Algorithms are everywhere. When walking in the streets, wake up daily or even browse the internet, we just can’t get away from this phenomenon.
Even if we don’t own any electronic gadgets, cell phones, laptops, desktop computers, tablets we’re still influenced socially whether its from the friends we socialize with or seeing them even from those people.
Some social networks even secretly track you and store your information. Now that’s really scary!
Technology has completely pervaded our lives. From the job market, technology in education, to how we do banking, we’ve had to deal with lots of change, some of which forced upon us. Though not entirely negative, those development has brought about vast improvements in the efficiency of our industries, processes, communication and interoperability, but much to the detriment of our natural selves.
We now don’t just use devices, we now depend on them and in some cases charged, more if we don’t use them.
Whether you want to or not, you have to have an email address, bank account, online store accounts/ cards (e.g. Amazon) to take advantage of the newest and best available deals and trends.
I needed my email address to be able to use Google docs to type this blog post right now.
You just need to give something. Others just need to be able to track you to use their services.
As convenient as most of the modern amenities offered are, what we do not realize is that they all crave and we gladly hand over one thing to them…attention.
Tech companies will do much to keep you on their platforms and using their applications that it has become a high on their agenda to do whatever necessary to get you coming back for more and thereby addict you to their platform/service for their gain.
While most of us may view this as innocuous, I challenge to rethink this. In fact I dare say your sanity and life depends on it.
My friend what you’re trading off is your data and time! Technology companies aren’t evil, but without you they wouldn’t exist.
Social media networks need both among others. Disguised as helping you customize your experience, they actually use it for advertising – which is their real business.
After all, who would invest/fund billions in data centers, server infrastructure and hardware to create a service that they wouldn’t or couldn’t monetize?
It is what allows tech companies to justify their high stock valuations and become a lucrative option for investors. Let me be abundantly clear that technology companies aren't inherently bad.
My core point is that their business model solely benefits them massively and not the consumer. In fact they are hurting us very badly and although you can’t force them to change you can be aware and change your actions.
How are you being impacted?
You compulsively check your phone daily, right? It’s okay we all do until we proactively try to stop it.
Even then most of us cannot resist. It has become so integral to our lives (or that we think) that we depend on it for so much. They’ve become our source of information, entertainment, news.
As good as these can be, they are the very problem.
By one or even a few media being our source for everything, we lose count how many times we go there and begin doing so compulsively.
We mistake instant availability for information accuracy and subconsciously allow the features and offerings of these applications to embody we are.
By the way, compulsively checking our phone is psychologically unhealthy and is one of the main reasons we can’t focus on any task for a sustained period. We can't even tolerate five minutes of boredom without almost fidgeting to smoke the cellphone/internet pipe. I’ll leave that one for another article.
Tristan Harris, Former Google Design Ethicist says “social media is like a supercomputer pointed at your brain”. Our willpower alone simply even isn’t enough to withstand temptations of the algorithms that have been picking up on our actions for years and also has that of almost 2 billion daily users!
People think legalizing marijuana is the largest problem we have. Arguably the largest one is already legal everywhere.
Think of Snapchat beauty emojis, Snapchat beauty streaks, Stories (Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and now YouTube), even your timelines (profiles on these platforms)
We become what we consume. This applies whether you look at it from a biological standpoint of nature vs nurture or as a technology enthusiast who is always waiting for the next hot device/app to drop.
The fact is that we are grossly influenced by who we are around and by what we see most often. And because we use social media so frequently we tend to mistake what we come across as truth.
Algorithms determine whether a piece of content spreads to a wide audience . But it can also be used to spread false information and propaganda, hence the rise of fake news and its difficulty to contain.
The rise of instantaneous entertainment options have caused many people to move away from relying on traditional news networks to be informed and getting the news online.
This shift in attention is why celebrities and social media influencers have now been showed to be trusted more than traditional media outlets.
While traditional new sources still haven’t totally lost their credibility, the value and influence that celebrities and influencers are having on peoples’ lives and perceptions of events is unprecedented.
As a result trends spreading way quicker and easily become part of our lives and we don’t even realize it.
While we always should have a choice where we consume information (unlike in communist countries), our ability to detect what’s true and even determine what values we integrate into our lives has taken a hit.
We have become so impressionable and trust based on the size of someone’s following. Some of us are so consumed we don’t know who we are and don't even have distinct opinion on anything and that’s a problem.
Worse still, when an algorithm determines what you see and what reaches you, and we're already so gullible, it stands to reason how little control we knowingly have on what we think, say and even do.
Think of consumer habits. Why do we want a new phone every year, new clothing just because we love to see it even if our closets are full of new ones or the new amazon or Google Internet of things (IOT) device that’s on the market. We've been conditioned to!
Brands spend their money to effortlessly reach and follow us on the web and even on our devices (retargetting) to push their sales messages in our faces.
Haven’t you woken up and the first thing you see on your phone in your favorite app is an advertisement? We have gotten so used to it, it now seems normal.
But I dare say, it’s not! Now you still doubt that our thoughts and opinions are influenced by algorithms online. We’re like puppets and we don’t even know it.!
Even those of us with “strong convictions on certain matters”. Although the internet allows to receive opinions from multiple viewpoints and sources, have you really taken the time to decipher your own?
Think of elections and the advertising money that goes into it. The ability of creative practitioners to manipulate the platform to influence voters and get voted into power. Think of WhatsApp killings as a result of the spread of propaganda and false information in India.
For you to pay continuous attention to something, you need to devote time and energy to it.
The increasing intrusiveness and influence of the internet and social media means that we now spend so much of our time there.
