The Future of Digital Social Networking
For the past seven years, I've become increasingly skeptical of the techno-utopian narrative that the trend towards digitization and the dominance of the internet as the premier means of communication and commerce will continue into perpetuity. My skepticism has been driven in part by an intuition of a fundamental wrongness underlying large swaths of the Web, especially social media platforms. That dysfunction has come into pubic view since 2016, first with election meddling, and now with domestic terrorism. For example, the El Paso shooter was partly radicalized by the insular, online community of white supremacists, particularly on the platform 8chan. As the New York Times wrote in the wake of the Christchurch massacre, while it's hard to draw a direct link between domestic terrorism and online content:
the design of internet platforms can create and reinforce extremist beliefs. Their recommendation algorithms often steer users toward edgier content, a loop that results in more time spent on the app, and more advertising revenue for the company. Their hate speech policies are weakly enforced. And their practices for removing graphic videos—like the ones that circulated on social media for hours after the Christchurch shooting, despite the companies’ attempts to remove them—are inconsistent at best.
We also know that many recent acts of offline violence bear the internet’s imprint. Robert Bowers, the man charged with killing 11 people and wounding six others at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, was a frequent user of Gabi, a social media platform beloved by extremists. Cesar Sayoc, the man charged with sending explosives to prominent critics of President Trump last year, was immersed in a cesspool of right-wing Twitter and Facebook memes. (from "A Shooting Disturbingly Rooted in the Internet," 3/16/2019.)
Mark O'Connell in the New Yorker (The Deliberate Awfulness of Social Media) and James Bridle on Medium.com (Something is Wrong on the Internet) have also written compellingly about the ways the web has been hijacked towards the ends of profit and influence. But keeping the conversation focused on social networking, it's worth asking how much longer this state of affairs can go on. Will the entirety of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like become cesspools of deep fakes, bots, and hucksters? And if that happens, will people migrate to different web platforms? Or perhaps, as the result of a wider confluence of events and trends, will they abandon digital social networking entirely? I have some thoughts on how all of this could play out, but I'm interested in hearing what others in this community think.
Also, I found this prediction for the year 2025: Facebook is done. (Julie)
I believe there will always be a places on the internet where people united by their beliefs, no matter how positive or abhorrent will gather and exchange ideas, opinions and information. However, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. are ephemeral because their revenue generation models are flawed. The information they sell-- I think it will either become prohibited or simply worth less or better tech will supersede them.
I agree Rowsella, one way or another, the tech giant's revenue model of selling user's data will become unprofitable. In the economy thread @Celticwitch posted that she saw people coming off the internet when the economy crashes. I've also been thinking that in the event of an economic crisis, the "spell" will be broken and people will stop spending so much time on social media. The demands of the real world will just be become a lot more urgent and compelling.
An interesting thing just happened to me with Facebook. I was recently accepted into an AmeriCorps service program and was invited to join an informal Facebook group for people in the program. Because I thought the group might be a source of useful info, I reluctantly set up a minimalist Facebook profile - I did not upload a profile picture, I used my nickname instead of my legal name, and I did not 'friend' anyone. Not two days went by before I got locked out of my account because Facebook noticed "suspicious activity" on my profile. A few days later, after I sent in a picture of myself to verify my identity (not much help, since I never uploaded any pictures to FB in the first place), I was notified that my account had been disabled because I was deemed to be an imposter. Since I never really used my account, Facebook probably thought I was a bot.
I'm actually relieved that I've been banished from Facebook, and I feel like spirit is trying to keep me away from the social media giants. Basically, I'm thinking that the digital rigmarole I've just been through was some sort of intervention. There are lots of news stories going around about identity theft on Facebook. And then there's the possibility of an invasive data breach/hack that will leave no FB user untouched (perhaps involving malware that will infect users' digital devices). Also, the fact that FB deems a low level of activity as a red flag (as it did in my case) is an indication of FB's ruthless business model of getting people psychologically hooked on their service. Ultimately, I feel like a reckoning is coming to Facebook and its social media ilk, and that it would be wise to get out before the crisis strikes.
Coyote, great first post and good idea to start this thread in the first place. I stopped posting on FB after reading that the company gave facebook data files of facebook users to Cambridge Analytica. In the Netflix documentary about Cambridge Analytica (The Great Hack), the company credited with heavily influencing elections including the U.S. 2016 election, the founder said they had 5,000 data points on each person in their files. In the U.S., they got their data from Facebook who shared it, shared facebook users' files with them.
In 2018, it came out that a personality test on Facebook that millions of people took, was also released. If you didn't take that test, which I didn't, you still aren't safe because of the loose restrictions off Facebook, they got not only the data of those who took the test, but the data of all of their friends.
