I was a late-comer to the social media scene. The technology really blossomed when I was working for the FBI. Having a social media presence then wasn’t the best of ideas.
I gave in after I left for the private sector. Mostly because I wanted to explore self-employment and promotion is a key part of that. I ran a PI agency, got back into graphic design, and finally settled on writing as my gig for life.
As an author, “developing a platform” has been all the rage for, well, ever. Social media is presumably the key to that.
But it comes with a huge cost.
Privacy for one. My most recent incident involves Facebook serving up half a dozen ads centered specifically around a conversation I had on the phone.
Now, I’m aware many believe the idea that Facebook is “listening” is straight-up tinfoil hat nuttery. But let’s not gloss over the fact that the technology is there. Alexa has a full-time job eavesdropping and anticipating needs.
As a rational person, I’ve dismissed numerous instances in the past of Facebook serving up an ad not long after I had a conversation about an item. Coincidence, I said.
But they do collect a disturbing amount of data about their users. And their algorithms are simply sophisticated enough that they can make some eerie guesses.
Even so, a year ago I uninstalled Facebook from my phone. An abundance of caution, we’ll call it. Plus it was a frighteningly addictive productivity destroyer.
I’d found myself checking the app anytime I picked up my phone. Even when I’d meant to use my phone for something else. It had become a conditioned response. I’d been fully immersed in the Skinner Box. That was enough for me to walk away.
Flash forward to a couple months ago and I reinstalled the app. I had a great idea for a new book series, had that secret Hollywood project going, and figured I needed to dust off my social platform.
Careful readers will know my wife and I are in the process of purchasing a house. I briefly mentioned that in my last update. Where I didn’t mention it was social media. Anywhere.
Yes, Facebook likely skimmed the post I shared on my Facebook author page. Public records might even indicate what we’re up to BUT we have yet to close on the house and actually take possession.
I have also searched for a few things related to the house. All these things could lead to Facebook’s automated processes collecting the necessary information. I’m aware of that. Expect it even.
But one day after I had a long conversation with my parents about the home, the property’s needs, and my own interests in future upgrades, my feed filled with ads. How many were things I’d just spoken with them about?
Every. Single. One.
I took the app off my phone immediately.
Between the complete surrendering of privacy AND the bizarre psychological experiment we’ve all been enrolled in without proper consent, I’m going to once again sound the alarm that this is a technology run amok.
I’ve written about this before numerous times. And heeding my own advice has been nigh impossible. Everyone I know continues to engage these little outrage machines allowing them to disrupt rational thought, wreck productivity, and send a country already ill-prepared to cope with mental health problems spiraling into a collective, clinical depression. That’s on top of the gross negligence and complete disrespect for personal privacy.
This has to stop.
These pretty little hate machines aren’t “de facto public forums.” That idea is utterly absurd. They’re corporate-owned platforms mining your personal life for their monetary gain.
This doesn’t only include your data, your health information, your private relationships. No, this includes the one resource you can never recover – your time.
I’m not a “regulate the industry” kind of guy. Unless that industry gives evidence of a clear and present danger to society at large.
Currently, there’s an argument that freeing these platforms from any responsibility is all about “free speech.” That we should consider offering a global platform to anyone and anything a person wants to say.
Frankly, that’s completely irresponsible. And the people insisting on protecting these freedoms have a very narrow list of things they want to allow to be freely spoken if the recent spate of book banning is any indication.
And if it’s a public square? Guess what. That comes with regulations. Local ordinances. Accountability.
What the argument is really about is control. Who has it? Is it the Conservatives? The Liberals?
No. Not by a mile.
It’s a group of soulless corporations who can’t even begin to moderate the absurdly giant user bases they’ve cobbled together. Since they can’t, they’ve automate all processes. Created an arbitrary system that pisses everyone off.
Everyone except the ones riding their excesses to greater and greater riches. Those who profit off compromising your privacy and sanity.
And I’m not speaking solely of monetary profit. Pundits and extremists profit from the ease of amplifying their messages. The ability to peddle outrage across cities, states, nations, and continents. They’re enabled to engage every living person on Earth and the idiot machines they use have somehow figured out a way to ONLY amplify hate and conflict.
Maybe that part is human nature. Maybe we only respond to outrage. Hell, this article is even about outrage.
But you can’t make that determination when the very technology used to support that claim is linked to severe depression, sleep deprivation, and a host of psychiatric disorders. Of course people living under those conditions 24-7 will be prone to embracing outrage.
Enough is enough.
We’ve already seen social media be used to threaten what had once been believed to be a stable democracy. It’s been used to empower genocides. Stir up the most rancorous political divisions among neighbors, between family members.
There is absolutely no reason Zuckerberg or any of his emulators needs to know what I said to my parents in a private conversation. No reason they need to be allowed to continue their unregistered experiments on the public. No reason they should be given the status of a public protector of free speech.
They don’t care about freedom of speech. What they really need, really crave, is complete control.
Stop surrendering it to them.
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