Do you really exist on social media, or is it just an online persona?

As for my given name, I let Mr. Johnson to pick it out for me, but I made it clear that the name “Frederick” was off limits.
For my own sanity, I have to cling to that. A Life: A Narrative by Frederick Douglass The system automatically labels any content you create that includes text, an image, and your name. A database is used to store it.

The mental picture you have is of yourself as a database entry in a server farm you’ve never set foot in. People react to what you write and what you post, so that verifies your existence. You are a virtual being. There’s just one catch: you don’t.

The “persona illusion” is the widespread fallacy that one’s identity is reducible to a data point. Individuality is typically established through one’s level of independence, or lack thereof. The usage of the first-person pronoun “I” and the recollection of past experiences aren’t the only reasons you’re confident in your own existence. When you can decide for yourself whether or not to do something—like cross the street—or when you are prevented from doing so—when you are under duress—then you know you exist.

You have no control over what others say about you on social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Twitter, Telegram, etc. You can’t make a decision because you have no options. You can only choose from a limited set of actions, as determined solely by the platform owner, such as “post,” “tweet,” “like,” “retweet,” “follow,” and “unfollow,” and maybe a couple of privacy controls, if you’re lucky, determining whether the entire world or just your “friends” can see your activity.

You can only take the actions available to you in that restricted set of choices. Beyond those few buttons, you have no control over how your name and your likeness is circulated, endlessly, throughout the social realm. Meta Properties, Twitter, Bytedance, etc. all have no say over the platform because the database controls everything and is owned and maintained by them.

There is no “You” or “I” because there is no autonomy, unless you are superstitious and think that having your name on a Facebook page implies “being.” What seems to be a “I” or “You” is actually just the database recycling words and pictures you typed over and over again.

One’s ability to maintain the same online persona across numerous platforms has been argued to be a necessary condition for true identification. Thanks to your “linktr.ee,” or “everything you are in one location,” you may maintain a consistent identity across different contexts.

A database that stores pointers to other databases that have your name but are not yours is not autonomous; it is merely a stacking of databases.

Famous American thinker and public figure Frederick Douglass said in his autobiography about the importance of having a name of one’s own choosing. Douglass learned the hard way that this alone is not enough to establish one’s identity. Taking one’s own name is the result of hard-won independence, not its cause. To think differently is to live in a condition of denial, or of excessive luxury.

For what lies beneath social media, or linktr.ee, and the persona illusion, is a declination into an existence devoid of all agency.

There are a few different interpretations of the lack of independence. You do not own your information, the things that make you who you are to the extent that you exist. It’s a part of the data set. Even while Facebook and other platforms claim they will not share users’ personal information with third parties, this is nothing more than a marketing promise. That implies the only way to guarantee the safety of your private information and, by extension, your identity, is through a contract, and the reliability of such an arrangement is questionable at best.

Even while the UN recognises the right to freedom from exile as a fundamental human right, you do not have such protection on social media. In the case of social media, exile is a strong word for what appears to be a shopping mall.  After all, social media platforms like Twitter, Bytedance, and Meta function like an online mall. Logic tells you that the mall owner or the real estate owner who leases to the mall should be able to have mall security remove you from the premises if you establish an identity there.

However, keep in mind that because your information is not your own, as we’ve already established, you stand to lose a significant portion of your online identity if you get banned from a social media site.
Because you don’t own your data, asking to be removed from a mall by security is akin to begging to have a piece of what you see as your life and identity taken away.

A ban is possible, and it has happened before. According to Facebook’s Terms of Service, “we may suspend or permanently disable your access to Meta Company Products, and we may permanently disable or delete your account, if we determine, in our discretion, that you have clearly, seriously, or repeatedly breached our Terms or Policies, including in particular the Community Standards.”

Many people can think of at least one person they would like to banish from their lives forever.
However, exile is not something to be taken lightly, and the decision to go into exile should be left to the people as a whole, rather than to any one business.

The loss of control over one’s personal data is a direct precursor to the loss of control over one’s digital existence, and poses a direct danger to basic human rights.

Although free speech is protected by law in many nations, including the United States and, once again, the United Nations, this does not apply to your use of social media. Without user control, platforms like Meta’s administrators must approve all content.
Everything mentioned fits within the parameters of the “content guidelines.” So-called “content” is gradually replacing all human communication.

Again, at first glance, it may be difficult to detect any problems with it. It’s a strange claim to free speech if all you’re doing is reposting and tweeting from a database. A person’s right to control their own property, including an utterance database, should be unrestricted.

Except that the seller of a social media site like Twitter claims authority to make and exclude your speech because all speech is progressively being turned into content. If a social media platform doesn’t approve your content for publishing, you have no “voice” in that space. What would have been speech, in other words, becomes nothing more than a creation of, and the property of, a social media owner.

For a property owner to enlist your work as their content, and then hold unquestioned authority over your work, including the ability to restrict your speech, is a violation of autonomy. It is an over-reach that seeks to limit the most precious of human cognitive faculties.

Worse, for the platform owner to privilege the content of “creators” — the most desirable and popular name brands on the platform — as platform owners increasingly do, creates a forever tiered society, where everyone is ranked and rated and privileged in their speech by the platform owner.

That ranking and rating of certain identities as better than others, what is these days referred to as the “creator economy,” is bitterly ironic. For, another potential violation of human and civil rights on social media is the lack of a right to property, something that, again, the United Nations has declared a fundamental human right.

Nothing on social media is really yours, it all belongs to the platform owner, as specified in the terms of service. You type things into the database, your name is attached to those things, and you’re a creator, but not an owner.

Behind that facade, the Terms of Service mean there are no real rights to what is basically an unpaid “work-for-hire” on the part of creators. It’s like the old debate in the world of pro sports: Who creates more of the value, the players or the team owner? Except, on social media, the players, the creators, don’t even exist as far as having a stake because of their efforts. They are merely a creation of the owners.

Thus, creators, as the most privileged among social media participants, are still just a name that is used by the platform for its own purpose. Their utterances are content that is the highly ranked property of the platform. Creators sit a level or two above those who have no privilege, but the creators still belong to the exploited. Exploitation on social media, it turns out, has levels of misery.

Increasingly, then, the persona illusion that makes you think you have an identity and an existence is merely a facade to cover up a narrow set of user capabilities” that have been provided under a very restrictive commercial license.nThe more you exist in the world of that persona illusion, the more you get sucked in to a world where you have no rights at all, and therefore, no autonomy, and therefore no existence.

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