Soros on Google and Facebook

George Soros was in Davos, and he had some stinging criticism of social media companies.

As these huge companies have come to dominate the Internet, “they have caused a variety of problems of which we are only now beginning to become aware,” he explained.

“They claim they are merely distributing information. But the fact that they are near-monopoly distributors makes them public utilities, and should subject them to more stringent regulations, aimed at preserving competition, innovation, and fair and open universal access.”

In economic terms, Soros suggested, the tech giants were making excessive profits and stifling innovation. And their behavior was also causing larger social and political problems.

Social-media companies “deliberately engineer addiction to the services they provide,” he noted. “This can be very harmful, particularly for adolescents.” In this sense, tech companies were similar to casinos that “have developed techniques to hook gamblers to the point where they gamble away all their money, even money they don’t have.”

It wasn’t merely a matter of “distraction” or “addiction,” Soros went on. Social-media companies “are inducing people to give up their autonomy. . . . It takes a real effort to assert and defend what John Stuart Mill called ‘the freedom of mind.’ There is a possibility that, once lost, people who grow up in the digital age will have difficulty in regaining it. This may have far-reaching political consequences. People without the freedom of mind can be easily manipulated.”

Mental Freedom

I’m writing this on a Friday night, the last ritual before the full onset of the weekend. Immediately prior to this, I was sending out a couple of emails soliciting articles for Dagmay, our ten-year-old online literary journal, and chatting with my wife. Half an hour before that, I cleaned out the dirty dishes from the sink. And just before that, in between dinner and the washing, I took my skateboard out for a spin and read a comic.

So what is wrong with this picture?

Continue reading Mental Freedom

Disconnecting Twitter and Google+

Today I’m disconnecting Twitter and Google+ from this blog. The World Without Mind podcast finally pushed me over the edge to forgo social media altogether. These two are the last vestiges of that past life. This blog will still be active, interested people will just have to visit it directly or better yet subscribe to the RSS feed, ‘cos that’s what it’s for. The posts will no longer reflect on any social media platform.

¡Adios, amigos!

No more social media for me

Count this as a New Year Resolution for 2018: no more social media for me. Not that this is too hard but it helps to establish a definite boundary. I escaped the clutches of Facebook six years ago when I deleted my account for good. Last year I weaned myself off Twitter, the impetus being the toxic and intelligence-deadening political environment that reached its peak in 2016.

My last holdout is Reddit and though I have a decent karma score I was getting bored with it. Bored and not a little disturbed at how I felt it was sharing my thinking. When you know all the memes and the responses, when you’ve seen them a hundred times before but you echo them anyway, that just means you’re in too deep. So goodbye Reddit, too.

Social media is ripping society apart

Former Facebook exec feels ‘tremendous guilt’ for the monster he helped create (YouTube). Other articles:

See also: Sean Parker: Facebook exploits a vulnerability in humans