Seeking a positive in social media

I wonder if there is anything positive that comes out of using social media. What benefit do we get browsing mindlessly through an insane amount of unimportant posts from people we never engage with physically. On many levels, social media has lifted the gossip channel to a higher level. We have an insatiable curiosity about others and their everyday life. Maybe I am a hermit compared to the average Facebook user. I have no interest in reading about old schoolmates BBQ’s over the weekend and how the dog swam in the pool for the first time. It’s all noise in my daily life. To me, social media is family porn.

I was a sucker to social media 12 years ago. It was shiny and new and full of intrigue like Mafia Games, which we played right through office hours. The addiction did not end at the office, and it slipped through during family time as well. People get addicted to it. But I think the habit is more about doing nothing and shifting your brain in neutral than learning anything positive. It’s the reason not to read books. Social media has created a short-term dopamine-driven feedback loop, and it seduces us back whenever it can. The most successful platforms are those that feed images. If an article does not have pictures, there is little chance someone will read it. That is why I refuse to use an image in the heading of my blogs. The unfortunate result is that we think that interacting on social media is the new normal. It is scary to think that all these platforms use phycological tricks to make them addictive, and its all legal. Maybe not moral, but it is legal.

I often wonder if our curiosity about other’s lives is a remnant from the days before the invention of the wheel. Knowing if you are better or worse off than another tribe is crucial information. It’s a barometer of your survivability. But that is an entirely different study.

Social media companies and advertisers are the only ones that benefit from this insidious platform. Social media is a platform to sell advertising space. It is a massive electronic casino engineered billboard. As long as we are addicted and lured to social media, they will make money from us. What is insidious is that we willingly provide them with all the information they need to advertise back to us. Antonio García Martínez wrote in his memoir, Chaos Monkeys, Facebook is now the most significant accumulator of personal data since DNA. The new money is data and how that data can be converted into information to make money.

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