by Toby Altman

Data and Dignity on Social Media (Social)

Raw Material

Every morning, I roll out of bed and—before I stretch or rub my eyes or brush my teeth—I open up my phone. Scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, I have a sense of being close—closer, anyway—to the people I care about. I see their weddings, their babies, their dogs; moments of sadness and moments of triumph. This is the promise of social media: that it will bring us closer to the people we love, creating a sense of community that stretches across the world.

It’s a seductive promise, even addictive: hence why I find myself in the early morning, with my phone open, relentlessly scrolling. But it comes with downsides. The glimpses we get of other people’s lives are glossy, but empty. We come to social media seeking meaningful connection; we leave feeling, somehow, more alone than when we arrived.

More alone and more exposed: while we scroll through our apps, the social media companies are feasting on our data. It’s a cliché of life online: if you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product. The truth is worse than that. As Shoshana Zuboff argues, “we are the objects from which raw materials are extracted and expropriated… the means to others’ ends.” That’s a way of saying that we lose our autonomy and agency through existing social media.

It seems innocent enough—who cares if Facebook knows that I’m a thirty-something white man, liberal in his politics, with a strong yearning for Snyder’s of Hanover’s jalapeño pretzels—and markets to me accordingly? What’s wrong with advertisers knowing their customers a little better? Fair enough.

But the scale of the problem is greater than many realize. Our data includes sensitive information—social security numbers, birth dates, fingerprints, and much more. On June 2, 2021, TikTok’s US privacy policy was amended to say that the app “may collect biometric identifiers and biometric information,” which includes “faceprints and voiceprints.”

It’s a disorienting and dismaying state of affairs. Companies like Facebook are preying on the most basic human impulses: to be together, to form communities. There seems to be no exit, short of departing modern life. Our lives are embedded in services that strip us of our data and our dignity.

bioGraph offers an alternative. Our platform treats your data as part of yourself, not a commodity to be sold to advertisers. If data is raw material, it is the raw material of creativity and self-expression; it is the stuff of identity itself. bioGraph preserves your power over this precious material: helping you make informed, empowered decisions about what to do with it—to speak for yourself, when and how you choose.

We Have Power

The power that companies like Google and Facebook have over our lives feels, by this point, natural: simply a feature of the landscape. But neither their dominance nor the way they do business is inevitable. Technologies exist that could transform our lives on the internet, allowing us to represent ourselves without sacrificing our privacy, our security, or our authority. As we ask in Recorded Time:

Why should millions of “users” surrender their data, their relationships, their time, the very essence of their lives to social media overlords who sell them out—even now, when we have power to tell our own stories in our own words, to control our own narratives, to know ourselves and be known by others?

bioGraph is innovating the ancient art of storytelling with real substance and endurance. Our platform guides Authors with open-ended, inspiring questions that spark memory and creativity. On bioGraph, you’ll find yourself diving into conversations that really matter—whether you’re creating a birthday card for a beloved co-worker or reminiscing about a family reunion. The platform is designed for collaboration.

At the Center of the Platform

In building bioGraph, our priority has always been privacy and security. We never sell or see your data. bioGraph is Author-centric, giving you complete control over your stories. You can create and preserve experience without ever surrendering authority over your data.

bioGraph equips you to tell the stories you want to tell, the way you want to tell them. On an app like Twitter, you’re constantly under pressure: the algorithms working under the surface of the app keep you engaged by promoting outrage and controversy. You open the app to see what your friends are up to and three hours later you’re in a screaming match with Kevin from South Dakota about the 2016 World Series. bioGraph removes these pressures. There’s no algorithm shaping your experience, no tricks to keep you hooked so you see more ads. You’re free to use the platform on your own schedule, according to your own needs—and thereby to shape your own story.

As bioGraph co-founders Aaron and AJ Greenberg like to say, bioGraph is about preserving stories—and pre-serving its clients. By building a platform that puts its Authors first, that protects their data, and helps them tell their stories, bioGraph has built a different kind of platform—and with it, a different kind of future for tech. Instead of scrolling endlessly in search of community and connection, bioGraph empowers its Authors to tell—and to control—stories that will endure, preserving voices and pre-serving communities.

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