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I deleted my Facebook account in 2010 after appearing in the Times regarding technology addiction. It was my most time consuming social media application at the time. For the article, they had me install an application tracker to see how much time I spent in focus on a particular app. I was alarmed at how often I checked Facebook chat.

Today, after much investigation, I've come to a hypothesis that technology's purpose is to gently erode the concept of "self" as it grows in power and scope. We drive this growth, but at the same time more than a few of us worry about how the growth is affecting our "right" or "natural state" of privacy to be who we want to be without blame or for someone speaking (in aggregate) to what our actions may hold in the future. It seems obvious privacy is a good thing, because as long as privacy exists someone can't take your information and do things in private with it as they see fit. The more tech they have, the more they can do with your data and the more they can "invade" your privacy.

Facebook's accumulation of information is concerning, not so much from the standpoint of the addiction that causes us to contribute to the quantity of data, but from the standpoint of collective thinking that arises from it.

I don't want to be part of a collection or be told to think with the collection. I want to be me and think about things that are important to myself. I want to do that without anyone else telling me how to think about it or speaking for what I know at a later date without knowing me.

I've come to a hypothesis that technology's purpose is to gently erode the concept of "self"

Exactly, although it's being done in a roundabout and non-obvious way. There are millions of tech folks, all (in my mind) honestly trying to create technology to empower folks to do things they've never done before.

But the beauty of tech is generalization, creating cookie-cutter choices. Everything we do, and in ever way we interact with tech, it's more and more leading us down pre-canned behavioral pathways. Even when completely unintended, the place where tech is taking us unless we drastically change our ways is something like the commodification of the species. It's a freaking horror show.

The Borg are going to go from sci-fi super villains to an accurate description of our great-grandkids in just a generation. Amazing.

Will the last human please go outside and do something unique?

Very well said. One would think of the information age as a way to start better communicating which should break down barriers. But it seems we can just more easily flock to the people who think like we do. So we have more strongly cemented factions. I find myself getting mildly angry at friends who post things I disagree with. If we were seated together having a beer and he said the same thing we'd keep talking for an hour and I would have no negative feelings. I find if I try to engage online it just goes nowhere. I avoid posting anything other than the most banal things because I don't want to be judged/attacked. I just don't have the time or energy to go in depth to defend my positions. And at this point I could care less if anyone knows what I feel.

It's because of the publicity of the discourse. Normal one-on-one discussions can lead somewhere, because you're not constantly afraid of losing face. When you utter opinions publically, you're sortof forced to stand by them, regardless of their merit. That's why televised political "debate" never ends up changing the opinion of any of the debating parties. They're trying to convince an audience instead of the other party. I think it's a big part of why politicians are so unpopular today.

We've built this new world where we are accustomed to leaving tiny traces of our minds in nooks and crannies, where they are waiting to be scraped up and analyzed. As those traces get larger and those nooks and crannies get unearthed, the default level of privacy will shrink. One day it might be that privacy itself becomes an antiquated concept.

I deleted my Facebook in high school in 2010 also, out of paranoia of this exact future. The problem is that if someone sums over the comments I make on other media, they could deduce my identity anyways. In the big picture Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, HackerNews, etc. are all in the same boat. I imagine there exists software which sums over many common sources (FB, TW, HN, IG, YT, RD, etc.) to find correlations in prose structure, post time patterns, topic similarity, sentiment similarity, etc. to identify people, or at least reduce the search space. The NSA would likely use such software, if it existed.

Based on what I've seen you should assume most nation states have this ability. Take the NSA's back door into Cisco routers as an example. The NSA made use of this exploit for years before it was exposed. In all likelihood they are still making use of it as there are likely unpatched routers still in the wild.

Now sidestep to phones. Nation states can tap into your calls and to your location through the GPS info tied to your phone. So if you want your calls to be anonymous you pay cash for a burner and only turn it on and use it in large crowds. Ok, that seems ok, but burner phones are specifically targeted since they are more likely to be associated with behavior a government would want to track. So now what happens is as soon as the burner comes on you are triangulated, phones near you are identified and these are used to start to pinpoint who you are. Social media of everyone near the burner can be mined. Over time if you continue to use the same burner the higher likelihood of being identified.

To slightly bastardize the term "burner", people might think they don't have any burners, but everyone's got burners. I started to notice that one of my professors, around every ~25 sentences, he would capitalize the first two letters of the sentence. I mean it's a dead giveaway, because most people do this a lot less frequently.

