The people who were the brain behind this arrangement could not fight their conscience anymore and eventually left tech giants due to ethical concerns. When social media was invented it was like a force for good. Considering its bad impact it is easy to lose sight of the fact that social media brought wonderful things into existence, one could see how their friends were doing, find an organ donor. There were meaningful systemic changes that were happening, the major part of which was good. But little did the creators know about the consequences which would take place down the lane.
Blame could not be put on one single man because the global technology pandemic that we are facing right now is the result of a long collective process that took place over the period. What we first saw as a boon eventually turned into a bane, today millions of people around the globe are addicted to their electronic devices. Fake news is rampant nowadays threatening social order. But beneath all these problems there is another problem that is causing all these to happen and that is an addiction.
Social media addiction, apps are being programmed to re-engineer human’s psychology so that people get hooked on these apps. So it is also a social responsibility of the tech giants to make it less addictive. At starting it was a simple business, tech industries were making software products that were really helpful in people’s eyes but now the things have changed, products are not being made at the R&D laboratory it is being made at every place home, offices, school, colleges, cafeteria and you know how that is possible, that is possible by turning its user into a product and being sold to an advertising company because if you are not paying for the product then you are the product.
The layman thinks that google is just a place to inquire about things and Facebook to look for what our friends are doing but that is only one part of a game. The majority of people are unaware of the other side of the coin. These tech companies compete for people’s attention, their business model is to keep people engaged, is to get people to spend more and more time on their so-called free services. but are they really free?
Had these companies have come down from heaven to serve earth’s people for free. You might be out of your mind to think like that. The users of their services are paying by giving their attentions in simple words advertisers pay these companies on behalf of the public and in return companies persuade us to give our attention to them. So our attention is the product that is being sold to these advertisers.
If I am too blunt then I could say that it’s the gradual slight imperceptible change in your own behavior and perception that is the product. So in short we are being changed in a way that they want so their advertisers can leverage from our changed behavior.
We are being tracked by these internet companies where ever we go, the sole purpose of these internet companies is to make advertisers as successful as possible, and how that would be possible? that would be possible by a new type of gold that is DATA. Our Data helps companies to make an algorithm that would predict our movements.
social media surveillance
Everything that people do online is being watched, is being tracked, is being measured. Every action we take is carefully monitored like what image we look at and how long we look at, they know when people are lonely, they know when people are depressed, what type of personality do we posses whether we are extrovert or introvert.
They have more information about us than has ever been imagined in history. These all information is fed into the machines to have better and better predictions. These data are being used to have surveillance over us. All the videos that we have watched, what photos have we liked whatever the information that we feed into the internet is used to have a more and more accurate model of our brain. It can very well predict, what kind of things triggers our emotions.
Technology companies have three major goals first is to keep you engaged, second is to drive you to invite other people to it and last is to show as much advertisement so as to increase the revenue.
how social media affect political polarization
Surveillance capitalism has come to shape our politics and culture in many ways people don’t perceive. We have gone from the age of information to the age of disinformation with fake news widespread to manipulate the thought of the public which eventually has led to communal disharmony, racism. Tools that have been created to help people connect globally are trying to erode the social fabric of how society works.
Whether it be any country, with the help of these inventions political discourse of the countries is being changed, manipulated. Many known personalities of the world have already alleged that how these social media platforms are being used to manipulate people’s opinions and ruining the fabric of democracy. We have clearly moved away from having tools based technology environment to an addiction and manipulation-based technology environment. Social media is not just a tool waiting to be used. It has its own goal and has its own means of pursuing them by using our psychology against us.
People have become lab rats for these tech giants, they just want us to look more and more ads so they can make more money. Facebook conducted what they called “massive scale contagion experiments” to test that how do we use subliminal cues on the Facebook pages to get more people to go vote in the midterm elections? and they discovered that they were able to do that one thing that they concluded that they now knew that they can affect real-world behavior and emotions without triggering user’s emotions.
We all simply are operating on a different set of facts, when that happens on a scale you are no longer able to reckon with or even consume information that contradicts the world view we have created which means we are not actually being objective, constructive individual.
