Social media platforms are trapping more and more people into their golden cages. Although the vast majority of people are aware of the hazardous effects of social networks, they still cannot imagine their life without them. In the past few years, many researchers published some serious studies on the topic of the negative influence of social media. However, one of the most outstanding and comprehensive is Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier, published in 2018.
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This book is considered crucial in terms of social media examination due to the holistic approach to the issue, along with the author’s high competence level. Decades ago, Lanier was in a team of developers of the Web. The purpose of this paper is to examine the key points of the book mentioned above as well as to provide a personal opinion on the topic.
The issue of social media influence on users has recently become a serious concern. As millions of people nowadays give up their real lives in favor of artificial ones, there is a growing demand for an explanation of the potential outcomes to a broad audience. For this purpose, Jaron Lanier decided to single out all the drawbacks of social media platforms and compile them into a self-help book for an average user. In the introduction to the book, the author provides a simile between people influenced by social media, cats, and dogs, where the cats are able to remain autonomous despite being domesticated animals (Lanier 2). In this way, he intends to bring the idea that users, being addicted to various social media platforms, still want to remain independent and not turn into obedient dogs.
It could be understood from the title that in the book itself, Lanier provides ten arguments on why people should leave social media platforms once and for all. Many statements refer to the idea of personality loss and how human behavior can be subconsciously modified under the influence of various networks. Other arguments relate to the widespread appearance of fake news and how social media can turn people into robots, unable to feel empathy towards others.
Positive aspects of social media
Although the ideas expressed in the book are quite hard to contradict, there are still a lot of positive aspects of using social media platforms. For example, in the eighth chapter of the book, Lanier tells the reader about the drawbacks of the gig economy and how it makes people vulnerable. He also informs about an impressive number of entrepreneurs who make unbelievable profits while others are deprived of their economic dignity (Lanier 93).
The argument itself is quite reasonable and substantialized but it is the social media that created space for so many entrepreneurs in the first place. With the appearance of social media platforms, people have become more open to opportunities for self-employment and the realization of their inner potential. Thus, even though a lot of people nowadays suffer financially from social networks, there are still thousands of people who are no longer unemployed because of the opportunities these networks provide.
Another positive aspect of having an account on various social media platforms is the development of globalization. People from all over the world are now closer than they had ever been before. Lanier claims that social media users are now nonetheless becoming less and less emphatic because everything shared in social networks is deprived of context. However, over the last year, people have run hundreds of campaigns dedicated to empathy and tolerance towards Web users, and the overall picture may change for the better if they continue popularizing mutual respect.
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On the other hand, though, the adverse effects of social media platforms go far beyond the ten arguments described in the book. The majority of ideas in Lanier’s works are connected to rather materialistic aspects except for the last argument. However, nowadays, there is a growing concern about the mental damage social media brings to users and youth in particular. In the online space where the expression of personal opinion has become a lot easier, people are getting more and more vulnerable and impressionable. The impact on human cognition, emotions, and behavior of a user is called “the recipient effect” (Valkenburg 478). Such effects may be beneficial for a recipient as well as they may damage, if not destroy, a person’s sense of self-worth.
Social media platforms are reasonably more prevalent among adolescents or even kids. These social groups are particularly in danger of serious negative implications on their self-esteem. In real-life communication, people tend to be more emphatic towards their companions because they see their reactions followed by facial expressions, eye contact, and other non-verbal signs. When people hold a discussion online, on the contrary, they may behave aggressively without considering the potential consequences of their remarks and comments.
A lot of adolescents suffer from various mental disorders later in the future because of the stress they went through in childhood. However, as was mentioned above, there is a significant number of movements trying to promote tolerant behavior among Internet users. Hopefully, the situation will change for the better within a few years.
The concept of self-effect
Regarding the influence of social networks on the human sense of self-worth, various researchers have recently dedicated much time to the topic of how self-effects can be impacted from the perspective of social media. According to Valkenburg, self-effect is the impact the users create on their self-perception by their messages (477). It means that the image people create for them on the Internet impacts not only the followers and other users but the creator as well.
This phenomenon also exists in the real world, but on the Web, its effects are evident more vividly. First of all, it mostly happens due to the massive exchange of information because, on a psychological level, people tend to share personal things with strangers rather than with the ones they know for a while. Secondly, Internet users are eager to create an image of themselves which they are afraid to show in the real world. Hence, self-concepts and personal perception undergo drastic changes in the world of social networks.
The virtual world of social networks has become more than just a way of communication and escape from reality. On the contrary, it has become the new perception of reality where people can find soulmates and well-paying occupations. Various researchers and authors, such as Jaron Lanier, express their rather radical point of view and encourage people to delete their social media accounts. However, although life without communication via various networks may seem safe and conscious, it is hard in terms of convenience.
Such books as Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now are very beneficial when it comes to being aware of all the drawbacks of social networks. Hence, if the user is prepared for potential implications, there may be no need to delete all his accounts. So, even though the ideas expressed by Lanier are substantialized, the central thesis should not be perceived so radically as life without social media can leave the person even more annoyed than during its use.
Lanier, Jaron. Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now. Henry Holt, 2018.
Valkenburg, Patti. “Understanding Self-Effects in Social Media.” Human Communication Research, vol. 43, no. 4, 2017, pp. 477-490.