Settling My Social Media Dilemma

As I wrote at the start of the year, all of the ways in which social media—Facebook specifically— has been negatively impacting society on a global scale has really killed my engagement and interest in using the platforms. In the seven months since then, there have only been more reports of Facebook’s mishandling of user information and privacy liabilities, culminating in a $5 billion dollar fine they generate per calendar quarter so laughable that their stock went up after it was announced. With government oversight clearly not in play given the ineptitude and corporate influence rampant in the current administration, it would fall on its users to dole out the punishment via a boycott. However, Facebook is too engrained and diversified to be able to eliminate completely. Though I personally haven’t been using the social networks actively and have kept Facebook off my phone, WhatsApp is still the primary external communications tool at the day job. Even if I could delete all my Facebook-owned accounts, I’m keenly aware that user tracking technologies are so advanced that even browsing the web is feeding them data from me via their partner networks.

It’s a bothersome logical conflict between the idea that you’re losing out without gaining anything if you’re not actively using their services since you’re still providing them data anyway, but if you do use them, you’re opening the valve on the data hose and giving them far more information to mishandle & misuse; Facebook’s now primed to create the facial recognition technology stateside that could be used in nefarious ways as they do in China. And that’s just the concerns over domestic threats to society. Just a few weeks ago, I was alerted by a friend of an account that had uploaded my photos with their original captions, triggering a mention notification on their end. Who knows what we’re unintentionally providing information, visual data, and/or avatars for, but in an age of digital warfare and foreign election interference, it’s not so easy to just write it off as a “harmless” spam bot like in the early days of the internet.

iPhone screenshot of an Instagram profile with a Russian username using my profile picture and uploaded photos
A (seemingly) Russian account harvesting my photos

I’ve spent all of this year letting two perspectives battle it out: a rationalist mindset that accepts that change takes time and that there are, or the informed idealist that expects nothing good to come from either big business or government and opts out entirely. It feels irresponsible and unpatriotic to idle by and do nothing, and with the situation looking so bleak by way of solutions, evaluated against both the things I know objectively and my personal ideals, it feels like the best option would be indeed to follow the suggestions of Facebook’s former founders/leads and delete my own accounts. Keeping them open and using them whenever I rarely do makes me feel like a hypocrite, but conversely, one man deleting his accounts isn’t going to make a ripple, considering they’ve already been in a pretty much abandoned state. Then there’s the bigger picture to consider, that many of the problems with Facebook’s operations also apply to a majority of other tech firms, big & small. As a digital worker in today’s world, being able to tap into those networks is virtually required. Like it or not, that is where the public conversation happens.

I’ve known for a while know that I’ve settled, reluctantly, on the side of continuing to use social networking services, and hoping that eventually—sooner rather than later—government gets it together and finds a way to properly oversee & regulate these modern services. It’s just that despite the resulting consequence of not being up to date with what’s going on with many of my peers, not being actively engaged in social media has been so nice. A lot of time and mental bandwidth gets used processing a constant flow of information that largely can’t be acted on, and having reclaimed that for myself this past few months has been so enjoyable I haven’t been in a rush to give it up again. But as it’s said, all good things…

Publish by DayOne

Publish by DayOne
I’m really intrigued by the idea, and think it’ll help with the overall structure/organization of my writings. I look forward to experiementing with it once the feature gets pushed to the Mac version of the app; having to take the extra step of unlocking an iOS device, opening the app, finding the entry, THEN doing the publishing is too cumbersome and time-wasting to do on a regular basis.

In Memoriam: Steven Paul “Steve” Jobs

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It’s been five days since Steve Jobs passed away. Even now, five days later, it’s still difficult to wrap my mind around the idea that he’s gone forever. The world has lost a living legend and an amazing modern renaissance man. Jobs’ contributions to modern society, be they Pixar animation studios or the iconic iPhone, have changed the course of human culture and technological development in previously unimaginable ways. He was to us what DaVinci was to the world in the 1500’s. Like so many others, I mourn the loss of one of history’s most talented visionaries and leaders.

Now, I would love to continue to extol the virtues of Steve Jobs, but that would be misleading on my part. The truth of the matter is that my opinion of Steve Jobs has not always been the most favorable. See, for the longest time, I was a strong opponent to Apple products. Not out of allegiance to the Microsoft brand, but out of my love for technology as a whole.

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Boom.

Though I am primarily a Windows user, the Mac OS has been a large part of my computing experience as a whole. I first taught myself to use a computer using outdated Macintoshes in my elementary school’s computer lab, and later on using my Uncle’s Macintosh LCIII. Every time I used a Macintosh, I enjoyed it. As a child, it was intuitive and user friendly.

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However, I also had been given a Packard Bell D160 Multimedia PC by father as a Christmas present in 1995, and grew to love the Windows operating system. Though in hindsight it wasn’t that great, at the time the immersive Packard Bell navigator software that booted with Windows was impressive. It simulated an actual living environment, each room with a specific function – living room for media, office for documents, etc. The games that were available (The Journeyman Project comes to mind) offered me a way more impressive computer experience at home than the ones at school did.

