/ OPINION: Outside The Panopticon: An argument for living and climbing without social media

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UKC Articles 13 Jun 2019
Self portrait as an anti-selfie, Cederberg, South Africa David Pickford explains why, in his view, social media is detrimental to both the climbing community and our enjoyment of the sport.

The social media information stream quickly becomes something other than what it claims to be; it becomes about marketing a personality, a brand, or a product rather than a source of information about the activity itself. It becomes direct digital advertising dressed up and disguised as climbing media.



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13
Deadeye 13 Jun 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Irony 11

6
In reply to UKC Articles:

Great article Dave.

It does beg the question over whether intrinsic motivation actually exists. I thought the Free Solo movie was really interesting in terms of AH's family background and parental expectations - which one could argue provide strong extrinsic motivation for his achievements.

I'd like to think intrinsic motivation does exist. It appears to, in the few sponsored climbers I know. They are certainly not motivated by Facebook likes or Instagram followership, but like all of us they have to pay the bills.

Social validation is an integral part of being human and I do ponder on the rather cliched question as to whether any of us would actually go climbing if no-one - even close friends - ever knew.

6
Monk 13 Jun 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

I'm not sure about this. I'm not saying Facebook are saints with anything resembling a social conscience, but I don't think they can be entirely blamed for the way people (individuals who have the ability to exercise free will) behave. Social media is just a faster, more powerful version of what has always happened. You say climbers don't follow fashion, but I'm pretty sure as those lurid leggings in the 80s count as some kind of fashion following. Climbers have always been a self-identifying tribe with our own signals and trends. We've always trumpeted the hardest climbs, the latest styles, the new cool locations. Nothing has changed, it's just more instant and more obvious.

1
Arms Cliff 13 Jun 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

First image in this article is from 1939 to contrast with Dave's first picture https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/when-taking-the-train-was-a-sign-of-prosperity-8439710.html

aln 13 Jun 2019
In reply to Jonathan Lagoe - UKC:

> I do ponder on the rather cliched question as to whether any of us would actually go climbing if no-one - even close friends - ever knew.

I've done lots of climbing that no-one else knows about. Soloing, scrambling, bouldering, clambering over bits of rock when I'm alone....

DaveHK 13 Jun 2019
In reply to Arms Cliff:

> First image in this article is from 1939 to contrast with Dave's first picture https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/when-taking-the-train-was-a-sign-of-prosperity-8439710.html

Plus ca change.

In reply to aln:

And here you are telling us about it ;)    

7
planetmarshall 13 Jun 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

> David Pickford explains why, in his view, social media is detrimental to both the climbing community and our enjoyment of the sport.

It's rather ironic to accuse Facebook of spreading "lunatic conspiracy theories" when Pickford starts his article with one of his own.

There's some good content here but it's overwhelmed with what reads like a pub rant about Zuckerberg and some self-congratulatory references to authors of dystopian fiction. Yes, we've all read 1984.

1
aln 13 Jun 2019
In reply to Jonathan Lagoe - UKC:

Shhhh....

Paul Sagar 13 Jun 2019
In reply to planetmarshall:

Although I think comparing social media to Bentham’s panopticon is stretching it a bit, and my sense is the Chinese social credit experiment isn’t quite as horrific (or effective) as David seems to think, everything he is saying about Facebook and Google is fact, not conspiracy theory, and is documented as such by journalists and academics who’ve peered inside their inner workings. Read the books he’s referencing, as well as Martin Moore’s Democracy Hacked. Facebook and Google are the 21st Century equivalent of Big Tobacco. See also John Naughton’s stuff (eg in the Guardian or interviews on the Talking Politics podcast) on this.  

