I’ve been off my social media apps for the last 2 weeks, inspired by Tim Harford. I’ve missed it more than I thought I would.
Mostly I don’t miss the political ranting on Twitter but there were the occasional science paper deep dives or points of view I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I’m not sure the benefits outweigh the costs but having not been on Twitter for many years finding out there were some things to miss was a surprise. There are also small pockets of community eg in autism, disability, education and science; nature and I’m sure others. Sadly, it’s too noisy.
I’m so busy with work, family, mingle that I’ve lost touch with many friends. FB for all its flaws has been a way to keep in touch albeit mostly in a surface way. It can enable real world connections as well. I’m working on those IRL (in real life) connections. This blog and letter is a way. Coffee chats too. I did want to start with letter writing as well, but most of my friends don’t have the capacity to write back! I did try (Tim wrote many letters and although most thought he was having a mid life crisis, it did also enable a re-connection). Maybe I will try again.
I also have met new friends in a new network and FB has been a solid glue for aspect of that. Plus we run Transport Sparks for young ASD transport enthusiasts mainly through a FB group. That’s the light side of FB for sure bringing disparate like minded families together. It’s still like meets like though.
So I am going to keep the social media in my life but still try and keep control.
On that note there are three fascinating papers / articles on this subject recently.
One series where this journalist disconnects from FB, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Apple for a week at a time. It’s amazing how embedded this companies are into everyday developed world life. It gives a real sense of how hard it is too disconnect.
““These companies are unavoidable because they control internet infrastructure, online commerce, and information flows. Many of them specialize in tracking you around the web, whether you use their products or not. These companies started out selling books, offering search results, or showcasing college hotties, but they have expanded enormously and now touch almost every online interaction. These companies look a lot like modern monopolies.”
As seen in graph above, our devices are communicating all the time with the tech giants (although Amazon is particularly high because of its AWS service).
It’s a long series of articles starting here: https://gizmodo.com/life-without-the-tech-giants-1830258056
A thorough academic paper looking at the pros/cons of FB use via a controlled experiment that gets users to leave FB and compare those to a group that stay. Alcott (NYU) et al (2019) - very thorough. FB has its pros and cons…
“The rise of social media has provoked both optimism about potential societal benefits and concern about harms such as addiction, depression, and political polarization. We present a randomized evaluation of the welfare effects of Facebook, focusing on US users in the run-up to the 2018 midterm election. We measured the willingness-to-accept of 2,844 Facebook users to deactivate their Facebook accounts for four weeks, then randomly assigned a subset
to actually do so in a way that we verified. Using a suite of outcomes from both surveys and direct measurement, we show that Facebook deactivation (i) reduced online activity, including other social media, while increasing offline activities such as watching TV alone and socializing with family and friends; (ii) reduced both factual news knowledge and political polarization; (iii) increased subjective well-being; and (iv) caused a large persistent reduction in Facebook use after the experiment.”
Link to paper here:
And a piece by Roger McNamee in the FT, expanding on his original critiques of Facebook and tech giants to call for regulation. (Behind paywall)