Think of this as a rapid-fire and ask yourself what do we know about social media platforms?
- They are exciting.
- They help us kill time.
- They are ever engaging.
- They help us stayed connected with the world.
- The recommendations are powerful and find me content that I love to watch.
- They make us smarter and more interactive.
- Helps me connect with people of similar interests and opinions.
Let’s look at these perceived benefits under a different lens now.
- They are exciting. Or dosing us with social approvals every few minutes, making us perceive our lives around short-term happiness.
- They help us kill time. Or steal our attention and sell it as a product to companies, businesses and governments.
- They are ever engaging. Or they’re using the basic biological imperative to connect with humans to manipulate you in ways you can’t imagine.
- They help us stayed connected with the world. Or sneaky AI algorithms are at their best to keep you hooked by playing with your emotional triggers and vulnerabilities.
- The recommendations are powerful and find me content that I love to watch. Or are you being manipulated into believing something by persuasive AI tactics?
- They make us smarter and more interactive. Or are they polarising us on multiple levels and controlling our opinions?
I’m not pointing out at how social platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook amongst others are bad for you, but alluding to the fact that as users, we need to be cognisant of how we utilise these platforms and what share of our time and energy we give them. Be aware of what information is being fed to you and choose to critically think of the opinion that you are being dosed with. A study shows that fake news travels six times faster on Twitter than the real one. With laws running behind digital privacy, we are making ourselves vulnerable to being manipulated for the interests of powerful organizations.
If not used wisely, technology has the power of evolving as an existential threat to humanity soon. So, could we be looking at degraded democracies, ruined global economy, willful ignorance or civil war, in a few years from now? The path has been set already and the work is in great progress:
- Teen and pre-teens (especially girls) within the Gen Z demographic (people born after 1996) are more susceptible to depression, loneliness, and suicide. In middle school, kids are already addicted to being online and show a perpetual desire for greater social validation.
- This addiction is making users more fragile, lonely, less risk-taking, depressed, unhappy, socially disconnected and alienated.
- Opinions are so hard to tolerate and unwelcomed. There’s an ever-decreasing sense of shared beliefs.
- Countries are using data to create polarisation and difference of opinion in other countries.
- News is being falsified for commercial interest.
While social platforms may not have been designed to be malicious, they always tapped into the aspect of addiction or obsession. Today, big companies, billion-dollar businesses, or even governments have the ability to change the way we think, impose opinions and generate influence on us without us knowing we’re being played.
The need of the hour is to:
- have stringent digital privacy laws.
- for us to limit the time we spend online on these virtual platforms and focus on making real human connections.
- have AI algorithms revamped to help us and not use us as a product to sell to the biggies.
We must curb our social media addiction by shifting focus to healthy activities and behaviours, such as reading a book, going on a social media detox, painting, working out, taking a solo trip, meditating, learning a new skill, engaging in meaningful conversations, picking up a new hobby; there’s just so much to do and learn outside of social media. Let’s not restrict our worlds to social media. At the end of the day, it should be us controlling technology and not the other way around.