Post edited at 23:25
1
Karl Bromelow 14 Jun 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Is this some kind of joke? Having read the article, which I thought mirrored a lot of my own concerns about social media, I decided to look at Dave's new project, BASE magazine. I clicked on the link and subscribed. I received two simultaneous emails to confirm subscription. To be sure, to be sure I confirmed on both emails. The second confirmation took me to a message inviting me to visit the website which I did. Expecting it to be the BASE magazine website, imagine my surprise when I realised I was on some commercial adventure/expedition company website going by the name SECRET COMPASS. All the usual clickable Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc etc icons at the bottom of the page. Suspicious, I clicked on "About Us". No surprise really that, as with many businesses like this one, they revealed nothing at all about themselves, just a ton of hype and waffle. Intriguingly included was this paragraph: 

"Brand Projects

Secret Compass also delivers ground-breaking projects for brands in the world’s wildest places. We have worked with iconic brands including Sony, Mitsubishi, Jaegermeister, Nespresso, Xbox and Giro to create epic branded content that has reached millions online and in print. Visit Secret Compass Brand Projects online for more." 

All of this seems to be contradictory to the thrust of Dave Pickford's article. Is Dave aware of this? Are BASE and SECRET COMPASS linked? And, of course, BASE magazine has a Facebook page.

What's going on? 

Cheers, Karl

Post edited at 00:26
Tyler 14 Jun 2019
In reply to planetmarshall:

> Yes, we've all read 1984.

FAKE NEWS! I haven't 

bensilvestre 14 Jun 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Can't speak for anyone else but I canned FB about 6 months ago, and the difference to my mental wellbeing is certainly noticeable, if not subtle. A lot less time spent worrying about answering conversations/ arguments. A lot less FOMO/ jealousy about what other people are doing. Generally less concern with what people think of me. Less existential angst due to not being subject to FB algorithms which present me with a flood of news articles which will make me angry or sad, and therefore feel the need to enter mentioned conversations/ arguments. All of that leads to a greater enjoyment and experience of the present, and a greater ability to interact with the people who are actually in my life. I definitely have a greater ratio of intrinsic to extrinsic motivation now too. And I waste a lot less time. I read more. 

Maybe a lot of people wouldn't notice the difference, but if like me you're subject to depressive periods, I would highly recommend giving social media a rest, for a while at least.

I also got rid of the mirrors in my house, which is a lovely accompaniment.

This is a great podcast to listen to if you're interested in this debate - https://samharris.org/podcasts/152-trouble-facebook/

DaveHK 14 Jun 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

The panopticon is actually a very poor analogy for social media for a whole heap of reasons. 

The panopticon has a single watcher, the number of people watching any individual on social media varies hugely.There may not even be a watcher in the panopticon all the time.

In the panopticon every act could be observed whereas we mostly choose what we put on social media. 

The theory of the panopticon was that the threat of observation would lead to inmates regulating their behaviour. There might be some element of this on social media but the opposite also occurs.

In the panopticon the inmates had no interaction with the watcher or other inmates. On social media there may be lurkers but there is also interaction with those viewing your posts.

The inmates of the panopticon are just that. They are not there voluntarily nor are they free to leave in contrast to social media.

Inmates of the panopticon may commit certain acts gambling they will not be seen. We post on social media hoping it will be seen.

The panopticon was a prison and therefore populated by criminals who's behaviour needed to be controlled. Social media is populated by people from across society.

So no, I don't think the panopticon "is a perfect representation of the fundamental architecture of social media".

Post edited at 07:20
1
John2 14 Jun 2019
In reply to Paul Sagar:

The Chinese social credit system is a better analogy for Facebook than Pickford's choice of 1984. There are other things that are currently happening in China that are straight out of 1984 - the use of facial recognition technology to repress the Muslim Uyghur population and the arrest of members of the Beijing University Marxist Society for protesting against the condition of factory workers. They subsequently appeared in videos confessing their 'crimes' showing signs of having been roughed up.

As for Pickford's article, I soon lost interest. If you don't want Facebook to know about you then don't use Facebook. Pickford has worked this out for himself, and Facebook is nothing like a system of state-enforced repression.

1
AlanLittle 14 Jun 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

> On a commuter train in Tokyo, Japan, the consequences of digital addiction are strikingly obvious.

Decided not to read further after this line of utter bollocks. You could have taken that picture thirty years ago with everybody hidden behind a newspaper or a book, yet nobody would have spouted trite clichés about "paper addiction".

5
DaveHK 14 Jun 2019
In reply to John2:

> As for Pickford's article, I soon lost interest. If you don't want Facebook to know about you then don't use Facebook. Pickford has worked this out for himself, and Facebook is nothing like a system of state-enforced repression.

