I did so to increase my mental freedom, lower instances of external grabbing of my attention, and lessen the commercial manipulation of my values and behavior.
Facebook had just become too much. Their ownership of my photos, pestering with ads, nudges to post more often, and the Trump-supporting posts of some of my Facebook friends were more than I wanted in my life. The real issue was FB’s strategy of becoming better at getting my attention and more effective at controlling my point of view. That is to say, my beliefs, values and behaviors. It’s a freedom and free will thing for me.
Here is my last post on Facebook:
I have left Facebook. I still express myself but only on my blogs listed below. You are welcome to visit one or more of them and leave any comments you may have. If you have a blog or website of your own please send me a link to it. Thank you.
Being Human – Our Past, Present and Future in Nature
On Anthropology and Biology
Being – In Nature and the Ethnosphere
On the Anthropology of Culture, Cultural Evolution, and the Peoples of Africa
Owl & Ibis – A Confluence of Minds
On the Natural & Social Sciences, History, Philosophy, Modern Stoicism, and Aspects of Cultural Studies, including the Sacred
Migration Anthropology Consultants (MAC), LLC
On Human Migration, Refugees, Cross-Cultural Training, and Workplace Culture Analysis
There are three basic options for leaving Facebook:
– Retain the app but ignore it
– Deactivate your account
– Delete your account
I almost chose the most severe, secure and irreversible option, to delete my Facebook account, but decided against it. I opted for deactivation on the slim chance I change my mind and want to go back. If I reactivate all my previous posts and comments will reappear. After thoroughly reading the following two articles, I still may one day delete my account.
“Modern technology platforms, he [James Williams] explained to me, were ‘reimposing these pre-Internet notions of advertising, where it’s all about getting as much of people’s time and attention as you can.'”
“In 2014, he co-founded Time Well Spent, a ‘movement to stop technology platforms from hijacking our minds,’ according to its website. Partnering with Moment, an app that tracks how much time you spend in other apps, Time Well Spent asked 200,000 people to rate the apps they used the most—after seeing the screen time it demanded of them. They found that, on average, the more time people spent in an app, the less happy they were with it. ‘Distraction wasn’t just this minor annoyance. There was something deeper going on,’ he told me. … Williams has most recently been in the media spot light for his essay, ‘Stand Out of Our Light: Freedom and Persuasion in the Attention Economy,’ … Nautilus caught up with Williams to discuss the subversive power of the modern attention economy.”
“Democracy assumes a set of capacities: the capacity for deliberation, understanding different ideas, reasoned discourse. This grounds government authority, the will of the people. So one way to talk about the effects of these technologies is that they are a kind of a denial-of-service (DoS) attack on the human will. Our phones are the operating system for our life. They keep us looking and clicking. I think this wears down certain capacities, like willpower, by having us make more decisions. A study showed that repeated distractions lower people’s effective IQ by up to 10 points. It was over twice the IQ drop that you get from long-term marijuana usage. There are certainly epistemic issues as well. Fake news is part of this, but it’s more about people having a totally different sense of reality, even within the same society or on the same street. It really makes it hard to achieve that common sense of what’s at stake that is necessary for an effective democracy.”
“What’s happened is, really rapidly, we’ve undergone this tectonic shift, this inversion between information and attention. Most of the systems that we have in society—whether it’s news, advertising, even our legal systems—still assume an environment of information scarcity. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech, but it doesn’t necessarily protect freedom of attention. There wasn’t really anything obstructing people’s attention at the time it was written. Back in an information-scarce environment, the role of a newspaper was to bring you information—your problem was lacking it. Now it’s the opposite. We have too much.”
“[We] need to remember the sheer volume and scale of resources that are going into getting us to look at one thing over another, click on one thing over another. This industry employs some of the smartest people, thousands of Ph.D. designers, statisticians, engineers. They go to work every day to get us to do this one thing, to undermine our willpower. It’s not realistic to say you need to have more willpower. That’s the very thing being undermined!”
And there’s more:
“He [software engineer Justin Rosenstein] was particularly aware of the allure of Facebook ‘likes’, which he describes as ‘bright dings of pseudo-pleasure’ that can be as hollow as they are seductive. And Rosenstein should know: he was the Facebook engineer who created the ‘like’ button in the first place.
“A decade after he stayed up all night coding a prototype of what was then called an ‘awesome’ button, Rosenstein belongs to a small but growing band of Silicon Valley heretics who complain about the rise of the so-called “attention economy”: an internet shaped around the demands of an advertising economy.”
“Rosenstein … appears most concerned about the psychological effects on people who, research shows, touch, swipe or tap their phone 2,617 times a day.
“There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called ‘continuous partial attention’, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off. ‘Everyone is distracted,’ Rosenstein says. ‘All of the time.’
“’The technologies we use have turned into compulsions, if not full-fledged addictions,’ [author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir] Eyal writes. ‘It’s the impulse to check a message notification. It’s the pull to visit YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter for just a few minutes, only to find yourself still tapping and scrolling an hour later.’ None of this is an accident, he writes. It is all ‘just as their designers intended.'”
“Finally, Eyal confided the lengths he goes to protect his own family. He has installed in his house an outlet timer connected to a router that cuts off access to the internet at a set time every day. ‘The idea is to remember that we are not powerless,’ he said. ‘We are in control.’
But are we? If the people who built these technologies are taking such radical steps to wean themselves free, can the rest of us reasonably be expected to exercise our free will?
“Not according to Tristan Harris, a 33-year-old former Google employee turned vocal critic of the tech industry. ‘All of us are jacked into this system,’ he says. ‘All of our minds can be hijacked. Our choices are not as free as we think they are.’
“Harris, who has been branded ‘the closest thing Silicon Valley has to a conscience’, insists that billions of people have little choice over whether they use these now ubiquitous technologies, and are largely unaware of the invisible ways in which a small number of people in Silicon Valley are shaping their lives. … ‘A handful of people, working at a handful of technology companies, through their choices will steer what a billion people are thinking today,’ he said. ‘I don’t know a more urgent problem than this,’ Harris says. ‘It’s changing our democracy, and it’s changing our ability to have the conversations and relationships that we want with each other.'”
“An internal Facebook report leaked this year, for example, revealed that the company can identify when teens feel ‘insecure’, ‘worthless’ and ‘need a confidence boost’. Such granular information, Harris adds, is ‘a perfect model of what buttons you can push in a particular person.'”
“[A] ‘far more consequential question’ than whether Trump reached the White House. The reality TV star’s campaign, he said, had heralded a watershed in which ‘the new, digitally supercharged dynamics of the attention economy have finally crossed a threshold and become manifest in the political realm.'”
“‘The dynamics of the attention economy are structurally set up to undermine the human will,’ he says. ‘If politics is an expression of our human will, on individual and collective levels, then the attention economy is directly undermining the assumptions that democracy rests on.’ If Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are gradually chipping away at our ability to control our own minds, could there come a point, I ask, at which democracy no longer functions?”