Revenge of the Faceblockers: Social media abstainers aren't worried about their data

As Facebook sends its promised updates this week, telling users whether or not they were one of the 87 million whose personal data may have been scraped by Cambridge Analytica to create and position online political advertising, Jody Podolsky won’t even need to look. She is certain none of her information was sold because she’s sure there was no information of hers out there to sell.

Of the two kinds of people in the world — those who embrace social media and those who shun it — she is of the group that has never really used platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Of the estimated 280 million Americans over the age of 13, 213 million are on Facebook, leaving the rest to call their friends one at a time when they get a new puppy, or send postcards from vacation rather than posting photos.

And now, as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg testifies before Congress for two days about the data-mining operation, and the House Permanent Select Committee investigates whether Cambridge Analytica was working with the Kremlin, “shunners” like Podolsky are feeling vindicated.

“I wouldn’t say I’m feeling smug, it’s more complicated than that,” says Podolsky, an author, film producer and small business owner in Los Angeles. “Facebook traded on our identities, our privacy, with impunity, for their own gain. That was their business model, to sell our very selves to advertisers. I know that is genius. It’s even awesome. It’s also terrifying that it is awesome.”

Mark Zuckerberg through the years
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Mark Zuckerberg through the years

Mark Zuckerberg creater of 'Facebook', photographed at Eliot House at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. on May 14, 2004. Facebook was created in February 2004, 3 months prior to this photograph.

(Photo by Rick Friedman/Corbis via Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, participates in a discussion during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2007.

(Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, attends the Digital Life Design (DLD) conference on January 27, 2009 in Munich, Germany. DLD brings together global leaders and creators from the digital world.

(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images for Burda Media)

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook, speaks on day three of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday, Jan. 30, 2009. This year's meeting, which is titled 'Shaping the Post-Crisis World,' runs until Feb. 1.

(Photo by Adam Berry/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., left, walks with Michael Ovitz, former president of Walt Disney Co., during a lunch break at the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Friday, July 10, 2009. The conference runs until Saturday, July 11.

(Photo by Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the opening keynote address at the f8 Developer Conference April 21, 2010 in San Francisco, California. Zuckerberg kicked off the the one day conference for developers that features breakout sessions on the future of social technologies.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg (L) receives the award of Media person of the year from Philip Thomas (R), CEO Of Cannes Lions as part of the 57th International Advertising Festival held at the Palais des festivals on June 22, 2010 in Cannes, France.

(Photo by Francois G. Durand/Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook, holds a press conference at their headquarters in Palo Alto, California, May 26, 2010. Zuckerberg outlined Facebook's new privacy control methods.

(Photo by Kim White/Getty Images)

ABC News' Diane Sawyer goes inside Facebook headquarters with the man behind it all, co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, to show how the site has redefined the way a generation organizes and communicates, airing on WORLD NEWS WITH DIANE SAWYER and NIGHTLINE on July 21st as well as all ABC News platforms.

(Photo by Rick Rowell/ABC via Getty Images) 

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg smiles before speaking at a news conference at Facebook headquarters August 18, 2010 in Palo Alto, California. Zuckerberg announced the launch of Facebook Places, a new application that allows Facebook users to document places they have visited.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Tim Kendall, director of product marketing for Facebook Inc., from left, Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., and Erick Tseng, head of mobile products for Facebook Inc., listen during a press conference at the company's headquarters in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010. Facebook, the world's biggest social-networking site, added features to its mobile software for Android devices, making it easier for users to share their locations and sort their friends by groups.

(Ryan Anson/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama speaks as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (R) looks on during a town hall meeting April 20, 2011 at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California.

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., left, and Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, get ready to take questions from the audience during an event at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, U.S., on Friday, March 25, 2011. Facebook Inc., owner of the most popular social-networking site, drew investors including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in private stock sales that valued the company at $50 billion as of January.

(George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama shakes hands with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a town hall meeting April 20, 2011 at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California.

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook Inc., smiles during the closing session of the e-G8 Internet Forum in Paris, France, on Wednesday, May 25, 2011. The Internet needs government involvement to reach its full potential of linking people and boosting economic growth, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said.

