YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL OF YOUR OWN FEELINGS!
All of a sudden, in the last 5 years or so, every single person you know has their phone on them at all times. We don’t even carry them in our pockets or purses. Nope, they are in our hands. Always. We have them connected to our Bluetooth in our cars, and our smart speakers in our homes, allowing for contact tracking of our every move.
By now, we’ve all done experienced the results of talking about a certain product for which advertisements then magically start to appear in our social feeds. “Hmm…” we think, “That’s crazy, we were just talking about this yesterday!” SMH. If you haven’t tried this yet, do it now! Talk about something you have never looked up before and watch what happens. (I’ve always wanted a macaw from Costa Rica, for example.) Watch the advertisements for bird feed flood your platforms within a day.
Did you also know that the platform bots are also able to identify our wants and desires with just a picture? My sister sent a picture (screenshot) of a product to me and didn’t mention the name of the product, or even what it does, and voila – I’m being sold that same product on Instagram. I had never seen it before in my life, and now it’s being pushed at me from every direction. Gotta take advantage of the first few hours of interest, I imagine.
So are we now collectively a social experiment? Are we being hypnotized and even controlled by invisible outside forces that actually know more about us than we do? What sort of returns are the social media conglomerates getting from their extensive, highly intuitive algorithms? What type of videos are you drawn to? Which ads do you linger on, even if you don’t physically click anything? We can only assume these conclusions go all the way to how you will vote in the next election. I’m guessing there are some power-hungry politicians, with deep pockets willing to pay dearly for this data.
What about our moods? Advertisers can even detect when you are feeling anxious, or lonely, happy, or confident. They are ready to pounce on our vulnerabilities and offer what can only be seen as the solution to our current problems. Can we even call that advertising, really? Is it manipulation? Control? What about actual spying?
What can we learn from the study of behaviorism here? Are we behaving like well-trained dogs or even lab rats? How far does it go? Behaviorists have long known that you can train someone using behaviorist techniques, without that person even knowing it. There’s a scene from the “Office” where Jim is giving Dwight a mint every time he hears a certain sound on his computer. Dwight starts putting his hand out when he hears the sound, without having any idea why he’s behaving this way.
So how big of a deal is this social media situation? And once we establish that, what is the burden we have to protect our kids? It’s become standardized normal behavior. Are we ready to allow ourselves to be manipulated in ways we don’t even understand?
Does anyone care?
How do the people benefitting from these targeting practices feel about their actions? Let’s look at what Sean Parker, the first president of Facebook, had to say:
We need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever… It’s social-validation feedback loop…exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology… The inventors, creators – it’s me, it’s Mark, it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people – understood this consciously. And we did it anyway…it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other…It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains. 
Did you catch all of that? Our children’s brains are at stake! They don’t care what the effects are, they are plowing through their consciences for the big payoff. Chamath Palihapitiya, who is the former vice president of user growth at Facebook, has the following lament:
The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback looks we’ve created are destroying how society works… No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. This is a global problem…I feel tremendous guilt. I think we all knew in the back of our minds – even though we feigned this whole line of, like, there probably aren’t any bad unintended consequences. I think in the back, deep, deep recesses of, we kind of knew something bad could happen… So we are in a really bad state of affairs right now, in my opinion. It is eroding the core foundation of how people behave by and between each other. And I don’t have a good solution. My solution is I just don’t use these tools anymore. I haven’t for years.
YEP, YOU READ THAT RIGHT. THE FOUNDERS OF SOCIAL MEDIA ARE NOT ON SOCIAL MEDIA. THEY KNOW BETTER.
So do we have options? Are they good options? Are they realistic? As a parent, I feel it relates a bit to the homeschooling movement in the 80s and 90s. Do we have to go so far as to eliminate social media from our lives? How does that affect how our kids are able to socialize? Is that damage of isolation worse than the damage of social media itself?
Social Media companies seem to finally be trying to fix some of these situations that have come to pass at their doing. But is it just eyewash? Are they doing enough? What more can be done?
Our first step is to open our eyes to the problem at hand.
I have always loved to write. Over the years I've put my thoughts, experiences and opinions on paper. Some of these posts are old and some are new.