Choice and free will have always been a highly debated issue in sociology, philosophy, law and human rights.
We discuss fundamental human rights and special rights in law, the freedom to make choices in real life where we won’t be judged by other members of society including our parents and peers. Then there exist a plethora of options in front of us with respect to places, food, education, career and organisations to care for.
But the question which we have in front of us is are we truly free?
Let’s take the best-case scenario in front of us which majority of readers of this platform could relate to (statistically speaking ) cis-gendered- check, decent level of education access- check, decent lifestyle including comfortable living, shopping, health, food- check, decent job and earning- check. But there is one more check we need to tick that is social media access- a big double-check.
With a surge in social media data consumption every second, there hasn’t been a time when the average screen time has surpassed our sleeping duration.
And again where are we spending most of our time? Well, there is Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and of course all-time DMing on WhatsApp. Hence no wonder almost all of our inspiration- be it a new makeup look, a new dress that we saw on reels, a new dish that we have to make, a new gadget that we have to buy or a new course where we should get involved in is coming from that space.
So far so good, just our average everyday life in this pandemic situation. No wonder we brush off all those coincidences where you were texting something to your friend or having a conversation either in person or on call just gets converted in the form of targeted advertisements.
How many times it has happened that you pick up your phone to see some messages but get trapped in an endless loop of notifications and respective apps, only to realise two hours later that all you had picked up your phone was to reply to some messages?
The evil design of social media with the only metric to track is engagement rate is meant to strip us off of our free will. The way this issue gets partially highlighted in movies like Social Dilemma and privacy activist’s movie Snowden shows the threat is very real.
Today you have your physical presence and a digital personality. There is no doubt that one day, the latter will start superseding the former and you will only be known by your digital persona. And the worst part is that your digital identity is shareable, hackable and imitable. Just by looking at few charts, your network and your digital journey, people can control which brand or product would be in your home.
We love to call out and debate on lots of human rights issues because it is something which is very fundamental in nature and we believe this is just so very basic which every member of Homo sapiens species is entitled to. But let’s not forget – so is our digital identity.
Yes, let’s accept the fact that we are a digital slave of all social media companies, who not just own our data but rather slowly our lifestyle and lives. The rise in valuation of almost all tech startup’s is at the cost of our digital identity and how we can be manipulated by just a few design changes at their end.
Now you would ask this might not be in our control as most of us follow the herd mentality. Hence we have to be present where everyone else is, else we will lose out on our contacts and e-socialisation.
But let’s also come to terms with the piece that the price we have to pay for Spotify premium, and YouTube premium and all other premium services is just a fraction of our digital valuation.
Hence the very best case persona I called out earlier is not even free enough to decide on the ingredient in their kitchen. Let’s not even discuss the less fortunate, marginalised groups of digitally challenged ones.