Which social medium is most useless, annoying, or harmful?

February 23, 2020 • 12:15 pm

And here’s another poll to while away the time. This came to me when I was watching a television show yesterday about Chicago food and it praised a restaurant for having “Instagrammable food”. That immediately turned me off. Yes, food should be pretty, and yes, I do post pictures of what I eat in restaurants, but putting food pictures up is not the main reason I eat. And I’m well aware that for many people—especially the odious “influencers”—Instagram is nothing more than a way of showing off, either showing what you look like or showing what you consume (the latter to get goods and money).

I have no use for Instagram, and almost never look at it. I like Facebook simply because it allows me to connect with my friends (mostly real friends, as I don’t accept friend requests from somebody I don’t know or who doesn’t look like someone who could be my friend). Further, Facebook has lots of cool cat and other animal photos; in fact, I follow nearly as many animal-related sites as I do “friends”. Twitter I use to put up links to the posts at this site (and call attention to photos or articles that I think might interest people but don’t warrant a post on this site, but I don’t follow anyone there because I don’t have the time. And Twitter fights are about the most unproductive thing imaginable. I’ve never seen anybody change their mind in a Twitter squabble, and the site seems to bring the worst out in people.

My vote for the most useless social media site is Instagram, as it’s Solpsism Central; and my vote for the most harmful one (in terms of stirring up trouble and fostering hatred and division) is Twitter. That doesn’t mean that Twitter, on balance, reduces social well being—only that it does more to injure well being than other sites.

But here, you vote. And if you don’t want to vote, weigh in below.

The first poll is about which site is the most “useless”, that is, adds the least value to the planet:

And another poll. By “harmful” I mean “on balance, creates the greatest reduction in well being or the least total improvement in well being”.

And post comments below.


66 thoughts on “Which social medium is most useless, annoying, or harmful?

  1. Abstained because insufficiently informed about every site.


    I’d have to say the most useful of the choices would be Tw1773r

  2. I don’t like Facebook but that is where I connect with family. I post innocuously to Instagram and follow it because that’s where my grandkids are. I read Twitter a lot. I only follow politically progressive people, and I find out there about events before they show up anywhere else.

  3. I voted because i wanted to see the results. I have a Facebook account I vist twice a year, I do not have a Twitter or Instagram account.
    I voted for twitter as the worst, because of Mr Trump’s inane tweeting.
    I gues that with some effort one could find something interesting on any of them.

  4. What is the most useless social media? Other (all of the above). What is the most dangerous? Farcebook. Unless another platform takes up the mantle of aiding and abetting Putin’s re-election of tRump.

  5. I don’t use Instagram. I’m conflicted regarding Facebook because of friends vs. social harm from bot propaganda. Also, the amount of woo and nonsense in nearly suffocating. But still I don’t give it up.

    1. I’ve found some groups good. I love Crap Bird Photography because I can make joke captions and it is endless belly laughs because the people in e group all have a great sense of humour and are sharp witted. I also follow groups for ailments like some Achilles’ tendon groups and migraine groups. I have to be careful with the ailment groups though as it freaks me out when I see a lot of people suffering and I get too anxious. Then it’s time for Crap Bird Photography!!

      1. Re: “ailment groups”: I keep up with a great friend from high school on FB. She has had her health issues, and has recently had successful surgery. In one posting she asked for prayers for the success of the surgery. I mention that only to say that I’ve noticed the occasional respondent taking it as an opportunity to let the universe know of his/her own health issues/impending surgery, and to seek prayers. I view this as monumentally disrespectful and as some kind of despicable virtue signaling and commandeering of another’s FB page, and exploitation of another’s fragile health status, and I struggle (successfully, so far) to resist responding to that effect to the virtue signaler in order to not instigate chaos and conflict on my friend’s FB page.

        I’d like to think that nowadays, even more so than in earlier times, a hand-written note in the mail – considering the time taken and needed to make it a reality in an otherwise attention-deficited world – is even more treasured. I remember in the pre-internet navy, after “mail call,” walking about the decks of the ship and watching sailors stopped in their tracks, leaning against this or that bulkhead, taking in and savoring every word from loved ones on the printed page.

        1. Yeah I notice that too and then there are the actual posts that are complete virtue signalling talking about something good they did or if they prefer something good – mostly all about “look at me”, “see me”, “praise me”. I’m usually bitching about something that angered me or posting jokes. I’m sure both things annoy some people.

