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Why I ‘Unliked’ Social Media

How often have you pulled up your Twitter or Facebook feed and seen nothing but fake news or ridiculous headlines?

How often have you been drawn into worthless arguments that lead nowhere?

How often have you seen someone you used to respect post something completely stupid that changes your opinion of them entirely?

How often have you “unfriended” or “unfollowed” someone for any of the above reasons?

How much time do you spend repeatedly checking updates on social media?

I’ve had a Facebook account since 2005, when you still needed a .edu email address to sign up for an account and it was just about sharing pictures and organizing events with your college buddies.

Even back then social media was kinda worthless. Remember Myspace and the social manipulation of arranging your “top eight” friends?

Over the years, I’ve considered deactivating my accounts so many times, but the thought of losing touch with all my friends kept me hooked. Facebook even uses that fear to guilt-trip you into keeping your account when you try to leave.

I’ve also used Facebook in the past to successfully promote my books and articles, but here’s a secret: it doesn’t work anymore unless you pay for it.

Facebook allows you to create pages to stay in touch with your fans, but hardly any of them will ever see what you post unless you “pay to promote.” Twitter recently adopted this model as well.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter use your social connections and personal information to make money. I don’t have a problem with it–you voluntarily sign up and they have to stay profitable.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have begun censoring users, deleting or hiding posts they deem offensive and banning or suspending nonconformist accounts. Again, they are private companies and I support their right to decide what kind of content is shown on their platforms.

But does that mean I should continue to use those platforms? Not at all. Tech execs like to pretend these platforms have become an indispensable part of modern life. They’re wrong. I can live without ever seeing another funny cat photo.

At this point, the drawbacks to social media far outweigh the supposed benefits. I decided not to support it anymore, to focus on growing my website and finding other, healthier ways to connect with friends and family.

So if you really want to keep in touch, send me an email (the old fashioned way). I’d love to hear from you.

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The Circle: Style Over Substance

The Circle (2017) stars Emma Watson as Mae Holland, a young woman who lands a dream job at a tech company called The Circle. Skeptical at first, she comes to embrace The Circle’s vision of total openness and transparency, until ultimately uncovering the company’s nefarious agenda. It is based on a novel of the same name by Dave Eggers. The Circle is visually impressive, blending current and speculative technology to bring to life a world where the digital and physical overlap. If Apple made a movie, it would look like this. Clean, simple, elegant. Unfortunately, its message is lost in a plot thinner than an iPhone 7.

The Circle was founded by Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt) and Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks) and designed by Ty Lafitte (John Boyega). Since growing into a Google-esque tech giant, Ty Lafitte has faded into the background, becoming an Emmanuel Goldstein-like figure who quietly opposes its agenda. The Circle integrates everything about your life into one system, seeking to acquire an ever-increasing amount of personal data, including placing cameras all over the world to monitor and analyze all human activity.

The Circle is a progressive and hip company that provides everything for its employees on its massive campus. Parallels to Apple and Steve Jobs are obvious (Eamon Bailey even holds casual talks where he announces products to his employees). Employees are peer pressured into conformity and relying on The Circle for social acceptance, entertainment, and even health. While employees are continually encouraged to “become more transparent,” Stenton and Bailey operate in secrecy, hiding their future plans and true motivations. Their agenda is so secret, not even the film’s audience ever finds out what they’re up to.

Is privacy important? Is transparency always good? Those are the questions I thought this film set out to explore. Don’t expect any clear answers. Mae Holland is converted to The Circle’s philosophy after she steals a kayak and would have drowned in San Francisco Bay if not for the cameras secretly recording her activity. She decides to go “fully transparent,” broadcasting her every experience through cameras. Later, however, she is pressured into using this technology to find her ex-boyfriend, Mercer (Ellar Coltrane), who flees the cameras and drives off the San Francisco Bridge. Though depressed, she determines to “fix” the system. “When a plane crashes, you make planes safer, you don’t stop flying,” she tells her parents.

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