We might think how stupid people on the other side of the coin are, are they not able to see what’s happening, have they all lost common sense and criteria to judge what is right or wrong but we tend to lose sight that the view that they have created of the world on the basis on information is totally different to us. In the present scenario, these tech giants are in total control of what information we consume as a matter of fact we are not in control of ourselves.
These algorithms are not only efficient in keeping people polarized but also this polarization is extremely efficient at keeping people online. People think that algorithm is designed to get them what they really want but in reality, the algorithms are actually trying to find a few rabbit holes that are very powerful, trying to find which rabbit hole is the closest to our interest.
And if you start consuming one of that info then it would recommend it over and over again, and those recommendations would not stop until and unless it changes your perceptions. There has been research conducted in MIT that showed that fake news on Twitter spreads six times faster than true news. What is that world gonna look like where falsehood has six times an advantage to the truth.
They have created a system that biases towards false information because false information makes companies more money than the truth. It’s a disinformation for-profit business model. They make money the more they allow unregulated messages to reach anyone for the best price.
Social media amplifies gossip and exponential hearsay to the point that we do not know what’s true, no matter what issue we care about. Algorithms and manipulative politicians are becoming so expert at learning how to trigger us, getting so good at creating fake news that we absorb as if it were real, and confusing us to believe in those lies, and its as though as we have less and less control like who we are and what we really believe.
We are heading towards the reality where everyone would believe that nothing is truth and our government always keep us under the shade of lies, where a clear picture of anything would be alien to our society. These tech industries have created a tool to destabilize and erode the fabric of society in every country all at once, everywhere.
How social media affects mental health
We have created a world where online connections have become a necessity, especially for the younger generation to the extent that individuals do not possess any identity for themselves if they are not online. Teens now prefer to spend more time on social media than on learning real-time experience. even they want to look in real like their filtered pic that doctors have coined a term “Snapchat dysmorphia” with young children wanting plastic surgery so they can look like they do in their filtered selfies.
Technology is now being made more persuasive to reengineer the human brain to a deeper level in a way that receiver is even not aware of all the changes that are slowly and gradually taking place in the brain. There are an entire discipline and field called “growth hacking”.Corporates have set up teams of an engineer to hack people’s psychology to get them more engaged online.
Social media is a drug. We have a basic biological imperative to connect with other people that directly affect the release of dopamine in the reward pathway. Its characteristics of human being that induces us to come together and live as communities, to find mates, to propagate our species so there is no doubt that a vehicle like social media which optimizes this connection between people, is going to have the potential for addiction.
These technology products are not designed by child psychologists who are trying to protect and nurture children. They are just designed to make these algorithms that are really good at recommending that next video to you, or really good at getting you to take a photo with a filter on it.
It’s not just that they are controlling where we spend our attention, especially social media starts to dig deeper and deeper into the brain stem and to take over kid’s sense of self-worth and identity.
There has been a gigantic increase in depression and anxiety for American teenagers which began right around 2011 and 2013. The number of teenage girls out of 100,000 in this country who were admitted to a hospital every year because they cut themselves or harmed themselves, that number was pretty stable until around 2010, 2011 and then it began going way up.
It’s up by 62 percent for older teen girls and for preteen girls this is up by 189 percent. And with regards to suicide, data is more horrifying, the older teen girls, 15 to 19 years old they are up 70 percent, compared to the first decade of this century.
The preteen girls who have very low rates, to begin with, are up 151 percent, and that patterns point to social media. The whole generation is more anxious, more fragile, and more depressed because of the collective judgment passed by the internet communities on their looks, religion, race, ethnicity, and whatever that comes into their vision.
It should be plain as day to the people that these services are killing people and causing people to kill themselves. They are training and conditioning a whole new generation of people that when we are uncomfortable or lonely or uncertain or afraid, we have digital pacifiers for ourselves that are kind of atrophying our own ability to deal with that.
Also read, How to Build a Career in Blockchain
It’s not about the technology being the existential threat but it’s the technology’s ability to bring out the worst in society and the worst in society being the existential threat. If technology creates mass chaos, outrage incivility, lack of trust in each other, loneliness, alienation, polarization, more election hacking, more populism, more distraction, and inability to focus on the real issues that are just society, and now society is incapable of healing itself and just devolving into a kind of chaos.