          A friend posted a few days asking for prayers for a sick loved one. I expressed my concern and said she was in my thoughts. I wasn’t going to give prayers but I didn’t want her to think that I didn’t care either.

  6. I like Twitter. I don’t like Facebook.

    Someone created a meme that I can’t attach here. It goes like this: “Twitter makes me want to have drinks with people I’ve never met. Facebook makes me want to throw drinks at people I already know.”

    I also like this: “Facebook is for lying to our friends. Twitter is for telling the truth to strangers.”

    1. Hmmm… tell that to Richard Dawkins or Nobel laureate Tim Hunt. I’d say that Farcebook is where the elderly fall for Russian fake news and Tw@tter is where the young join liberal witch hunts.

      1. That’s like saying you don’t want to walk on the street because that’s where crimes are committed. It depends on where you go and what you do.

        The recent Dawkins tweet is a good example. I would not want to give up the chance to hear from Dawkins about what’s on his mind, moments after he thinks it, and tell him immediately if I agree or disagree. So what if others at the party have opinions I disagree with or are stupidly rude. I can ignore them forever if I so choose. It also led to an interesting discussion on this website.

  7. It’s all about how one uses these sites:

    Twitter: hugely customisible news feed. If there are topics you want to stay informed about, just follow the relevant accounts. (No need to get involved with “spats” if you don’t want to.)

    Facebook: good for keeping in touch with a group of acquaintances (people who you meet in real life).

  8. I voted “other” for most useless because I think it is probably Snapchat, although I’m possibly leaning towards Instagram on account of seeming like Facebook mark 2.

    I voted “Twitter” for the most harmful because mainstream media seems to bestow some sort of mystical value to it. We don’t have stories in the media about Instagram or Facebook storms, only Twitter storms. Also the format is not conducive to thinking about your posts or other people’s (see Richard Dawkins). There combination of the two is highly corrosive.

    I might have voted Facebook for the second if I had remembered that they decided political ads were allowed to contain lies.

    1. Ditto, though judging (probably unfairly) from comments here and on other sites, Facebook seems dangerously authoritarian.

  9. Had Tumblr been on the survey i would’ve chosen it for most dangerous. It’s convinced a generation of troubled teenage (mostly)girls that they’re unhappy because they’re really trans, and they need to take hormones, and have surgery.

    1. Yes, that would be the “other” on “ most harmful.” I agree.

      Here’s the first of an interesting series of articles on Tumblr and why it’s specifically dangerous:


      According to the writer, “ Tumblr is designed in a way that fundamentally enables extreme groupthink, manipulation of information, destructive interactions, and distorted ways of thinking.”

      The second part is particularly chilling, because it delves into a social system where anorexia nervosa and cutting become entrenched as matters of identity. It’s like Lord of the Flies

      “What would happen if every troubled, isolated, self-loathing, depressed, and emotionally overwrought teenage girl in the world wound up alone on an island?

      Tumblr. Tumblr would happen.”

  10. Does Linkedin count as social media? If so, I’d vote for it for the most useless. As far as I can tell, it’s the digital equivalent of a shoe box that you fill up with business cards you pick up along the way and never look at again.

    1. Yeah I wondered where LinkedIn fits. I find it good for networking with people who are in the same line of work though. It’s probably the least harmful and I’ve had recruiters find me there.

  11. In my rush to mention my bunny Instagram following thing I forgot to say that I find Facebook the most harmful imply because it pushes content to you that you didn’t ask to see and that tends to further encase you in your tribe. FB is the carbonite of Hans Solo and Jabba is the overfed goons forcing it on us.

    I have to take FB breaks from time to time after either being attacked or getting pissed off at people virtue signalling. And the endless “look at me I’m pretty/smart/loved” is a bit much sometimes. I have had to unfollow a few people who insisted on posting “they know the cure to cancer but they make millions off of letting people suffer”. That seems to be my limit. I’ve had to unfriend others for posting racist bullshit. On Twitter o don’t follow those people to begin with and content isn’t force fed to me. I’m not saying it is perfect but it’s less evil than FB and perhaps it’s because FB is more personal to me. There are a couple people I let in that I don’t know but most I know in meat space or virtually.

    1. Imply. Hahahaha I wish it was imply instead of simply. Forgive my crap typos. I. Using an iPhone in bed trying to prevent a migraine from escalating.

  12. Twitter I find very useful. I follow my favorite journalists, scientists, people I find interesting and it aggregates their thoughts and articles in a chronological timeline.
    Instagram I use for nature pictures and to follow my peers to see their interesting lives. Example, I have two former classmates from Brunei, and they just posted lovely suites of photos from Brunei day.
    Facebook I maintain, but don’t really use. I don’t like the feed algorithm. I don’t like all the commentary.

