When I look at the world today it feels unrecognizable. The increase of hurricanes and wildfires, the extreme loss (human, financial, educational, etc) due to Covid-19, the misinformation and mistrust of our leaders, the inability to align on what is true and what isn’t, and most importantly, the divisiveness and polarization that dehumanizes anyone with an opposing view.
I’ve been searching for answers for how we got here (I discovered a big one below), as well as how we can move forward with effective action to hopefully preserve democracy…and, ultimately, humanity itself.
Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s (yes, I’m 44 years old), many science fiction movies centered on a plot line about computers taking over. WarGames, Terminator, RoboCop, all focused on the hero/heroine saving humanity from a computer/cyborg take over. Little did I know that this would become a version of reality by 2020.
The computers have taken over, not in the form of a cyborg, but as artificial intelligence where you and I and our attention are the product.
I’m talking about social media—the invisible, unregulated force that was created by incredibly smart individuals in not only technology but also psychological and behavior modification. That last part is most important and concerning.
If you haven’t watched the documentary, The Social Dilemma, I recommend making it a priority this week. The film showcases former higher ups from Facebook, Pinterest, Google who speak directly to the addiction, manipulation and destruction of it’s “users” and society at large.
The material on the screen explained so much of what we are seeing in our world today and why. I was particularly struck at the one hour and fifteen minute mark, where Tristan Harris (co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology) talks about life as we know it being “game over” when we can’t agree of what’s true—and how social media fuels mistruths, conspiracies and lies.
I appreciated how none of these people were making social media the enemy. It has a place and it has value. The problem is the lack of regulation and checks and balances. It’s like the wild, wild west out there in the interwebs.
Because of this, it’s up to us to be informed about these programs and how they use us as products. It’s up to us to be smart about how much time and attention we give to those little squares on the home screen of our devices.
Here are a few suggestions the contributors offered in the credits of the movie:
- uninstall apps you aren’t using and/or limit those you use
(I do this. I only use FB and Instagram for social media.)
- turn off all notifications
(I do this—and I don’t use sound for any apps. I often keep my phone on silent as well.)
- stop using Google as your search engine (it collects your data) and switch to a search engine like Qwant.com that is committed to your privacy
(I did this because of this documentary.)
- fact check all stories and links before sharing
(I do this. It takes more time—and I don’t want to fuel mistruths.)
- know you vote with your click—so be mindful of how you use it for you could be perpetuating the system by clicking on highly emotionally charged links (that are often false anyway)
- plus more in the credits.
One more suggestion, this one from me, share about The Social Dilemma with your community after you watch it. Also, check out the Center for Humane Technology and get involved.
Public pressure is required for change. Clearly, the self-regulation that these companies are practicing now isn’t enough. It’s time for us to wake up to their game and use our voice to create a better world online and off.
I know this is different from my usual communications—and I’m committed to sharing with you what I find most helpful and impactful in my life.
Let me know what you think in the comments—and if you found this helpful too.
With Fierce Loving,
Photo by Shane Rounce.