I agree with this. It's an ill thought out rant / polemic loosely dressed up as something more sophisticated.

We can be as harsh as we like in our criticism of it secure in the knowledge that the author won't see those criticisms. ; )

Post edited at 09:12
2
TobyA 14 Jun 2019
In reply to Karl Bromelow:

That's interesting. I've also signed up, we shall see if anything comes of it. I think Dave and Ian Parnell were quite upset at about how when Climb (which they edited) as a magazine folded and they went over to a purely online version of Climb, how that also very quickly got killed off (lost some funding I guess?). Because I was a contributor to Climb, I was in contact with Ian in particular, and it very understandably seemed to upset him.

I'm not saying Dave's article should be seen purely in the light of him having edited a print magazine that died in the internet age, but surely that have had some impact on his views.

Personally I'm still at a stage where I find Facebook more useful than worrying. I've been reading about echo chamber effects for nearly two decades - I bought Cass Sunstein's "Republic.com" when it came out in paperback, and it was published in 2001 interestingly! So long long before FB. Of course it happens, but it means if you aren't interested in weird political fringe stuff and don't have extreme views yourself, you stay in a bubble on Facebook and don't see any of that stuff. My facebook feed is climbing and outdoor gear discussions, gravel bikes, mountain biking in the Peak District, bikepacking and what my friends around Europe are up to. All the political stuff tends to be very interesting to me because so many of my Facebook friends are a similar age, education, work background and so on, even if they are Norwegian or Czech, not British. Its interesting that only in some long Peak District mountain bike threads do I see people with Brexit Party flags or similar for their photos.

The worrying bit is all the stuff on Facebook that the algorithms are never going to show me. Carole Cadwalladr talking on a recent episode of Slate's Trumpcast https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/06/brexit-media-and-the-uk-in-trump-times.html was really interesting on this - particularly on her reporting somewhere in S Wales and how so many people there had their views formed through stuff they saw on Facebook that had no connection to their lived experiences, and is also stuff that I, in fluffy gravel-bike/anti Brexit meme/what's the best ice screw-Facebook will never see.

Post edited at 09:36
1
Paul Sagar 14 Jun 2019
In reply to bensilvestre:

I did exactly the same, and the benefits to me were exactly as you describe. 

The creepiest thing, though, was that for at least 6 months after I quite Facebook I would find myself subconsciously hitting control-A then "f" in the search of my internet browsers, bringing me to the Facebook log in page - without even realising I had done it. "Addiction"? Yeah, I'd say that's not too strong a term. 

bensilvestre 14 Jun 2019
In reply to Paul Sagar:

I did a very similar thing! Creepy, but then I'd often smile to myself and think "ah yes, I don't waste my time on there any more". And then open the kindle app, or get on with whatever I was doing.

Edit -

The funny thing is, people often state that they would do the same, but feel that they would fall out of touch, or miss out on interesting debates. But since quitting FB I make a much more concerted effort to stay in touch with people due to not being drip fed images of everything they do, and have far more real conversations with them too. And even the conversations are better quality - the style of debate which occurs on social media (and UKC for that matter, though to a lesser degree) is often fuelled by what seems to be a perceived invincibility, not dissimilar to road rage. Maybe its just me, but I feel like conversation loses something crucial when people can't read body language, or hear intonations.

Post edited at 10:09
Paul Sagar 14 Jun 2019
In reply to bensilvestre:

Agree with all that. In particular, the only people i’ve lost touch with since leaving FB are people I didn’t really want to stay in touch with anyway. 

Damo 14 Jun 2019
In reply to TobyA:

>

> I'm not saying Dave's article should be seen purely in the light of him having edited a print magazine that died in the internet age, but surely that have had some impact on his views.

Although that aspect occurred to me, I didn't necessarily think it affected the piece. I remember many of Dave's editorials were quite thoughtful and relatively intellectual, and he clearly (to me from a great distance) had a deeper artistic side that social media doesn't really cultivate.

> Personally I'm still at a stage where I find Facebook more useful than worrying.