I certainly can understand how you feel. I have read about people, particularly children, who got bullied to the point of suicide.
I nearly deleted my account after reading that they gave private files to abusive organizations like Cambridge Analytica.Then as I was about to press the delete button, I realized how much I have benefited from using facebook. We have a page for my town where people help each other in immeasurable ways. Kindness prevails. There are options for forming a private group too that help people communicate, although you can do that with other accounts. My own facebook page has enabled me to stay in touch with relatives and old friends and classmates in ways I never would have been able to do. If someone is toxic, then I stop following them.
Wondering if there is a solution to keeping the good stuff and protect people from the bad. We may not need to throw it out altogether but fix it. We need for it to evolve.
Unfortunetly I've had nothing but toxic experiences on FaceBook, and every other social media group and message board I ever joined.
I think it's my fault. There's obviously something wrong with me that others can see that I'm just not getting.
Sometimes I really feel like cutting the internet out of my life and becoming a hermit...
I'm sorry you are feeling bad. There is a great tarot spread called the blind side - although I have been afraid to do it except when I'm the company of supportive friends. If you are going to do it then please take it to the thread on Tarot rather than here. I will make a post on it there. Also I would suggest posting your last line of your post in the section where people reach out for support and insight. RE: If you need support, understanding, and love, let us know here. Sounds like you are having trouble figuring out how to connect. People will reach out to you. I see they really like you! This is a nice group.
Further to what Jeanne said, I have returned to FB after a 9 month hiatus. Before I left I culled my friends list by half. I eliminated: people who I have not really engaged with in the last 2 years or who I had already unfollowed but not unfriended, people who I see and talk to IRL on a weekly basis, relatives whose political views are toxic. I also left all groups I was in except one (which is for old college mates), and unliked every single page (commercial or non-profit) I had liked. I deleted most of my old posts and much personal info. I then blocked as many ads as I could and reported most of them as spam.
Coming back, I laid out my new rules in my first post:
-I will not join any new groups nor will I like any pages beyond personal ones
-I will not be accepting new friend requests
-I will not be participating in surveys or quizzes of any kind
-I will not click on any ad presented
-I will not post or engage with political discussions until at least 2020, and maybe not even then
-I will not re-share anything except what makes me smile or laugh (this includes those chain letter "If you hate cancer..." posts)
-I am only on FB to keep in touch with people I love and miss
-I will not respond to group messages on messenger, in fact I keep messenger shut off, so if you need something, email me.
-If I do not like a post I will scroll by without comment, and I no longer correct strangers' comments for objective accuracy, this includes fake news posts, hysteria, and scams that have been re-circulating for years
-I will check in once a day at most and will be logging out after checking and I will not be checking in from my phone (I never installed the app, but I used to check from my phone browser)
As I've implemented this, I noticed FB doing some pretty wily stuff to try to get me to re-engage at prior levels. First of all, I only see about 15 posts in my news feed, it won't let me scroll down past to see older posts, it dead ends. Also, when I log out it posts a notification on the login page, and/or a message notification, when I log back in, it was a lie - no new messages or notifications. And FB has for reasons I can't explain, prioritzed ads involving MS meds. I do not have MS and am not in touch on FB with anyone who does. Whatever.
The hiatus did my mental health a world of good. Going forward, my rules are shielding my mental health. If FB disappears, I wouldn't exactly cry over it. But know that we all do have a small measure of control if we take the reigns and limit our interactions on FB.
Wondering if there is a solution to keeping the good stuff and protecting people from the bad. We may not need to throw it out altogether but fix it. We need for it to evolve.
A plausible next step for social networking is for the current gigantic platforms to give way to decentralized "federations." Email is an example of federated web technology, although it's not clear yet how social networks can adopt that sort of decentralization. The startup Mastodon is experimenting in this field. Whatever supersedes Facebook and friends, things would be better under a funding model that relies on voluntary user donations (what Wikipedia has been using for 18 years now).
From a sociological perspective, it would be best if these changes come from the grassroots instead of being mandated by governing authorities, as grassroots change tends to be more enduring and dynamic. But antitrust investigations and privacy laws like the one adopted by the EU would certainly help effect change in the short term.
One thing that I have done on FB is to click on occasional links for nature and conservation type sites. Then my advertisements are filled with photos of nature and groups like the Nature Conservatory and Sierra Club type organizations. At least there are nice photos to see as I scroll. Occasionally I will also find out about the latest threats to nature in my home state of which I was not aware.
So there is that positive way of changing how FB interacts with me.
tumblr has has alienated a whole lot of folks by banning nudity and so-called pornography, while not having any real policy against fascist hate mongering. Many folks have deleted, or just stopped using their accounts out of principle, even if they were not depicting nudity at all on their own blogs.