I have made a conscious decision to remove all my social media accounts and will never engage in these platforms again. Some may find this odd or even question why so here is my reasoning.
I’m not sure about the exact dates of the social media phenomenon but, I think it started around 2004 with myspace. I only know this application because my daughter used it; I don’t even think it exists anymore. Before that, the first early blogs, but I think the real explosion started with Facebook, in my opinion. Then it just grew to more platforms or applications than I can think of; Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and way more than I can ever remember. These platforms took off with smartphones, specifically the iPhone, in 2007, when these applications can be mobile with the ability to interact at any time and anywhere.
I do not claim to be an expert on this topic, and these are my observations. I’m sure, not much different than many people have had. What I first noticed was the increased phone usage with text messaging. I initially found it a big convenience to send a quick message that did not require a call. I also noticed kids they were doing a lot of texting; I had no idea what was always so important. Since this was uncommon to me and my generation, I did not pay much attention to this. I looked at it just as an evolution of technology and something all the kids did. I also noticed many kids not playing outside. For me, that was odd because I was always out playing one sport or another. Since my kids were involved in several activities and had good grades, I did not give what I saw much thought. Looking back, I know the ability to effective communication and a simple more personal phone call is gone. We lack good communication skills, and we have many miscommunication issues that I think are due to quick text to replace personal connection. I am not immune to this problem either.
I’m not trying to make this a social media historical timeline, but at some point, I created a Facebook account, everybody had one, and it was fun. People reconnected, and you could share information, talk to friends, or meet people with like interests. It was also around this time I saw many people engaging in this platform, including my kids. I was also a bit concerned and frustrated with the amount of time they spent with these applications to the point they would not put their phone down at dinner or have a conversation. Of course, it was not isolated to my kids and me any more than what I observed with kids and parents everywhere. Also, grown adults you could not talk to as their attention was always on their phone. Two of my kids are grown and out of the house. They have busy jobs and still engage in these platforms. One of my kids is still living at home, and I can even see his heavy involvement in these platforms. I am using what I know and feel to help guide all of them on what these platforms mean and can do.
Of course, as time progressed, we saw and continue to see more platforms, more engagement, and what I consider extraordinary evolution into things like influencers. It started to appear to be a method of control and, as the term states, influence people. Again I assumed most people would be smart enough to decide on their own. Still, it became apparent this constant stimulation of news, influencing products, what was presented in these platforms seemed to be changing from what they started to be. I did not know how or what the reason could be.
At one point, I found I was spending more time than necessary on Facebook, and it was mostly nonsense, it was more political and polarized. It was not fun. I never engaged much in other platforms other than Facebook. It was around 2018. I left the platform for two years.
About 8 to 10 months ago, I re-enabled my Facebook account, I created an Instagram and Twitter account and started to use these platforms again. I tried very hard to keep it fun on Facebook, looking at funny pictures and videos, sharing them, and dropping a “happy birthday” and hello to friends. What I found is people spending more time arguing, posing political commentary, insulting pictures of somebody that did not fir their political beliefs, and an overly divided environment. I did not see this just from strangers; I saw this from people that have known each other for decades. I also looked into many claims, and most of them were false, based on insufficient information and dubious sources.
Now back to my opening paragraph, I have consciously decided to remove all my social media accounts. I have worked in the technology field for decades. I have written some code over the years for my job and have worked in very advanced software development groups. I have done a fair amount of reading and using many development tools and platforms. I have read about AI (artificial intelligence) machine learning and, most certainly, the need to manage and understand data. All of this is getting employed on these platforms. Why do you think if you look online for slippers, it shows up in your Facebook feed? What I did not know was how technology has been able to use data and tap into your psychology. It seemed like an addiction.
I then watched the social dilemma on NetFlix, and it tied together with the technology and psychology. It uses everything I just mentioned in the technology world and the data. I was able to start and relate this to what I learned in college and my psychology classes. These companies use this data to elicit the response they want and how they direct your thought process. They know how to use the data to addict you to the next like, response, reply. You are data, and you are money. The documentary presented what I was thinking but could not tie all the pieces together. The people sharing this information are the very people that wrote the code and their agenda. You are being shaped to elicit a specific reaction or thought and, thus, a response.
Ultimately you can’t undo pandora’s box, and I’m not suggesting these applications are all bad. Many instances have value. Many businesses need them, and the dilemma, as the title states, are how can these applications properly be used? There are many ethical and legal implications here; how can the company be taxed on your data, is it ethical to use your data to influence you, what is the proper oversight needed. How can these things be done while not impacting profit for the shareholders of a public company?
For me, I’m leaving due to the few questions I presented. I’m also using this to show all my kids to be careful and not believe what you see online, keep it light as best you can. If you can’t put the phone down and walk away, there is a problem! We must remember the data is driving what you see and what response it can cultivate. I do not like what I see online; I also spend to much time on my computer to make a living; I do not need to spend what little free time I have on nonsense. Watch the Documentary. I have worked in the tech field for a long time, and I studied psychology. This show means something. I’m out of these applications. I will use what time this frees up to read more, be a better son, husband, and dad.