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Episode Two: Can We Ever Really Log Off?

Posted by Sarah Edelstein on

This is less a redaction and more a "hey fuck I didn't look into this well enough before writing about it, and now that I've actually done some digging, I want to talk about what I've learned."  Looking deeper into the boycott which spurred yesterday's post into motion, I'm actually seeing a lot that I disagree with.  I'm realizing that, in my flurry to react for the call to boycott, I forgot the most important step in any critical analysis, which is: look at who the fuck is speaking and figure out **why.** After a more in-depth look at the original call for boycott, I am finding myself disagreeing with a few things:

1. I am skeptical of a small-scale boycott's power to effect change when dealing with a multi-billion dollar company like Facebook if the main tactic is logging off. In fact, I would venture that Instagram actually wants people who are antagonistic to its bottom line to log off. It has plenty of users...it doesn't need us and in a lot of cases it doesn't want us.

2. I am confused and curious as to the timing of this boycott. December 21-31 is a pretty convenient time to log off, and it seems like (given that many people are offline during the holidays anyway) it's not making as great an impact as, for example, a boycott that doesn't occur over two bank holidays. This is another mea culpa, originally I thought it was just a one-day walk out (December 20) and that's on me for not looking for the OP.

3. I'm wondering/questioning who this boycott serves. Initially, I'd been led to believe that this boycott was being organized by and for full-time SWers who would be most impacted by IG's new TOS. From what I'm now learning, that's not necessarily true. And in fact the OP is facing pretty intense criticism, a lot of which reads (to me) as valid.

4. There are a lot of people who, for whatever reason, simply cannot log off right now. Honestly, in 2020, logging off (when you use IG for your income) is a privilege: it likely means you've reached a sales quota or fundraising goal and you can call it a day. So many people do not have that option right now. I don't know if leaving our comrades behind on the platform while we all walk away and throw our phones into the ocean makes any sense at all. Aren't there more meaningful ways to change the material conditions for the communities we care about? Didn't we learn things from the "black square" phenomenon (thank you shelby for reminding me about this, I didn't see how intense that similarity was until you said so).

......

All of this said, I think there are some strategies to be gleaned here that do make sense, namely the call for folks to start diversifying their social media strategy. (Is that actually activism? I'm not sure.) The need to begin or accelerate the process of divesting from Instagram is a very real thing...all of us who use Instagram as a primary income source need to be reminded that it's not generally a great idea to hand total control of our revenue over to a corporation that hates us and could shut our pages down at any time. But what this boycott gets wrong is that it believes we can make those adjustments to our business models overnight, and for most of us that simply isn't the case. Developing a meaningful presence on Twitter, TikTok, etc. may take months or even years, and those other platforms are going to pose many of the same challenges and threats that Facebook/Instagram does currently. Unfortunately congress kind of dropped the ball on actually regulating Silicon Valley (and our data, and our rights to privacy) a long time ago.

So...what's the answer here? I'll tell you!...I don't know. Ultimately, any approach that goes directly to the app (rather than zooming out to look at what societal conditions the app exists in) will fail. That's not to say it's impossible to organize for better conditions on social media...it's just to say that it may be impossible to do so on such a minuscule scale, with so little buy-in, and with very few voices in the room that represent the people most effected by the marginalizing policies of Instagram and its overlords. And, not to sound like a total asshole, but I don't know if a mass log-off over Christmas is...activism? Like, I'm almost 100% sure that's not activism?

Anyway, this has been my redaction-that's-not-really-a-redaction-because-I'm-horrified-to-admit-that-I-am-often-wrong. I wish you a merry week of logging off or on. Keep your wits about you and be safe out there. I love you.

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