    In defense of all of them, there is one really lovely aspect. As a Third Culture Kid, I never lived anywhere longer than three years growing up, and attended a wide variety of schools across the globe. The kids at these schools were often in the same boat. When I moved, I’d have their address for a letter, but then they would move, and then be lost to me. I’ve been able to reconnect with so many of these old friends due to social networks, so that is nice.

  13. Twitter is just the comment section of the Internet, placed front and center. Like all comment sections on the Internet, it can be good and it can be terrible.

    Facebook to me is my high school and college year books online. Hi everybody, who got married?

    1. And then the women change their last names, only post baby photos and it is impossible to remember which friends they are.

  14. I went with Instagram for useless, for the same reasons as our host. Facebook is the most harmful because there is where I see the most fake news ads.

    As I’ve mentioned a few times here, I feel Twitter gets a bad rap because of the flame wars. On the other hand, it is very easy to skip over these. The thing I like the most is you can get instant communication from relatively well-known people. The recent Dawkins exchange on eugenics is a good example. There are many others. I used to follow a feed that told me where a big steam locomotive was visiting. I didn’t go see it when it arrived nearby but that’s my own damn fault.

  15. After resisting social media initially I signed up for Facebook many years ago and it’s the site I have stayed with. I’ve found that with some simple management the annoying parts are avoidable – dumping certain “friends”, reporting inappropriate posts and adds, etc. Most of my Facebook friends are family, former schoolmates, former colleagues, and a second tier of friends that are friends of friends. A couple of years ago I had an iPad that was getting slow and couldn’t scroll the Facebook newsfeed fast enough. The result was me poking at the screen in frustration trying to get it to move. I was also unknowingly sending friend requests, I guess, since I started getting acceptances from people I didn’t know or only knew distantly. I always look closely at who is doing the accepting and in those cases several of those acceptances were from people it was a delight to meet or reconnect with. Got a new iPad and no more serendipity (although my current iPad is slowing down so beware of friend requests from me).
    I have never gotten a political bot type add – never get political adds at all and rarely even adds that I would consider innapropriate. The adds I do get (and they are increasing, sadly) are usually for things I’m actually interested in (they have me figured out). My wife and I are starting to consider downsizing our housing to an apartment or condo. Got an add for a local newly built apartment complex in our neighborhood recently and out of curiosity opened it to check out the floor plans. Immediately my news feed was full of adds for apartment and condo complexes, not only from the city where I live but from all over the world. I’m sure that would be annoying to many but as a retired architect I’m always interested in what is new and innovative. So I want to take a look at the floor plans and look forward new posts.
    My big problem with Facebook is the time it sucks out of my day. Perhaps I should be more cognizant of some kind of moral obligation to protest social media (in keeping with the times), but my experience has been positive and until it isn’t I’ll likely be on it for the duration.
    I’ve tried Twitter, but I guess I’m dense and don’t get how it works (although I’ve had a few friends who have dumped Facebook for Twitter with whom I’d like to stay in touch). Perhaps I should try harder, but I just don’t have the time.

    1. Websites have deals with FB and will send you ads based on your browsing. I recently looked at items on Etsy & was immediately bombarded with Etsy ads for the items I browsed. I don’t mind it too much because I know how that works but it weirds out some people.

  16. I hate how Facebook has turned “friend” into a verb and “friendship” into its fast-food counterfeit.

    And coined “unfriend.”

    And made the number of one’s supposed friends into the measure of friendship.

    Plus its fast-and-loose connection with election treachery.

    Twitter can be worthwhile and enjoyable but also unspeakable garbage.

    As for Instagram, it seems mainly an update of old-fashioned scrapbooks.

  17. Facebook most definitely because every time you actually voice your Opinion either your account is disabled then or a few days later. The reason I say this because it has happened to me not Once , not Twice , not Three time and not even 4 times but 5 times that’s right 5 times I had to make another account. And Now Facebook REFUSES to allow me access to being a member. This all started because I put a lot of trump comments on there and found out mark is a trump supporter which in itself is a damn shame. But anyway I have told a lot of people that ask me of Facebook and Instagram. And they are starting to slow down my access on Instagram. So what I will eventually gonna do is just remove myself completely……. Twitter will be the only one until they to start slowing down my comments on trump. A total disgrace to our once great nation.

