I Partly Blame Privacy for Leaving Me Socialy Isolated

I’m a 17 year old high school student from the United States. I’m a tech enthusiast and I am passionate for practicing internet privacy, but I feel that my online lifestyle has put me at a serious social disadvantage, and I don’t know what to do about it.

My privacy journey started at the beginning of the pandemic. I began by switching search engines, deleting Instagram and Snapchat, and leaving Chrome. Eventually, I left Windows, and today I do a good chunk of my browsing through Tor. I’ve spend countless hours learning about every facet of privacy. It’s been about two years since I began, and I’m starting to reflect. What did I gain from doing all of this? Sure, big tech knows a lot less about me, but what else? Maybe it lets me sleep easier at night?

Leaving social media felt like a good decision at the time, but I’m starting to regret deleting it. I feel out of the loop for many social events, and people get weirded out when I respond with a “I don’t have X social media” when they ask me for handle/username. Leaving these platforms seems to have only made me feel better, while poorly impacting other aspects of my life. It isn’t just the social media that has turned into an issue, it’s the choices I make online. I don’t shout from rooftops that I’m obsessed with my privacy, but once in a while someone will notice I’m using DDG or Searx as my search engine and get confused and weirded out as to why I’m not using Google. To sum it up, I’m getting serious FOMO, which has been confirmed through many social interactions and events.

Today, I’m still passionate about privacy, but I’m feeling as though I’m ready to cave and get social media. While I will feel internal guilt and discomfort, it will make my social life a bit easier. Congratulations big tech. You’ve won me.


Hey! dude actually we do have a lot in common see my post few days ago

link: F.O.M.O. and also the fear of being aleniated - #3 by Henry

I would seriously suggest you to not to be concerned about what people think about you. You should still use SearX or any other good privacy respecting services it does not matter what people think about it. People are sometimes dumb
To sum it up what I got from that discussion was use as good security practices as much as possible use privacy respecting services but whenever you feel like you are being alienated because of you not using dumb software calculate the benefits ans downsides and maybe start using them(but then also look for good security practices)
like i am not using my original name on any social media that i have started using and i have not given them any of my original detail i know that there are still data points that are left uncovered but still something is better than nothing.

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Privacy isn’t a won or lost binary calculation. Its a scale, and if you get an Instagram account, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost.

If you feel that not having an instagram account is causing too many issues, then get an account :slight_smile:, if you change your mind, you can always delete it again. Because Facebook operate a closed network, the social downside of not being there can be high.

In terms of search engines, just use what you want and don’t let others put you down. There isn’t a social downside to using a privacy respecting search engine. It seems silly to give someone a hard time for the search engine they use, like bro get a life. Who actually cares.

Just remember privacy isn’t binary, its a scale and you don’t have to be all in or all out. You want to use instagram? Go for it. Does it mean you have to use gmail for email and google for searching, and never use a VPN? No. Find the balance that works for you.


I have an instagram account, I never upload anything.

Privacy shouldn’t be dogmatic. It’s not about being given a list of services that you must/mustn’t use and then adhering to that list. It’s about practicing good OpSec, determining your threat model and deciding what things are at-risk, what things do you need to secure, and to what level should you push to secure yourself.

With that context, I think the trap you’re falling into is thinking that privacy needs to be an all-or-nothing thing. Even if you do go all in on Social Media, there is still a fundamental difference between the you now, and the you before you started your privacy journey: awareness.

You’re aware of all the crappy things these social media companies have done and continue to do so, and because of that, unlike before, you are informed.

What’s more, is that as I said, it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. You can still have a Facebook account, but not tell Facebook everything about your life. You could enable 2FA and judiciously set the settings to minimize your info that’s public. So on and so forth.

You’re more aware of what can go wrong, and you can make decisions to reduce the possible risk. And at the end of the day, that’s pretty much all we can ask from ourselves and others.

As mari said, you just need to find the right balance that works for you.

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I’ll agree with what has bee said so far. It sounds like what you may want to do is look at how you can use social media in way that gives you the connection you’re looking for without compromising or by changing your threat model. Even if you have an Instagram account, there are ways to use it more and less privately. Because you know so much about how these things work, you are at least more in control about how much information you want to share.

When it comes to the other tools you may use, I think you’re probably fine with continuing what you’re doing if you still like it and don’t feel it’s too extreme now. I understand the challenge with methods of communication because there is an inherent network effect there, but using DuckDuckGo doesn’t get in the way of social things. If you’re looking to reevaluate your threat model in general, that’s totally fine, but I think you’re fine with keeping all of the non-communication measures you’ve taken.

It’s not wrong to make exceptions in privacy if you feel like you need to. Sure, your privacy will decline if you make exceptions but without any exceptions privacy will have a bigger impact on other parts of your life. Like other people here mentioned already you need to find a balance where your privacy doesn’t have a to big impact on stuff like your social life.

You will get used to it after you get social media :slight_smile:

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I’m not your age, but I know a few students who have told me similar things. Maybe what helped them will help you.

Most also abandoned (anti) social media at the beginning of the pandemic and felt some sort of FOMO at some point.

