The Social Nightmare

Tech giants want the world to believe that social media is about cat videos, old pals and advancing societal well-being via a better connected world. But it’s time to confront reality: Social media is the biggest corporate threat to humanity the world has seen to date.

Since you’re reading this on the internet, there are two stories that you really should have seen this week.

First, do you have young children?

If you do, please read James Bridle’s deep dive into the weird world of YouTube for youngsters.

The short version of his piece is this: Computer algorithms are creating nightmares for your babes:

Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatise, and abuse children, automatically and at scale, and it forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level. Much of what I am going to describe next has been covered elsewhere, although none of the mainstream coverage I’ve seen has really grasped the implications of what seems to be occurring.

To begin: Kid’s YouTube is definitely and markedly weird. I’ve been aware of its weirdness for some time. Last year, there were a number of articles posted about the Surprise Egg craze. Surprise Eggs videos depict, often at excruciating length, the process of unwrapping Kinder and other egg toys. That’s it, but kids are captivated by them. There are thousands and thousands of these videos and thousands and thousands, if not millions, of children watching them.

I can’t do justice his whole piece, so read it here.

Next, are you using social media? Well, according to a former top Facebook executive, you might as well be using drugs… because social media was designed on the same model that makes crack cocaine a top-selling drug.

In an interview with Axios, Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, says the top concern of social network design is this: “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?'”

“I don’t know if I really understood the consequences of what I was saying, because [of] the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and … 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,” he told the website.

Please, read the whole thing. 

For now, I’ll leave you with this: On social media, YOU are the product. Or your child is the product. Or your life is the product.

There is no product, it’s your personal details, your posts or your thoughts which make these sites valuable to advertisers. And you are giving, voluntarily,  more information to these companies than you’d ever consider giving to a government. But these companies are working in tandem with governments. And many of them have more money and power than most of the world’s governments.

I’m going to update this piece with a full feature on social media in America today– but first, I’d like to read your thoughts in the comments below.

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