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Social Media Is Cancer

I'm old enough to remember when social media was a new thing. Any of you remember the MySpace of old? Before there was MySpace, people had personal websites. You had to go through the effort of getting a domain name and hosting. GeoCities offered free hosting, so most people used that. Even then, you still had to learn HTML. MySpace was different. It combined the personal website with the forum. It gave you a profile that you could customize and it allowed you to easily communicate with other people. It was great, but we had no idea just how cancerous social media would become. I can't even believe I'm speaking positively about MySpace considering the many problems it had, but it was still better than what exists today.

As I mentioned earlier, MySpace gave you the ability to customize your profile. You still needed to know HTML, but the site made the editing process easy. Many of the results were ugly as sin, but that didn't matter because people loved being able to make their profile unique. I know it's hard to believe, but customization used to be the norm. Even YouTube and Twitter a decade ago allowed the user a wide degree of customization. That's no longer the case. Everything has become identical and uniform. The only things you're allowed to customize now are your avatar, your bio, and your banner. The convenient excuse they use for taking away customization is that they want their site to look good on mobile phones, which is a topic for another day.

The lack of customization is a trivial problem compared to the psychological problem of social media. Simply put, modern social media is a giant Skinner box. For those who don't know, the Skinner box refers to a scientific experiment from 80 years ago where rats were put into boxes that would reward them for performing certain behaviors and punish them for others. These boxes contained buttons, and when these buttons were pushed, they would receive food. This taught the rats to constantly press the button for food. Modern social media has a button like that: the like button.

Over the years, I've come to realize that the like button is one of the worst things that has ever happened to the internet. The like button promotes obsessive status seeking. People want the prestige of having a post that has a great number of likes. They say to themselves, “Aw man, I wish I could get as many likes as that guy.” The trick being pulled here is insidious in its simplicity. By presenting people with the promise of lots of likes, they are able to get them to make their opinions safe and politically correct. It's a form of social control because it exploits people's natural desire to fit in with others. If you want the prime example of this, just look at reddit. That site pretty much invented the like button as a method of controlling behavior and shaping opinion. There's a reason why it's known as a circlejerk. If you make a safe and milquetoast statement, you get upvotes. If you say something that is branded as unpopular, you get downvoted into oblivion.

The like button has become ubiquitous on the modern internet. Nearly every major website has something like it. Even alt-tech uses the like button. This is a problem for them because even though they speak highly of free expression, people will judge the validity of a statement based not on its actual contents, but how many likes or dislikes it has. Let's contrast modern social media with imageboards. They don't have likes, reposts, or even accounts for that matter. A post is judged based solely on its contents. Unfortunately, systems like these are few and far between on the modern internet.

Finally, there is the way social media treats its users. To put it bluntly, they're treated like cattle. You may have noticed that these big social media sites offer their services for free, so how do they pay for all the bandwidth, hardware, and maintenance? Simple: you are the product. They monitor everything you do, keep records of all your interests, hobbies, and spending habits, and then they sell this data to advertisers. The governments of the world wish they could harvest people's data this effectively and at such a grand scale. The worst part is that people willingly submit themselves to this. They don't care that their data is being harvested because convenience and connecting with large numbers of people are more important to them. This is also how big social media sites maintain their power. Everyone is on Twitter and Facebook because everyone else is on Twitter and Facebook, and if you don't have an account on one of those websites, you'll be seen as weird and possibly even dangerous.

It is for these reasons and more that I abandoned social media, and I've become a lot happier after doing so. Social media gave me nothing but anxiety, so it's good that I'm finally free of it. And besides, having a personal website gives me far more freedom. This is what the internet used to be about: people creating their own things and speaking their minds. I wish more like-minded people would do the same.


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