We Design With Aptitude

The Polemic Social Media

Recent research has grouped the negative effects of Social Media into six themes:

  1. Cost of social exchange: includes both psychological harms, such as depression, anxiety or jealousy, and other costs such as wasted time, energy, and money

  2. Annoying content: includes a wide range of content that annoys, upsets, or irritates, such as disturbing or violent content or sexual or obscene content

  3. Privacy concerns: includes any threats to personal privacy related to storing, repurposing, or sharing personal information with third parties

  4. Security threats: refers to harms from fraud or deception such as phishing or social engineering

  5. Cyberbullying: includes any abuse or harassment by groups or individuals such as abusive messages, lying, stalking, or spreading rumours

  6. Low performance: refers to a negative impact on job or academic performance.

Technology, as recent as a couple of years ago was supposed to bring us all closer - remember the global village? The emergence of an old doctrine - "critical race theory" the epitome of this dramatic change in attitude towards anyone with a different point of view has put paid to that paradigm. Here is how the woke brigade often responds - "There is no war against free speech. You are perfectly free to say what you want, so long as it aligns with our prevailing view". We the oligopolies accountable to no one and if you dare you will be canceled by us. We have done so to the former incumbent of the White House. A black woman questions the authenticity of a white female with breaded hair as cultural appropriation while she has got a Brazilian blond wig on. And rest assured it was not carnival week either. The irony never lost on her. Wokery is definitely diminishing our thinking process to the extent that we are becoming perfidious. How did we get here?

A former Facebook employee Frances Haugen turned whistleblower is now (as of today 15-10-2021) giving testimony to Congress about how the company operates. The British parliament is also very keen to talk to her. Mark Zuckerberg and Nick Clegg have complained that she has only presented a partial view of the company, whereas they want to stop any insights into how the company manages harmful content to get into the public domain unless they have personally approved them. Harmful content is the bread and butter of social media in case you did not already know. Where we have outsourced part of our brain to electronic devices.

We all hope that this is a cyclical thing, and we’ll work our way through it, and everyone will realize that we operate on a very broad spectrum, and we mustn’t diminish our abilities to think from different perspectives. Institutions are not spineless - it's the governance & leadership elites who are too busy virtue signaling to each other to realize how useless they seem to be. Here is another anecdote - a football ground screen advertisement board had this caption splashed all over it - "the act of taking the knee is a matter for the individual and should be respected". It ended with "Anyone who doesn't agree is not welcome". Spineless Institutions will always exacerbate the problem. We have now come to a situation where those who are quite able to express an opinion are those who are not scared of losing their job. Think about it for a minute. On second thought, take as much time as you want. What a pity we now have a situation where good people are full of hesitancy and outright fear of doing the right thing while bigots are brimming over with confidence. Empowering the lowest form of human life will not get us anywhere but dystopia. They are balkanizing society systematically with manipulative algorithms that split us into separate nuclear bunkers, nurturing a conspiracy universe among the ‘basket of deplorables’ on the one side, while nurturing the pathological grievances of identity politics on the other. This is the status quo of all social media as we know it today.

As we are now very aware, the internet isn't the large-scale distributed network that DARPA (the Défense Advanced Research Projects Agency), the original architects of the internet, tried to create, which could withstand a nuclear strike on any part of it. The aforementioned recent outage is a case in point. The protocols it uses today are the same ones that were drafted when we connected to mainframe computers from dumb terminals. A single glitch in its core infrastructure brings the whole thing crashing down. This is the juncture where there should be a political will to interfere with the infrastructure to make it more resilient. In so doing, the government can take the upper hand and bring in some legislation on how social media operates. Breaking the current state and power of the Oligopolies - Facebook (Instagram and WhatsApp), Twitter and Google (YouTube). The sooner the better for mankind. Here is a sober thought - if that recent outage lasted for a day, a week, a month, maybe a year what would the repercussions be? Maybe normality will ensue, and we will all breathe fresh air again, talk to our real families and friends, and maybe just maybe use the phone to talk to someone we can't physically reach. There is seemingly almost nothing good to say about Facebook if a conclusion were to be drawn from the recent testimony given by former employer Frances Haugen in Washington DC and London respectively. Profit for the company though seems to defy all reasonable logic as evidenced in the company's stock price recently.

There is though, an existential threat just lurking around the corner as revealed by the Facebook files. These show the extent to which the company is losing traction with young people. Its user base is aging and the kids that Facebook needs to engage if it wants to remain relevant think the platform is “boring, misleading and negative”. What’s more, internal documents don’t seem particularly optimistic that the company can turn this around easily. Facebook may be performing well financially for the moment, but its continued success is far from a given. The writing may just be on the wall albeit faintly - it is still fresh. And just in case it slipped your attention, the rebranding to Metaverse is a clue. It is just another step away from interaction with real people. Just like its current configuration, this one has far more potential to endanger society. When we make the virtual world seem better than the real thing, the implications are huge. The only way to protect ourselves against the damage caused by Facebook et al is to start relying on other information sources for joy and edification.

One thing we have all learned invariably and to some extent, sometimes to our amusement and sometimes to our horror is the desire for humans to have their biases and prejudices confirmed. These platforms not only amplify it but to a degree, no other medium has done or can do. It is inherent in their design as so many whistle-blowers have testified their AI algorithm notwithstanding.

And here is the sine qua non - all social media influencers to get a real job for once - I digress.

Concentration – The absence of irrelevant thought. How we need that now so desperately.

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