The Tyranny of Social Media over the Digital Commons

Well, I fell down the rabbit hole today. I woke up with a cold, and was able to catch up on some pieces I missed whilst on vacation last week. Alan Jacobs’s blog post on the beauty of RSS feeds in the age of curated algorithmic streams led me to his essay at The Hedgehog Review on cultivating the digital commons well. Then later I found an old essay of his at The New Atlantic on attention and technology. Then, of course, randomly, Cal Newport’s posted a small piece on the difference between a social internet and social media on Study Hacks.

Lots of links. Anyway, these all have me thinking about the appropriate ways of tending to the digital commons in a way that is not only beneficial to me (refocusing my attention to meaningful work) but also to my broader social community. Is Facebook, with its optimization towards selling my information to the highest bidder, really the best way to do that? I don’t think so. So, on a whim, I downloaded all my info from the network, and completely deleted my account (which they make incredibly difficult to do — if you want to do this it some point, go here, and click the “let us know” link under “How do I permanently delete my account?”). We’ll see how long I keep Twitter. I still like it too much to give it up, but that’s also what smokers say who know they need to quit and just refuse to do so.

Further, I’m considering building my own website/platform that includes my blog, but is more than that. I’m not under any delusion that people will be interested in what’s there, or anxiously waiting for me to post blogs, etc. However, I think it’s a way to tend to the social, digital commons, and further attempt to (re)build towards an open, free internet. People are not commodities, and that includes in the digital realm.

Maybe I’m being idealistic, or “tech-Amish” as Jacobs says, or Chicken Little-ish. I don’t tend to think so. For too long, my attention has been taken away from building a meaningful, digital space of my own that isn’t controlled by some insanely humongous corporation, where my data is being mined and sold for money.