Laniers 10 reasons

Digital information is really just people in disguise

Jaron Lanier

Jaron Lanier’s Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now

Argument 1: losing your free will
Argument 2: behavioural modification empires for rent
Argument 3: unhealthy interactions
Argument 4: undermining truth
Argument 5: on social media, what you say loses its context
Argument 6: losing your capacity for empathy
Argument 7: Social media is making you unhappy.
Argument 8: Social media destroys economic dignity.
Argument 9: social media and politics
Argument 10: Social media as religion

Jaron Lanier takes inspiration from cats. Cats are popular because they are independent, unpredictable and live life on their terms. Unlike dogs, cats are not easily trained, and therefore represent an ideal we should aspire to when we go online and are exposed to social media platforms which attempt to manipulate our behaviour in order to sustain themselves through selling ads.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and others which use targeted advertising to sustain themselves are the problem. In theory, there could be a social media platform which helps us communicate with friends and family for which these arguments do not apply.

Argument 1: losing your free will

Popular social media platforms are all based around a core process of behavior modification. The platforms need to get users hooked so that we use them regularly. Once we are hooked, then they show us advertisements which tend to be highly targeted based on various data collected about us.

These advertisements are a form of behaviour modification which controlled by corporations, our government or foreign governments who manipulate our political views just as easily as they influence our buying behaviour.

A moral point of view too often serves as a substitute for understanding in technological matters.

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) (p. 245)

Argument 2: behavioural modification empires for rent

Quitting social media is the best way to resist the insanity of our times. Lanier uses the term BUMMER. This stands for “Behaviors of Users Modified, and Made into an Empire for Rent”. See Creating the BORG [Born on Reddit and Google]

Lanier describes Facebook, Twitter, and Google as BUMMER platforms because they are all sustained through a targeted advertising model such that advertisers with enough money can significantly modify behaviour of the platform’s users in a measurable way. Three of the big five tech firms: Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft (whom Lanier works for) are less dependent on targeted advertising than Google and Facebook.

Argument 3: unhealthy interactions

Social media is making you into an asshole. Brief online interactions in public tend to cause conflict. In a real life conversation, a long-form article, documentary, or book, there is space for nuance, this is not the case for the short messages people have time to post on social media.

The problem is not only a lack of nuance, but that when we are online we are involved in “pack” behaviour, rather than “solitary wolf” behaviour. In a pack, we want to protect and improve upon our social status, and when it seems necessary to put others down to do this.

A theory of cultural change is impossible without knowledge of the changing sense ratios effected by various externalizations of our senses.

Marshall McLuhan The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962)(p. 49)

Argument 4: undermining truth

The online ecosystem consists of a large proportion of fake people: many of the likes, followers, comments & reviews that are used to imply popularity to both human users and the algorithms that surface popular content are fake.

Some of this fake content may be created by bots, some by low-paid workers, or directly by business owners who wish to promote their own wares. This is not rare at all. Clickbait articles which are less truthful and often wrong tend to rise to be most popular.

The specialist is one who never makes small mistakes while moving towards the grand fallacy.

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) (p. 154)

Argument 5: on social media, what you say loses its context

What you say on socia media is meaningless. The idea is that what is shared on social media has far less context than the real world, or other forms of media. If I listen to a talk, read a book, or watch a documentary, there is sufficient time to establish context, so that the views expressed are understood. On social media that is typically not the case: only tiny snippets are shared. A link to a news article with a clickbait title, an opinion, a meme. All of this is mixed together and interspersed with ads.

Algorithms are not just showing these randomly, they’re targeting you to maximise usage: this can often lead to showing you things without context to create controversy, which increases engagement. Disagreements and animosity may be created between you and your friends, when in a real conversation, with full context, you would have come to understand each other and find common agreement.

Argument 6: losing your capacity for empathy

When the things we share on social media don’t have context, we only see small fragments about our friend’s views, usually selected or by algorithms or where our friend was influenced by an algorithm to share something.

In real life, everyone has a different perspective, but on social media this can be more extreme as everything is personalised to us by algorithms. Without having experienced the same inputs as others, it becomes harder to understand their perspective, and we end up in echo chambers where we see the people in other echo chambers as crazy.

Typography is not only a technology but is in itself a natural resource or staple, like cotton or timber or radio; and, like any staple, it shapes not only private sense ratios but also patterns of communal interdependence.

Marshall McLuhan The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962)(p. 186)

Argument 7: Social media is making you unhappy.

Many studies back this up. Facebook even demonstrated that they could impact the emotional state of users to be happier or sadder by showing more positive or negative posts. Facebook now acknowledges that social media can make people less happy.

How we use social media is important but perhaps for many people, healthy use of social media may be more challenging than quitting. What makes you unhappy about social media revolves around the feeling of being ranked. We are ranked on social media through a count of the number of friends, or the number of likes our posts receive.

Nobody ever made a grammatical error in a non-literate society.

Marshall McLuhan The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962)(p. 271)

Argument 8: Social media destroys economic dignity.

Since users do not pay for these platforms with money, and they rely on small advertising payments for user engagement, the only way to make a living via “BUMMER” social media platforms (eg as a YouTuber) is to be one of the top stars. Whereas with a paid service such as Netflix, vast numbers of professional people are supported by the platform to film new content.

Zero-cost platforms came to exist because of various ideals around the freedom of information and how the advertising model was found as the most obvious way to fund these platforms. There are alternative business models involving payment for services and explicit control of personal data sharing.

We are as numb in our new electric world as the native involved in our literate and mechanical culture.

Marshall McLuhan Understanding Media (1964) (p. 9)

Argument 9: social media and politics

Social media is making politics impossible. An early sign of this was the 2011 Arab Spring, where revolutions in the middle east were linked to organising on social media. The outcomes; return to military rule in Egypt and the destruction of Syria, Libya, the persecution of the Rohingya people Myanmar all linked to the rise of social media in those countis.

In the US politics is more polarised and chaotic culminating in the Capitol Riot of January 2021. In the age of social media echo chambers, it’s hard to remain hopeful of building understanding and consensus between liberals and conservatives.

Argument 10: Social media as religion

Social media “hates your soul”. Lanier compares BUMMER social media to a religion. A creepy one of big tech firms with corporate mission statements that place themselves at the centre of all reality.


Consider quiting Social Media as an experiment to see what you learn, and return later if it doesn’t work out. People quitting makes a difference as it challenges those at big tech companies to move towards different business models. More immediately, the personal benefits in disconnecting are in asserting your individuality (“being a cat”).

Note from the doof

Technology is not nuetral. Social media is about building a profile on you so you can be easily manipulated. There is no, none, nada noble purpose to this monitoring. Anthing free is about collecting data on you. Be it “free” classified advertising or “free” user groups.

Social media re-programs you after watching you carefully, something newspapers can not do. This is more than pushing emotional buttons it is blatant manipulation.

People are social creatures but Social Media is not social. It is monitored and manipulative media. If you share a thought with someone on FB messenger it becomes part of your data signature by which you are categorized and grouped. Then the targeting of messaging and “mind control” begins.

Writing and getting into robust discussion can be beneficial to personal development. It is just something you should do in private with a close friend, like sex perhaps, good unless you make a video and post it online. Then its bad.

Imagine what the next Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Trudeau is going to do with all this data? Purge, Gulag, probably not it will be nothing but sunny ways.


A sunny day in November, lots of time with grandkids, need to get to farm to check on things but its hard.