In the end, it is all about trust. Once that is lost, it is hard to regain it. It is especially difficult on social media and the Internet.
Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook have all lost my trust, as they have done very little to protect the veracity of the information on their platforms. Whether it is political lies spread by bots on Twitter, fake friends upvoting stuff and disseminating rumors on Facebook, or fake shit being promoted as “visual content” on Instagram, these platforms have very done little to maintain any semblance of truthfulness.
And why should they? Their whole algorithmic model is based on engagement – and lots of it. The model is not concerned about the consequences. The more inflammatory the content, the more engagement it drives. The greater the engagement, the more viral the content becomes. And the wheel turns, and turns, and turns.
Like I have said before, this deliberate dereliction of duty is profitable for the platforms.
As a result, we as humans are left to make our own decisions and build our own protections. We have to pay for their inaction with our own time and money. The amount of effort it takes to curate and maintain a civic conversation on Twitter takes so much effort that even my infinite love for Twitter is being eroded. I can’t bring myself to care about the constant marketing and unending supply of anger, and so my time on the platform has declined. I opted out of Facebook, but all my friends tell me that it is the same nonsense over there.
And then there is Instagram, which I have given up for Lent. I must say, it is quite a relief to not be looking at all those other photos and perfect lives. It is great to not think about where I could be, and instead be grateful for where I am. I have been walking around town looking for images and then sharing them on my own blog or with friends over iMessage. There have been discussions on the relative merits and demerits of certain photos. It is incredibly refreshing to actually get a conversation instead of a “heart.”
But the best part of not being on IG is the absence of influencers and ads selling me substandard shit. I’ll admit that I have fallen prey to ads promising gold (actually, no-show socks and joggers) that turned out to be utter crap. I have ended up ordering USB cables that are just horrible. But I’ve learned my lesson: I don’t trust anything being advertised on Instagram and peddled by influencers. And I’m glad to be rid of them.
Speaking about influencers, I am always happy to see the Federal Trade Commission 1 on scammers (even if they can’t come down on Facebook and Google). The Fashion Law reports that they have fined Teami, a company peddling fake diet tea, a whopping $15.2 million. Of course, we don’t know how much Teami took us, consumers, for. I suspect it is more than the fine, so there is no reason for them not to try it again. After all, IG needs to grow its advertising revenues, and it doesn’t care about doing the right thing – just like its parent, Facebook, had no problems taking advertising dollars from Russian bot makers.
And what about those influencers pushing Teami’s bullshit detox teas? How much are Cardi B, Kylie Jenner, and Demi Lovato going to be fined? The answer is zero.
Anyway, back to my original point: the platforms dereliction of duty. Instagram has had this 2 with fitness and weight loss products for a long time. Flat Tummy, Fit Tea, BooTea, LyfeTea…the list goes on and on. And it’s not just teas. The whole platform is full of shoddy products. I used to joke that Instagram would become like infomercials on late-night television. Well, I wasn’t too far off the mark.
At the same time, we shouldn’t absolve the “influencers” of their role. Each one should be made to pay back the money they made from the dodgy products. And the FTC should consider banning them from doing any such paid promotions on the platform for a limited period. It would be a good deterrent – at least on paper.
So in the end, when you don’t trust the platform and don’t expect them to do the right thing, you are better off ignoring them. It is day 14 of Lent. I miss my friends on IG, and I miss seeing their art. I am going to go email a few of them.
03.10.2020, San Francisco
Further reading on Om.co
- uBiome, Silicon Valley and the issue of Trust.
- The #1 reason why Facebook will never change.
- The Cost of Lies.
- Facebook’s dereliction of duty.