Erling Ambles Web Site/ blogg

Turn your back to the so-called
"social medias" !

I admit that I do have an account in Facebook. But I use it as little as possible, mostly to promote things I make here at this web site. I have spent some time last year turning down friends requests from the network. That is because I don't want to let Facebook to control my friendships, and I don't want to contrubute to make their spider web even denser. In this blogg post I want to explain this more closely. Parts of the critique adresses itself not only to Facebook and the other "social medias", but also to for instance Google. In the end, this is about what we want Internet to be like.

Internett is giving people fantastic possibilities to get in touch with each other, find information, listen to music, watch movies, learn new things etc etc. Sadly enough it is also giving fantastic possibilities to monitor and manipulate other people, distribute lies and desinformation and in many ways call forth the worst sides of us. It is the way we are using the web that decides what kind of web we get.

Now the reality is that merely by owning a mobil phone or a computer we expose ourselves for a monitoring that is much more wide-ranging than most of us are able to imagine. That is in a way unavoidable. The disadvantages by not being on the web at all will be too great for the most of us, and in a not very far future I guess it will be impossible. But what we all can and ought to do is to be aware of what kind of jungle we are moving in, and avoid giving away more information about ourselves than strictly necessary.

Facebook and the other "social media" like to present themselves as something absolutely good, some kind of filantropic companies who only wishes to help people getting in touch with each other. This business idea has shown itself to be a tremendous succesfull one. In fifteen years Facebook has grown into something that covers the entire world and has about 2,4 billion users. But what is wrong with that ? Isn't it just fine that people have got this possibility to get in touch withe each other in such a simple way ? Why do I use the term "spider web" about this ?

How has Facebook grown so incredibly rich ?

I think that all users of Facebook should ask themselves: How is it possible that the company can make a profit on the astronomic sum of 55 billion dollars a year, when you pay nothing to be there ? The users have to realize that they are not the customers of Facebook, on the contrary, they are what Facebooks is selling. The users are giving Facebook a lot of information about themselves quite free; what interests they have, what kind of food they eat, which people they know, what kind of links they prefer clicking, how long time they spend at various web sites etc etc. Facebook systemizes this information with similar information from its billions of users and sells it to companies engaged in marketing and other kind of manipulation of human behaviour.

In the nineteenthirties and -fourties three novels were published that described different dystopic scenarios for future totally controlled societies. The first one was Aldous Huxleys "Brave New World" in 1932, then Karin Boyes "Kallocain" in 1940 and at last George Orwells "Nineteen-eighty-four" in 1949. All three of them describes societies where the State is exercising total control over all people by means of technologies that were not yet developed by the time the books were written. But neither of the three authors was able to imagine the creation of Internet, and even less the "social medias", and the enormous possibilities for monitoring and manipulating people this would give to holders of power 70-80 years later.

A rather fascinating side of this is how the "social media" have achieved this power in such a quirky way that those who are subjected to it do not feel themselves subjected, on the contrary, to them the participating in the networks is something entirely positive, it gives them pleasures that they under no circumstances would be without, something that they are more or less dependent on exposing themselves to. This is something achieved by the algorithm designers by exploiting most peoples weakness for being an object for attention and appreciation. By providing us with "likes" from our "friends" we are lured into the game, and give voluntarily away information in an extension and on a level of detailing that the totalitarian states in "Brave New World", "Kallocain" and "Nineteen-eighty-four" could only dream about.

A false Reality.

One of the many sinister sides of this is that we do not know exactly who lies behind the "social media", that is, who is paying for it, and we do not know what they utilises this vast amount of personal information to. In the three dystopic novels everybody knew that it was the state ( or the "Big Brother" ) that lied behind all bugging and monitoring. Today the picture is far more blurred. There are lots of powerful organisations collecting all kinds of information for unknown purposes. That it results in getting you customized ads is perhaps not so bad, but that is only a small part of what is going on. Further along this line we are being feeded with news reports according to what the algortithms presumes that you are interested in. It migtht be real news and it might be fake news, you will never know. In this game all kinds of dirty tricks are being used, including use of false identities, robot writers, false news etc etc. the best known example of this is probably the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the manipulation of the american president election 2016. The so called social medias delivered the tools for one of the most violent attacks on western democracy seen up to now.

