To ‘see’ Facebook one must register for an account, and eventually be owned in some small way by the service. For every image posted, or comment made on Facebook, the service claims you for itself. This kind of surveillance can’t be negotiated in pieces; you’re either in completely, or you’re out.
-Bland God: Notes on Mark Zuckerberg
I’m writing with some feedback about Suggested Posts. They’re ruining Instagram and all of our minds and probably our relationships too.
Instagram used to enable conversations around a single, simple idea: it’s fun to share photographs with friends. Now it’s turning into cable TV. And like cable TV, most of it isn’t very good. Just mindless content for bingeing. You’re turning an app that used to be a party (sharing, chatter, connection, yay) into an opium den (suffering, silence, addiction, sad).
In 2012, Instagram let you see friends, family, and creators you chose to follow.
Ads showed up, eventually. But you know what, we were mostly cool with it. Some of them weren’t half bad.
But 10 years later, you’re showing me stuff I never chose to follow.
And from what I hear, you want to add more.
I would say, “I know you mean well…,” but I’m not so sure. Calling this trash “Suggested” is nervy, but ultimately a weasel move. It’s detritus that’s no different from unsolicited mail (“junk mail”) or unwanted emails (“spam”). Sure, your algorithms predict that I’ll respond to this content, but that doesn’t mean I want it. I never asked for it. I can’t control what I see (except in a reactive, whac-a-mole way), and worst of all: I can’t turn it off.
Well, I can “snooze” the deluge, but only for 30 days. Why not, say, forever?
I can filter my emails, I can put tape over my mail slot, but you’re telling me I have to, have to, see videos of people dancing and pointing to words that aren’t there?
I don’t wanna. Delete our accounts. All of them.
Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. –Carl Sagan
Don’t think Meta is going to answer my prayers and liberate our digital souls anytime soon.
And the rising pile of algorithmic pollution pushes us further apart.
So I need to move the party elsewhere. It’s not you, it’s meta. I still want to be friends. So here are two ways for us to stay connected.
Follow me on Find My Friends. Call me crazy, but I think it’s the perfect social app. Hear me out. It’s a list of your favorite humans and where they are. No messages. No likes. No communication at all.
Now, I know a few folks don’t like it:
“Someone will use this app to steal your valuables when you’re not home.”
Millennials like me don’t own “valuables,” grandpa. We own stuff. Useless stuff we got on Amazon.
Creepier than being forced to be the producer, director, and star of your own online reality show? Creepier than an endless content gavage hosed down our throats by Bland God Zuckerberg?
“I don’t want people to know where I am!”
On Find My Friends you choose exactly who sees your location in the form of a blue dot.
For me, the blue dot is an elegant symbol of place. Linked to a GPS satellite, our blue dots pulse tremulously on an undetailed map.
Place is the context that defines us, for a moment. Sometimes it’s “what we’re doing” (work, gym) but also how we are (at rest, at play, out and about). A state of being. Place is what’s lost in the noise of a billion profiles.
So much of our current social media nightmare is about doing. Pose. Smize. Gyrate like you’re being trafficked at gunpoint. A dot lets you be.
And my favorite thing about the blue dots? Their utter lack of function. Not useful for wayfinding or navigation. It’s just two pieces of data: latitude and longitude.
So go ahead and track my location. If my dot is nearby, go ahead and surprise me with your hands over my eyes and a “guess who?” (Don’t actually do this.) Most of the time our dots will serve as geographic bookmarks. Marking a place (with our place) in our hearts, while we are apart.
Or you know, hit me up like it’s 1998. I’ll try to keep this blog alive as long as I am. If you write me a letter—I’ll send you two back. If you randomly FaceTime me on a Wednesday at 3pm, I will take that call.
Knock on my door, I’ll leave you a voicemail. Venmo me a dollar, I’ll send you a telegram. Baby bird guava juice into my mouth, if you like, and I’ll light your cigarette.
I miss you. And I’m glad you’re here.
I don’t mean to exclude Android users. I love you too.