Time to Regulate Social Media?

The thing about social media is that it brings people together. I started using Facebook before it was a thing – in 2007 or thereabouts. It was still called The Facebook and was primarily used by students. My son who was at Macalester College showed it to me. Pretty soon, I was able to find old and current friends, and family and communicate with them even from 6000 miles away. It seemed pretty ace.

Of course, as Facebook has become more sophisticated – more than a free tool to communicate with friends and family, its downside has got bigger and bigger. Facebook knows a lot about us. This information is for sale either directly or via its advertising technology. That’s why you see adverts that appear to be made just for you. Add in places like Amazon and other big tech and you end up with a world I do not much like. There is nothing I can do that isn’t recorded, analyzed and used against me. Here in the Czech Republic, the Government has even used your debit cards against us. Yes, if you were supposed to be quarantining officially, then your transactions were monitored to ensure you were not out and about. Some people may support this but to me this is more than breach of privacy – it is totalitarianism. And I fear more is coming.

Did you know Facebook records everything you do – even those hasty posts that you later delete? What does it do with that privileged information? It makes money from it. Is that right? Is that acceptable? Are you happy that those tech billionaires get to make money out of your private data? I’m not. These Tech firms need to be regulated and quickly but I will bet the biggest user of that information is your Government.

Social media also allows people to build echo chambers where they can meet like minded people, read the kind of materials they want and never be challenged. With a little manipulation here and there, using that behavior information they collected over the last 5 years about you, they can push you in that direction as well. People begin to feel that they know. That they are correct and that their way is the only way. It is quite natural if your views are reinforced in your echo chamber. This is how suddenly everyone thinks themselves qualified to hold an opinion about everything isn’t it?

Offer a different perspective and its deep doo doo for you. Even offer scientific proof and before you know it, Facebook fact checkers (what the hell?) have labeled your third-party published peer reviewed scientific paper as dubious and you are a subhuman conspiracist, anti-vax, flat earther who belongs in jail. Other people who have never met you feel qualified to know how you must behave and think. Just today, a lady told me that I ‘must be one of those people who go to social gatherings mask less and parade in the streets with other fascist tossers‘ She is confident that she knows me, how I think and behave based on the fact that I have a different opinion, backed by scientific research though it is. No doubt, she learned about my type on CNN.

In the end, I don’t think social media to be anything but a problem. I still use it because to stay in touch with friends and family is important – especially in these times. However, even as a tool for advertising this blog or my books, it has no value unless I pay. I am looking for a FB alternative – there are a few out there emerging. I like Amazon in many ways – it allows me to do things I couldn’t even 10-years ago. I detest Twitter – we all shout from mountain tops and hope we shout the loudest? What is that about? Yet, I was told by an expert if I want to market my podcast, it is the place and I must have an account.

So, I’m back to it is time to regulate these tech firms. The damage they are doing and are capable of doing outweigh their usefulness. Something must be done – not to constrain free speech – but to limit how data is used, how echo chambers get built and to educate people that you should behave on social media the way that you would in civilized society. On the latter point, I’m guilty too – I do not suffer fools and I certainly do not suffer them on FB! An area I must improve.

(For the record, while I see face masks as having limited value, I do follow the law and I do wear a face covering indoors. I live alone and I do not like crowds so prefer small get togethers. I avoid political gatherings at all costs – I cannot abide politicians of any persuasion. I would view my politics as middle of the road – socially liberal and fiscally conservative. I am increasingly concerned by consumerism but not at all worried about the planet – it can and will look after itself.)

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