Lanier Cautions Social Media Safety

Lanier Cautions Social Media Safety

Vince Basada and Emma Griffiths

Closing out Authors Day was last minute presenter Jaron Lanier, the father of virtual reality technology, tech developer, Prime Scientist at Microsoft, and author of Ten Arguments For Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now, entertained a packed auditorium of students with ease and humor.

Lanier, in black baggy clothes, provided an abridged history of technology and social media, including his personal experiences mixed in with jabs at the occasional disruptive student and, unexpectedly, at philosopher Ayn Rand.

Lanier avoided directly criticizing social media users or teenagers and instead focused on corporations that exploit “free” accounts for data to sell, even proposing alternate systems of online messaging that would focus on smaller communities to protect individuals.

Despite Lanier’s strong stance against social media, he does not pressure his daughter, a junior in high school, into deleting her accounts, stating, “I trust her to make her own decisions and I support them.”

Lanier was recruited at the last minute to replace TED Radio Hour host and author of Bored and Brilliant Manoush Zomorodi, who missed the event due to a COVID exposure.

In comparison to the closing speaker of last year, prestigious presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, the student body was largely respectful, fully immersed in his narrative and with few interruptions. This followed the lead of the event at large, with respectful and polite audiences and equally content. Perhaps sullying this streak of good behavior was the heat of the afternoon.

Still, despite his warning lecture, several attendees gathered to ask questions and take photos with him for social media – the irony of which was not lost on Lanier.