I watched Netflix’s “Social Dilemma” today. The show didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know, but it affirmed my need to spread the word about the importance of mindful consumerism.
Social media, search engines and other internet-based companies use surveillance capitalism to target users with the best possible experience. Not just advertising, but our actual news feeds as well. Facebook will give my husband—a gearhead and staunch conservative—a much different experience than the makeup ads and off-the-wall political posts they give me. In the journalism field, this is called setting the agenda.
We are the product. Every time we log in, those apps are mining our data. They note where we are, what sites we visit, and what rabbit holes we go down. Then their artificial intelligence (AI) programs give each of us a customized user experience—news feed, advertising, recommendations (friends, movies, groups, pages to like) and more. That’s good for us in the sense that we find value in that experience, and it’s good for the platform because we stay logged into that app.
It’s also good for bad actors that want to hack into our data and use it for nefarious purposes.
It’s bad for our mental health in that we have the same chemical responses of dopamine and cortisol that we get from other experiences, but these are coming at us much faster and with more ferocity than the old days before social media and its virality.
It’s great for people who want to spread propaganda. It’s so easy to click “Share” when we see something that aligns with our own personal biases, or alarms us, triggering the dopamine/cortisol response that kicks us into flight/fight/freeze mode.
But what are we going to do about it?
Social media is hard to regulate. Congress has already tried it.
Once again, what it really comes down to is what I have been saying all along: We have to be mindful consumers. We have to use social media and other internet applications with the same discretion we have with any other product or service. We have to put on our critical thinking caps and look for logical fallacies. We need to check the original source to make sure whomever said the phrase used it in context. We should make sure the sources are credible and unbiased.
You are not just a user. You are the product. Make sure you’re a valuable product.
I am trying to do that with my books, blog and YouTube channel. I’m trying to spread the word about the importance of critical thinking and mindful consumerism. But unless my friends and family click Like, Share and Subscribe, I can’t compete with the Kardashians, Q-Anon and the barrage of tricksters and conspiracy theorists.
We need to help each other. None of us can do this alone. It only works if we band together and fight against the matrix of mediocrity.
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