So, in today’s article, we will find out about the social media/social dilemma, which has been a subject of topic everywhere. A must-read about the present and future of social media on human behavior.
What is Social Dilemma?
Firstly, “The Social Dilemma” is a documentary available on Netflix, which showcases the horrors of social media like, how manipulative is it? how dangerous is it? how addictive is it? and many more. But, this article is not the narrative of the documentary. This article focuses on the bits and pieces from the documentary, facts related to social media, and my personal experience with social media.
Earlier when social media like Facebook was created, it was used to interact with others, and it helped in emergencies like blood donation, organs, and many more. But, recently it has become a tool that leads to depression, manipulation like a recent study on social media says that teens are depressed for not getting enough likes on social media and getting depressed by watching traveling pictures of others, having fun as they are not able to do so. A study found that higher social media use correlated with self-reported declines in mental and physical health and life satisfaction.
Data is the New Oil
It seems like social media is simple, nothing complicated, or nothing to worry about, but, it’s not. It has been a major concern nowadays. These days, due to the rise of social media, everyone is influenced by something. Let me make this simple for you; for instance, before buying a car or bike, you don’t go visiting every showroom; instead, you watch reviews on the internet and videos on YouTube then you make a decision and buy it. The same applies to electronic devices like mobile, laptop etc. Brands are paying to show their ads so much that you are influenced by their products to buy it. These are just nothing when compared to other things like politics (more on this later).
A year ago, me and my friend were discussing on GRE and IELTS exam on a call for more than half an hour. After the call, I opened my Instagram account only to find out that Instagram was showing me ads related to IELTS and GRE tutorials, which were not shown earlier, creepy right?
The thing about all the social media is the type of content you consume is shown to you again and again not just that, they have so much information about you, like, what age you are, what type of content you like at what time of the day, even the apps you use before and after using a certain app or website. They know each and everything about you and influence you in any way they want to. The machine learning is learning a lot about you like which posts you like, which post you spend more time on, and suggest the similar posts each time you open so that you can spend more time on it. They even have data about what color attracts you and use it in text or images to increase your usage and manipulate you and sell a product. So, the more you watch or read, the more similar suggestions(content) you get.
The companies are making the tool such that you must spend more time on their app. They even have an algorithm such that they can find how much time you spent looking at a particular picture and suggest similar pictures quickly; the algorithm makes you think that it is suggesting what you exactly wanted. But, it’s just a rabbit hole and tries to find whichever is closest to your interest to spend more time on the tool. For instance, you can try this, ask your friend to follow the same pages on his/her social media as yours by being in the same location but, the content suggested for you and your friend are different but taken from the same pages. Because your friend might spend more time looking at a particular picture which is of his interest and you might spend more on the other.
They send you notifications such that you must open them like a friend request, a tag, likes, a new post by your friend, and a few other notifications. Ever wondered why they don’t show the tagged picture in the notification or the mail we receive; because they want you to open the app and check the picture in-app and spend more time browsing other things. The more time you spend, the more data they have on you which generates more revenue and an increase in profits. Actually, they are controlling us more than we control them.
Due to the rise in social media even the fake news is circulating a lot. A recent study shows that the fake news spread a lot faster than the truth; for instance, the recent fake news that tons of gold were found in UP’s Sonabhadra region spread like wildfire for several days. But, when the authority cleared that it was a rumor, it didn’t spread like wildfire. It took several days to circulate that it was fake news.
In an interview, a famous basketball player said that the Earth is flat upon asking how and why. He said YouTube. Because YouTube continuously recommended videos of similar thoughts that the Earth is flat. So, imagine they can make you think anything and everything which is very dangerous like even in politics an individual’s view may or may not be in the best interest of the nation, but social media can make you think that his ideas are right; also it can make you against some religion or nation or anything. The propagandists can even make you think that there’s everything wrong about this country, state, religion, party, and make you believe in the same by continuously suggesting the same content. If you consume one content of theirs, you are suggested similar content again and again so that they can spread their propaganda and influence you with their ideas or beliefs which might be good or bad. They even spread fake news so much that the same thing appears everywhere so that you could believe that it is the truth. They can even manipulate you by showing videos or posts against a political party and make you vote against them.
In U.S., there’s even propaganda and conspiracy that climate change is a hoax; not just climate change they say Coronavirus is a hoax it’s all made up by the government so that people should stay at home and the government is using it as an excuse to do something else. In some countries, they made think that radiation emitting from a tower is much worse than COVID-19, and people thought it was real and destroyed many towers.
To influence you, political parties pay a huge sum of money to advertisers or content creators such that their good political agenda is shown to you or defame the other political party or spread fake news to defame the other party so that you get influenced and vote them. The best example for this is Cambridge Analytica; Facebook–Cambridge Analytica was a data leak in 2018 where millions of Facebook users’ data was used without consent by Cambridge Analytica, especially to be used for political advertising. A report says that the number of countries with political disinformation campaigns on social media doubled in the past two years.
This is a new era altogether, where one country can manipulate another country without crossing the border; by promoting a particular political party with the help of similar content makers within the same country. For instance, China influences the left party or Communist party agenda in a democratic nation and people fall for such content. The content makers make their viewers think that democracy is for sale and promote the culture war, religion war within the country; so that the country cannot grow and keep solving the internal issues again and again. For instance, when Article 370 was removed, China was against it and the Left or Communist ideologist made videos that how bad it is to remove Article 370 and all and made you think that they are right and then the algorithm suggests you similar content. By consuming similar content it makes you think that there’s everything wrong in this country and start a war within ourselves. There’s even a study that says there is a rise in the culture war, social war, religion war due to the rise in social media. A report says that 64% of the people who joined extremist groups on Facebook did so because the Algorithms steered them there.
“How do you wake up from the matrix when you don’t know you are in the matrix”
The truth is, the laws and policies are not that bold and strong to hold these companies; actually lawmakers don’t clearly understand what really goes into these companies. It is still unregulated in a lot of ways. The law runs way behind these things and it still does not protect user’s and users’ data.
“If you are not paying for the product then you are the product”
By the way, don’t forget to watch the “The Social Dilemma” trailer. It’s an eye-opening and thought-provoking.
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Thank you for reading and I hope to see you in the next one.