(Antoine Antoniol/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Chief executive of French group Publicis, Maurice Levy (R) and Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg (L) attend the e-G8 press conference during the G8 Summit, on May 26, 2011 in Deauville, France. Heads of the world's wealthiest nations are meeting in Deauville, France, for the G8 summit to discuss various security, aid and trade issues, including the 'Arab Spring', nuclear safety and climate change.

(Photo by Edouard BERNAUX/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., attends the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Thursday, July 7, 2011. Media executives are gathering at Allen & Co.'s Sun Valley conference this week looking to shed assets such as the Hulu LLC video website and G4 game channel amid a declining global stock market and slowing economic growth.

(Matthew Staver/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (L) watches a demonstration of the new Facebook video chat during a news conference at Facebook headquarters July 6, 2011 in Palo Alto, California. Zuckerberg announced new features that are coming to Facebook including video chat and a group chat feature.
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., left, arrives to speak during a news conference at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., on Monday, Nov. 7, 2011. Zuckerberg said Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs advised him on how to sharpen his company's focus and build the right management team for the world's largest social network.

(Kelvin Ma/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (center) watches the game action between the Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks on February 19, 2012 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. 

Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

A woman watches Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaking in a promotional video ahead of the company's IPO, in Washington on May 8, 2012. Facebook, already assured of becoming one of the most valuable US firms when it goes public later this month, now must convince investors in the next two weeks that it is worth all the hype. Top executives at the world's leading social network have kicked off their all-important road show on Wall Street -- an intense marketing drive ahead of the company's expected trading launch on the tech-heavy Nasdaq on May 18.


Russia's Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (R) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shake hands as they meet at the Gorki residence outside Moscow, on October 1, 2012. Zuckerberg was today in Moscow on a visit the government believes should stimulate innovation in Russia and the social network hopes will boost its position in the Russian market.


Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., right, and Andrew 'Drew' Houston, founder and chief executive of Dropbox, sit in a parked car at the entrance to the Lodge during the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, U.S., on Thursday, July 12, 2012. Media moguls gathered at the annual Allen & Co. conference have spent recent years contemplating how to cope with technology companies drawing audiences away from television and movies.

(David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during an event at Facebook headquarters on April 4, 2013 in Menlo Park, California. Zuckerberg announced a new product for Android called Facebook Home.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the 2013 TechCrunch Disrupt conference on September 11, 2013 in San Francisco, California. The TechCruch Disrupt Conference runs through September 11.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (R) arrives at the White House for an Oval Office meeting with President Barack Obama March 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. President Obama held the meeting with Internet CEOs to discuss 'issues of privacy, technology, and intelligence.'

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg speaks during his keynote conference as part of the first day of the Mobile World Congress 2014 at the Fira Gran Via complex on February 24, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain. The annual Mobile World Congress hosts some of the world's largest communication companies, with many unveiling their latest phones and gadgets. The show runs from February 24 - February 27.

(Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Breakthrough Prize Founders Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg (R) attend the Breakthrough Prize Awards Ceremony Hosted By Seth MacFarlane at NASA Ames Research Center on November 9, 2014 in Mountain View, California.
(Photo by Steve Jennings/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize)

Mark Zuckerberg (L), founder and CEO of Facebook, makes a courtesy call to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) at the latter's official residence in Tokyo on October 20, 2014. Zuckerberg is here to attend a Facebook's business event for their partner companies on October 16 as a surprise guest.


Facebook founder Mark Zuckenberg speaks to media after the meeting with Indonesian President-elect Joko Widodo (not seen) in Jakarta, Indonesia on October 13, 2014. US-based social media Facebook founder Zuckerberg attended campaign during his visit to Indonesia, the fourth-largest number of Facebook users in the world.

(Photo by Jefri Tarigan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Indonesian President-elect Joko Widodo (L) with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (R) at Tanah Abang Market the biggest textile market in South East Asia after meeting on October 13, 2014 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Mark Zukerberg is visiting Indonesia to attend Internet developers summit and meet heads of goverment. Indonesia is a country that has a population of 240 million and has approximately 60 million active users of social media. 

