Remember when you could freely chat about something, or show an interest in a topic or ad, and it wouldn’t affect the rest of your day, your week, or your life? Remember that time before social media was the insidious, all-pervading presence it is today?
“In the wrong hands, social media is a weapons-grade influencer, for good or bad,” says David Shapton, writing at RedShark News.
“It can track your activity, and when it spots a trend — even (or especially) a nascent one, it will try to reinforce it. Either you want to see more of the content that will reinforce your opinions, or you want to get angry at content that opposes them, but there’s still the sort of active engagement, complete with detailed metrics, that conventional marketers dream about.”
In his article, “Does technology trend towards good or evil?” Shapton uses examples such as targeted advertising, elections, and the war in Ukraine to show how social media can change minds and aims to manipulate our opinions and choices. “If it meddles with elections, it’s bad. But when it raises money for an oppressed or threatened country, then it’s good,” he writes. “Is there a balance between the good and the evil potential of technology? Maybe it all cancels out?”
Shapton doesn’t think so. In fact, he says the opposite is the case.
“It soaks up virtually every type of video content, tags it, sorts it, and pushes it to any user with a statistically significant pattern of behavior. Nobody outside the social media companies knows precisely how it works. But you can see it everywhere.”
“Sometimes I learn stuff about myself from Facebook’s content choices,” he adds.
The key says Shapton is to be aware you are being manipulated. “More and more of us know less and less about how today’s technology works. We don’t know what goes on behind the scenes.”
So, he says, don’t get paranoid. “Just make sure you know how stuff works.”
Technology and societal trends are changing the internet. Concerns over data privacy, misinformation and content moderation are happening in tandem with excitement about Web3 and blockchain possibilities. Learn more about the tech and trends driving humanity’s digital future with these hand-curated articles from the NAB Amplify archives:
- The TikTok-ing of Western Civilization
- Web3 and the Battle for the Soul of the Internet
- Our Collective (and Codependent) Relationship with Data
- Want to Fix Social Media? Stop Listening to the Bots and Algos
- Social Media Is a Disaster for Democracy, But Who’s Going to Change It?