“Well, I have nothing to hide.” is what you’re likely to hear if you ever talk to someone about how our online presence and behaviour is closely observed. The amount of ignorance in this single statement is off the charts.
But then again, are they wrong in saying so?
It’s vital to realise that the long term detriments of the breach of privacy by humongous corporations are overlooked by many. Many of us fail to realise that revealing our identity and behavior to mere algorithms is allowing this soulless system to take control over the type of content presented to us, and this manipulation is veiled with the name of convenience and user’s personal preference of content and advertisements.
And just so you know, the initiation of this manipulation is already underway. This is unfortunately, not a speculation but a reality.
The question however remains, why should we care what advertisements we are shown on some social-media platform?
Well, here are my Three Main Concerns With Social Media and The Breach Of Users’ Privacy
Unhealthy Amount of Time Spent On Social Media By Users
It’s known that for most of the popular social media platforms you don’t have to pay to use their services.
…or at least not in monetary terms.
To make money, Instagram and other Social-Media platforms are dependent on advertisements and other promotions that brands pay for. As a result of about a billion active users, the advertisements on Instagram have a lot of potential to gain a lot of attention and reach their target audience.
And since the Instagram algorithm knows each user’s preference with reference to the pages they follow, the hashtags they engage with the most etc., the advertisements that you would be the most interested in are slipped into your posts feed. The performance of these advertisements is already really impressive on Instagram but just like any other corporation, Instagram would want to increase their profits.
To do so, they need even more of our undivided attention and would want us to be more indulged in surfing their platform. The figures speak for themselves, the daily social media usage by an average person has been on the rise going from 90 minutes in 2012 to an average 145 minutes in 2020. The rate of increase in this number is only going to go up from here.
To retain our attention, social media platforms have been doing a bunch of different things, making the suggested posts much more personalised and targeted towards your individual taste, an introduction of new ways to present your content is also playing a major role in making the social media surfing experience much more convenient and all of the content much more entertaining to consume.
Short video format, which originated from the now discontinued app; Vine, was used in the app TikTok which now has an average of 689 million monthly active users taking in account all countries except China. These type of ‘Short Videos’ are now also seen on Snapchat under the name of Spotlight and Reels on Instagram.
Now on every platform, the content that’s available to be viewed by any user is endless, and by making the software constantly work on keeping the user engaged, people get irresponsible with the usage of these platforms. This aspect should mainly be the user’s concern because no matter how much we object, it is a known fact that corporations exist to make profits and will go to any extent (and that can include exploiting our mental and physical well-being) to achieve that. An excessive amount of time spent scrolling on the web not only affects your eyesight but also mentally exhausts you after continuous usage. It’s up to us to make little sacrifices for our own good, so browse responsibly!
Information About Our Lifestyle With The Breach Of Our Privacy
As I said earlier that social media platforms need to make profit, to make profit they need more users to stay on their website for longer times, and to keep users hooked they need to make better algorithms to study what a given user is more likely to enjoy and engage with.
It’s simple, the more you know about a person’s taste the more efficiently you can suggest them Songs, Movies, TV Shows or YouTube channels they might like. For Social-Media to be able to do that, they have to take some pretty bold and intrusive steps.
Take Spotify’s new patent as an example, the details of which surfaced on the internet earlier this year. This new patent would allow Spotify to study user’s speech, background noise and many other factors to figure out what songs to suggest them. If a person is tensed or stressed and this can be figured out by their speech, Spotify will be able to essentially pick that information and start suggesting music that would relate to that emotional state.
Apart from emotional state, Spotify will also be able to take in account the user’s age, accent, gender, background noise and environment to help refine its suggestions.
When the word environment is mentioned, it means that based on the audio recordings, the software will be able to figure whether you are alone, with someone else, at a party etc. The exact details about whether this feature has been activated or not remain unclear.
Patents and policies like these would not only help these platforms to get to know about us much more personally, it would also allow them to know about our lifestyle and suggest us things based on that and in the long run, making us even more dependent on Social-Media and can even cause anxiety and stress.
Lack Of Regulations On News Handles
It is said that everyone likes to hear what they already believe, and this behaviour is now being heavily exploited by these platforms. One of the most common phenomenon that we see everyday, which also makes social-media much more convenient and personalised is the suggested feed.
On opening up any social-media platform, you’d be greeted with the posts by the people, tags and accounts you follow and then the posts that match your interests but tread a little further out and away from just the things that you’ve specified that you’d like to see.
Social media sites allow anyone to post technically anything (with the exception of explicit content on some platforms), this makes it easier for people to voice their opinions.
Which is a good thing, however…
What we’ve seen with the rise of social media is the rise of groups with similar political ideology, spreading their messages online. The control on what can be shared is quite unorganised to say the least, the algorithm keeps doing its job and keeps suggesting the user similar posts.
The thing that’s the most outrageous about this ordeal is the fact that people usually make their content much more engaging or impacting for the user by being controversial. It’s obvious that they do this by enraging people even more with the use of hate speech and biased news articles.
Free Media is a necessity in times like these and to make judicious use of the Internet to spread a voice that is free of bias is in the best interest of the citizens. However, the legitimacy of many of these articles is questionable and there are not enough regulations to keep the authenticity of a post in check. Social Media algorithms are designed to suggest you posts that people with same interests have engaged with the most. Left-Winged and Right Winged extremists usually blindly believe whatever is being said and are shown more and more of those similar posts. This fuels conflicts between people with different political ideologies and beliefs.
In the long term, online ‘cults’ will play (and in fact for a while now have been playing) a major role in the increased hostility between people with different opinions.
Because of these concerns and evidences to solidify them, it is clear that social media can be toxic and poses threat to our well-being. The mental health problems that it can cause in the long run can range from anxiety, depression and sometimes even eating disorders!
If used improperly, anything can be dangerous and harmful, so Social-Media is not an exception. All we can say for now is that being extra-cautious on the internet wouldn’t hurt and raising awareness about these concerns that we all should have would really help. This could get worse with time so it’s better to raise voice against it now when it’s still not that bad.
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