public – who are being used as "product" – to right these wrongs by quitting their social media accounts. This, on the assumption that a mass exodus from corporate behavioral control will somehow then spur his colleagues in Silicon Valley to set up new, less nefarious methods of capitalizing on interpersonal communication in the age of digital media. At one point, he brazenly states, "If you don't quit, you are not creating the space in which Silicon Valley can act to improve itself". Really? Well, I'm sorry, Jaron, but who screwed it all up in the first place? Whose job is it to fix this? Thanks for nothing.

It's not all drek, though, and that is why this review offers two stars to Ten Arguments. Lanier excels when recounting the history of tech in the Valley and is clearly most comfortable when discussing his industry's early intentions and theories about how things perhaps should have gone. He is obviously correct to claim that the widespread use of social media has a marked deleterious effect on interpersonal compassion and empathy, and that big data is being used by hidden parties to manipulate favor and behavior on a grand, international scale. Terms like "invisible social vandalism" and AI being "a cover for sloppy engineering" are adroit and fall directly in Lanier's wheelhouse. Likewise, Lanier's discussion of context being applied to statements on social media after the fact is painfully accurate, and his thought-model on a corporate-controlled Wikipedia is memorable, proving that he can, indeed, enunciate important ideas. I only wish there were more of them. Perhaps in his other books, but I won't have the patience to attempt to read them.

I personally believe, however, that the needlessly meandering and clumsy Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now can be summarized by a single phrase from Argument Three: Social Media is Making You Into an Asshole: "Your character is the most precious thing about you. Don't let it degrade." Now that is clear, concise, and vital writing. ( )
1 vote funkyplaid | Jul 21, 2018 |
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