Me too, it's great. For all those people dumping it who live in cities or climbing areas with lots of friends, yay for you. I live outside a country town in Australia, realistically 2hrs from the nearest climbing and there are basically zero climbers in my town. But because of my expedition life and travels over 25 years I have friends and colleagues all over the world and Facebook is great for keeping in contact and sharing what we do. There's a reason it's so popular and powerful.

All the fake news and clickbait? If you're not able to either filter that out or see through it instantly then you probably have bigger problems than Zuckerberg. I see lots of alternative views, many infuriating, many hilariously stupid, but I still just live my life and do my things, learn a lot, be entertained, and only argue or discuss things I know well and I think worth it, and stick to the same rule I always did on here, that I won't post anything I wouldn't say to the person's face.

Tbh, I do wish for a dedicated website that was just news and relevant info about alpinism, but I can see that would have limited commercial appeal and like all websites, would eventually rely on Facebook so much for reach and sharing that it be subsumed.

mattrm 14 Jun 2019
In reply to TobyA:

> That's interesting. I've also signed up, we shall see if anything comes of it. I think Dave and Ian Parnell were quite upset at about how when Climb (which they edited) as a magazine folded and they went over to a purely online version of Climb, how that also very quickly got killed off (lost some funding I guess?). Because I was a contributor to Climb, I was in contact with Ian in particular, and it very understandably seemed to upset him.

Just to derail the thread, but I'm still upset that Climber has survived, when Climb has not.  I was really hoping for the digital version to do well, but it barely seemed to get started before stopping.  I keep hoping they'll do something similar again but say, quarterly or something.

David Wynne 14 Jun 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

> David Pickford explains why, in his view, social media is detrimental to both the climbing community and our enjoyment of the sport.

Agree with all the issues raised about social media and surveillance. The obsession with which I see people observing other peoples projected lives and the need to project their own is alarming. These projections are scrubbed down and polished up with all negatives eradicated. These projections then lead to feelings of inadequacy in the observer who in response scrubb's down and polishes up their own projection and on goes the viscious cycle.

I don't however accept the statement that "social media is an enormous obstacle to achievement". Those obstacles already existed long before social media. Obstacles such as social class, race, gender, wealth are the real show stoppers to achievement at whatever endeavour. And climbing unfortunately could be shown to be one of the most unequal. A quick thumb through 'The Who's Who of British Climbing' for example very quickly highlights the unequal balance of success in British climbing and whilst the trend for women's success improves it's not exactly trailblazing.

All actions and engagements (and lack thereof) within a society reflect that society. We live in a society that is unequal in terms of race, class and gender and this is reflected in the climbing community and social media. Social media can and does focus on these inequalities but it is not the root cause of them.

So I agree dump the high end social media, look up from your smart phone screens, talk, enjoy the climbing for the places it takes you to and the positive relationships it forms with friends.

2
AlanLittle 14 Jun 2019
In reply to Damo:

> Tbh, I do wish for a dedicated website that was just news and relevant info about alpinism

Is http://www.alpinist.com/ not precisely this?

Damo 14 Jun 2019
In reply to AlanLittle:

> Is http://www.alpinist.com/ not precisely this?

No, unfortunately it's not. And I say that as having been one of the magazine's Correspondents from the beginning.

Where is their article on the FA of the north face of Chamlang last month?

Where is their coverage of the attempted FA of the NW ridge of Dhaulagiri last month?

Where is their forum for alpinists to discuss alpinism?

fotoVUE 15 Jun 2019
In reply to TobyA:

> Personally I'm still at a stage where I find Facebook more useful than worrying. 

You must be busy Toby, if you get time, do read The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, and I can also recommend The Privacy Project at the New York Times (worth the subscription for that on-going series alone).

I'm confused by David's article, and also his lack of response to Karl Bromelow's question, Is this some kind of joke?

David is well read on the issues of social media and his list is fairly comprehensive.

However, his solution is to try and escape. On a personal level that may work (but you may have to ditch your phone as well), however if you run a business, be it being a model-athlete, or perhaps launching a new outdoor media project, like David's https://www.base-mag.com/ .   .........social media with its 'apparent' reach (and you will pay to play, organic reach through likes/shares is minuscule) is, annoyingly, very difficult to avoid.

