Recently I read Jaron Lanier’s books “You Are Not a Gadget” and “Ten Argument For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now”.
Some of what I read was eye opening regarding how social media and algorithms are used to manipulate behavior and drive “engagement”. Some was confirmation of my own pessimistic view that companies are always focused on making money regardless of their stated values. Some of what I read validated why It is dissatisfying to to spend time on social media, internet news sites and engaging with the online world.
After reading these books I made a conscious decision to delete the last of my social media accounts. I had dabbled in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These I had left multiple times but still occasionally would binge on when bored. It wasn’t difficult to delete them permanently.
Deleting LinkedIn was harder. I had been a LinkedIn member since its inception. I used it for job searches and for business. I promoted my business and blog there. It was the core of my online “brand” and how most people could find me.
I realized that whenever I checked LinkedIn, I’d see humble brags of someone’s latest accomplishments. I’d be inundated with updates of self-congratulatory awards and lame marketing announcements. My feed was filled with clickbait “news” articles about 10 Best Places To Work and Why Open Offices Are the Dead. Comments from people I knew that added zero value to the conversation (thoughts and prayers, thumbs up, and snide commentary)
The only real value I got from LinkedIn was to satisfy my curiosity. Occasionally, I’d see a former colleague had landed a new job or got a promotion. I’d check out his or her latest profile. I might even send a quick congratulations message.
I realized that these loose ties weren’t adding any value to my life or to theirs. We weren’t really friends. We never talked in real life once we stopped working together. What value did a trite message or emoji really bring to either of us?
So after more than 10 years, I deleted LinkedIn and haven’t missed it at all.
I also took my blog offline for a while.
After a few weeks I decided to bring my blog back online with two primary changes:
1. I shut off all comments. Occasionally I would get comments from family, friends and readers. All were sweet. I appreciated them. But never once did these lead to a new friendship or nuanced discussion.
2. I stopped paying attention to stats. I don’t know who is reading. I suspect many of my visitors are “bots” scraping the site. However I know I have some real readers out there because they contact me in real life to discuss posts occasionally (thanks mom).
I am also no longer going to add my banal, if well intentioned, comments to other online articles, videos etc. After all, what is the true value here? I occasionally read other’s comments. In general they are either snide/sarcastic/witty or they are the equivalent of a thumbs up.
In addition, I am no longer reading product reviews (much) as my suspicions have been confirmed by Lanier, as well as my personal experience that most of these are bogus. Those that aren’t bot generated or paid for often are written immediately after someone buys a product and unboxes it. That doesn’t attest to the quality of the product or it’s usability. A plethora of Five Star reviews is often an indication of an aggressive “give me a good review” campaign more than an accurate assessment of the product or service.
Given the crappy quality of products I’ve purchased, I suspect “Amazon’s choice” or “best seller” is popular only because it is promoted by Amazon.
There are exceptions. Some reviews are quite helpful. These are written from real people and offer detailed, in depth analysis often only found buried in chat boards of user forums focused on a specific topic.
I have plenty of opinions about things which I am a well experienced expert. If someone seeks my help, I’m happy and prepared to assist.
I have even more opinions about things with which I have no experience. Here I’ve decided keep my mouth shut – online and offline. I no longer comment on videos, blogs, or products I don’t have experience with. I don’t offer ratings nor likes or dislikes to feed the social media marketing machine. I am opting out.
Don’t subscribe to my blog. Don’t like me. And don’t let me know in the comments.
I’ll do the same for you.