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Why We Should Take A Break From Manipulative Social Media Apps

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In the past, humans/law books decided what was true or false. But today someone else does (including real/fake news). The new players in the game are MNC digital companies owned by a select few billionaires. The tycoons of social media companies have to stop pretending that they are friendly nerd gods building a better world and admit they are just new era tobacco farmers in T-shirts, selling an addictive product to young generations.

Let’s face it; checking your notifications has become the new smoking. Pablo Escobar just wanted your money; the App Store wants your soul and conscience. Billions of people are using this addictive technology and the user base of these giants is more than the entire population of many small countries. Their mind-boggling revenues surpass GDPs of many small economies.

From the moment you wake up till bed-time, it’s like you are plugged into this ecosystem and thoughts start streaming into your brain almost automatically, designed by a few technology companies. People check their phones at least 50 times a day. The mobile has made every other gadget almost irrelevant to our lives.

When people check their phones, there’s no message or notification; the urge comes from deep within their minds. This then generates Cortisol which makes you anxious and you desperately then click on it to get rid of the anxiety. Most people experience this anxious feeling when their battery is about to die. Why does this happen?

Powerful AI tools and algorithms are used to monitor us privately and create patterns of an individual’s behaviours and psychological profiles. Machine learning and data collection have made this easy for them but complex for us to understand. Psychological models are then created by studying our choices, opinions, products we buy etc. These then give us targeted ads and we relate with it all instantly.

All this is done through SM, chat apps, etc., made available to users free of cost. But remember the saying: “When you get something for free, you are the product being sold out there.” Innocent looking words then appear on our screens: suggestions, people you may know, recommendations, etc., slowly leading us into an invisible trap based on what they decide to show us, not what we want to see.

social media apps
The Internet, which was initially designed to unite the world, is now playing the divide and rule game by serving personalised content.

Gradually it becomes habitual and addictive and we surrender our decision-making ability. The ultimate game plan on the other side is to influence users into buying/believing as per a brand/ideology. We are the new products and our decision-making ability is the new item on the shelf out there.

What’s more worrying is that a few MNCs have monopolised the game and rivals are either not allowed in the marker or ruthlessly crushed, or worse, taken over for billions of dollars. They then guide, monitor, and control major aspects of our life without us even being aware of it.

Steve Jobs revolutionised communications with the iPhone, and he never let his kids use it because he did not want them to be dependent on technology. Mark Zuckerberg, FB CEO, has an entire team to handle his social media accounts. That’s the number one rule of drug dealing: Never get high on your own stuff.

But all of this is so unhealthy. You see people sitting at café tables, not talking to each other, all hooked to their screens. Maybe they don’t even know each other. And the external pressure combined with the inner compulsions to be like everyone else is so hugely thrust upon us that everybody likes to live the artificial life.

The Internet, which was initially designed to unite the world, is now playing the divide and rule game by serving personalised content. It has created personal islands for everyone in this vast societal ocean giving them false hope of millennial lifestyle.

People strangely have more friends and mutual friends on FB than in real life. And those demi-gods like celebrities you follow on Instagram don’t even know that you exist. In our parent’s generation, people knew each other quite closely, but we have only superficial information about each other with all the tech. Social media has become a new tool for manipulative identity and impersonation. It has made privacy a big bad joke, just like democracy.

Do you know what I saw on my Instagram feed today morning? No, you don’t because mine isn’t the same as yours. People get news feed that vomits back customised stories based on your past searches. We are great consumers, but very bad producers. We will buy what we don’t need and can’t afford, with money we haven’t earned ourselves, to impress people we don’t even know, trying to be someone we are not. Get off Facebook and put your face in a book.

People are editing their selfies and putting on animal filters to reverse the evolutionary cycle because we as society told them that they are not good enough. Cosmetic and social media companies create problems and insecurities in our minds that don’t exist in the first place and then also innocently sell us a product to solve that problem. So-called paid celebrities and influencers have created a culture of narcissism without realising the toxic impact it has on their audiences.

Technology is not neutral. They want you to use it in a particular manner and for long periods because that’s how they make their money and ensure you get addicted to the product. You don’t realise that very slowly; you are being programmed into using certain products and believing in a particular brand or ideology.

They now have control over our minds. It was unintentional initially, but now the game has levelled up, but the users haven’t. You are feeding the beast that will one day destroy us. Its high time people take a hard break from these tools. These short term dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are now deciding how society works and thinks. Misinformation, fake news, societal violence, riots, etc., are some of its visible symptoms.

I challenge everyone to have a social-detox program, i.e. try going at least 1 week without social media usage. Don’t let your devices control you, control them instead. This is a global problem and we all need to be on the same page to resolve it.

You must be to comment.
  1. Sumit Ghormade

    Amazingly written Rahul it’s really a thought provoking and on point article on how tech giants are using AI in every sense to capture over the users mind.

    1. RAHUL W

      Thanks Sumit
      I am happy you liked it

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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