Opinion

We need to rethink and reboot our social media activity

Summary

Our social media platforms are powered by a surveillance-based business model designed to mine, manipulate, and extract our human experiences at any cost.

Let’s be honest, we have become slaves to technology and that slavery has handed control of our lives to technology.  When we think of technology controlling us, most may be thinking about government overreach and big brotherly intrusions into our private domains but in reality, the control is far more subtle and seductive.  

We are getting seduced by what is on various social platforms, the cute memes, helpful suggestions and recommendations and such. The placebos dressed up as panaceas.

If you are an active participant in social media platforms such as FB, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter and others, then you may be aware that those platforms (the algorithms used by those platforms) are freely manipulating your predispositions. Those innocent looking suggestions to connect you with the world of like mindedness is the algorithmics grinding to possess your preferences.  It is the herding of the like minded to the labyrinthian tunnels of same speak and same thought.

Frightening? Yes. If you haven’t given the likelihood much thought, then you should because your views and preferences may be fully owned by social media algorithms. They may be telling you what is the truth, what is falsehood, what is just and what is not. You may not be in control of your emotional and intellectual attachments as you think.     

Big Brother has seduced us to love the manipulation of our world.

It is frightening because our existence is becoming altered by each technological advance that promises us a less complicated life. We no longer even need to physically interact with others. Almost everything we need could be ordered online, physiological and emotional. Big Brother Algorithm is there to guide and herd us, but not to shepherd.

We have become obsessive trolls, seeking the latest trends, the latest thoughts on a subject, person, food, travel etc. We still have the ability to choose but the choices are controlled by an inanimate object. Algorithms have become the sentinels of our wellbeing.

As described by Jeff Orlowski in his essay We need to rethink social media before it’s too late. We’ve accepted a Faustian bargain, “Our social media platforms are powered by a surveillance-based business model designed to mine, manipulate, and extract our human experiences at any cost, causing a breakdown of our information ecosystem and shared sense of truth worldwide. This extractive business model is not built for us but built to exploit us.”

In other words, we have willingly subjected ourselves to be mined and exploited for profit. Some of the exploitation is political and social. If we are not vigilant, the algorithms will direct us to places that are harmful at the personal as well as the societal level. Look at the political discourse that you are drawn to on the social platform/s of your choice.

When was the last time you read anything that was outside your emotional comfort zone? How many times have you disconnected, disregarded and acted out in anger to a post, meme or picture from an acquaintance on social media?

More importantly, how many times have you made an attempt to explain your anger or the unhappiness to the person who is directing your emotions to disentangle? Or, how many times have you even attempted to seek the basis of what offends you to find out whether your reaction is justified?

Are we even capable of objective reasoning anymore on a given subject?

Tristan Harris author of The Social Dilemma says, “…before technology overpowers human strengths, it will overwhelm human weaknesses.” In many areas, they already have.

An intellect numbed into submission by disinformation, incomplete information, fake information, manufactured information and manipulated information is easy prey for data mining mechanisms in the control of amoral profiteers.

Political systems have become prey to these machinations of digital predators. Legitimacy of some political systems may be irreparably compromised by the manipulation of human weaknesses via social media.

We must find ways to subvert the intrusions of these amoral profiteers without providing them the information to re-tweak their algorithms to accommodate the subversions.

That will require supreme awareness at the personal level because as Orlowski warns “We can’t rely on the people who created the problem to be the ones to solve it.”

Let’s start the process by subverting the subverter.

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