I’m writing this post partially to get it out of the way, partially so I can link to it whenever someone asks me why I’m not on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.
I have retired from social media.
When I think about the reasons why I’ve done so, the silly answer that comes to mind is that I’ve aged out of the 18-34 year old demographic that marketers seek after. Of course, there are older and younger people who are on social media, so that point doesn’t really sitck. But marketing is a large part of why I’ve left. The old adage that “if you’re not paying for it, you are the product” rings true. Worse, when you’re on social media, your shares and likes are often just doing the work marketing professionals should be doing themselves.
Another common social media problem is that of filter bubbles: algorithims that hide and show posts, assumedly based on your interests. For example, if you’re liberal and the algorithim picks up on this, it will filter out all of the conservative stories and you’ll never hear from a perspective that doesn’t line up with your own. The commonly proposed solution to this is to “break your filter bubble” by liking and sharing news from different points of view so that the algorithims keep showing you news from different perspectives.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that attempting to “break your filter bubble” really works. Reinforcing your biases is really more of a symptom of a filter bubbles than the problem itself. The problem is that social media algorithims show you the posts you are most likely to engage with, regardless of what you think of the content. The goal of any commercial social media platform is to get you to spend as much time on the platform so they can show you as many ads as possible. It doesn’t really matter what Facebook’s algorithim shows you, as long as it gets you to spend more time on Facebook.
Beyond just showing you posts you’re likely to engage with, the algorithim implictly trains you to share posts that will get likes and shares. This implict training comes in the form of notifications of those likes and shares. Even if you don’t have your phone or some other device set to altert you as soon as a like or share comes in, it’s still incredibly easy to get addicted to checking social media to see what notifications have come in.
All of this is done in a venue with no topic. It’s made up of all of the people (and don’t forget brands) you’re connected to whether they be friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, or exes. But it’s not only made up of those people you’re connected to, it’s also made up of the people they’re connected to as well. So even if you’re careful to only add specific people on these networks, you’re still interacting with posts that they’ve often unconsciously crafted to cater to people you don’t know.
It is for these and many more reasons that I have walked away from all social media. Whatever benefits social media provide me are meager. It’s not worth rewiring my brain to respond to a feedback loop of reactions. It’s truly become a game where “the only winning move is not to play.” So I quit.