  18. I have a facebook account because I was forced to sign up for some reason I now forget, and also to help my diorama website. The only problem is I’ve never used it and don’t update it, so it essentially doesn’t exist in my life; I should just delete it, but can’t be arsed to spend the time.

    I don’t tweet or Instagram or anything else, so can’t comment with authority.

    I think when it comes to “danger”, Facebook would be my first choice. FB is extremely greedy and does nothing to curb false information, especially false political ads, and worse, they have no intention (unlike Twitter) to counter this. I remember when Al Franken grilled FB’s V.P. in the Senate. He pointed out that FB knows the data points that connect rubles to political ads yet they don’t follow it. The V.P. hummed and hawed (we lacked foresight), and it pissed Franken off. He then pointedly asked: if a political ad is paid for by rubles or the North Korean won, can you commit to us that FB will stop these ads? And the V.P. just spouts more word salad bullshit and wouldn’t answer the yes/no question. This is why I so miss Senator Franken. Here’s the 4 minute clip if anyone is interested.


    In general, I’d say that social media is much more dangerous to young people than adults. Young people for the most part have a fluid identity and a young mind is more easily influenced by other people- especially other people who are assholes. Lacking worldly experience (I guess that’s wisdom) and usually insecure, young people don’t have a good tool set to fight this negative space. I think adults by and large use social media to connect with family and friends and colleagues and don’t use it to insult others or try to gain popularity among their peers.

  19. Of the three I only use facebook. Like it to jeep up with friends and family. I snooze people for thirty days a lot. If I want to check on someone I look them up. Never post anything political.
    You can always unfollow or snooze people to cut down the number if information popping up every day.
    Overall I enjoy using it to keep up but careful how I use it.

  20. I disagree about Instagram being useless. It has been a great tool for me to count my blessings. I keep a photo log of things I’m thankful for or things that have lifted my spirits. I keep a tight reign in who I follow- which are all mature adults with similar interests. I’m 58. I deleted my Facebook- that was completely useless and detrimental to my mental health. I live in rural Japan. My husband and I retired to his hometown. It’s been a challenge in some ways but my photo log on Instagram has been a positive part of my life.

  21. Is it really that impossible or impractical to have lots of real friends with whom you frequently exchange emails? –and just ignore the trash of social media.
    Read Isaacson’s biography of Einstein, actually a man of many ‘quips’, so could have been a celebrity Facebooker or whatever. Just impossible to imagine someone like that getting sucked into social media, even into my mythical Assbook, where you make enemies, not friends.

  22. I don’t use any of them – I don’t see the point and recoil from non-intelligible terms like ‘social media’. It’s all just the weaponization of oxytocin.

  23. Despite it having some positives there just weren’t enough to stop me withdrawing from Facebook. And a heck of a lot of negatives. Don’t use any of the others. In fact I find that there’s more than enough news/views/science/cats/amusements/etc to make WEIT pretty much a one stop shop.
    keep it up Prof(E)

  24. I personally dislike LinkedIn the most of all social media sites. This isn’t helped at all by the fact that I’m practically forced to use it regularly. I was part of the lawsuit against the site that they lost where they’d scraped subscribers contact list and spammed everyone you knew with invitations in your name.

    try https://counter.social

    1. Agreed. I had LinkedIn for years, cancelling when I retired a few months back. It quite literally never was a benefit to me. Not in any way. What a scam.

      1. I’ve found LinkedIn very useful to find the professional background of people, especially for non-academics. Academics usually have a homepage somewhere, whereas people who work for a company do not. In industry, it’s main use is for hiring and finding a job. AFAIK, career ads are LinkedIn’s main source of revenue.

        1. I use it to get notifications of when a former colleague gets promoted to an executive position so I can become indignant & yell out loud, “Really?! You?!” 😀

          1. Hah! Yes, it’s good for that. Even though I’m retired and I’m not looking to hire or be hired, I still own my LinkedIn account and I do get those promotion and change-of-job messages for former associates. It’s nice to see what people are doing.

            I also get occasional invitations to connect from people trying to sell me stuff. I ignore them.

            I should also have mentioned that I used to run an interest group on LI called “Ebooks for Math and Science”. It was useful to me once upon a time. Someone else runs it now though I think I’m still listed as one of its managers.

            1. It was funny about those random requests. I sometimes think they are bots or something. My friend, who is Indian, kept complaining Indian guys kept trying to connect with her and she didn’t know who they were. She assumed they were connecting because she is Indian. I told her that a bunch of Indian guys were doing the same with me so that wasn’t why.

