With Facebook announcing the planned integration of its Whatsapp, Messenger and Instagram services we take a look at the affects of social media on our privacy, mental health and society as a whole.
This one is going to rile a few people up, so disclaimer : It’s not about you. Unless it is.
The old adage goes : If a service is free then YOU are the product. That adage is truest on the platform of Facebook. As a user of the “service” you really have to ask yourself : Why am i posting my holiday photos there? Or the photos of my delicious food? You’re not doing it to keep family and friends (or strangers depending on your privacy settings) up to date with this latest information, are you? You’re not putting these images up there to store them online – to make a historical documentation of the event for future historians to validate, are you?
“From what we can piece together, using the digital artifacts found online – Dave went to the Costa Del Sol in April of 2014 and had 4 little umbrella drinks and some chips. We also know from our research that the event was “EPIC”. ” – Some digital historians, 3019AD
The truth of it is : You want the social currency.
You’re posting this carefully curated content to show your audience a dishonest representation of your life. You want their jealousy. You want to show off. You want them to think “If only my life was like that. If only I had that thing or did that other thing“. This is what we call the “Facebook Self” – the best-of reel that we show to the world. The person you want the world to think you are. This disassociation with the “real self” is where the real dangers of Social Media lie.
For example : Your new car. Your new house. Your new job. You want the Likes to validate your pride in this achievement. And whilst this is nothing to be ashamed of it is important to examine why you share this.
Narcissism is defined as : An excessive need to be admired by others and have a sense of entitlement.
This even extends to daily tasks. There is nothing more narcissistic, more mentally depraved than someone who posts a gym selfie. Outside of a trainer or fitness guru in the sphere of social media or business promotion. What is the aim of the post? To let the audience know that person is at a gym : This is a form of virtue signalling essentially. Akin to posting every time you give money to a charity or help an old lady across the road. I see no difference. From a sociological perspective it is designed to show the audience a distorted view of your life, to broadcast the news that you are a good and charitable person. Or in this very specific case, that you show an awareness of personal health and vitality because #GAINS.
Lets not kid ourselves : The point of all social media platforms is not to provide you with a way to network with your friends – the business model they strictly adhere to is the mining and selling of the users data. Plain and simple.
The purpose of these platforms is to get you addicted. They do this through a cycle of reward and punishment, manipulated dopamine hits in the form of “Likes” and the fragmented attention of its users. Co-founder Sean Parker has even stated that the Facebook platform is designed to be addictive in this way. By exploiting a flaw in human psychology and a healthy dose of FOMO (Fear OF Missing Out), the platform can induct the user into a type of information feedback loop that television and print are incapable of : the constant update.
There are cognitive consequences for using these platforms. The rise in teenage depression, anxiety and suicide being the most noteworthy.
Add to that the increasing instances of security breaches. The ongoing nefarious adventures of the people who you willingly charge with looking after your data. Barely a week goes by without an announcement that another companies users have lost their data to hackers. In an even more questionable move Facebook went as far to mark reporting instances of these breaches as “Spam”, essentially hiding it from News Feeds.
How important could this lost data be? While I agree with the premise that data-terrorists don’t care what your favorite takeaway place is, they DO care about that information as a piece of larger puzzle. Information easily gleamed from your social media accounts, private or not. Flying Dragon Takeaway? Orders through the site or some sort of JustEat app? Favourite team is Manchester United? Typically Saturday night? Orders around 7pm. Social media post goes up around 8pm. Uses a Visa card. This bank. The transactions go through this account…… etc etc.
If you don’t see the relevance in these pieces of information and how they fit together then good luck to you. Google the phrase “Facebook apologizes” and then come back to me.
I understand that no one wants to rob you of the minimal funds you spend on Chinese food, I’m simply using it as an example of the blind trust you put in social media and the information you willingly share on it.
Then we have the likes of this #10yearchallenge where users upload a photo from ten years ago and one from present day. Sure it’s a bit of fun along those narcissistic lines we’ve already mapped out, but it doesn’t take a tin-foil-hat-wearing conspiracy theorist to work out that the best way to train AI in Facial Recognition and age-mapping is to use a sample group of comparative photographs : cataloged under an easily accessible hashtag with photos taken years apart perhaps? En masse. Legally (because the sample group already agreed to let you use their data for whatever they like).
Not just that but you’ve also agreed to let them track your movements around the internet, match your phones contact information to real-world consumer accreditation (ever signed up for a loyalty card and had to use a phone number or email?). Don’t forget about the monitoring of third-party apps and the information shared there.
All under the guise of monitoring trends in “consumer behavior”. How many times have you been talking about a service or product in private only to have it appear as an advert on your device? And you laugh and say “Isn’t that weird?!?!”.
No. No it is not. But don’t fret, that’s just monitoring trends in “consumer behaviour”.
Now before you label me as some sort of judgemental hypocrite or go further and christen me that tin-foil-hat-wearing spacecake : I’m speaking entirely from my own perspective, anecdotally and utilising my very limited experience in the realms of psychology, sociology and internet culture. Admittedly I’m no behavioural scientist, I’m just a nerd with a blog who decided that along with all users, my own personal motives for posting to this specific social platform were questionable. As a result I decided to re-evaluate the way I use social media and share with you my findings.
( My own narcissism appears in the form of this blog and my assuming anyone gives a crap about what I have to say on any given subject. So thanks for indulging that 🙂 )
If it wasn’t for the Facebook Page associated with the blog I would have no reason to be there. For me those great social currency cogs don’t hold the allure that they once did. I don’t need it. Upon taking them apart I realized it’s just not a machine I want to be involved in anymore.