Are you remotely controlled? Of course not! You decide what you read and what you click on. You limit your kids to two hours of internet time after they finish their homework. You’re in control.
Or are you? Maybe there are two sides to the social media dilemma.
ARE YOU REMOTELY CONTROLLED?
Do you think companies like Facebook feed all of the right data to you at just the right time? That you’re hooked like a fish?Or are you of the opinion that they are helping us to widen our family circle, to connect with long lost friends and stay in touch?
Maybe it’s both?
Everyone must agree this constant clicking, swiping, and liking HAS impacted our lives.
Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Tik Tok and your favorite search engine all want your attention: they use advanced algorithms to steer our minds, maneuver our thoughts and, in turn, direct our actions.
Enter: Surveillance Capitalism.
What is surveillance capitalism?
For the first fifty years of Silicon Valley the industry made products such as hardware and software and sold them to customers. Nice and Simple.
This has changed. Now the biggest companies in Silicon Valley –allegedly– have been in the business of selling their users.
Every user’s ads are personalized. For example, my son’s ads ranged from basketball shoes to jerseys, while mine were completely different
Data is collected from each individual’s browsing activities. The algorithms, developed by computer scientists in Silicon Valley, create different user profiles. This is intentional data collection.
USERS. That’s an interesting term.
SOCIAL MEDIA IS PERSUASIVE TECHNOLOGY
“Social media isn’t a tool that’s just waiting to be used,” says ethicist Tristan Harris. “It has its own goals and it has its own means of pursuing them by using your own psychology against you.”
Algorithms mine your ‘likes.’ Ads and Youtube videos you click on give you more of the same.
Harris continues, “In other words: The tool is alive. It knows you. It’s feeding you information you think you want and need but in reality, is eliciting action and clicks as a way to fuel advertising.”
For example, a major US retail network used customer shopping records to predict pregnancies of its female customers, sending them well-timed ads and well-targeted offers. (Article here)
Are you safe on social media?
Recently, Facebook was under fire for taking insufficient measures to protect data privacy of its users.(there’s that term again…
FACEBOOK PRIVACY SCANDAL
COOKIES: WHAT ARE THEY?
Cookies are the data that our computer stores while we’re using it, to remember specific information for your browsing activity. Cookies are advantageous for ease of access to research and surf the web.
WHICH ANIMAL ARE YOU?
Have you ever taken one of those quizzes? Sometimes you just have to know which animal you are or which Hogwarts House you belong to. (For the record, I’m in Gryffindor.)
Companies have actually extrapolated and mined data from our responses!
In 2019, The Federal Trade Commision (FCC) sued a political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica, accusing them of harvesting personally identifiable information through a personality quiz app. Just adding the app to your Facebook profile gave the company—and others— access to your profile information, as well as access to all your friends.
A study done by UC-Berkeley researchers showed that “easily accessible digital records of behavior, Facebook Likes, can be used to automatically and accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes including: sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious and political views, personality traits, intelligence, happiness, use of addictive substances, parental separation, age, and gender.”
SOCIAL MEDIA DILEMMA
Surveillance capitalists regard us as a free commodity. We search Google, but now we understand that Google searches us. We were using social media to connect but learned that our connections are how social media uses us.
We know we’re clicking too much. We know it’s captivating. But what is it doing to us?
These giants are just getting bigger.
Google owns YouTube and Waze, and is in the process of purchasing FitBit for 2.1 billion dollars. Gmail, owned by google is free. How did they get billions of dollars?
Facebook owns the social platforms Instagram and Whatsapp. Facebook is ‘free’ for its users, too. Yet it was able to purchase Instagram in 2012 for 1 billion dollars.
POLARITY and POPULARITY
Our data isn’t just used to sell shoes. Let’s look at political issues.
These algorithms can gather information gleaned from voter rolls, such as political affiliation, and reach out to the people they choose. They can narrow their target audience to those who have shown interest in guns, abortion, or immigration, based on what the user has read or talked about on social media sites, who they follow or what they’ve tweeted or posted about.
The algorithms then show one ad to young women interested in both school choice and climate change, and a different ad to everyone else.
Psychologically, when we read something we agree with, we stay online longer. This gives advertisers more time to sell us the items we clicked on or ‘liked.’
But what this also does is increase polarity. Again and again, we see the same opinions come at us. We eventually wonder how anyone could think otherwise because there is no other way to think.
What about ‘likes?’ Or those heart icons on Instagram? Retweets? Follows?
Not getting enough of them, or comparing oneself to a friend can have a devastating effect on self-esteem.
Ethicist Tristan Harris notes that we were not really meant to receive feedback on what we do and say every five minutes.
Comparison is the thief of joy and these sites almost force it on us.
This is a science blog, so I must give you a quick summary about dopamine.
VALUE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
There is great value in using these apps. Connecting with family out of state, friends out of the country. Posting articles or new blog posts (hand raising!)
How can we fight back? Protect our kids? Ourselves?
TAKE CONTROL OF TECHNOLOGY
If we make more conscious choices, we can take control.
Don’t just default, your experience.
Cal Newport, a professor of computer science at Georgetown University is highly critical of social media abuses. He has suggested that we should use the apps more like professional schedulers and marketing people. Which means using them in a predetermined way with set parameters.
-Avoid being lured into apps that profit from your attention. Reclaim your time by going on when YOU choose, not when a red dot tells you to.
-Go to Settings > Notifications, or swipe left on any incoming notification and hit Manage > Turn Off
-Create a shared charging station, so your kids aren’t charging their phones in their bedrooms overnight.
-Buy an alarm clock. Don’t get sucked into your phone first thing in the morning!
-Get a Website blocker like Self Control, Pause, or StayFocused.
It will decrease distraction and increase your productivity and focus because you won’t be tempted to check your Facebook feed, or see what’s on sale at Nordstrom
-Clear your browser cache each time you close it out!
Go to settings>clear browsing data
-Use apps like Headspace or Waking Up to decompress. (I love Waking Up!)
Social media serves us content we already agree with to keep us online longer. This erodes our ability to engage with people online who don’t share our views.
To solve problems from poverty to racism to climate change, we have to come together. That means exposing ourselves to different perspectives.
Social media profits from hate and anger because strong emotions generate more engagement.
Remember there is a real person behind the screen. Don’t be so quick to unfollow or publicly argue with someone who posts something you disagree with.
Take care with your comments. You could inadvertently hurt others.
TAKE A BREAK FROM SOCIAL MEDIA
Get outside and look at the view.
Train your dog to do something important.
Make dinner….or just skip to dessert!
The social media dilemma isn’t going away any time soon. With conscious effort, we can stop being remotely controlled!
DON'T MISS OUT ON THE COOL SCIENCE!
It will be interesting to see whether or not Facebook and Twitter allow me to post this article… (Facebook said that my article about soap had controversial content and refused to let me post it. Soap?)
What’s your prediction?