Facebook and My Social Media Drugs

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The #DeleteFacebook trend seems like it might be some kind of turning point in people’s dissatisfaction with social media. After controversies like Cambridge Analytica and Facebook’s influence in Myanmar, It’s almost like many people are finally making a statement that social media has had a net negative affect on their lives. Getting rid of Facebook isn’t an option for me personally, but it’s also the one social network to which I’m the least attached.

Facebook to me right now is really just a tool for a couple very specific purposes: I check in on a particular Facebook group daily (so I have to stay logged in), and I have friends for whom Facebook is my only contact. I don’t really scroll the news feed or keep my timeline updated. I don’t even think I ever cracked 100 friends. That being said, this whole controversy did get me to look back at the permissions of my Facebook apps.

To be honest before the Cambridge Analytical scandal I’d forgotten Facebook had apps. When I took a look at mine what I found was mostly a grid of apps and social networks I hadn’t used in what felt like centuries. I just deleted most of them, but for the ones I decided to keep, looking at their permissions left me surprised that some of them can check in on things as specific as religious views, dating preferences, and political affiliations. Some of the ones that did this didn’t look like the kinds of apps that needed that information. If I’d have been looking at this more intently years ago, the whole Cambridge thing would’ve probably surprised me a lot less.

The things that really keep me on the internet too long however are twitter and RSS. Both are the tools I use to keep track of news — which I’ve made part of my attempts at getting into writing for my whole adult life, as well as other things. Not just what online friends are doing, but also things like artists, game developers, and so-on. I’ve ended up following more and more over the years and I rarely get the chance to do any sort of “cleaning” of my subscriptions. I have learned to rely on twitter lists though, keeping some kind of cap on my main feed.

The social network that really got me hooked in a surprisingly short amount of time is Tumblr. I don’t even post anything on Tumblr. I don’t interact with the community or anything, but I do spend probably too much time scrolling through what I consider to be cool images just because they look cool. I don’t really get any use out of Tumblr for all the time I put into it. At least with Flickr I get to download a ton of cool wallpapers for my desktops and phone.

In any case, when it comes to the question of regulation, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Steam seem to be suffering from the same problems. Each one includes such a massive number of users on such a global scale that the companies running them don’t think they can or should tightly regulate them. This is likely one reason for an over-reliance on algorithms. Some of the people who run these online platforms are also probably a bit more Laissez Faire about the nature of public discourse than many would prefer. A focus on ad revenue is definitely a huge factor at least in the cases of Facebook and YouTube.

I’ve written about this before in regards to Valve and it’s Steam store which many say is crowded — that it represents so much of PC gaming the company thinks any kind of tight regulation would essentially mean picking winners and losers in the entire market itself. That’s really just the gaming version of what’s been happening in the rest of social media.

Seemingly in response to Steam, other PC gaming stores have arisen to cater to specific niches like GoodOldGames and itch.io. Maybe something similar might happen for social media in general — smaller social networks that might be more narrowly targeted and tightly regulated.

BULLETS:

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