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David Heinemeier Hansson (Co-Founder/Basecamp)
Where How to Break Up with Your Phone took a pretty tame view of social media – hey, maybe it’s not great, so let’s just do a bit less – this book goes for the jugular. Reviewing all the ways social media companies are conspiring against us, selling our attention to the highest bidder (whether that be an ad for a new car or a new president), and how the algorithms that drive social-media engagement are self-optimizing for the worst of everything.
There wasn’t that much new information here, especially for someone who’s been paying close attention to the social media landscape for years, but there was a renewed sense of outrage and purpose and contextualization. The idea that you don’t have to believe that Zuckerberg or Sandberg are evil masterminds plotting to derail civilization to accept that social-media engagement algorithms that run on auto-pilot much of the time could very well get us there.
A timely call-to-arms from a Silicon Valley pioneer.
You might have trouble imagining life without your social media accounts, but virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier insists that we’re better off without them. In Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, Lanier, who participates in no social media, offers powerful and personal reasons for all of us to leave these dangerous online platforms.
Lanier’s reasons for freeing ourselves from social media’s poisonous grip include its tendency to bring out the worst in us, to make politics terrifying, to trick us with illusions of popularity and success, to twist our relationship with the truth, to disconnect us from other people even as we are more “connected” than ever, to rob us of our free will with relentless targeted ads. How can we remain autonomous in a world where we are under continual surveillance and are constantly being prodded by algorithms run by some of the richest corporations in history that have no way of making money other than being paid to manipulate our behavior? How could the benefits of social media possibly outweigh the catastrophic losses to our personal dignity, happiness, and freedom? Lanier remains a tech optimist, so while demonstrating the evil that rules social media business models today, he also envisions a humanistic setting for social networking that can direct us toward a richer and fuller way of living and connecting with our world.