But these figurative "burners" are everywhere. Little, tiny, seemingly untraceable ticks, invisible to the naked eye. Computers are telescopes in the bit world, eyes on us at all times. People don't seem very concerned. You can't just pour water and sand over your digital footprints to erase them... I would not be surprised if FB held on to my data 7 years after I deleted my account.

'burner' in the parent comment refers to a disposable pre-paid phone without contract.

You're describing a kind of 'tell' I think. Still an interesting point you make.

He was talking about burners being used to be seemingly undetectable, which got me thinking about people with nearly imperceptible tells, and how both of these "nearly invisible" things are seen by big brother. You are right though... it's a very questionable segue.

I recently accidentally re-activated my old FB account from high school (deactivated 2010). It's all still there. It's more like "unpublishing" your account than really "deactivating" it.

Where are you from? Not sure if that's just in Europe but there's an option[1] to permanently delete everything from fb, though I'm sure it wasn't available a few years ago. Now it is though and I'm guessing fb is obligated to provide this b/c of some european law.

[1] Sorry for the google ref link but I have fb hosts blocked and couldn't find an easy way to just copy the actual link: https://www.google.gr/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd...

United States. I need to look again but I don't think there's the option to permanently delete. Just some kind of generic notice like "your data will eventually be permanently deleted"... eventually, like the heat death of the universe.

The settings menu on Facebook only has a "Deactivate your account" option, which is the one that leaves all your data there.

The link to permanently delete is only found inside help articles.

Thanks, I will look into that.

>I've come to a hypothesis that technology's purpose is to gently erode the concept of "self"

Centralized corporate-style internet services may achieve that, but many other kind of technologies strive for and achieve the exact contrary. I'm thinking of all the free (as in freedom) social networks that allow people to express their true self, to say what they can't say in their outside social life.

Two aspects necessary for these types of communities to exist I think I've identified are: 1. having a persistent identity that isn't linked to your real life one, and 2. having minimal moderation (either hierarchical or caused by mob mentality). Basically the opposite of Facebook.

Your true self can't be expressed unless you have a separate online identity?

Are you okay with the whole world, every person you meet on the street, your boss, your parents, your ex, the guy who serves you coffee, that thug you bumped into in the subway, the guys who work at your company's competitors, the guys who live in that country at war with yours, knowing every detail of your personality and your life?

Or do you maybe think putting up your information on that open and permanent graveyard that is the web could put you at risk, someday?

If not, then I envy you, but you're not the norm, nor can you guarantee that your environment always be this supportive. What's guaranteed though, is that the databases will still be there.

Much like life before the internet, I don't see why you're required to share all that info in the first place. It's up to you to decide what others see, even when you don't have a secret online alter ego.

Well, the comment I was responding to is about technology eroding the "self". We agree that sharing and expressing one's ideas make them stronger, allow them to blossom and mature, yes? Maybe you have this crazy idea that's too out of the Overton Window to discuss IRL and attach to your public image right now, but there are other people thinking about it somewhere, and if these people manage to find each other online and discuss it they'll be able to reflect about that idea rationally, without fear of judgment and repercussion.

That's how novel artistic and political movements are born, from people not being afraid to share "offensive" ideas. "Secret online alter egos" allow you to discuss ideas that you couldn't have considered otherwise, and because we humans tend to restrict our thoughts to our field of possibilities, these alternate identities will actually make you have more of these creative ideas.

Of course you can keep all that to yourself and either continue living the life that society has prepared for you, or try alone to change it, but that's pretty limiting.

Up to you? Heh, good one.

No, it's up to the person who likes give up as much information as possible that you hang around. "Hey, I ate lunch with ikeyany today", now held in Facebook and Instagram forever. "Tagged: ikeyany" in the wedding photos of your friend.

Even if you're a digital hermit, you'll still be found and categorized, since everyone else seems to love giving up all their personal information.

Nice post, thank you.

I closed my account yesterday for these reasons and also because, I can honestly say, it's just a boring distraction and waste of my time.

You know you have an account anyway, right? FB makes and manages profiles of people who don't have accounts, even of people who have never had accounts. They use this for their ad network, among other things.

LinkedIn does this as well. I don't know about others.

Thats why it's super important to only allow javascript and cookies from domains you have explicitly trusted. This will aid in preventing all the plugins (ie "like this post on fb") from tracking you when your browsing the web. You can do this will a good suite of browser addons; noscript, ghostery, ublock, disconnect.

Or you can go the full ban hammer route and add all of facebook's known domains to your hosts file[0].

[0] - https://github.com/jmdugan/blocklists/tree/master/corporatio...

