Shopping. It’s a pretty simply concept: When you go to a store, you pick a product or service, you hand over money, and then you receive that product or service. But what happens when you don’t have to hand over money for a service or product? Does that mean the company isn’t making money?
The answer is quite simple. You ARE the product, and the company is selling you to other businesses.
That’s the business model companies like Google and FaceBook have adopted. In today’s world, every man, woman, child, and grandparent alike have a Facebook page. It’s convenient, right? You open the app, and immediately you have content that’s relevant to you- posts from people you know, people you kinda know, people you used to know, shared news stories, buzzfeed listicles, friend requests- the list goes on and on. And so you scroll. And scroll. Where do you stop? Actually, Facebook knows.
Facebook knows who you are, where you live, who you know. They know what posts you read vs skim vs skip. They know how quickly and how often you respond to messages, they know what ads you click on, they know what ads make you scroll a little slower.
With the advent of services like Facebook Messenger, they also know your physical location, where you shop, where you work, where you get gas- all of it.
When you hit that button that said ‘allow’ for location services, or permission for the app to run in the background, you said yes for Facebook to keep tabs on you at all times. They have data warehouses dedicated to storing and processing this information. They crunch numbers and provide stats and analytics to advertisers to help them better target… You. Where should Abercrombie open their next store? When is the best time of day to send you a spam email? What colors attract you most? What they can do with that data is both scary and impressive. It’s impressively scary. Scarily impressive.
I wanted out. I don’t like feeling like these companies have this big hold on me. I love my internet. I do, but I don’t want to be logged like that.
Let me tell you a bit about what it’s been like since I left social media.
- I find my attention span is getting longer. There are plenty of studies that show the harmful effects of social media, and the constant need to be in front of a screen. I’ve found my stress and anxiety levels have gone down, and my attention span is going up the longer I’ve gone without social media
- I’m more productive at work. With less stress and anxiety, and a higher attention span, I can concentrate more fully while at work. My boss is very pleased with what I’ve accomplished lately.
- I’m more attentive to texts: With social media, alerts happen throughout the day, often for something unimportant, like someone asking for lives on Candy Crush. Without social media, my phone notifications are usually for something important now- a text, an email, or a photo stream alert. Texts go answered because I’m no longer bombarded with notifications that make me ‘tired’ of tapping away on my phone.
- My inbox is manageable- I have time to read through what I’m being sent everyday- unsubscribe from junk, and actually review content I want
- I read more news. I love the Apple News app- it keeps a bunch of news sources all together in a fairly user-friendly format. Instead of getting news secondhand from an opinionated connection on Facebook, I’m reading the articles myself.
- I’m more ‘present’ when I’m with friends and family. So often social gatherings are watered down when people that are physically present are too busy being focused on what their other circles of friends are doing online. Without social networks to be worried about, I can get back to enjoying the moments more fully.
That last point is probably the best of them all. Now, i still share things, just not with social media. I have this site still of course. And there’s email and text. But my new favorite way to stay in touch, is Photo Streams. What a lovely feature Apple cranked out all those years ago! I can create shared, collaborative photo albums with people I choose to share with. If they have iPhones or other apple devices, they can view the pictures, videos, live photos, and slideshows, and comment on them, or even add their own photos from the memory. If people choose to turn around and upload those photos to their own networks, so be it, but the important thing is that I can share the snapshots I took with the people that are really relevant to it. I don’t have to worry about someone I shared photos with on a photo stream has some creepy cousin who’s going to see it and comment or start a political rant, because only the people actually invited to the photo stream can participate.
This decision to go social media-less mostly started when I learned about all the data harvesting Google does. Facebook knows a lot about all of their users, but Google wrote the rules of data harvesting, and they’ve been doing it for decades now. i went online to my google account, and was shocked by what I found- they have a timeline’d map that shows your exact location at all times. They know where you go, how you get there, where you park, where you walk to and from, down to the second, each and every day. This is in addition to them knowing what websites you visit, where you shop, who you are, and what’s in your emails.
All very scary.
So, for now, I’ve cut all ties with Google, Facebook, and other data-harvesters. What would be your biggest fears or concerns of leaving social media like Facebook? Shoot me a message or comment below what your thoughts are on this! I told a good buddy of mine about what I was doing and why, and has since cut off Facebook as well, so I’m curious to see different points of view on this.