This article is a continuation of our guest author series and is written by one of LOG OFF's favorite social media awareness blogs, Critique && Cogitations. This article explores social media and how it subverts the meaning of connectivity in our daily lives. For more outstanding work and blog posts, go to https://critandcog.wordpress.com/
Social media is not a connectivity business—it is an advertisement business.
Nobody can deny that social media is excellent at affording us connectivity. In asking ourselves whether we would be willing to delete our various accounts and forever step away from these platforms and services, we are almost always given pause in recognizing that this would mean denying ourselves an unparalleled degree of convenient connection to friends and family.
But to quote the evermore topical adage, “if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product”, our extensive use of social media is not without cost. In a digital marketplace that primarily deals in personal data, we effectively commodify our most intimate personal beliefs, social associations, internet browsing history, and even purchasing behavior with credit cards (yes! This is all being collected and stored)—and by extension commit our identities to massive data aggregation conglomerates, advertising firms, and government agencies to result in what comes to be a surveillance/privacy nightmare.
Follow the Money...
From a profits perspective, your use of services offered is just a convenient means by which to expose you to advertisements or data collection. In hindsight, this should be obvious. Why would a site like YouTube be so concerned with deeming videos advertiser-friendly? Advertising revenue is commonly cited to comprise 98.5 percent of Facebook’s yearly revenue (and one should recall, the entire controversy which led to Zuckerberg’s testimony before congress resulted from Facebook illicitly sharing user information with advertisers). It follows that your tendency to spend time on these platforms and consume targeted ads takes precedence over intangibles such as “connectivity” or “intrinsic value” when these companies make considerations to shaping user experiences and recommending content.
Even if you are not unsettled by partaking in a massive corporate surveillance apparatus and having every digitally traceable fragment of your identity analyzed for the sake of delivering advertisements, it should be evident that the goals of social media companies are incongruous with the reasons we continue to use them. If their intentions were harmonious with our own desires, social media would likely not be the Pandora’s Box of mental illness, wasted time, mediocrity, disregard for personal privacy, and disinformation which has been inflicted so upon society.
Connectivity Versus Superficiality
It is worth observing that much of the purported “connectivity” we experience on social media is superficial at best. When we believe we are “connecting” to friends and family, how often is it that we are really only bearing witness to events whose publicization primarily satiates aesthetic appeal, and which are likely inferable in the first place? It is too often that this superficiality is conflated with connectivity. One wonders if our definition of “connectivity” has shifted so rapidly that it no longer entails any interactions of actual importance.
Moreover, much of our social media use is not even motivated by a desire to connect with people. We often waste hours passively consuming entertainment media, while we could be performing activities that stand to play a more constructive role in our lives.
Finding Actual Connectivity
To be clear, we are not anti-connectivity. To be so is misanthropic, and serves no purpose in discussion. Moreover, it is ultimately left up to the reader to decide whether their use of social media truly does advance their connectivity.
However, the fact that social media companies do not share our primary interest in being connected—in conjunction with the fact that most of our interactions on these platforms are highly superficial—signifies a need for us to alter the way we think about and pursue connectivity.
We, and not some tech company, should be the mediators of our relationships. When possible, we should seek forms of connection to others that are deliberate and meaningful; affirm our independence from digital platforms bearing disingenuous, often malicious agendas; and reaffirm our mental wellness and productivity. This might resemble composing emails or writing letters. Even choosing to use text messages over a platform’s instant messaging features (the same goes for phone calls) represents a vast improvement in communication practices. These are intuitive alternatives, and anybody can discover ones that better suit their personal situations.
When our sole intention of meaningfully connecting with others is met with a wholesome fulfillment of that desire, we are empowering each other to become better friends, family members, and partners.