  25. I gave them all up back in December of 2017. Friends can email me if the like or call. From the outside looking in, I can see how anti-social and dangerous these distractions are to people. They are just bubble-gum for the mind, laced with propaganda as disinformation.

  26. Google+ was okay for a minute. I mean besides being a huge bloat that hogged up more computer resources than any installed program. And then it got infested with “marketers” and spammers.

    1. I mean, other than being a huge bloatware more bloated than any other normal program, including Adobe programs, would ever dream of bloating, and forcing everyone who had a youtube account to have a google+ account to log in, it wasn’t so bad.

      1. Other than forcing everyone to go out and get Windows 7 if they wanted to use it and they didn’t want their computer to completely bog down, it wasn’t so bad!

  27. Instagram has a lot of negative aspects, in my opinion (if you’re female and want to develop an inferiority complex of some sort, Instagram and Pinterest are the fastest route,) although I do find both Instagram and Pinterest useful for advertising (I sell inexpensive worksheets and such for special needs students on teacher resource sharing sites.) The way those sites are structured, where they suggest accounts and show accounts related to the one you’re following, it makes it easier for niche groups of people to find each other and connect.

    TikTok is probably right up there with Instagram, although I’m too old to know much about it. Same for SnapChat.

    Facebook is, as people noted above, for getting annoyed with the people you know in real life, ha ha. Since having a baby, I have noted there is a phenomenon wherein relatives who do not seem particularly interested in your actual child will whip out their phones and snap photos of them to post on their FB account for ‘likes’, without your permission. This makes me soooo irritated. I can either contact the person and say “WTF”, thus starting a feud with them, or quietly simmer about it (I choose the latter.) I’ve also noted that people who like to stir the pot will randomly try to start FB feuds. Abortion is a popular way to do that, although I’ve also had someone tag me and a bunch of other people in a post about how it’s wrong for women not to take their husband’s name after marrying (I didn’t, not because I was making any statement but because it seemed like a huge pain in the rear,) with a comment that was more or less like “What do you think? I support your decision but this author thinks you’re a jerk who isn’t committed to her man!”

    Twitter can be absolutely vile and seems to have bred an entire subculture that is pretty influential in things like politics, in a way that is wildly disproportionate to national demographics. That is problematic. On the other hand, it is a cool place to see the thoughts of many interesting people in real time, in a way that never would have been possible a couple of decades ago. I’m not on Twitter but am sometimes tempted to join just to comment under people I follow. Within the past year Steve Pinker posted an article critical about how late talkers are labeled autistic these days, for example. I actually disagreed and think they tend to be labeled apraxic, and was curious as to what Dr. Pinker thought about that (he doesn’t respond to Tweets, that I know of, so I put off joining Twitter for another day.)

    I think possibly the most toxic are places like 4Chan and parts of Reddit (although I think Reddit has cleaned those forums up in the past few years,) although since I haven’t visited them, I can’t really speak to that.

    1. I ask before putting photos of others’ kids on FB (or photos of them, too, as well, not just their kids).

      Just seems like basic courtesy these days.

      People seem to move to reflexive judgement very quickly online.

      I try to treat online communication as I would writing important letters. How would I feel if my Mom read this? If my boss read this?

      These internal questions are a good guide.

      1. I agree, although I think it depends on your personality. I am pretty shy and eager to please… when I write stuff that I wouldn’t want my mom or boss to read it’s, well, it’s here. I would not describe myself as a traditional atheist (I am vaguely ‘spiritual’ in a Unitarian kind of way,) but I might have stayed a very traditional Christian if I wasn’t able to communicate with some degree of discretion online. On the other hand, I can probably feed into a somewhat negative aspect of online culture when I do post with my family / colleagues as an audience in the back of my mind. It’s hard not to go to the other extreme and post only about your best moments, which I think can set unrealistic standards and make others feel alienated, as if everyone else is having this perfect life (I have to say, for example, that it’s a relief to hear other women who worked full time with a newborn talk about what that experience was really like, behind all the cheery “He’s getting so big! Time slow down!” online photos of smiling babies in darling little outfits.)

        For many people, though, I think online communication brings out this sort of inner bully. I look at what people post in comments sections and on Twitter and can’t imagine they talk to people like that during the day, if for no other reason than that someone would probably just slug them. I do find it kinda disturbing to look around and think that apparently some significant percentage of people in the world only don’t spew abusive bile at others because social pressure means they can’t, not because they don’t want to.

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