Escape from Self-Deception

A recent problem I had with my Facebook account and the lack of response from Facebook in effecting a solution led me to the decision to trash my account. But this was only the immediate trigger. The underlying reason was my realization that I could no longer deceive myself into thinking that my contract with Facebook was anything but totally asymmetrical and not worth the high price needed to be paid to the Facebook empire of data collection and behavior manipulation.

What do I miss by not being on Facebook? To be sure, Facebook does provide a convenient way of contacting people. But the costs are considerable, and include having to put up with the following:

  • Narcissists who curate their perfect personas, documenting their every trendy event in detail for everyone to see;
  • Narcissists totally lacking in intellectual integrity (I left one Facebook group to avoid just such a person, after she acted in a totally dishonest manner with respect to a comment I made; she needs to seek help);
  • People documenting their reckless behavior during the corona pandemic;
  • Unwanted ads for things my friends have “liked” on Facebook*;
  • Other irrelevant ads*;
  • Requests from Zuckerberg to help him place ads, referencing a specific customer of his*;
  • Invitation to (ads for) events selling coaching, resulting from having Facebook friends who are interested in being coached*;
  • Introductions to cult scams by friends who otherwise seem to be level-headed;
  • Anonymous pages (that’s almost totally redundant, since almost all Facebook pages are anonymous, with no accountability);
  • Introductions to people with anonymous or non-verifiable pseudonymous accounts (Facebook is not interested in identifying users, and has many millions of anonymous, pseudonymous, and fake accounts);
  • Incessant attempts to manipulate behavior (by numerous of the above-noted items); and
  • The total insincerity of a billionaire big-data siren server owner, who has constantly lied, including lying to government bodies, about what his company does.

(* Yes, I know that extra software on my laptop could block these things, but I used mostly my smartphone for Facebook, leaving my laptop for more important tasks.)

I could have continued to self-deceive to the effect that the above negative aspects are worth suffering for the convenience that Facebook provides. Countless Facebook users work that self-deception, look the other way, or rationalize their continued use of Zuckerberg’s platform, the folly of which I have discussed elsewhere. I opted not to take that path, choosing rather to escape back to the real world.

[People who think I have fallen off the end of the earth (although I’m not a flattard) should know that I am alive and well and reachable by numerous non-social media methods.]

BMI/BMD Crisis

BMI is a problem faced by many, not body mass index, but behavior manipulation ignorance. But even more serious a problem is BMD (behavior manipulation denial) on the part of people who look the other way or rationalize to avoid facing or to minimize the consequences of their engagement on social media and contracts with social media companies.

Behavior manipulation denial arguments are diverse:

  • I know what they’re doing and I’m smart enough to avoid being manipulated. And, anyway, I just ignore the junk.

Most people who say this don’t really know or aren’t smart enough. They need to think harder. All the huge number of people who, in Novermber 2015, superimposed the French flag over their profile photos on Facebook were being manipulated when they accepted a Facebook-promoted suggestion to do so. It was for a very understandable and defensible sentiment, of course, and I agreed with that sentiment.

But manipulation happens on all sorts of levels, including at the behest of people you don’t know and are not allowed to know. Again, people need to think harder.

Another thing to be aware of is that you are being manipulated by a customized universe of information that is purposefully curated as being the most likely to manipulate specifically your behavior. WYSINWOPG: What you see is not what other people get.

  • Social media advertising is just like advertising on TV.

Wrong again. TV stations don’t monitor your behavior, nor do they make as a condition of viewing your agreement to provide them huge amounts of information (or any information, actually) along with the right for them to use and sell that information as they see fit. And broadcast media don’t actively participate in targeting specifically you with specific ads. Perhaps more significantly, broadcast media does not collect your content and information and sell it to other entities in ways you have no way of knowing.

  • The information I create and provide is not worth anything anyway. They can have it for free; I don’t care.

Seriously wrong. The information you and other users create and provide to social media companies is worth billions of dollars to them and creates that wealth for a handful of billionaires. Doesn’t that mean that your information is very valuable to them? You might undervalue your information, including content you have created, your personal information, and information about your behavior, but there is a group of people to whom that information of yours is essential to the creation of fabulous wealth. Why give it away?

In the above, if you take advertising, as it should be taken, to include behavior modification in the broader sense, it should be clear what could happen and is actually happening.

  • Social media platforms provide me a convenient way to keep in touch with my friends.

That is a valid statement. But unless you buy into the false proposition that the wealth of information you provide to a social media company isn’t worth anything anyway, it is a very lopsided deal.

I know a few people who do not use (are not used by) social media companies, for various reasons. All of them appear to be leading fulfilling lives, although they successfully resist the songs of the “siren servers,” as Jaron Lanier refers to the servers operating at the top nodes of big data networks.

In Who Owns the Future? Lanier makes some good points about the value created by people on the Internet and the asymmetry of the contracts that people make to use various ostensibly free services, these contracts usually requiring broad-ranging permissions to collect and use your information. He even argues that people should be paid micropayments or nanopayments any time information they create is used by someone else, which would require the preservation of the provenance of all information. At present, the provenance of information on the Internet is in an overwhelming number of cases unknown, unknowable, or purposefully hidden.

Lanier’s approach is very idealistic and arguably difficult to implement, but it has made me more reluctant to share things in places where siren servers are listening, and that of course includes even private groups on the social media (surveillance/manipulation) platform run by the company Facebook. Instead, I will opt for media that I control and opt for the real world. See you there sometime.