The social media industry is broken—and it’s our fault
Caleb Gardner
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Social Media Stopped Delivering A Long Time Ago.

This shouldn’t be news to anyone who has been paying attention. Social media didn’t just suddenly stop delivering information; it stopped when corporations decided the database of users was more important than anything that could pass over those networks.

Yes, we got the Arab Spring and the Hong Kong uprisings and every blue moon a new meme or idea makes the cut (See: #BlackLivesMatter) and rises above the overall clamor for attention, but for the most part, social media companies have stopped trying to be useful to their users and have been, like everything else in the world, sacrificed on the altar of corporate fiduciary investor dividends — a.k.a. profit.

In other words, most investors cannot wait to exploit their opportunity to sell their database of users to advertising agencies, other corporate entities or to government intelligence agencies to troll for potential terrorists. Because we know terrorists who want to remain free use Facebook and publish their agendas in the clear, right?

Once upon a time, social media companies even pretended they weren’t in it to give away our information. Then some of those companies experimented on their users and when the backlash was less than expected, they did it again. (Looking at you, Zuckerberg.) Social media has now become little more than an experiment in social engineering, trying to figure out how many different ways people will and won’t accept new forms of advertisement and invasions of privacy into their lives. Social media has done exactly what I thought it would do years ago, isolate, separate, divide and conquer.

People thought social media would help them get jobs. Now, it appears social media is used just as often to exclude people from work as to helping them find it. While rarely spoken about in the general public, it has become common to trawl a person’s social media footprint, learning things about potential employees which shouldn’t be known until the day of the interview. Now a potential employer is free to discriminate against minorities with impunity just by looking a person up on the Internet.

Don’t want to hire people of color? Now you don’t have to. You can look them up on Facebook, or LinkIn, or Twitter, scan their images and with the helpful assurances of search engines, know with a high degree of clarity, this person of color isn’t who you want for your very selective office culture. Now, we know corporations and hiring managers would never do that, right? It would violate a potential employee’s basic rights. Believe whatever helps you sleep at night.

Social media has helped on the erosion of privacy as well. On a daily basis we learn about someone losing their job due to what should be a private matter showing up in their public data stream. Either because they didn’t have the good sense not to include a camera at their orgy (not that I’m against orgies, because I’m not) or because they didn’t know how to set their privacy settings to exclude the general public. Either way, they lose their job over something that isn’t anyone’s business but their own.

Social media may afford a level of communication previous not easily done for the general public, but like most technologies, when larger wallets, with greater capacity for extending the reach, power and manipulation of the general public get involved, all manner of propriety, privacy, security and peace of mind are invaded and lost.

This genie cannot be put back in the bottle. Between the NSA and other intelligence agencies as well as the major advertisers trying to find a new niche to bore us with products we don’t want, our opportunities for true connections are slowly being monopolized by big businesses who are desperate to make money on our every breath, hypnotizing us with social media tools until we can’t even be bother to look at each other at the dinner table, so desperate we are for affirmation from people who are thousands of miles away that we have never met.

Anti-social media is what we should be calling it. If we can reclaim it, we better hurry up, another promoted ad no one wants to read is queuing up somewhere…