February 15, 2013 § 4 Comments

not sure if want

The Atlantic just published an article about the dangers of quitting social media, and I don’t know you guys! Authors Woodrow Hartzog and Evan Selinger are ostensibly talking about social media generally, and “sites like Facebook” in particular (sites like Facebook? What other site is like Facebook); their basic point –at least, their lede– is that “sites like Facebook” (Facebook?) is/are necessary to “self-expression, personal growth, learning, support, and civic exchange.” Because self-expression, personal growth, learning, support, and civic exchange online is apparently only possible on “sites like Facebook,” a person’s decision to opt out risks denying THE YOUTH –as well as “the struggling, the lonely, the curious, the caring, and the collaborative”– an opportunity to express themselves (and apparently the opportunity to fall into a pit of despair and self-loathing, a point addressed in another Atlantic article from May of 2012).

There’s also stuff about how, hey, your information might end up on Facebook  anyway, and if we all decide to leave social media every time we’re worried about privacy we’ll NEVER figure out how much privacy is enough privacy, and how do you know that the alternatives to existing social media won’t be worse, and Google is already keeping tabs on everyone, so you might as well stop worrying and learn to love the poke.

Here’s my take: contrary to what the authors seem to suggest, resistance to social media (Facebook?) isn’t, and doesn’t have to be, purely the result of privacy concerns. There are some of us, including yours truly, who simply don’t want to be on “sites like Facebook,” and don’t want to share every detail (or even a moderate number of details) about their personal lives, because — meh, no thanks. Regarding Facebook specifically, not being on Facebook is great; I would highly recommend it to anyone (more on my decision to opt-out here), and genuinely do not understand why more people aren’t leaving, especially given the amount of time and energy people devote to complaining about how much they hate being on Facebook. As for my attitudes towards other social media platforms, welp, each platform is different, and so I have different attitudes towards them — which is also why I avoid making sweeping statements about “social media.” BECAUSE WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN, are you talking about Facebook? Sites like Facebook? Text messaging? Cc:’d emails? The telegraph? Any and all? In conclusion, define yr terms (as Chris just said, “I wish we would retire ‘social media’ and just start using ‘communications technologies’ instead,” which would force people to specify which technologies they mean), and anyway it’s Friday, so.


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  • nightwork says:

    Yes. That “sites like Facebook” stuck in my craw too. It’s lazy and makes the authors sound out of touch with what they are discussing (which ends up as my impression from reading the article anyway). Most people I know who have left or avoided FB do use other social media, er, communications technologies. Just not ones that require “authentic user identity” or are use-specific (ie, linkedin).

    As for why more people aren’t bailing on FB, many people I know who considered leaving then decided to stay did so because they wanted to keep it as a means of contact and photo viewing. Instead, they have pared down their accounts (removing dumb shit like “likes” and not posting status updates, etc) instead of deleting their accounts. This seems especially true for people with kids whose family members expect to see pix via FB.

    Also, slippery slope arguments anyone?

    • Yes, if you leave Facebook then YOU ARE RUINING THE EMO TEEN’S LIVES (who are emo because they spend too much time on Facebook looking through all their friends’ pictures and wishing their lives were different because they never have any fun, not like all the people they know who actually get to go on winter vacation, and why did their ex have to post all those cute Valentines pictures with that other boy/girl, and OH GOD THE DARKNESS IT IS CLOSING IN).

      But sure, there are reasons to stay on FB. Chris stays for precisely the reasons you cite — he wants to see family pics, and likes having his whole contact list in one place. I get that (and is why I like email). What I think is odd is when people RAIL against how boring Facebook is, and how self-absorbed all their FB friends are, but then constantly keep the tab open and check it throughout the day, presumably to hate-read. I dunno, to each his own, but count me out.

      As for the rest of the article ——- my main problem is the weird equivocation between Facebook and social media, and the fact that the authors seem to take for granted authentic user identity. Which might be a thing on Facebook (though of course with some exceptions), but certainly not on Twitter or Tumblr or whatever other platform the kids are sexting each other with these days. tl;dr “Social media” is simply more uneven than the authors concede, which ends up undermining their basic argument.

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