Book Review: Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Account Right Now

Jaron Lanier is a well-known name in Silicon Valley, and I’ve enjoyed some of his books in the past. His latest — Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now — is not as strong as some of his other books, and he gets too cute with his explanatory acronyms at times, but the book has merit for informed reading.

I won’t go through all his arguments, but it boils down to this observation from a technology evangelist from inside the technology industry (with a decidedly humanistic approach to technology):

Companies like Facebook and Google that have created algorithms that sell user personal data to third party companies (See Cambridge Analytica controversy) have created a toxic atmosphere that feeds on negativity because the powerful emotions of negativity — anger, sadness, frustration, isolation — fuels interaction, and interaction with the technology leads to profit for companies.

The only way companies will get the message to change their course is for users to stop using the technology. In fact, Lanier argues that this current business model is unsustainable in the long run, and that if Facebook and Google don’t consider other models of profit, they will be doomed. Until then, though, the degradation of experience will continue.

Unless you make a choice to stop.

Lanier argues that we make that choice, and quit. Not the Internet itself. Not the connections we make. But quit the social networking systems that don’t value users as people, and whose algorithms (now set in motion and running rather autonomously) nurture dissent and friction. He cites examples from Black Lives Matter to the revolution in the Middle East and more, as examples of how the use of social media begins positively and then quickly turns negative when the algorithms amplify negativity for engagement.

He also acknowledges that everyone’s situation is different, and quitting for one person might be easier than for another. His final message is, be informed and make an informed choice.

Interestingly, Lanier is not entirely pessimistic. He believes there is still time to change things for the better. He offers up some different solutions, including the idea of users paying a small fee to use social networks, but also, the idea of social networks paying users for any content that engages people on the same network. So, you would pay (creating a new financial system for companies) and they would pay you to write and create interesting content.

Would it work? I don’t know.

Will people really quit in numbers enough to effect change? I don’t know.

Is the current system sustainable? I don’t know but I don’t think so.

Peace (through networks),
Kevin

Slice of Life: What Would Mr. Rogers Do Is the Wrong Question To Ask

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

There’s a moment towards the end of the fantastic new documentary about Fred RogersWon’t You Be My Neighbor? — where a gentleman, Junlei Li, who works at the Fred Rogers Center looks directly at the camera, and says something along the lines of: It’s not what Mr. Rogers would do. That’s not the question we need to be asking. It’s what are you going to do?

The comment comes as the film wrestles with the current climate of incivility, of unkindness, of using media for personal gains by finding and exploiting the faults in others. Fred Rogers saw the world was changing in the years before his death, and he was saddened by it.

Aren’t we all?

Li’s point is that we can’t look to media figures, just as we can’t look to sports icons, to change the world for the better. We have to look to ourselves, and how we treat each other, how we tap into kindness and caring and understanding. It’s heart-breaking that such talk sounds old-fashioned in the current age of a president who acts like a thug on the wires, but it’s true.

We can take care of each other. We need to take care of each other.

My wife and I — and pleasantly surprising us both, our 18-year-old son joined us — got out of the scorching heat yesterday to watch the movie in the theater, and my wife and I were nearly crying at times (not sure about the kid). I didn’t watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood as a kid, but I know of him, of course, and of his work. To see his journey and his mission, and his impact on kids through the medium of television, is powerful viewing.

There’s another moment in the movie that also stuck with me. Right at the end, all of the people who are being interviewed as given a minute to remember someone who impacted their life in the positive. The camera stays with them, holding their gaze, quietly, as they think and remember, and even cry at the memory.

Let’s remember those people who helped us, and be the people who others might remember, too.

Peace (in the heart),
Kevin

At Middleweb: The Last Working Draft Column

I’ve loved writing for Middleweb, a site dedicated to teaching the middle grades. After five years, I have decided to pull the plug on my monthly column (which began as a bimonthly column) called Working Draft. It’s been fun to write, and inspiring to think about topics, and reflective practice from teaching perspectives, and I have nothing but praise for editors John and Susan.

Read my farewell piece

I also linked in the final column to a handful of pieces that I think still resonate for me.

I am also pleased that my National Writing Project friend and collaborator over the years, Jeremy Hyler, will soon be launching his own ELA column at Middleweb, filling in the gap I leave behind. Jeremy starts writing sometime this month.

Peace (in the writing),
Kevin

#CLMOOC Goes Doodling in July

Day One Enter

It’s CLMOOC season! That means invitations and connections via Connected Learning MOOC, and this July, every day, there is an open invitation to doodle on a theme, all related to open spaces and mapping. You can doodle every day, or just join in when the muse strikes you.

Learn more about the doodle effort, an online poetry exchange project, and more at the CLMOOC website.

You can also get the daily prompts via email or RSS feed through The Daily Connect, where we will be posting each day’s prompt as a new post.

I’m not much of an artist, but I still love to doodle, particularly when others are doodling, too. Today’s theme is Enter/Welcome.

What will you draw and share?

Peace (in pens and crayons),
Kevin