Quitters Never Win: The Costs of Leaving Social Media

Forget Lolcats. If we quit using sites like Facebook, we’ll miss opportunities for self-expression, personal growth, learning, support, and civic exchange.Simple solutions have been proposed to help users cope with the vulnerability of disclosing information on the social web. These remedies are clear and decisive, but they demand significant trade-offs — perhaps greater sacrifice than typically is acknowledged.One such option, which Farhad Manjoo, the technology columnist at Slate, bluntly spelled out in a two-word article, “How to Stay Private on Facebook,” is “Quit Facebook.” Manjoo offers this security-centric path for folks who are anxious about the service being “one the most intrusive technologies ever built,” and believe that “the very idea of making Facebook a more private place borders on the oxymoronic, a bit like expecting modesty at a strip club”. Bottom line: stop tuning in and start dropping out if you suspect that the culture of oversharing, digital narcissism, and, above all, big-data-hungry, corporate profiteering will trump privacy settings.

Sensible as these choices seem — especially given the increasingly blurry line between private companies and law enforcement — the increasingly popular framing shouldn’t be accepted as a practical user’s guide to social media realism. While we should be attuned to constraints and their consequences, there are at least four problems with conceptualizing the social media user’s dilemma as a version of “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”.

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