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Stephen Fry Urges Young To Flee 'Dystopian' Social Networks 270

An anonymous reader writes: English writer, presenter and activist Stephen Fry has urged his fans to abandon social networks, comparing such platforms to 'dystopian' forms of government seen in 1970s sci-fi films such as Logan's Run and Soylent Green. In a 2,600-word essay, the comedian, who had over four million Twitter followers prior to deleting his account in February, also compared the 'surveilled conformity' of social media to the unreal state of society depicted in The Matrix. "Who most wants you to stay on the grid? The advertisers. Your boss. Human Resources. The advertisers. Your parents (irony of ironies -- once they distrusted it, now they need to tag you electronically, share your Facebook photos and message you to death). The advertisers. The government. Your local authority. Your school. Advertisers," he writes. "Well, if you're young and have an ounce of pride, doesn't that list say it all?"
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Stephen Fry Urges Young To Flee 'Dystopian' Social Networks

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  • But (Score:5, Funny)

    by irrational_design ( 1895848 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2016 @11:49AM (#51947809)

    But, but, but... without social media how can I create a fake version of myself to make all of my "friends" envious so they Like me?

    • by sinij ( 911942 )
      The good old way, by up keeping up with the Joneses.
      • Re:But (Score:4, Interesting)

        by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2016 @12:34PM (#51948279)

        That requires crippling debt. Today's young are already crippled by more debt than they can ever pay off in their life times

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Drethon ( 1445051 )
          Well time is money, one could spend time instead of money. Or is that too much?
        • Re:But (Score:4, Insightful)

          by thinkwaitfast ( 4150389 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2016 @01:05PM (#51948621)
          Or you could just be a decent person. It doesn't require any money.
          • by sinij ( 911942 )

            Or you could just be a decent person. It doesn't require any money.

            This won't achieve GGP's stated goals.

        • What are these crippling debts? Two things come to mind: student loans and mortgages. A typical mortgage runs 25-30 years and the monthly payments have repayment of the debt already factored in (if you have any annuitary or lineair mortgage), and according to the WSJ, US student loans are on average $35k. That's a lot, and alarmingly higher than the average of only a decade ago, but certainly not something that you cannot repay in a reasonable time frame.

          Not sure how it is in the US, but one problem h
          • Many young people are not buying houses, and many are not able to afford rent on their own. The amount of adults living with parents today has skyrocketed from 30 years ago. The amount of renters and shared rent agreements has also skyrocketed in that same time.

            College loans of 35K are certainly not high, but if you don't make enough money to live on you are going to pay the minimums.

            • Well, getting a degree in something useful instead of "Liberal Arts" or "Basketweaving" is a good start to helping your financial security

        • Re:But (Score:5, Informative)

          by lgw ( 121541 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2016 @01:45PM (#51949105) Journal

          Today's young are already crippled by more debt than they can ever pay off in their life times

          The US national debt is over $160,000 [] per taxpayer. Great gift to our kids to go with their college loans. Unfunded liabilities are over $850,000 per taxpayer, so just over a million total. I'm sure today's youth will get right on paying that while I'm in retirement. (And yet, suggest on /. that maybe we could spend a bit less and someone will reply asking "why don't you move to Somalia", as if the extremes were our only choices.)

          Another fun stat: the total value of all assets in America is slightly less than the total of various government debts and unfunded liabilities. This will inevitably end in "but though we had plenty of money, there was nothing our money could buy," which is actually good news for those under crippling personal debt, as enough inflation fixes that problem.

    • Get some unlimited web hosting for the cost of a about one cheap meal a month, install free blog software on it, and craft your fake online persona there, where you control the information, not Facebook/Twitter/whoever.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ultranova ( 717540 )

      But, but, but... without social media how can I create a fake version of myself to make all of my "friends" envious so they Like me?

      Make a Slashdot account and post comments designed to be modded +5 Funny.

  • Additional reading (Score:5, Informative)

    by sinij ( 911942 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2016 @11:53AM (#51947859)
    Many prominent security researchers already spoke out against it. Including Bruce Schneier [] on his blog and in his recent 'Data and Goliath' book. No affiliation.
  • Social networks are what you make of them. I have not read his essay, but from OP alone it seems to me that there's a distinction to be made here, between "doing it right" and "doing it wrong".
    • by jma05 ( 897351 )

      To some extent, sure. But the medium is the message []
      As explored in Marshall McLuhan's The Medium Is the Massage []

    • The irony (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Slashdot is a social network.

      Social networks are what you make of them. I have not read his essay, ....

      Social networks are just noise. It's just people all screaming in the net to have their uninformed two-bit opinions heard and their pathetic little lives recognized.

      Social media is just like an addictive drug [] but worth less.

    • I would argue that you are incorrect.

      It's not the social part, but the NETWORK part.

      There is minimal, if any benefit to the USER of networking your blog/web page with your email, games, music, online comments, and other social activities etc.

