Social Media isn’t Social at all

In case you may not have noticed, Facebook is the #1 Social Networking site in the world. According to their own number s, they now tout 1.8-Billion people now have a Facebook account, nearly a quarter of the world’s population.  The US users makes up 10% of that total, or 180-Million, which is just over half our population.  That number isn’t expected to change much over the next several years – most of the growth in the social space will occur on other/new networks.  It seems as though Facebook may have reached critical mass and some are now predicting that there has been blowback from the amount of political postings which could negatively impact any future growth.

social [soh-shuh l] adjective
1. pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations
2. seeking or enjoying the companionship of others; friendlygregarious.
3. of, pertaining to, connected with, or suited to polite or fashionable society
4. living or disposed to live in companionship with others or in community, rather than in isolation
5. of or relating to human society, especially as a body divided into classes according to status
6. of or relating to the life, welfare, and relations of human beings in community

Disgusted with the animosity and outcome of the election, I am one of those people who deactivated their Facebook accounts in November.  It’s not the first time I’ve done this, mind you, but in the past few months I haven’t felt like I was “missing something” like I had in the past.  In fact, I recently re-activated my account with nearly instantaneous regret.  Looking through the vitriolic nature of the posts in my news feed, the continual spread of dipshit stories and fake news, and liberal outrage over micro-aggressions while missing the bigger picture issues, affirmed that I truly hadn’t missed anything.  Maybe it has to do with age…but I think it has more to do with how ANTI-social the network has become over the past few years.

It’s deeply troubling that more people will share their most intimate thoughts, feelings and photos with near strangers, but can’t carry on a meaningful conversation with their significant other.  So much so, that the network has amassed data on the age, gender, income, employment, interests, travel habits, behaviors, likes, dislikes, food preferences, workout routines, and anything else you can imagine.  In the wrong hands, this data could be used by governments for more nefarious reasons and many users have begun to realize that they are allowing their privacy to be willingly violated with one click of a button.  The EU sees this level of tracking as a clear breach of their Safe Harbor laws, as to do I, but the rest of the US hasn’t caught on yet.  More than that, I no longer want to participate in the denigration of society by dividing ourselves into these “all-or-nothing” viewpoints and classes, according to our status updates.

From a 2014 Op-Ed on Media Post:

10 Times Social Media Made The World Worse In 2014

1. ISIS Recruitment. Social media plays a “huge role” in recruiting aspiring jihadists from Europe to fight in Syria, according to Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s counterterrorism coordinator. ISIS, giving the Nazis a run for their money as “worst group of people/ideology ever,” also likes to distribute horrifying images of its atrocities via social media.

2. Facebook experimented on people to make them depressedThe study, titled “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” tinkered with the emotional content of news feeds for 689,003 Facebook users to see if moods can spread via social connections. Turns out they can — thanks Facebook! Oh, also, OKCupid deliberately set people up on bad dates.

3. Robin Williams’ daughter, Zelda Dae Williams, quit social media after an outpouring of abuse following her father’s suicide. Gross.

4. Social media fuels negative body image issues in women, according to multiple studiesOne researcher observed: “The biggest thing that stands out is social media. In the 2014 survey, a huge number of women — 64 percent — report that looking at pictures on sites like Facebook and Instagram makes them feel bad about their body.”

5. Social media also makes new mothers feel insecure, according to a survey of 1,100 women by BabyCenter. 60% of moms surveyed said they feel pressure to appear well-to-do on social media, as well as feeling envy and embarrassment because of their own situation compared with others; one in four millennial moms said she feels “significant” pressure to look well-off on social media. Another survey by Current Lifestyle Marketing and Impulse Research also found that many mothers feel social media creates unrealistic expectations and puts pressure on them to craft an idealized image of their lives.

6. The Fire Challenge. Read it and weep. ‘Nuff said.

7. Speaking of kids setting fire to themselves, parents believe the risks associated with social media outweigh its benefits for children. That’s according to a survey of UK and U.S. parents with children ages 6-17 who use the Internet, conducted for the UK’s Family Online Safety Institute. Overall 43% of parents surveyed said they though the negative impacts of social media outweighed the positive impacts, compared to 26% who believe the positive impacts were greater.