(Photo by Oscar Siagian/Getty Images)

Facebook Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg at IIT Delhi, on October 28, 2015 in New Delhi, India. Speaking to about 900 students at Indian Institute of Technology, Zuckerberg said broadening Internet access was vital to economic development in a country where a billion people are still not online.
(Photo by Ravi Choudhary/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, left, and Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., embrace at the conclusion of a town hall meeting at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, U.S., on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015. Prime Minister Modi plans on connecting 600,000 villages across India using fiber optic cable as part of his 'dream' to expand the world's largest democracy's economy to $20 trillion.

(David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan sighted on February 26, 2016 in Berlin, Germany.

(Photo by Chad Buchanan/GC Images)

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., speaks during the Oculus Connect 3 event in San Jose, California, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. Facebook Inc. is working on a new virtual reality product that is more advanced than its Samsung Gear VR, but doesn't require connection to a personal computer, like the Oculus Rift does.

(David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari (C) and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo (L) pose as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (2nd R) makes a selfie picture with them, during a visit to the presidential palace in Abuja, on September 2, 2016. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on September 2 praised Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for inspiring young entrepreneurs during his surprise visit to the west African country this week, his office said. Zuckerberg who arrived in Nigeria on Tuesday and has met with young entrepreneurs at information technology and computer centres in the country's commercial hub of Lagos and the capital Abuja.


Mark Zuckerberg, founder and chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., speaks during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2016 CEO Summit in Lima, Peru, on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. APEC aims to create greater prosperity for the people of the Asia-Pacific by promoting balanced, inclusive, sustainable, innovative and secure growth and by accelerating regional economic integration.

(Guillermo Gutierrez/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Actor Vin Diesel (L) and Breakthrough Prize Co-Founder Mark Zuckerberg speak onstage during the 2017 Breakthrough Prize at NASA Ames Research Center on December 4, 2016 in Mountain View, California.

(Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for Breakthrough Prize)

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., reacts during a session at the Techonomy 2016 conference in Half Moon Bay, California, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. The annual conference, which brings together leaders in the technology industry, focuses on the centrality of technology to business and social progress and the urgency of embracing the rapid pace of change brought by technology.

(David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the Alumni Exercises following the 366th Commencement Exercises at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
CAMBRIDGE, MA - MAY 25: Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the commencement address at the Alumni Exercises at Harvard's 366th commencement exercises on May 25, 2017 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Zuckerberg studied computer science at Harvard before leaving to move Facebook to Paolo Alto, CA. He returned to the campus this week to his former dorm room and live streamed his visit. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)
SUN VALLEY, ID - JULY 14: Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook Inc., attends the fourth day of the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference, July 14, 2017 in Sun Valley, Idaho. Every July, some of the world's most wealthy and powerful businesspeople from the media, finance, technology and political spheres converge at the Sun Valley Resort for the exclusive weeklong conference. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen on stage during a town hall at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California September 27, 2015. Picture taken February 27, 2015. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/File Photo
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, delivers a keynote speech during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain February 22, 2016. REUTERS/Albert Gea
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, addresses a gathering during the Summit in New Delhi October 9, 2014. Facebook Inc, which closed its acquisition of mobile messaging service WhatsApp on Monday, has no near-term plan to make money from the service, Zuckerberg said on Thursday. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi (INDIA - Tags: SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS TELECOMS)
Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg smiles in the stage before delivering a keynote speech during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona February 24, 2014. Zuckerberg will take a victory lap at the world's largest mobile technology conference in Barcelona on Monday, after beating out Google Inc in a $19 billion acquisition of free messaging service WhatsApp. REUTERS/Albert Gea (SPAIN - Tags: BUSINESS TELECOMS)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sits for audience questions in an onstage interview for the Atlantic Magazine in Washington, September 18, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY TELECOMS)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks at the annual Allen and Co. conference at the Sun Valley, Idaho Resort July 11, 2013. REUTERS/Rick Wilking (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY)
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's co-founder and chief executive speaks during a Facebook press event in Menlo Park, California, April 4, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS SCIENCE TECHNOLOGY BUSINESS TELECOMS)
Facebook CEO and chairman Mark Zuckerberg speaks during a session of the APEC CEO Summit, part of the broader Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Lima on November 19, 2016. Peru's President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski opened the summit of Asia-Pacific leaders on November 18 urging them to robustly defend free trade against protectionist trends in the United States and Europe. / AFP / Rodrigo BUENDIA (Photo credit should read RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images)

