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IEET > Vision > Virtuality > Fellows > Evan Selinger > HealthLongevity > Enablement > Innovation

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Quitters Never Win: The Costs of Leaving Social Media


Evan Selinger
By Evan Selinger
The Atlantic

Posted: Feb 15, 2013

Forget Lolcats. If we quit using sites like Facebook, we’ll miss opportunities for self-expression, personal growth, learning, support, and civic exchange.

Simple solutions have been proposed to help users cope with the vulnerability of disclosing information on the social web. These remedies are clear and decisive, but they demand significant trade-offs -- perhaps greater sacrifice than typically is acknowledged.

One such option, which Farhad Manjoo, the technology columnist at Slate, bluntly spelled out in a two-word article, "How to Stay Private on Facebook," is "Quit Facebook." Manjoo offers this security-centric path for folks who are anxious about the service being "one the most intrusive technologies ever built," and believe that "the very idea of making Facebook a more private place borders on the oxymoronic, a bit like expecting modesty at a strip club". Bottom line: stop tuning in and start dropping out if you suspect that the culture of oversharing, digital narcissism, and, above all, big-data-hungry, corporate profiteering will trump privacy settings.

Another path is that pursued by Wall Street Journal journalist Julia Angwin who just deleted her 666 Facebook friends. She's lost faith in the service's capacity to safeguard what privacy scholar Helen Nissenbaum calls "contextual integrity" (here meaning a respect for the informational norms of certain groups or friends).

Crucially, Angwin pursued this option as a last resort. At first, she deliberately muddied her profile by "burying good data (my actual relationships) amidst bad data (people I didn't know)." Alas, the tactic -- which is only one of the many ways to obscure information -- rendered Facebook unusable. Now, Angwin plans on keeping a bare-bones profile. She'll maintain just enough presence to send private messages, review tagged photos, and be easy for readers to find. Others might try similar experiments, perhaps keeping friends, but reducing their communication to banal and innocuous expressions. But, would such disclosures be compelling or sincere enough to retain the technology's utility?

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Evan Selinger is Associate Professor of Philosophy and MAGIC Center Head of Research Communications, Community & Ethics, both at Rochester Institute of Technology. Evan publishes extensively in the areas of philosophy of technology, privacy, and ethics/policy of science and technology. To enhance public debate about ethics, Evan regularly supplements his peer-reviewed scholarship with outreach articles in places like The AtlanticWiredSlateForbes,The Wall Street Journal, and The Nation.
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COMMENTS


“Others might try similar experiments, perhaps keeping friends, but reducing their communication to banal and innocuous expressions.”


One flaw with Buddhist Right Speech online as well as in the meatworld: too much pablum, smarm.





Intomorrow, pabulum and smarm is exactly what I use to pad out a plausible Facebook profile - it’s only worth it to me as a system for scheduling invitations and RSVP to events, rather like the world’s largest Microsoft Exchange server.

It’s also worth maintaining that minimal presence to prevent someone else registering in my name and engaging in some identity hijacking, which I consider a far larger risk than what Facebook could do with the few bits of moderately useful information I give them access to.





No dispute with you (the article went into it). What we shouldn’t do is make more of
Buddhist Right Speech than BRS is worth.
BRS works well at IEET—but when a man gets riled up then he says what he means and means what he says.
In the meatworld it appears that there exists zero chance BRS will ever catch on, which is something I want to keep in mind always.
What is public relations?: obfuscation.
What is diplomacy?: dissembling.





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