      But the network itself gets huge advertisement based financial rewards for doing so.

      This means that social networks by definition are an exchange of minor convenience (single login) for a major privacy invasion. As such, they are not and never have been what you make t

      • by fishb0ne ( 1190195 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2016 @12:54PM (#51948501) Journal
        I suppose I should have provided this context to begin with. I use Facebook. None of what Stephen talks about applies to me. I use Facebook to strictly keep in touch with close friends and family. I don't click on ads, I don't click on videos, I don't post pictures of my breakfast, lunch, dinner. I don't have my profile publicly available. I am extremely strict with whom is on my list of friends and what I share. Social media platforms are tools and they can easily be misused. Their misuse is the issue, not their existence.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Anything you type to your friends, you "share" with facebook and advertisers. Things like your thoughts, your opinions, your ideas, your desires, your beliefs, etc. Facts like your birthday, your financial state, your location, your health.

          Knowledge is power, and facebook and advertising companies have a lot of power over people.

        • Their misuse is the issue, not their existence.

          Couldn't the same thing be said about heroin?

        • I use Facebook to strictly keep in touch with close friends and family.

          And why can't email and/or instant messaging be used instead?

          • For one thing, a lot of my friends and family are on Facebook, and I'm not going to communicate with them well by email or IM. For another, I'm bad at keeping up distance relationships like that, and I enjoy finding out about friends and family I otherwise would not keep up with.

        • by jernejk ( 984031 )

          LOL. You are still being data mined, at least by Facebook (and the government).

          Just now I'm doing a showcase with facebook data... it's crazy what's in there, even if you "don't share".

        • by Tarmas ( 954439 )

          I don't click on ads

          In Soviet Russia, ads clicks on you!

    • Sorry the message I got from the summary was advertisers want you to use social media because buy more crap.

    • Social networks are a tool - Yep!
      Social networks are what you make of them - Not exactly...

      They are a tool alright, but not a tool for you! You are the product, not the client. Make of it what you want (you may be able to extract some utility for yourself), but that bit won't change.

    • Social networks are a tool

      And people who use social networks are tools.

      The Universe really does balance itself!

    • Don't know His Fryness? You miss out: a good man, even outside his more well-known TV comedy roles. Attracts a lot of the nastier sort of internet trolls who want to make him attempt suicide again.

      Much of the internet is a nasty place, and I would not want to live in it full-time. A trolling of some innocent can make me incoherent. A nasty piece of porn can put me off humanity altogether; if they are having fun, why does no-one ever smile? Gaze into 4chan and beyond, and see Hell. But if you totally unpl

  • I need to get off my ass and set up a set of GNU Social and Diaspora nodes and experiment with some of the distributed/federated social networking. I realize a lot of it is broken with many projects being abandoned or merged, but I feel like I should find what's out there that works and try to get people on other social networks I'm on to migrate. If I can get a subset of just a few people to actively use an alternative, I'd be encouraged to help develop for those platforms.

    Unfortunately I have two other ma

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) *

      What we need is a concerted effort to develop Free Software distributed/federated/p2p alternatives to all the major centralized services. Not just social networks [], but even things like search [].

  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2016 @12:15PM (#51948091) Journal

    Try living without a credit card and you will be interrogated and detained every time you come back through customs. Absence of information is very suspicious. Obviously we are hiding something.

    • Try living without a credit card and you will be interrogated and detained every time you come back through customs.

      Hmm. I've been through US customs before, and I've never been asked to present a credit card for anything...?

    • by JustNiz ( 692889 )

      I dont have a credit card, have travelled quite a lot, and have never had that problem.
      I have a mortgage and have had car loans though, maybe something like that is enough.

  • by irrational_design ( 1895848 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2016 @12:21PM (#51948149)

    This reminds me of a related issue. Apparently every teenager, except for my daughter, has a smart phone. This is assumed to such an extent that the high school teachers regularly incorporate their use into their lessons. At first they don't believe my daughter when they ask her why she isn't participating and she informs them that she doesn't have a phone (a few have actually sent her to the office for lying to them about not having a phone). Once she convinces them that she really doesn't have a phone they regularly berate her for messing up their lesson plans. I've complained to the school authorities, who assure me that a phone is not required, but to no avail. It is astonishing to me that the teachers can't comprehend that a teenager might not have a smart phone.

    • or an email address, or an ipad, etc. the teachers think it's cool to have homework require a smartphone instead of ideas. lazy.
    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      This is assumed to such an extent that the high school teachers regularly incorporate their use into their lessons.

      When we registered my daughter in highschool we had to tick off a box saying whether she had a laptop or tablet that would be provided for her to use at school. I think all of her classmates have something too. I think if we'd ticked the no box, the school has a small supply of tablets they give out as loaners.

      A phone is not required. And I find it doubtful your daughter actually needs a *phone*.

      It is astonishing to me that the teachers can't comprehend that a teenager might not have a smart phone.

