Social Media Self Study

In a nutshell, here is what I am asking you to do for this assignment: pick one (or two or three, if you want) of Jaron Laniers arguments against social media (as he makes them in the book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now) elaborate (or, if you dont like his argument, rebut) it/them using your personal experience with social media to make your argument.

5 of Laniers 10 arguments against social media:
1. You are losing your free will.
2. Quitting social media is the most finely targeted way to resist the insanity of our times.
3. Social media is making you into an asshole.
4. Social media is undermining the truth.
5. Social media is making what you say meaningless.

Watch Jaron Lanier on The View (June 19, 2018)
[interlocutors: Whoopi Goldberg, Meghan McCain, Joy Behar, Jedediah Bila, Jennifer McCarthy]

The pivotal question for this assignment is how can one make an argument like or against those of Lanier without being an insider/outsider, a critic and a perpetrator of that which is being critiqued? The answer, in the abstract, is that we have to work from our own experience.

What to do:

1. There are two kinds of personal experience I want you to research and inventory for the sake of the argument you will make in your paper: (a) gather the data that is being gather about you by social media sites. I want you to be very expansive about what you consider to be a social media site because most commercial sites have adopted at least some of the technologies and business models of sites that are purely social media sites. And, (b) identify key habits in your everyday life that are due to social media or parasitically attached to by social media. In Laniers words Something entirely new is happening in the world. Just in the last five or ten years, nearly everyone started to carry a little device called a smartphone on their person all the time thats suitable for algorithmic behavior modification. A lot of us are also using related devices called smart speakers on our kitchen counters or in our car dashboards. Were being tracked and measured constantly, and receiving engineered feedback all the time (p. 5). So the first thing to do is to circumscribe the extent of what you will write about for this paper. Inventory your mobile devices (e.g., phone, laptop, tablet, etc.) and decide which of them, or which subset of them, you will be paying attention to. Then, inventory your social media accounts (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Google, etc.) and do the same with them: which will you focus on?

2. Work your way through the series of exercises on the Data Detox site: Supplement these exercises with some of the suggestions Brian Kernighan makes in Chapter 11 in his discussion of tracking; e.g., turning cookies on and off in your browser, installing something like Ghostery, etc. What you are aiming for here is a better understanding of how the social media sites are profiling you.

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