Social media, privacy & being a product

For years I’ve railed against the dangers of consumerism in which every aspect of our life is treated as a consumer experience and that life in all it’s wonder and mystery can be repackaged and sold to you. Consumerism as a means by which humans gain identity, beauty, redemption, purpose, hope, joy and so on is a terrible substitute for the real things but we no longer know how to find or access the real.

Anyway what has this to do with social media? Well, for perhaps the first time, it is beginning to dawn on people that in the social media companies consumerism has been taken to new and disturbing places. In this reality, our reality: we are the product of social media companies so they can sell us to other companies who can then sell their products to us. That’s essentially how it works.

Facebook is at the centre of the storm for a variety of reasons but let’s be clear: Facebook does not exist so you can share pictures of your holiday with your friends. It exists to make money. Lots of it. It does this by knowing way more about you than your mother and selling that information to advertisers. However most of the time, we don’t particularly care. We’re mostly OK with the trade-off for the social conveniences it offers.

Many of us basically think: “Social media is terrible, and social media is amazing.”

Here are a few things that are worth doing.

Step 1: Understand what they know about you. It’s a lot.

Step 2: Consider the case against

Step 3: Know why you’re unlikely to give up social media

Step 4: Consider the alternatives

The more diligent reader who has actually clicked on the links will already know this but for the rest of you: the last three links all make the same point. You can get your news, opinion and content from sources you trust without all the other junk. Use RSS!

I use Feedly and Pocket which works well for me.

I’ve been mulling leaving Facebook for ages, I really don’t like it – so I don’t really use it. I check it for about 2 minutes a day because my church uses it. I use Twitter more but use it less and less. I’m fairly sure I want to keep my kids away from social media for as long as possible and that should tell me something.

So does anyone want to make the case for more social media in our lives? Or persuade me to go the whole way and quit altogether?

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