How does that even work? Where does FB (or LinkedIn) get the information from that they can determine who you are even if you've never signed up for an account?

It's called shadow profiling[0].

Even if you haven't signed up for a facebook account but someone you know has an account, they by proxy, you have an account. Merely existing as a contact in their address book is enough to create a shadow profile with facebook. Their deep-learning algos can collate such data from all your friends and serve you correspondingly appropriate ads.

In fact, I just thought of an experiment that you could try sometime.

1. Buy a new cellphone number and store a small number of contacts (say, about 5) in your phonebook. Make sure all 5 of them have functional & active FB accounts.

2. Install the FB app on the phone and grant it access to your phonebook.

3. Open the app, create a new user and check out the list of suggested friends.

I think you'll be surprised.

[0] http://www.dailydot.com/news/facebook-shadow-profiles-privac...

They definitely use your contact lists. I have done multiple experiments with this. I first noticed about a year ago, people popping on my FB's "People you may know..." list, and sure enough, the _only_ way they could link them to me was through my iPhone contacts. People like a guy who once fixed my roof, whose number I still had from years ago.

As the original commenter said, LinkedIn seems to be even worse with this, creating those spooky empty default accounts for your grandmother or your child's best friend's dad.

I think there will be a backlash against all this - surely it is a case of diminishing returns for the social media corps, combined with an ever-growing sense of _unnecessary_ intrusion by their users?

People with facebook-apps on their phones essentially allows Facebook to get their full contact list. If person A, B and C all have the number of a person D who is not on facebook, it's enough to create a shadow profile. On the basis of A, B and C, their social statuses, their level of education, country, etc., it's possible to make pretty accurate guesses to determine the person D.

If person D some day decides to install, say, WhatsApp (or even if he had it before Facebook acquired it), it also has his text messages, and photos shared through said app. It can all be linked to that shadow profile with that phone number. If D at some point typed his email-address into WhatsApp, or signed up at some site that shares data with Facebook, it's also easily linked to that shadow profile.

They could buy it from credit agencies

Is there any evidence to back this up?

Anecdotally, it's happened to my father and brother. There are bot-made accounts on Facebook with their biographical information and pictures, taken from Wikipedia. Apparently it's standard practice for "notable" persons who don't create their own pages.

Facebook implies it pretty heavily here:


Not that I can quote but I have friends at LinkedIn, Facebook (and Yahoo who does it too) who specifically work on this feature. I would be shocked if Doubleclick (google) et al weren't doing the same thing.

It's more that the social network platforms themselves are naturally atomizing forces of capitalism itself. And you might wonder how this applies to the elimination of self? Simply put, in capitalism all things need to be a commodity to be traded/sold for a price. Be it physical goods like food and houses or non-physical goods like music or personal data. Ultimately, to ensure you're good at consuming these goods, capitalism will invariably find means to erode the sense of self which is driven more by social needs (family, friends, church, etc) to place you squarely into a new set of identities precisely crafted for consumption (Trekkie, Star Wars fan, Clinton/Trump voter). These identities are meant to feel like you chose them but in practice we're all indoctrinated to these identities to some capacity. It's all part of the larger push to ensure you're alone, afraid, and always ready to do whatever is asked of you so long as you can have your trinkets. Because if some people find out it's all a scam then the whole system falls apart when enough of them refuse to consume. If there's anything the last few years has illustrated is that there is a subculture in the current generation that isn't buying what the capitalists are selling. So they're grasping desperately for more ways to pull on heartstrings or to further alienate us from each other and seek goods/commodities to find comfort in. This I think will fail very quickly once the facts sink in for those not clued in right now. When you can't pay anymore or that the goods bought bring no more comfort then the crisis will set in. Identity or self, as you mentioned, will be the center of that crisis. What comes of it, I can't be sure. But I fear a regression from technology would prove a disaster. We're cyborgs, we're meant to use technology to enhance ourselves but not for the sake of enhancement itself.

Could you cite some books explaining that train of thoughts ? It's interesting to me.

I think other than reading Marx's Capital there's not much on the subject. I suspect there's some sociologists who've covered this. But most of my comment is purely personal observation based on a loosely Marxist POV (I'm not a Marxist personally, but I've taken the idea of commodification as something that can be applied to just about anything which has some economic value).

> I was alarmed at how often I checked Facebook chat.

A bit unrelated to your broader point, but I recently dropped my phone and shattered the camera lens, and have been astonished at how much less I'm using social media. It's even more surprising because I don't actually post that much and don't take a ton of photos relative to others.

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