Mick Ryan

1
Mike Stretford 17 Jun 2019
In reply to UKC Articles: This reads like a rant from a recovering alcoholic who can't appreciate that others can moderate their drinking. I have 3 social media accounts (including this one), and I just don't share Dave's experiences. I use them like a would have picked up a newspaper in days gone by.....and put it down again!

Not impressed by the use of that silly phrase 'virtue-signalling' in a serious context. That is one that should stay on social media.

TobyA 17 Jun 2019
In reply to fotoVUE:

> You must be busy Toby, if you get time, do read The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, and I can also recommend The Privacy Project at the New York Times (worth the subscription for that on-going series alone).

It's like I said this is my personal experience of using Facebook, not what I know about Facebook's negative impact on the world more generally. That's the scary thing, if you're an educated liberal-leaning metropolitan American you never see the Russian paid for weird tension raising pro-Trump propaganda, just like in the UK if you are a left-leaning educated and international-minded type you don't see the dodgy Brexit stuff.

Who uses WhatsApp? Probably many of us - it works well, it's free, it doesn't have intrusive advertising etc. etc. It has also been cited as the major distributor of fake news in the run up to the recent Indian and Brazilian general elections. In the case of India, WhatsApp has been directly linked to a number of mob killings after lies were spread about someone in minority community over WhatsApp.

1
John2 17 Jun 2019
In reply to TobyA:

'Who uses WhatsApp?'

You probably know this already, but it's used by terrorists and drug dealers because its messages are encrypted to a standard that the CIA are unable to decrypt. This raises the rather more substantial issue of whether the owners of WhatsApp should be obliged to provide a method for law officers to decrypt messages sent by serious criminals.

Of course, there are many valid reasons for wishing your messages to be encrypted - if you are transferring your banking details to someone else, for example.

In reply to UKC Articles:

Loving the irony.... an article attacking social media platforms published on a social media platform (a forum)...... 

2
Damo 18 Jun 2019
In reply to John2:

> This raises the rather more substantial issue of whether the owners of WhatsApp should be obliged to provide a method for law officers to decrypt messages sent by serious criminals.

"Messages are garbled using code which means no one else can get to it … not even WhatsApp itself can go into their database and pull out a message and turn it into a readable format," Mr Byrne said.

He said the messaging service could not simply open users' accounts using passwords.

"If they could, that would fundamentally mean that its security had a major flaw inside it and anyone who had access to WhatsApp's server systems would then be able to unlock any account," he said.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-18/missing-backpackers-whatsapp-data-could-lead-to-breakthrough/11217966

Donny M 18 Jun 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

I’ve read every reply and it’s insane that some of the respondents who have written the most sound like they have the least grasp on the reality of these technologies out of them all, replies that are completely off the mark or misunderstanding of the point with dozens of likes too. 

6
DaveHK 19 Jun 2019
In reply to Donny M:

Would you like to elaborate on why you think some posters have it so wrong?

Post edited at 06:18
1
mysterion 20 Jun 2019
In reply to DaveHK:

Why bother, leave them to it

Post edited at 01:48
Martin W 20 Jun 2019
In reply to John2:

> This raises the rather more substantial issue of whether the owners of WhatsApp should be obliged to provide a method for law officers to decrypt messages sent by serious criminals.

For those who don't know, Whatsapp has been a Facebook subsidiary since 2014.  And yes, they do share data, even though Facebook told the European Commission prior to the takeover that it was "technically impossible" for them to do that.  (Though honestly, anyone in the EC with half a brain cell should have known that this was a bald-faced lie.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WhatsApp#Recent_(2016%E2%80%93present)

Martin W 20 Jun 2019
Flinticus 24 Jun 2019
In reply to Jonathan Lagoe - UKC:

So the lack of others saying similar to aln? Is that because they have and are not telling or haven't and have nothing to tell?

Flinticus 24 Jun 2019
In reply to nickinscottishmountains:

Fight fire with fire?

What other medium would be as effective? Print? Placard on the High Street? Smoke signals?


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