The reasons non-users give for non-using are varied and nuanced. For Podolsky, it’s about the misappropriation of the concept of friendship. “I think initially what caught my aversion was Facebook’s co-option of the word ‘friend,’” she says. “I found it incrementally arrogant and intrusive to decide they could diminish the obligations and commitments of actual friendship. That’s where my personal antipathy started.”

For Rachel Bamberger, it was about the substitution of a virtual experience for a real one. “I try to find pleasure in real face time with my friends, or reading a book or listening to music,” says the high school senior. “I don’t read books online because I love the smell of real books and the feel of actually turning the pages in my hand. You lose all the sensory parts when you spend all that time staring at a screen.”

For others, the core reason was the fear of loss of privacy. “I’m even hesitant to talk to you,” said one office administrator in Florida who, nothing if not consistent, declined to be quoted by name. “I definitely wouldn’t want you to identify me in an article.”

She recalls passing an old-fashioned phone booth as part of a display and having to explain its purpose to her young children. “They asked, ‘What’s it for?’ and I had to say ‘There’d be a phone in there and you would close the door so you can talk,’” she recalls. “It used to be that phone calls were presumed to be private. Now it’s blah, blah, blah, hysterectomy, blah, blah, blah, my yeast infection, blah, blah, blah.”

She’s tried what she insists is “the Facebook fad” a few years ago when a group she’d joined that met up for agility training for dogs began using the site for scheduling. “I joined for my dog, and within half an hour of getting onto Facebook, a client who had sexually harassed me wanted to friend me, and right after him I got a request from a woman who I had worked with who I knew to be mentally ill. I just felt so exposed. I just closed my account,” and, as a result, stopped attending agility training sessions.

“I did lose out on that social interaction,” she says, “because I didn’t want this other element.”

Michael Gerstein, in turn, says he has stayed off social media because he’s long feared something much like the Cambridge Analytica news of the past few weeks. “It’s the Wild West,” he says, where “people are grabbing all sorts of information about you and you don’t know what they know or how they use it.” He works in corporate finance in Manhattan, responsible for budgeting and forecasting, and was originally put off by the fact that “Facebook has to be doing something like this because they have to make money, but I didn’t understand exactly what that something is, and I’m not comfortable with things I don’t understand.”

He has never used Twitter or Snapchat, he says. He does have a Facebook account, but “I have never posted. I have replied to posts, but I couldn’t even tell you how to post.” The reason he even opened the account in the first place, he says, is “because my wife wanted her profile to say she is ‘married’ and it won’t say that unless your spouse also has an account.” (His wife was mistaken.) Still, the account exists, and he has 62 Facebook friends. Any one of those might have answered the 2014 Cambridge Analytica survey that the company then used to access the information of everyone in that user’s friend list. Which means he may in fact have been part of the data sweep. “Even being careful doesn’t protect you from being vulnerable,” he says.

Ellen Fader, a Manhattan psychotherapist, believes she has been similarly victimized despite being careful. She joined LinkedIn in the the early days of the site and “apparently clicked the wrong thing by mistake.” As a result, “It sent a blast email to my entire contact list, including everyone’s name and email listed publicly. These were clients in my therapy practice and now everyone on the list could see everyone else. I could have lost my license professionally. That was my worst fear about technology, and it came true.”

Mark Zuckerberg quotes
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Mark Zuckerberg quotes

"In a world that's changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks." 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

"People don't care about what you say, they care about what you build."

Photo credit: Getty

"You are better off trying something and having it not work and learning from that than not doing anything at all."

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“In terms of doing work and in terms of learning and evolving as a person, you just grow more when you get more people’s perspectives.”

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"People can be really smart or have skills that are directly applicable, but if they don't really believe in it, then they are not going to really work hard."

