Jaron Lanier is an early Internet pioneer, computer scientist, visual artist, musician, and author of Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now.

What We Discuss with Jaron Lanier:

  • The real cost of the “everything is free” mentality that accompanied the cultural proliferation of the Internet and social media.
  • How social media manipulates human behavior to threaten free will.
  • Why negative emotions are the lifeblood of social media.
  • How social media contributes to the mass production of misinformation.
  • Why feeding on social media content tailored to you makes it difficult to empathize with the perspective of others.
  • And much more…

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Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron LanierOn the surface, social media exists to keep human beings connected. But at its core, its business model relies on surveilling, analyzing, and manipulating your behavior in order to more effectively sell you things. It also deprives you of your economic dignity, hampers the democratic process, and even undermines your experience of humanity.

In this episode Jaron Lanier, author of Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, the man who coined the term “virtual reality,” and one of the architects of the early and not-so-early Internet, dissects how social media companies curate and essentially control what we see, think, and feel. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

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While he experienced bouts of living off the grid throughout childhood, Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now author Jaron Lanier is anything but a Luddite. He was an early Internet pioneer who coined the phrase “virtual reality,” and he was creating video games when the Commodore 64 was the most sophisticated and portable computer consumer dollars could buy. But his presence is notably absent from the ubiquitous social media outlets most of us take for granted these days, and it’s by design.

“I don’t think social media in some broad sense is necessarily bad,” says Jaron. “I don’t think it has to be bad forever. I think that there’s this business model that makes it bad…it’s been taken over by this advertising paradigm. And what that means is any time two people connect, it’s financed by some third person who wants to manipulate those people — because that’s the only way anyone makes money — the whole system becomes optimized for addiction, manipulation, sneakiness, and trickiness.

“And once it’s optimized for that, then it’s really easy for bad actors to create millions of fake people to create fake social perception to create…fake news, fake paranoias and irritabilities to get people distracted or shut down. It’s a very common strategy. The whole thing has turned into garbage.”

But Jaron also believes it doesn’t have to be this way, and cites software developer community GitHub as an example of social media being done right.

“It’s not about third parties manipulating you,” he says. “It’s about direct collaboration — contact between the people who are doing things — and it seems mostly really positive to me. It seems to be doing the good work of civilization and it seems to be improving the lives of people who are on it. There’s nothing compulsory about being on it — people don’t feel like they have no choice. But I think it’s good for them.”

Jaron also mentions the podcast as another Internet construct that contributes to “the good work of civilization,” but we might be biased in our agreement with him in this case.

Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about the real cost of the “everything is free” mentality the Internet fosters, the dangers of being immersed in your own social media bubble, how information curation by algorithm severs connections rather than builds them, why social media exposure may be counterintuitively shrinking your capacity for empathy rather than helping it thrive, why negative emotions are the lifeblood of social media, how social media contributes to the mass production of misinformation, why even good intentions can be twisted and exploited by an uncaring algorithm to generate oppositional emotional responses and behavioral patterns, the bright side Jaron sees in this entire mess, and much more.


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