I Am Addicted to Social Media

One of the ways I try to get people to understand just how wrong feeds from places like Facebook are is to think about Wikipedia. When you go to a page, you’re seeing the same thing as other people. So it’s one of the few things online that we at least hold in common.

Now just imagine for a second that Wikipedia said, “We’re gonna give each person a different customized definition, and we’re gonna be paid by people for that.” So, Wikipedia would be spying on you. Wikipedia would calculate, “What’s the thing I can do to get this person to change a little bit on behalf of some commercial interest?” Right? And then it would change the entry.

Can you imagine that? Well, you should be able to, because that’s exactly what’s happening on Facebook. It’s exactly what’s happening in your YouTube feed.

—Jaron Lanier, from the documentary The Social Dilemma

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This is not the blogpost I originally started writing.

The first draft of my blogpost is quoted below:

As I lie on the sofa in my darkened apartment, listening to an LGBTQ “Queeraoke” room in Clubhouse (and wondering if I have the audacity to inflict my pitchy tenor voice on the assembly), it occurs to me that my relationship with social media has evolved significantly since I started this blog, a little over four years ago.

I don’t kid myself; my divorce from Facebook (not so much a single event as a series of steps), led not to a reduction in my use of social media, but an overall increase, something about which I have strong mixed feelings about. (It would appear that I am not alone in this: I have noticed a significant uptick in recent views of a blogpost I wrote about Jaron Lanier’s 10 reasons to quit social media, according to my WordPress blog statistics.)

Spending so much of my time in social isolation since the pandemic started 20 months ago, I find myself spending varying amounts of time every day on five wildly disparate social media platforms: Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, Discord, and (the newcomer) Clubhouse. I tell myself that it helps me stay connected to other people, but I also

And then, like so many other blogposts I write, I set it aside, literally mid-sentence, to complete on another day, when the muse struck.

Well, today is another day.

And it is a day that I started watching a one-and-a-half hour documentary on Netflix, which is also available to watch for free on YouTube: The Social Dilemma. And, as it happens, Jaron Lanier also appears in this particular documentary—along with two dozen other experts, many of them executives who formerly held high-ranking positions at social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

I full well realize the irony in asking you to watch a YouTube video on social media addiction (given the platform’s at-times-scarily accurate recommendation engine, algorithmically designed to keep you viewing long past your bedtime), but I would urge you to set aside 93 minutes and 42 seconds of your time, and watch this documentary. It is eye-opening, it is disturbing, and it is a wake-up call.

One shocking thing I learned from this documentary is that even the people who designed, created, and tweaked the algorithms that glue us to our cellphones, are addicted to social media and its attendant ills (for example, a more divisive society and increasingly polarized politics).

We are participating in an experiment that is slowly but surely rewiring our brains in ways that we are only now starting to comprehend. Particularly disturbing is the impact that social media algorithms are having on children and teenagers, something once again brought to light by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen last week in her testimony to the U.S. Senate.

According to the video description on YouTube, The Social Dilemma was only supposed to be on YouTube until September 30th, 2021, but it’s still up as of today. I don’t know how long it will be available on YouTube, so if you don’t subscribe to Netflix, please don’t delay in watching this.

As I said up top, while I might be proud of my emancipation from Facebook, I have landed up spending more time—a lot more time—on other social media, notably Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, Clubhouse, and Discord. The pandemic (and its lockdowns and social distancing requirements) have only exacerbated the problem over the past 20 months. And I suspect that I am not alone in this.

I might be free of Facebook (which I consider the most egregious culprit), but I am still addicted to social media.

Are you?

Here’s a resource to help you learn more: The Center for Humane Technology.

Editorial: I Need to Become More Business Minded About This Blog

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

I really do owe an apology to the truly wonderful folks over at Sine Wave Entertainment, the company behind the virtual world/social VR platform Sinespace, and its corporate cousin, Breakroom.

You see, it was almost exactly one year ago today that I entered into an agreement with them, where I would become an “embedded reporter” for Sinespace, and write sponsored blogposts about the people, news and events on that platform.