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"Building a mission and building a business go hand-in-hand."

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"We look for people who are passionate about something. In a way, it almost doesn't matter what you're passionate about."

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"The question I ask myself like almost every day is, 'Am I doing the most important thing I could be doing?' ... Unless I feel like I'm working on the most important problem that I can help with, then I'm not going to feel good about how I'm spending my time.”

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"Move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking stuff, you are not moving fast enough."

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“People think innovation is just having a good idea but a lot of it is just moving quickly and trying a lot of things.”

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"I think a simple rule of business is, if you do the things that are easier first, then you can actually make a lot of progress."

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"The question isn't, 'What do we want to know about people?', It's, 'What do people want to tell about themselves?'"

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“So many businesses get worried about looking like they might make a mistake, they become afraid to take any risk. Companies are set up so that people judge each other on failure.”

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“I would rather be in the cycle where people are underestimating us. It gives us latitude to go out and make big bets that excite and amaze people.”

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"My goal was never to just create a company. A lot of people misinterpret that, as if I don't care about revenue or profit or any of those things. But what not being 'just' a company means to me is building something that actually makes a really big change in the world."

Photo credit: Getty 


All that is why she only used her fitness tracker for a very short while, she says. All she wanted to do was count her daily steps, but “you have to sign all these agreements in order to participate with them,” she says. It started her thinking: Someone out there is going to know my heart rate, my sleeping pattern, how many steps I take. Do I want all that data out there? Who knows what they are doing with your information? No, she says, she doesn’t think anyone actually cares how much she walks, but she didn’t think that anyone cared to sell Facebook friend lists to the Russians either.

Fader, who just turned 65 — and who was filling out Medicare forms online when reached by phone at her Manhattan apartment — emphasizes that it is not because of her age that she is resistant to new technology. “There’s the idea out there that older people don’t know how to use this and that’s why they stay away,” she says, but in fact she has a website for her business and spends much of her day on the computer. It is not that she is incapable of understanding the new ways, she says, but because she understands them too completely.

“In my mind, as a psychotherapist, the most important thing in this world is human connection,” she says, “and social media does foster a version of that, but it’s a version that has us relating to a device rather than a set of eyes that’s gazing at you. If we fast forward, what are people going to be like 100 years from now? Will they remember how to relate in real life at all? I think the implications and the ramifications are enormous.”

Sherry Hamby, a psychology professor at the University of the South who studies victimization of vulnerable communities in Appalachia, agrees that age is probably not the primary factor for those who shun social media, including some of the rural populations she studies. In her experience, few of the presumed reasons actually hold true. For instance, while it is assumed that individuals who live in Appalachia do not own the latest in technology because they can’t afford it, her research has found that “the deeper reason is a lot of skepticism about technology and a lot of consideration of the ways it changes life.”

Her research paper titled “Technology in Rural Appalachia: Cultural Strategies of Resistance and Navigation” was one of dozens about “Privacy at the Margins” included in a special issue of the International Journal of Communication this month. Each of the papers was about a discrete population — from aboriginal communities in Australia to disadvantaged urban communities in India to college sophomores at big universities in urban areas — and each concludes that the decisions about technology use are driven by how users feel about the effect of a particular technology on their private, offline life.

Hamby’s research was conducted before the 2016 elections, so she does not know how her subjects feel about their choices to limit their social media use in light of the Cambridge Analytica controversy. She says she hopes to go back and find out.

Podolsky, for one, insists she does not take any pleasure in her prescience.

“Do I feel smart? No,” she says. “Mark Zuckerberg is smart. He’s a genius. He created this interpersonal interplanetary connection and that is an outstanding accomplishment. Mine wasn’t a prophecy, it was just me trying as a human being to resist the forces of the marketplace on my identity.”

She may have succeeded in that she won’t be getting a message from Facebook this week telling her whether she was in fact a victim of the latest of those forces, but she acknowledges she pays a price for opting out of a medium that reaches a third of the world.

Podolsky, who is currently writing a book, says that “the first question publishers ask is, ‘What’s your social media presence, how many clicks do you get?’”


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