- Hardcover: 160 pages
- Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (May 29, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 125019668X
- ISBN-13: 978-1250196682
- Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.7 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 62 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now Hardcover – May 29, 2018
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A WIRED "All-Time Favorite Book"
“Profound . . . Lanier shows the tactical value of appealing to the conscience of the individual. In the face of his earnest argument, I felt a piercing shame about my own presence on Facebook. I heeded his plea and deleted my account.”
―Franklin Foer, The New York Times Book Review
“Mixes prophetic wisdom with a simple practicality . . . Essential reading.”
―The New York Times (Summer Reading Preview)
“The title says it all . . . Lanier advocates untethering from social media, which fosters addiction and anomie and generally makes us feel worse and more fearful about each other and the world . . . The experiment could be a useful one, though it will darken the hearts of the dark lords―a winning argument all its own.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now is not anti-tech or even anti-phone. It is one of the most optimistic books about the Internet I’ve ever read because it dares to hope for better. Profoundly skeptical of the business model that undergirds social media, Lanier demonstrates the ways in which our social media accounts make us not consumer but product, our every connection monitored by unseen third parties who harvest our data, monetize our communication, and curate and manipulate our behavior. Another online life is possible, but first we have to destroy the one we’re trapped in. The great news is you don’t have to take to the streets―you don’t even have to leave your room. You can do it all by pressing one little key . . . A blisteringly good, urgent, essential read.” ―Zadie Smith, author of Feel Free
About the Author
Jaron Lanier is a scientist, musician, and writer best known for his work in virtual reality and his advocacy of humanism and sustainable economics in a digital context. His 1980s start-up VPL Research created the first commercial VR products and introduced avatars, multi-person virtual world experiences, and prototypes of major VR applications such as surgical simulation. His books Who Owns the Future? and You Are Not a Gadget were international bestsellers, and Dawn of the New Everything was named a 2017 best book of the year by The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and Vox.
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As one of the early internet tech pioneers and father of virtual reality, he is more than qualified to lay out the 10 arguments against BUMMER networks (Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent).
I found the book so fascinating and compelling that I plan to keep it for reading again and referencing now and then.
Every one of his arguments matched my experience using these tools over the last decade: Facebook, Twitter, instagram, anything google. I knew something was wrong beyond what the popular articles had been saying, but I could never quite put my finger on it. There were a lot of “aha” moments.
He was ultimately preaching to the choir with me though, as I deleted most of my accounts last year - and I miss none of them.
Most of my friends and family are still attached to the hip with BUMMER networks, like a big fundamentalist church I once belonged to. Maybe having left such churches gave me the understanding that you might leave and everyone still in the cult will look at you like you’re a lost sheep such a thing. But those of us who have left realize the freedom and joy of being a “cat” is a much better life. I have friends who still invite me back to “church” to see their pictures on Facebook. Thanks but no thanks. Life is much better on this side.
Jaron Lanier offers ten arguments for doing just that
By George P. Wood
Like many others, I find it difficult to imagine life without social media. I use Facebook and Twitter at work to share articles from Influence magazine, the Christian leadership magazine which I edit. They account for a large percentage of the traffic on the magazine’s website. I ignore them at professional peril.
I use Facebook and Instagram at home to share information and pictures with my family and friends. They help me keep in touch with people who are important to me but don’t live close by. Although I get most of my news from websites, I also click on the links to news articles and op-eds that these people share in Facebook and Twitter.
These professional and personal uses of social media sound benign, so why does my wife complain that I’m on my phone too much? Why do I feel compelled to check it compulsively throughout the day? And why do I so often feel negative emotions like sadness, anger and jealousy after spending time on Facebook?
Technology always begins as a tool to help us exercise control over nature. After a while, however, it becomes our master, in effect exercising control over us. If you don’t believe me, try replacing your smartphone with a dumbphone, or try giving up social media for Lent. If you can do so, great! If not, then perhaps you have a problem.
Jaron Lanier stakes out a radical position on social media in his new book, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. Here they are in his own words:
1. You are losing your free will.
2. Quitting social media is the most finely targeted way to resist the insanity of our times.
3. Social media is making you into a [jerk].
4. Social media is undermining truth.
5. Social media is making what you say meaningless.
6. Social media is destroying your capacity for empathy.
7. Social media is making you unhappy.
8. Social media doesn’t want you to have economic dignity.
9. Social media is making politics impossible.
10. Social media hates your soul.
Lanier is not an anti-technology Luddite by any stretch of the imagination. He is a computer scientist — a founding father of virtual reality, in fact — and is well regarded throughout Silicon Valley.
Nor is he writing from a religious perspective, despite his usage of terms like free will and soul. He’s not religious in any conventional sense, as far as I can tell. His political opinions are far to the left of mine and those of the readers of my magazine. And his occasional use of profanity — I had to come up with a less offensive term for Argument 3 above — can be distracting.
So, why would I recommend Christian leaders — pastors, educators, etc. — to read this book? I can think of at least three reasons.
First, Lanier is concerned with issues related to the common good. Lanier’s ten arguments are morally fraught. They deal with the character of the individual in relationship to others, especially on matters of public importance. No one wants to live in a society overrun with unempathetic jerks who twist the truth and tell lies, robbing workers of their economic dignity and politics of its effectiveness, all the while making everyone deeply unhappy. Right?
Second, Lanier’s sixth arguments is that social media destroys people’s capacity for empathy. It does this by cocooning users in a “filter bubble” where they are increasingly exposed only to others whose viewpoints expressly match their own. This exacerbates the tendency to lump people into “us” and “them,” where “we” are always on the side of righteousness and “they” are always on the side of wickedness. When we break out of that bubble and deal with real people and their actual arguments, we realize that reality is more complex that social media lets on. Because “they” also are concerned with the common good, “we” can make common cause on issues where we agree, even as we realize that we will continue to disagree (strongly, even) on other issues.
Third, as a tech “insider,” Lanier has unique insight into the business model that drives social media and leads to such negative results. He calls his explanation “the BUMMER machine,” where BUMMER is an acronym for “Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent.”
Think of it this way: Facebook and other social media provide its services free to billions of users. How can it afford to do that? Because its users are not its customers, they are its products. Social media sucks up an enormous amount of data about you — birthdate, address, location, workplace, political interests, searches, friendship networks, etc. — repackages it and sells it to others. Some of these users, social media’s actual customers, have largely benign goals, i.e., marketing and selling affordable products you’re interested in. Others — Lanier cites the Cambridge Analytica particularly — have less benign goals.
To make money, social media have to figure out ways to keep you coming back for more, which it does through constant surveillance and subtle manipulation. This is the point of argument 1 about the loss of free will. As Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, once explained it: “We need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever…. It’s a social validation feedback loop…exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology….”
Some things, once you see them, cannot be unseen. For me, Lanier’s book had that quality. It made me think about social media, my use of them, and what widespread usage of them are doing to us in a new and disturbing way. I haven’t been fully persuaded to delete my social media accounts, obviously, since you’re reading this on one social medium or another. But perhaps drawing attention to Lanier’s arguments will help in some small way to resist social media’s BUMMER tendencies and contribute to a happier, healthier, and more humane common culture.
That being said, the information and insights about our relationship to social media and what it's doing to our society are spot on. It's worth working your way through. It will help you understand the treacherous place we've gotten ourselves into as a culture. And it will help you deconstruct your own relationship with social media to decide if you have to draw the line.