A notification sound dings, your phone vibrates, the light flashes and you reach for your phone eagerly checking your social media for updates. Once there you swipe down on the screen of your phone for the infinite feed of updates.
Except, it ain’t you getting the money.
Using social media Apps on phones is scarily similar to using slot machines. The arm motion is the same. The sounds and lights are the same. The dopamine hit is the same when it hits your reward pathways.
In the same way as slot machines, the social media corporations get the money and you, dear user, get none.
How many hours of your life are wasted on social media per day, per week, per year? Could you break the addiction if you wanted to?
It’s not a mistake that people on social media are called users.
The only other category of people called users are drug addicts.
How Social Media Corporations Make Their Money
Google and Facebook are leaders in their field. They have very successful business models that have made them into the wealthiest companies in the history of humanity.
They have few employees, yet have giant computers raking in the money.
How do they do it?
We like to think of social media services as free, but they are not free. You pay with your time.
How does your time make money for social media?
The simple fact is that you don’t pay for the product anymore because:
YOU ARE THE PRODUCT
AND ADVERTISERS ARE THE CUSTOMER
Social media services are paid for by the advertisers.
Our time and attention are the product. The longer a social media corporation can keep you using their platform, the more money they make.
The more time you spend staring at a screen, looking at advertisements, the more profitable you are to social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram.
How Does Social Media Keep You Coming Back
EVERYTHING you do online is being watched, tracked and measured – even down to how many seconds you view an image.
Have you ever done a search on Google for a particular item and then found your social media feed is full of sponsored advertisements about that item?
That’s because all your data is fed into powerful AI computer systems that make predictions about what you are going to do; what articles you’ll want to read; which videos will keep you watching; and, what triggers your emotions.
These ‘algorithms’ figure out what to show you online in your feed to keep you online for as long as possible to keep showing you as many advertisements as possible.
You’ve watched a video. Great! They’ll follow up that video with another similar video, sneak in an advert, and follow up with another and so on.
Social media computer programmers know what they are doing.
They study ‘persuasive technology’. They learn how to implement ‘behaviour change’ to keep you online. They include ‘positive intermittent reinforcement’ to get you to form a habit of consistently going back to your phone. They incorporate psychology and addictive design techniques.
The Social Media Business Model
Social media corporations have three main goals:
Remember those algorithms being fed your data – their job is to drive up your usage to keep you online.
User engagement is increased by notifications such as ‘sending a wave’, getting tagged in a post, alerting you that someone is responding by showing an … ellipsis, notifying you that you have a ‘memory’, making recommendations.
Did you ever wonder why email notifications to alert you that you’ve been tagged on social media never show you the photo in the email? It’s because they want you to keep going back on social media, and once you’re there, you might just stay.
Invite your friends, tag your friends, comment with your friend’s name, send links to your friends, show your friends what you’ve found – this all comes under the social media goal of ‘growth’.
Then there’s the ‘advertisements’. Keep you online, keep you addicted, and the longer you stay – the more money they keep making.
Growing Up In The Matrix
Feeling uncomfortable, lonely, afraid or uncertain – simply get your digital pacifier – who needs to deal with feelings anyway – when you’ve got addiction.
Poor outcomes about mental health have increased dramatically since the rise of social media. Those born after 1996 and impacted by social media are more anxious, fragile and depressed.
They have grown up being manipulated by technology designers for profit at the expense of their mental health.
How do you wake from the matrix if you don’t know you’re in it?The Social Dilemma
Born pre-1996? You’ve still got perspective, however, you are the last generation to know what life was like before social media addiction.
Some people claim – yes, even the software developers – that social media usage will lead to civil war.
When on social media, the feed only shows you what the algorithm calculates you are interested in. Your world view becomes very narrow.
The algorithm doesn’t care if the information is real or fake. It doesn’t care if it leads to harm. It’s only objective is to keep you online for as long as possible viewing advertisements. There is a distinct lack of regulation.
For example, a person may have a tendency towards conspiracy theories. The feed sends them – recommends – other conspiracy theories, perhaps ones they haven’t heard of before. Further and further down the rabbit hole they go. They become increasingly polarised in their views. They are active in online conspiracy groups. They attend protests which turn violent, which turn into civil unrest. Opposing groups react. Violence creates violence and suddenly you’ve got a civil war.
It’s not really that far fetched.
How To Get Off Social Media
You’re probably wondering about the irony of a blogger writing about the dangers of social media.
I like to think of social media as a tool. It’s a way to connect with family and friends, keep up to date with what’s happening in your local community, join support groups and learn new information.
But, it is not a tool and has become a problem:
- if it impacts your sleep
- if it is your only source of information
- if you can’t tell what’s fake
- if you use it as a way of not dealing with your emotions
- if your focus is being online as often as possible
- if you set unrealistic expectations about your appearance
- if you are reliant on other people’s ‘likes’
- if you need to constantly check your social media accounts
- if you cannot be without your phone
Whilst I’d like to say I haven’t fallen prey to social media, it would be untrue. I do admit that Facebook has been a weakness for me at times.
That’s why I’ve blocked all notifications from social media and email on my phone. It’s made a huge difference as I’m not constantly being enticed back into the matrix.
I’ve also downloaded a free data usage tracker from the App store called StayFree. Warning: the first time you look at your data usage, you may be horrified. It tracks time spent on everything – social media, browsing on the internet, text messages, YouTube, emails – every single App on your phone.
The most important change I’ve done is to focus on my goals. If I’m wasting time online, then I know I’m not in alignment with my goals.
Life is for living, not for being stuck in the matrix.
Make your choices sustainable.
Do you have a social media addiction? How does it impact your life? Please scroll down to comments box and share your story.