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Ted Stresen-Reuter
Ted Stresen-Reuter

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My Social Network Diet – Part 2

Some months ago I threatened to drop Facebook, Instagram, and others and published a post about my intentions. Now, months later, I realize that I never finished the follow-up (this post) nor had I posted it, so here it is.

I know I sound like a crazy person. I am reminded of an article I read about a computer programmer in the mid-90s that went off grid completely for fear of what computers (and their operators) were able to do. That act has resonated with me ever since, over the past 25 years, and now it’s my turn. However… I’m not as radical. I recognize my desire to be a part of the greater society that surrounds me for all its ills and am willing to cede control over my personal data should that be required, but first, I’m going on a diet.

Brian Acton, one of the creators of WhatsApp, is now recommending people delete their Facebook / WhatsApp accounts. And he’s not alone. Other well informed technology leaders are making similar, grave recommendations and predictions and that, combined with what is happening in the AI world, should have any reasoning adult more than a little concerned.

Over the course of the next two weeks I am going to delete my Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp accounts and request to be forgotten by those networks. This might not seem like a big deal but in all honesty, these networks, WhatsApp in particular, are at the center of my social life in a very big way.

The decision to drop them from my life has not come on a whim. It is the result of repeated warnings and events that have convinced me that they are not worth the risk. Basically, I do not trust Facebook to not abuse my data, and me by extension. I don’t think Facebook are malicious but AI is rapidly evolving, faster than most companies and people can keep track of and it seems increasingly likely that mistakes will be made.

Choosing to drop tools like WhatsApp is not easy. For example, where I live, school uniforms are no longer available until a new provider is found. Since I know the woman on the board that decides, in part, who to work with, I thought I should send her a WhatsApp to ask if I could make my own t-shirt while we wait for a provider, and then I wondered: what will I do when I no longer have WhatsApp? I can always use SMS (but it turns out phone companies are even worse than Facebook re: client privacy) so I won’t be doing that. And then I thought about it, how important is it that I resolve this right now? In fact, is this really even something that needs a micron of my attention right now? Obviously, the answer is a resounding NO! Chalk one up for the diet.

Since first drafting this post, I’ve dropped Facebook and Instagram but I’ve chosen to hang on to WhatsApp, not because I need everything right now, but because, where I live, literally every single person with a phone has and uses WhatsApp constantly (except my children…) and there is a high likelihood I would miss out on genuinely important things, like friendship, were I to chuck it into the dustbin. For WhatsApp, I’ll reassess at the new year. For now, though, dropping Facebook and Instagram has been GREAT!

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