Visionary challenges Rider to delete social media

By Jennifer Boyer

Jaron Lanier played a Khaen, an instrument that originated from southeast Asia, for students and faculty during his lecture in the Cavalla room on Nov. 13. He demonstrated his hobby of learning to play new instruments to begin he evening discussion.

Jaron Lanier, a technology writer and author, urged Rider students and faculty to completely remove all social media for six months, calling it an addiction that promotes and reinforces negative emotions while also preventing people from perceiving and addressing real problems in society, during the Business of Media Lecture on Nov. 13. 

Lanier focused on his recent book, “Social Media: Addiction, Deceit and Manipulation,” while emphasizing the toxic role social media plays in society.  

He began his career as a scientist, technologist and extrapreneur and had his first virtual reality start up in the 80s. He later became a Harvard Goldsmith Book Prize winner in 2014 for his second book, “Who Owns the Future?”

“I just felt so strongly that we were making a massive mistake in how we were bringing technology into the world,” said Lanier.

Rider students and faculty prepared for Lanier’s lecture through a group discussion that took place in the Bart Luedeke Center on Nov. 6. 

Stephanie Holland, a junior communication studies major, found the discussion helpful and said it prepared her for Lanier’s lecture. 

“[I got] a sense of how social media takes over [our lives,]” she said. 

Lanier challenged the audience to consider the reality of social media. 

“We’re in an astonishing time where, essentially, we have gotten ourselves totally lost in mind games where we are unable to perceive real problems [like climate change and its connection to current wildfires in California,]” Lanier said. “If we can’t perceive that because we are so lost in nonsense, we will destroy ourselves.” 

Lanier is known for creating the term “Virtual Reality” that is commonly known today. 

“When I was a teenager I got fascinated with this idea of creating simulated worlds that people could share and co create,” he said. “I came up with this term virtual reality for it and had a start up.”

Lanier expressed that social media controls the way people feel when using platforms such as Facebook. 

“You do not have the ability to understand what is being done to you,” he said. “This technology is deliberately addictive.

He compared this addiction to the commercialization of cigarette usage.

“You cannot see the downside of an addiction while you’re addicted,” he said. “Get a small amount of people to quit in order to have the conversation [such as smoking and drunk driving.]” 

Lanier offered strategies to lower social media addiction to the audience. 

“The main practical reason to delete your accounts is, as a society, we need to be able to have conversations when things aren’t going well. And there’s this peculiar darkness that’s beset the world [at the same time as the emergence of] social media technologies and the rise of Facebook,” Lanier said. 

In his book, Lanier acknowledges that he cannot judge every person’s relationship with social media. 

“I just know that some people have to get off [social media] if we’re going to have a society that can escape the madness of it,” Lanier said. 

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