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In the years since then, Steve Jobs returned to Apple and revived the company with the iMac. At the time, I was enrolled at Lewis Middle School, whose school slogan was “Leading in Technology”. They lived up to it: every classroom and every computer lab was stocked with both the color all in one iMacs with the hockey puck mouse, or with the latest variants of the classic Macintosh line. I once again grew to love the Mac experience. Though I hate to admit it, I loved playing the shit out of Nanosaur at any chance I could get.

Still, Macs came at a premium, and my Dad governed the computer purchases. He was a fan of the more practical Windows platform, so that’s what I got at home. I remember wanting to eventually get a Mac to do graphic design work on when I was in high school. Unfortunately, by then, the revolution started by the iMac sparked the elitism of the Mac brand: if you own a Mac, you’re better than everyone else. As a computer enthusiast who had grown up with an enjoyable Windows experience, I stuck with Microsoft. I understood the power of each platform, but didn’t agree that one necessarily had to be better than the other. Since they were both good, I felt I needed to stick with the one I’d grown up with and was subject to very harsh criticism.

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In the years between high school and the present, that resistance to Apple became an absolute disdain for it. I loathed the arrogance of the Justin Long Mac vs. PC commercials. Steve Jobs was perpetuating that elitist attitude I couldn’t stand. This became even worse when my best friend Chris switched from PC to a Mac. At every chance he could get, he would interject how my computer is pathetic because it runs on Windows. Any performance hiccup was interpreted as a plea for a gospel on the superiority of the Mac. Or, in layman’s terms, he became very fucking annoying.

Now, as much as I had grown to resent Apple, I was still a techie, and I still liked my gadgets. I’ve purchased many iPods over the years. When I was a teenager and finally had the option to upgrade from my Nokia 6682 to a smartphone running a real OS, my only viable options for a good 3G phone were the iPhone 3G and the Blackberry Bold. Android was only barely starting to gain traction, and AT&T went many years without carrying Android devices in favor of its exclusivity with Apple for the iPhone. Though I’d always wanted to get a Blackberry throughout my time in high school, I found myself going with the iPhone simply because it’s unique touch screen allowed the best mobile browsing experience possible. So it was with heavy heart in December of 2008 that I “sold out” and became an iPhone user.

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Even with iPod and iPhone in hand, I still continued to resent Apple solely because of my resentment of Steve Jobs. I’ve jailbroken every iPhone I have because I don’t agree with the limitations Apple has set on the device. They sell you something they will allow it to do for you, not something that can do everything it can for you. I was outraged at the 30% Apple started charging for in-app purchases, forcing competitors to rely on webapps to circumvent the unnecessary fee, thereby making iBooks a more attractive option with simple in-app purchasing. I was pissed when Steve had his Apple townhall and called Google’s “Do No Evil” mantra “bullshit”. I was furious when Steve set his crosshairs on Adobe (yeah, the company that makes the software that most professional Mac users use a Mac for) and Flash. Even worse was when the iPhone Developer ToS were updated to render the flash-to-iPhone compiler Adobe was planning on including in the upcoming CS update unusable.

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Google is bullshit and Adobe is lazy, says the Goblin King!

So, Steve did shit that pissed me off because I like Apple, but I also like everyone else that Apple has been absolutely shitty to. This led me to say (and by say, I mean “post online”) very many ugly things about Steve. God, I couldn’t stand the guy. I admired him for his achievements and business acumen, but hated his totalitarian approach.

A few months ago, I decided that I was going to invest in the Mac platf
orm. As an iPhone and iPad owner, I want to explore the integration that iCloud will offer across it’s devices. I remember that it was only two days after I first had this thought that Steve resigned as CEO. I remember laughing to myself that it was as if by simply having that thought in my head, Steve had won. I was interested in finally giving in on the one front I staunchly refused to give in on, the PC computing experience, and so his work was done. He stepped down in victory.

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Once he resigned, I found myself missing having him in charge. Without Steve at the helm of Apple, there was no reason to really resist Apple. My love-hate thing with Steve only worked when he was still in charge and ready to do something more. So in the time that I would normally read the latest on Steve Jobs, I started reading about Steve Jobs. I then started to realize the true extent of his genius and innovation, and the importance of his contributions. I also have come to realize that the very things that I hated about him were the things that I admire the most about him. He was innovative and decisive. He had great standards of excellence and amazing insight. And most of all, when it came to something he had made up his mind on, he just didn’t give a fuck. His word was final.

So, I’ll say it. I miss you, Steve. Furthermore, I’m glad to have shared time on earth with you. I can say that I lived during the era that Steve Jobs revolutionized the world. I don’t regret that I spent so much time hating you – you were kind of a real prick. However, the fact that you had the balls to do all the things that set me off was always something I secretly admired. Now that you’re gone, I only wish you were still around to keep doing what you did for another 20 years.

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Rest in Peace, Friend.