Should we #deletefacebook?

By now, I’m sure everyone has heard the phrase:

“If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product”.

This basically refers to the fact that every company out there with the ability to do so, is tracking your behavior, compiling data and building models, and then selling them to other companies (or using it themselves) to help them target you or others like you using that information. Thus, the data about your behavior essentially becomes their product. This is pretty much the pillar upon which social media and many other businesses today are built.

This phrase (and the reality it depicts) has actually been around for at least a few years. It just took a while for everyone to become aware of it.

But it doesn’t stop there. When you really think about it, you can make much stronger statements than that. For example,

“Even if you paid for it, you are still the product.”

Just because you paid for it, does not mean they aren’t collecting data on you and using that to target you with other products. If there’s a way for them to collect data on you (and more and more there always is no matter what you are doing), know for sure that you are being profiled and targeted.

Upon realizing this, it would be natural for anyone to react angrily and do something like #deletefacebook i.e. delete your account from facebook.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t really help either.

“Even if you #deletefacebook (or never even had an account to start with), you are still the product.”

Facebook isn’t the only entity profiling and targeting you. So is Amazon, Google, your credit card, your grocery store, the cameras on highways and so on. So, whether you are on facebook or not, as long as you are participating in the economy, you are still the product. And today, “society” has become synonymous with “economy”. All other aspects of human society have at this point been subsumed by the economy.

Thus, the ultimate reality is:

“If you are a typical member of the modern society, you are the product.”

Ok, that’s a sobering thought. What are we going to do about it?

Unless you are an ascetic or a “Sovereign Individual” (i.e. a billionaire with no conscience who is the ultimate beneficiary of the economy) you really have no choice but to participate.

But hopefully we can participate  in the following manner:

  • Spread awareness about the evil aspects of social media whenever the opportunity presents itself (such as now).
  • Stop spreading the bad stuff. If something online makes you feel strong emotions of anger or hatred or even happiness, chances are that you are being used for some ulterior purpose. Some of those may be genuine, but you should verify. Verify, then trust.
  • Let the good overwhelm the bad. Spread good things on social media: verified trustworthy information, your own creativity, socially valuable (but not necessarily economically valuable) thoughts / causes / events etc.
  • Help make social media be more “community” and less “economy”.

Burying your head in the sand isn’t going to make the problem go away.