At that time, their personality was not yet fully developed and everything was attached to anti-social media networks. I was teaching the boys computer science at the time and the question came up in “class”.

I gave them the tip at the time, whenever they felt they needed to log back on to the networks, that they needed to replace that with something else. Something that makes sure they have a social life and a real one and also their mental health is better because of it. For example, going jogging, alone or with someone else.

We then also started a Jitsi Meet group, where they were always welcome to drop in. If they have questions or just want to chat because they were socially isolated (this would also be something for all of you who have FOMO from social media on Techlore → a Jitsi or Big Blue Button group where you can meet like-minded data privacy advocates and talk).

It may be important for you to find your own tribe. Your peer group that has the same interests as you.
The guys then also went to events that were about privacy. They also felt comfortable there because anything that was uncomfortable for them didn’t happen there. No Instagram photographers, a very respectful interaction and no one was weird for not having social media.

I don’t know your gender and it doesn’t matter, I’m a woman and I love the following: Youtuber Hamza does personal development videos (mostly for men, but most of it works for women too). He has made numerous videos about how bad social media is for your health and is building a “cult” around it. Maybe one or the other video will strengthen you to stay strong. You are a role model for many, you just do not know it.

Select instance - Invidious You are worth more than what social media makes you feel
Select instance - Invidious Social Media is making you lonely
Select instance - Invidious Delete TikTok now

And maybe it will help you to register in Fediverse. For example, at Mastodon and exchange with people who have similar interests as you. I’m sure you’ll feel much less like you’re missing out on the anti-social networks. Stay strong.


Do you like posts ?

It’s all about your privacy threat model. If your ideal is following extreme privacy steps that doesn’t mean you also should do the same, his threat model may be completely different from yours. If you’re doubting whether I should use social media or not then I assume you don’t have such privacy threat from those social platforms.
Besides being on social media you can follow some steps to protect your privacy (I think you have already known all these)

  1. Make your account private and follow only those who you know and think before accepting follow request.
  2. Go through all privacy related settings to maximise privacy and enable 2fa.
  3. You can log out after using the app or you can just access your account through web browser.
  4. Don’t give out your personal info on bio or on posts.
  5. Try to post less coz it seems your intention of using social media is just to be connected with your family n friends.
  6. If you are using app, keep an eye on permissions
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What you get for being paranoid, not making proper threat models and not compartmentalizing your stuff.

I am sure that the chap has many friends using the Fediverse.

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Privacy isn’t all or nothing
I use every kind of device, mobile or otherwise, and every kind of app including social networking and chatting, and yet my life is not only private but secure.
My personal advice would be to learn some opsec, follow academics not cultists, and enjoy your life how short it is.

+1 for OPSEC. Very relevant to threat modeling and has more to do with the actions you take rather than the specific tools and configurations you use.

For example, when log4shell came out, I avoided playing Minecraft for a time to make sure things were patched. It’s small, but last thing I wanted was a compromised PC from playing block game.

If you are into tech, try Mastadon. You get to keep your privacy and talk to like minded tech enthusiasts like yourself. @mariland56 @slydog @Riot8696 @InternetGhost @VisitorVisibly @anon70710147 @Username1 and @anon97638345 have posted great advice. I’m going with @donjoe as my favorite because he resonated with me the most,… don’t worry about what people think. Do what works for your particular needs and wants.

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I’m sure you hear this all the time, but you’re only 17 and have your whole life in front of you to find people. Just look at the two platforms you mentioned leaving - Instagram and Snapchat, both primarily involve sharing narcissistic images that don’t honestly represent ones self, along with a few words. You have probably shared more of your genuine self in this very post, with the potential to connect with like-minded people in a more sincere, honest way. What you’re doing here - that’s real.

While this isn’t the early 2000’s anymore (sigh), niche online communities are still out there, waiting to be found. The best ones are started and run by individuals, such as this forum. I encourage you to keep looking and finding more communities to be a part of.

One particular thing you might be interested in - do you know of 2600 Magazine? The Hacker Quarterly? It was started in the 80’s in NYC and is associated with some of the famous hackers such as Kevin Mitnik. Anyways, they have monthly in-person meetings all around the world. You can even start a new one, if you want. Social, in-person, and tech/surveillance/privacy.

I know that doesn’t help you with keeping in touch with existing family and friends. Maybe a compromise is what you need. Now that you’re educated on the true, unfortunate purpose of social media, maybe you can take measures to limit the information you feed the beast while still using a platform’s basic functions. Compartmentalize at the sign-up, email, browser, and device level and let your family deal with your random, meaningless avatar & username.

Finally, I’d like to add that blaming privacy for making you feel this way is wrong. It’s like blaming a person who tells you bad news. Social media is a complicated problem involving addiction and psychological factors. Like I said before, just look at what people share - it’s mostly meaningless bullshit. It’s literally designed to be addictive to monetize how you interact with it. That’s where the blame should be directed. Imagine how weird it felt to be one of the rare non-smokers in the 50’s and 60’s. That’s where we’re at now.