- 14 Dec 19
Social media has become an addictive part of everyday life and we must be wary of all the ways it is exploited.
Social media has reached a saturation point that the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey could scarcely have imagined in their wildest dreams. Businesses utilise it to sell us product, friends use it to keep us in the loop on their nights out, and politicians – not to mention sundry shady organisations and troll farms – manipulate it in the hope of winning.
Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have proven to be inescapable and, for many of us, stupidly irresistible. In the political sphere this year, the world watched as Donald Trump continued to unleash bile-filled, lying tweets at his adversaries. The President’s propaganda machine fired out shots against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, suspected whistleblowers, ambassadors, cabinet members, and whoever else dared criticise the man in the Oval Office. With the impeachment hearings swinging into full gear towards the end of 2019, Twitter remained Trump’s platform of choice for hysterical rants.
In our personal lives, many of us refreshed Instagram daily to see our friends living their so called ‘best lives’, while we remained stuck in the mundanity of our own. Consequently, many of us have developed a nagging ‘fear of missing out’ (or FOMO), and can’t stand spending time alone.
Gradually, the truth about Surveillance Capitalism emerged. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook was called into account on the court floor. Mark Zuckerburg claimed that users have nothing to fear. He was lying. The acclaimed Netflix documentary The Great Hack served as a further wake-up call to users around the world: we are being played for fools. In June, Facebook announced plans to integrate cryptocurrency into the website. You might characterise it as megalomania. And you might be right.
Meanwhile, sinister forces have subborned social media to dangerous political purposes. Trolls in fascist States aim to destroy democracy. Governments here look on like goms. The poisonously cynical alt-right group QAnon spread the hashtag #FakeWhistleBlower. And Deep Fake is on the way.
What effect is social media having on the human condition? Scholars have said it is a minefield for our mental health. It breeds addiction, self-doubt, and passivity. Leisure time once dedicated to reflection, reading, or socialising, has been replaced with hours of refreshing a social media feed that amplifies fear and insecurity. So who is going to fight back? And how? One thing’s for sure: it is time for radical action.
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