The normalization of the extreme.

The algorithms that are running "the social media" are always interested in picking what is supposed to draw most attention, most readers, most possible customers. The algorithms will therefore always prefer extreme points of view rather than balanced, moderate ones. Messages containing hatred and threats get more clicks than those who try to propagate calmness and reflection. This will be reinforced by the algotithms, because so is their nature. In this way "the social medias" are strong contributors to the polarisation of the society that we are witnessing in a lot of countries. It is therefore quite logical that in the same period of time when "the social media" has fastened its grip on the world, we have also seen a strong increase in extreme and violence-orientated religious and political movements. People with extreme political views were earlier relatively isolated persons, "social medias" have given them platforms and places to meet, support each other and make action plans together. I shall not assert that these extreme movements would not have come into existence without "the social media", but I am sure they would not have grown so strong without the platforms "the social medias" have given them.

All users of "the social medias" are partly responsible.

"But I am merely using the social media to keep in touch with that one and that one, and moreover there are so many sweet videos with kittens to look at, it can't be that bad." This is quite a normal reaction to what I write here. But that is actually to renounce one's responsibility for contributing to letting the misery continue. The big majority of the users have probably the same kind of innocent motivation to keep their accounts. But it is this very attitude that has lead to the situation that Facebook by naw has 2,4 billion users, and consequently the enormous power this comapny has.

Some might argue that Facebook has aknowledged that their data has been misused, and promised to strenghten their control routines in various ways, so that things like the Cambridge Analytica affair will not be repeated. Believe it if you want to. But to expect that the IT-giants in Silicon Valley will solve this problem all by themselves is rather naive. As pointed out in the first paragraph, this is about what we want Internet to be like. We do all have responsibility and possibilities to put our mark on it. If a great number of people closed down their accounts in Facebook and other "social medias" it would be an important contribution to limit the amount of manipulation and extreme movements. Without ist users Facebook is nothing, a completly worthless company.

"But how shall I keep in touch with other people if I leave Facebook ?"

The only thing Facebook is giving you is one possibility to keep in touch with people all over the world, and one possibility to show up a more or less interesting image of yourself on your profile page. But there are lots of other possibilities to exactly the same. In october 2019 a new network was established, based on the same non-profit values as Wikipedia, and offering about the same as Facebook and Twitter. It is called WT.Social and you can read more about it here. And you still have the possibility to send and receive emails. And also: making your own web site is not so difficult as you may believe, you might even find it quite funny, you will learn a lot from it, and contrary to Facebook, you will be in charge yourself.

 
 
 
 
 


This is the image Facebook prefers to give of itself. An organisation that unselfishly helps people all over the world to come in touch with each other.

 
 
 
 


This is a more correct image. Facebook weaves its web in order to catch you and me and earn money exploiting our personal information, exactly like the spiders weaves their web to catch insects which they thereafter eat.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Nothing gets as much attention as our mobile phones. It is not sure that all of these people arr checking their Facebook accounts or something similar. But it is quite sure that some of them do. Anyway it is obvious that human behaviour in this new millenium is strongly controlled by this new technology.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Many people find it easy to use a rather rough language when they are sitting at a keyboard. And the algorithms love them when they are doing it. Those who try to keep a normal decent language in the commentary fields are very soon outruled by people with other goals. So whatever could have been an interesting discusion is ends up in long rows of invectives. (The text on the screen reads:"I shall kill you, you asshole politican.")

 
 
 
 
 


Jaron Lanier is a writer, musician and artist, but also a Silicon Valley veteran, known for coining the expression "Virtual Reality". In this book you can read more detailed about the manipulating sides of "the social medias" that I have described here, and a lot of others that I let out.