And while I got off to a rather strong start, I have really fallen down on the job over the past four months. My last real sponsored blogpost for Sinespace (a report on the Geek Weekly event at the Localhost Connection Café) was back in July, and since then I have only done one blogpost—and I screwed that one up! (Sorry, Sinespace.)

There are a couple of reasons for that lapse (the coronavirus pandemic, and the demands of my full-time paying job with the University of Manitoba Libraries), but part of the problem is that I have not been paying sufficient attention to the company or its products, so this is an apology, and a promise to do a better job!

I just find it ironic that I am writing much more about Second Life (when they aren’t paying me) and next to nothing about Sinespace and Breakroom (when they are!). It’s time to pull up my socks, pull my head out of SL, and focus. What started out as a tiny little hobby blog devoted to Sansar has grown and evolved over the past three years, and is turning into a business.

And if I really do intend to to follow through on my dream to become a full-time blogger and vlogger covering “News and Views on Social VR, Virtual Worlds, and the Metaverse” after I retire from the University of Manitoba Libraries, then I need to become a little more business-minded about what I do here.

As I say on my Patreon page:

My plan is to earn a side-income from my blog containing “news and views on social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse” (which is the tagline of my blog) when I finally do decide (hopefully, at some age before 65) to take my retirement. I already have a small but devoted following, and I want to grow that audience.

And yes, another thing I need to do is completely rethink the benefits that I do offer my Patreon supporters (another group of people to whom I owe an apology). And I want to once again, express my gratitude and appreciation for my existing patrons.

Part of my business on the RyanSchultz.com blog is writing sponsored blogposts and selling advertising space, which (in addition to the financial support of my wonderful Patreon patrons) allows me to cover the cost of hosting this blog on WordPress, among other things. I also run WordAds on my blog, after I had finally given up on Google Ads in frustration (you can read through my misadventures in dealing with Google’s automated system in this series of blogposts).

Between all of these ventures, I make a small amount of money (but you aren’t going to see me on the cover of Forbes anytime soon!). And I may tinker a bit with other ways to monetize what I do here, more often. For example, did you know that you can express your support by something as simple as buying me a coffee?

You can show your support by something as simple as buying me a coffee!
(Photo by Mike Kenneally on Unsplash)

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Photo by Pressmaster on Pexels.com

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I am happy to report that I am now consistently getting between 1,000 and 2,000 views per day of my blogposts, every single day. Those are people that are interested in virtual reality, social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse, and could be looking at your ad! So what are you waiting for?

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Google Adsense Follies, Part V: WHAT THE F@#%?!??

You might be interested to learn that my Google AdSense follies have continued (for previous updates, see here, here, here, and here). I have long ago given up on trying to fix blogposts which are flagged by their automated algorithms, and mistakenly determined to be “adult” content.

Well, I recently received an email from Google AdSense, informing me that because of what they politely call “invalid traffic concerns”, they are pulling advertising from my blog.

In the email I received, they say:

We found potentially invalid traffic being used to generate ad revenue on your account. As a reminder, invalid traffic is strictly prohibited by the AdSense Program policies. Clicks on Google ads must result from genuine user interest. Publishers may not ask others to click their ads. This includes asking users to support your site, offering rewards to users for viewing ads, and promising to raise money for third parties for such behavior. Additionally, clicking your own ads, automated clicking tools or traffic sources, robots, or other deceptive software are also prohibited.

We understand that you may want to know more about the activity we’ve detected. Because this information could be used to circumvent our proprietary detection systems, we’re unable to provide our publishers with information about specific account activity, including users that may have been involved.

So basically:

  • Their algorithms have decided that there is invalid clicking on their ads;
  • And no, they can’t give me any more information (trade secrets, yaknow…)

I hereby give up, and I will be removing Google Adsense from my blog this evening. I have had enough of this bullshit. I will stick with WordPress’s own WordAds program.

Email I received from Google AdSense: Enough is enough…