by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Odds are, you’re kind of addicted to social media, whether you admit it or not. According to Jaron Lanier, a Silicon Valley virtual-reality pioneer and author of the new book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, that addiction might be eroding your soul. …
… Certainly, there are good things on social media: baby pictures, dog pictures, funny videos, goofy memes, and sponsored links where you can compulsively buy things like South Korean “miracle masks” or Gwyneth Paltrow’s entire nighttime skincare routine. (Hey-yo! Guilty as charged!) You might also be a completely “good” person on social media, which means you don’t blindly join empathy-free insta-mobs that regularly threaten to murder complete strangers. But in its own way, as Lanier points out in his book, social media has a way of bringing everyone down. It’s “the cage,” he writes, “that goes everywhere with you” — and if I might paraphrase C. S. Lewis, the doors are firmly locked from the inside.
Some of Lanier’s arguments might resonate more with certain readers more than others — I, for one, tend to view smartphones with far more suspicion than he does and believe they are addictive in their own right — but the overall arc of the book hits home. We the people are not the customers of social media, Lanier reminds us. We are the product. Moreover, he adds, “we’re all lab animals now,” acting as willing participants in a massive behavior-modification scheme.