Studies, have reported that the average adult spends 30 minutes daily on Facebook, 30 minutes on Instagram, 30 minutes on Snapchat, one hour on streaming services like Netflix and amazon video, 1 hour shopping and not to forget WhatsApp, a whopping 3 hours.
Though that might may not seem like a lot, and this is actually quite conservative. Most of us are constantly online and available for next dopamine ping , even at work!
This accounts for the dramatic decrease of productivity on the job leading companies to have strict policies regulating social media use at work.
The thing is, we are all addicted, whether we want to or are ashamed to admit it or not.
Social media and excessive device usage has drugged us all. And because of our compulsive use and engagement, it is the preferred way for companies to reach their intended audience whether organically or through advertising.
Earlier this year the World Health Organization classified video game addiction as a real epidemic.
Even I don’t think we needed such as the evidence is HD clear, such as 40% of kids in Asia now being diagnosed with myopia, and just the increased ease of usage with new gadgets “internet access points” along with unregulated juvenile consumption.
Such issues along with pressure to regulate the social networks even from the employees themselves, have thankfully spawned Instagram and Facebook time prompts, in order to curb compulsive device usage.
Think of a world where you were paid half or even 10% of what they ’re getting paid by leveraging your data? If they value it so much and are willing to spend loads to engineering new ways to keeping you hooked. Why not get more honest about the practice and people actually won’t be as mad. Click to Tweet
Again, people actually believe decriminalizing marijuana is the biggest problem but think of all the unaccounted damage that internet and social media addiction is done.
Think of all the families it has broken, all the kids whose identities are being shaped by influencer or brands trying to get them to want their products.
On pornography and sexual addiction, four out of 10 top visited websites worldwide or porn sites. That should do all the speaking.
Personally, I believe where our addiction to online technologies and platforms is most pressing is in our decline in skill development. The average individual who spends more an hour online daily is not learning something new to further their career prospects.
While we all need some degree of entertainment, our valuable time is being sucked into mechanisms where we won’t even remember what you did yesterday.
You don’t believe me, how many Youtube videos did you watch yesterday and what were they? Don’t get your phone. How many netflix shows did you watch this week. How long have you been on Facebook , instagram or just mindlessly browsing.
While I wouldn’t expect anyone to recite exact numbers the scarier thing is that you don’t even remember what you did! These are precious moments of your life too as the clock waits for no one. Even wonder why the year seems to move by so quick.
Part of it is that we’re in a constantly lulled, unaware state even when we should be working. Some of us spend spend more time daily online that we even sleep and have nothing to show for it.
Though it’s not totally negative, these networks are dumbing down our kids and adults alike. It’s even worse in third world territories like Saint Lucia where I live.
Generally there is already a lack of skilled labor and migration out of such territories and with such addictions prospects are very unfriendly for those younger and developing professionals either.
High internet and social has been woven so deeply into our social fabric, we’re socially not normal if we’re not connected and up-to date with the newest buzzwords, trends and what our friends are doing and posting.
On a global basis, the advent of technology should empower us to be most creative and imaginative in solving big problems like Aids, cancer and other ailments. It’s not and in fact is lessening the IQ of the average individual.
Think of if we put just 10% of the brain dump space into new technological solution to issues such as increased pollution of plastics, poverty among other things.
Automation is happening quickly and with changes such as Cashier-less stores (Amazon Go and others), Online banking, self driving cars, Kiosk machines among others, mass unemployment and redundancy problems is raining upon all nations and their political leaders one drop at a time.
With an ever increasing global population, governments or even the private sector will not be able to arrest this on their own. This is why we should stop expecting and depending on them and taking real control of our lives.
With technology enhancing how we communicate, entertain ourselves and do business, security is an imminent concern. Servers that store all our data are always vulnerable. Most businesses are moving their data and integrating their operations to the cloud because of efficiency and cost savings.
Despite service providers putting lots of dollars to beef up security, the threat still remains. Countries are adopting the blockchain to become more transparent and efficient.
That poses and additional problem and exposes them internationally to cyber-attacks. Look at the recently Facebook hacking where the data of 30 million people (and I was one of them) got compromised. Also with Google+ and their privacy fiasco.
These are just two of several cases that demonstrates that not even the world’s biggest and most savvy technological companies aren’t foolproof at protecting its users and their data.
Another aspect to this is companies forcing customers use the internet in order to transact for their services. Customers are being forced to pay rent online (this California senior resident for example).
Many business now don’t accept cash anymore and even banks encourage payments to be made solely online.
With artificial intelligence (AI) beginning to color how we do business, the job and skill demands of our workforce is shifting. In many ways, artificial intelligence has provided a modern approach to power the convenience of our everyday living.
Further, the rate of new companies who operate online have shifted customer expectations.
Hence, their offline counterparts simply cannot keep up and either have to integrate into their operations or go out of business. It is why Amazon is seen as such a threat because of their logistics and distribution technology which allows them to deliver services conveniently to customers at scale.
As good as this is for the consumer, it also means we give our data in return which is a huge concern and most times we don’t even have a choice.
Social media plays on our need for validation and we’re all susceptible because the algorithms were built that way. And while there is lots of good to the internet and social media, they should not be this addictive and profit driven.
People should be able to clearly distinguish what’s genuine and opinionated with credible verification.
The internet should be built in such a way to adding way more value to people’s lives. Tech companies shouldn’t be the center of where we get our information from and even that should regulated. While we cannot rid all crime and misuse, we would be in a much better place.
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Craige Hardel is an an email marketing expert, entrepreneur, mindset coach, community advocate & technology enthusiast who is passionate about helping people become their best selves and live lives to their full potential.
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