8. That massive leak of celebrity nude photos. Gross.

9. Social media undermines trust and makes us unhappy. A study titled “Online Networks and Subjective Well-Being” focused on measures of “social trust,” referring to the individual’s tendency to assume — or not assume — that strangers, as proxies for society in general, are benign and trustworthy, in the sense that they will “observe the rules of the game” in basic social interactions. According to the authors: “Internet-mediated interaction often violates well-established face-to-face social norms for the polite expression of opposing views. In online discussions with unknown others, individuals more easily indulge in aggressive and disrespectful behaviors… In online interactions, dealing with strangers who advance opposite views in an aggressive and insulting way seems to be a widespread practice, whatever the topic of discussion is.”

10. Social media use contributes to divorceA study, titled “Social network sites, marriage well-being, and divorce: Survey and state-level evidence from the United States” and published in Computers in Human Behavior, found that Facebook use is a “positive, significant predictor of divorce rate and spousal troubles,” according to researchers at Boston University and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile’s School of Communications. Specifically: “Results show that using SNS is negatively correlated with marriage quality and happiness, and positively correlated with experiencing a troubled relationship and thinking about divorce.”

This anxiety producing experience with Instagram is more veiled.  It’s owned by Facebook, so it has all of the same drawbacks of traceability and self-loathing.  Since the platform only allows users to post pictures and short videos, it’s easy to get caught up scrolling through the imagery and feel like you are connecting to the outside world.  Many users, however, quickly find themselves caught comparison game, they lose track of their self-esteem and no longer find they are relating to those around them.  Fortunately, I haven’t had that experience, mine has been more pleasant, but I do find that I’ve become engrossed in scrolling through pretty pictures of places and food, only to realize that 45-minutes has gone by without me hardly noticing.  That, my dears, was by design.  Most social platforms employ the psychology of gambling when coding their sites.  There is a reason that little notification button has a red bubble with numbers on it.

Once the platform for broadcasting news alerts and updates quickly, thanks to our new Cheeto-in-Chief, and King of Online Bullies, Twitter has thrown the idea of a polite and fashionable society into the garbage can.  Fortunately, the number of users is dwindling, as more and more people tire of its ability to amplify hate speech in a matter of seconds, but the death of the platform can’t come fast enough.  It is the platform for reporting on what is happening on the ground, in live time, in the moment, frequently used by law enforcement to track protestors and quell free speech.  Since it is conversational in nature, it is also the platform for gossip and unsubstantiated claims, causing frequent meltdowns over the smallest of slights, further isolating us from ourselves.

Sadly, the number of social networking sites continues to grow, as does the amount of time we spend on them.  In 2012, eMarketer estimated that most US adults spent an average of 4-minutes a day on social media.  Just five years later, that amount of time has grown to close to an hour.  Every day, we choose to spend 50-minutes fighting, coveting, longing, and freely acting like guinea pigs, while giving away our privacy so that these companies can resell our data to advertisers, to earn themselves billions in revenue….BILLIONS.  In 2017 alone, Facebook’s ad revenueis estimated at $16.5-Billion,  This does not take into account Instagram, or any of the other dozens of social networks profiting from the same practice.  This is your time, your privacy, and your sweetness of mind, but you will not be compensated for what you willingly gave away.

Instead, think about what would you do with an extra 50-minutes a day?  If you could shut off the “social” network, how would you relate to your life again?  For me, I have revived my account to get updates from a women’s group and writer’s group that I am part of, along with the occasional update on how friends of mine are, and what their children are up to.  I suppose these are the reasons that we all glommed onto the idea of social networks to begin with.  Now that more of my news feed is filled primarily with negative and often times violent language, I think it’s time to disconnect the “social” network and reconnect with my fellow humans, most likely this time for good.

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