Addicted to What? Raising the Barr Weekly Memo: Issue 432

I watched the movie, The Social Dilemma, for the second time the other day. It raises serious concerns as to how the social media companies have developed the technology and platforms that have taken control of our lives, our privacy, our society and possibly the future of our democracy. Here are the key takeaways I’d like to share with you and as always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback:

The business model for these companies has changed from selling products to selling users. In other words, since it is advertisers who are actually the paying customers, our online navigation history, data usage and browsing habits are sold to these advertisers and in turn we then become the product allowing the advertisers to effectively target us while reaping mind boggling profits for the social media companies.

These platforms are competing for our attention and our screen time engagements. The longer we spend online and the more connections we make with others, the more they learn about us and gain control of what we are able to see on the screen while they see their revenues and profits dramatically expand.

Each and every action we take online is being monitored and saved. They can track how long you view images or videos, which ones you prefer, assess your moods, with whom you are connecting and even identify your personality type. The more you engage with others and the more you invite others, the more these companies grow their networks, their knowledge of us, and the more fine-tuning they can do to their algorithms in order to target us and to increase our addictions and therefore their profits.

Of course, there are some very positive sides to these networks. More than ever before:

  • We can stay in touch with family, friends, and clients.
  • We can build new connections, friendships, and communities.
  • We can learn and quickly increase our knowledge.
  • We can grow our businesses using these technologies.
  • We can improve our health and medical condition.
  • We can shop virtually.
  • And so much more.

But there are also the very serious and alarming consequences to these technologies:

  • Fake news has been tracked to spread six times faster on Twitter than true news.
  • Manipulative narrative and conspiracy theories can be spread with great ease and speed while targeting the “right” audience with great precision!
  • They created a generation of addicts than are unable to part from these platforms.
  • The tools exist now to destabilize and erode the fabric of our global societies.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) cannot solve the problems of fake news.
  • Mass chaos has been created, bringing out the worst in people, creating loneliness, and generating lack of trust in each other.
  • Hospital admissions for depression and anxiety has increased since 2011 by 62% for teens and 189% for preteens.
  • Suicide has increased by 70% for teens and 151% for preteen girls.
  • These services are killing people and risk the future of our democracies.

Although these are extremely serious concepts for all of us to deal with, my intent is not to scare you or paint a picture of doom and gloom but to help increase our awareness and need for action. We have the responsibility and capability to change, make this a better world and impact our future and destiny.

To what are you addicted? Do you check your phone or emails before getting out of bed? Are you reading your emails and checking social media in the bathroom, or before or during breakfast? How about the rest of the day? Do these technologies act as your digital pacifier? If so, what are you willing to change?

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