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.
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.