      Every school district is different. But in ours, it *would* be pretty unusual for a student not to have a device.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 20, 2016 @01:10PM (#51948675)

      The school here made Facebook mandatory and they add more homework after what I considered bedtime. They also introduced the (mandatory) ability to upload the homework to the teacher. All this totally screwed my ability to filter/block to ensure a good night's sleep. On top of that, they made bringing a laptop to school mandatory as well as a net connection at home. Smartphones aren't used for teaching, but not owning one is justified reason for bullying according to some teachers.

      Back when I went to school, we used this thing called books and notebooks were made out of paper. You gave the assignments to the teacher at the start of the lecture and at the end, the teacher wrote the homework on the blackboard. After the teacher left, the homework would not be changed. There were no requirements to bring anything other than pencils and erasers. It was a wonderful setup as you could plan what you would do in the time where you were not at school and it would not suddenly be changed because some teacher decided to give homework for Monday at 7 PM on a Sunday. Using those crude learning tools, I learned enough math and physics and stuff to become an engineer. You know, I actually had to learn math and calculus using pen and paper, not some app where I would be lost without it.

      And don't get me started with Common Core. Common Core math seems to be designed to avoid understanding the underlying math.

    • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

      How is this different from the school requiring you to buy textbooks for your daughter? Technology is advancing, and the ways we teach kids should adapt to that.

      • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2016 @03:51PM (#51950557)
        - It's harder to lose a textbook because it is only out when it is being used, a smartphone would get used for everything
        - No one is going to want to steal a textbook
        - A textbook can't do any of the things on the internet that a parent might also forbid
        - A textbook doesn't distract from classes or learning or face to face social activity
        - When it is lost or destroyed, a textbook is significantly cheaper to replace than a smartphone.
    • My two kids don't have smart phones either, basically because they tend to lose things and I feel they should be responsible before they have them. We go through the same issues.
  • by Sir_Eptishous ( 873977 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2016 @12:34PM (#51948277) Homepage
    Stephen Fry is, but his analysis of "social" networks is on the mark.

    When things like MySpace first came out, then FB, etc, and I started hearing from people, from institutions, from businesses, schools, everything, that I HAD to have an account on those networks, that struck me as wrong.

    Now, ten plus years later, I feel that way even stronger than when FB and the rest first showed up.

    When I started seeing access to things like Public Television/Radio stations, etc being FB only I knew something was very wrong.
    • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2016 @02:45PM (#51949885) Homepage Journal

      Fry? He's a comedian that rose to fame during the mid-1980s in Britain where he partnered with Hugh Laurie (more recently of "House" fame) and worked with Ben Elton and other comedians in the contemporary "Alternative Comedy" circuit, first coming to the public attention on "Saturday Live", a UK alt-com counter part to America's SNL. In addition to his (and Laurie's) show "A Bit of Fry and Laurie" he's famous for his roles in the Blackadder TV series.

      In the 21st Century he's been less prominent. He's bi-polar, and unfortunately his mental illness has probably contributed to some unfortunate clashes on social media, including some - ill advised and somewhat ironic considering his alt-com origins - complaints about "political correctness" including an attack on rape victims which he's since walked back.

      I think he's a decent guy, but not one that's comfortable with the way media and "what it means to be a celebrity" works in 2016.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 20, 2016 @12:40PM (#51948365)

    someone wrote a 2,600-word essay in 2016 and expects people to read it? can't he do an infographic?

  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2016 @12:44PM (#51948401) Journal
    If there's any type of person you should listen to, it's this man.
  • Common Sense (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tom229 ( 1640685 ) on Wednesday April 20, 2016 @12:52PM (#51948481)
    This should be common sense to anyone over the age of 20. Social media does not help you, at least not how it's currently designed. To have one or two American, for-profit, companies have complete power and control over the entire worlds digital social existence is staggeringly irresponsible. I don't think Orwell could even have dreamt up a more efficient tool for control, manipulation, and corruption.
  • They began leaving when peepaw and meemaw befriended them years ago,

  • Stephen Fry has *always* been a pompous jackass. For example, the entire premise of QI is "Stephen Fry gets to demonstrate how much smarter he is than you".

    He is quite entertaining, but that does not mean he is not also a jerk.

  • Is it ironic or sad that he announced this by posting to his website?

    Shouldn't he have just sent this in a letter to everyone he knew?

    • Websites and social networks are not the same thing.

      Well, in some sense they are -- there's not really anything a social network provides the user that a private website wouldn't -- but in the same sense that your private bedroom and a cot in a shelter are both "the same thing".

  • Has been opened. I have friends all over the world whom I would never have met were it not for social media. I met my wife in Second Life, and at the time, we lived 3000 miles apart. Humans are connecting creatures, and I think it's too late to reverse the social evolution toward using technology to connect. Even if you were to personally decide to only connect with people you can physically meet, whom would you talk to? Everyone else has their head buried in their smart phones. The very act of attemp

The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom.