Posted by: kljolly | August 7, 2018

Social Media Update

As part of my preparation to go on leave (fall study abroad in London, sabbatical in spring), I have been cleaning house, electronically speaking.

Lanier10ArgumentsInspired by Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, I am minimizing the commercial aspects of my presence online, in order to reject the behavior modification algorithms and the business model on which Facebook and Google rely.  I deleted my Facebook account.  I am trying DuckDuckGo instead of Google as a search engine.  I bought a WordPress personal account in order to remove ads from this blog.  I have unsubscribed from all of those business lists, some I signed up for to get an electronic receipt, others I have no idea how I got on.

I am not doing this as a Luddite (otherwise I would delete this blog).  Rather, as Lanier encourages, I want to be an independent cat, not a dog following the pack instinct.

In his tenth argument, Lanier points out the soul-destroying aspects of social media’s behavior modification, in particular the erasure of free will.  His arguments persuade me to recover some measure of control over my presence on the Internet.  I can choose to read and engage with responsible journalism, to listen with empathy to under-represented and marginalized voices, to contribute thoughtfully to well-reasoned dialogue.  I aim to listen more and say less, to think globally and act locally:  off-line and in person.

The consequence of listening, speaking, and acting more slowly and deliberately than the contemporary social media world demands is that those of us who resist and reject the terms of engagement on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms can be accused of not speaking up soon enough or publicly enough.  Even as I wrote this post, I experienced the urge to “publish it now, get it out there,” but also the caution, to wait and think about the consequences of speaking like this into a virtual vacuum.

Where and how I choose to invest my time and energy with real people in real time may not be visible on the Internet, “enhance my profile” in the social media world, or further my scholarly reputation, but so what? It is not about me in this moment.  As Dietrich Bonhoeffer argued under far more daunting circumstances, success is daring to face the future for the sake of others:

“The ultimately responsible question is not how I extricate myself heroically from a situation but [how] a coming generation is to go on living.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer. “After Ten Years:”  Dietrich Bonhoeffer and our Times, edited and introduced by Victoria J. Barnett (Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2017), p. 22.

One of the things I have realized while writing a fictional biography of Aldred in the tenth century is the degree to which I have built into his story some of my own struggles with intellectual pride and the desire for attention.  Cultivating some monastic humility is good for the soul.




  1. I’m glad you are not deleting this blog. It has been such an inspiration over the years. I also greatly appreciate your Bonhoeffer quote. Since 2016 I find myself regularly quoting from his ‘Von der Dummheit’ (‘On Stupidity’) to anyone who will listen.

  2. Thanks, James. I was trying to find a way to work in the “On Stupidity” section that follows right after my quote, but didn’t want to distract from the point where I ended.

  3. Reblogged this on pmayhew53.

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