Having contributed a few articles previously to Starts at 60, in contemplating another on a quite serious and current subject, has found me wondering what relevance my words have to others, especially in the age group of this readership, and if any benefit is forthcoming, to myself or those reading my articles. There is, readily admitted, an ego element in being published, and it in itself is an encouragement to continue but is that enough.
A very small piece from The Times in The Australian newspaper recently was insightful as to what is going on in social media and it was an admission by one of the founders of Facebook that what was seen initially as being a tool for bringing the world together, for building communities and bridging divides, two decades later, has seen a monster created by knowingly “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology”.
As a fairly avid reader of the internet, and newspaper, commentary, I have been somewhat surprised the article did not receive more notice and discussion.
Sean Parker, president of Facebook when it was five months old, had told the news website Axios, “The thought process was all about ‘how do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible’, and that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while” noting that ‘likes’ and comments on its pages encouraged users to post more and more.
The article concluded with comments about people expressing how they would say they were not on social media, but Sean would respond they will be and they would say “No, No, No. I value my life interactions” he recalled, then saying “we’ll get you eventually”.
The final paragraph confirms the whole story of what is happening today when Sean Parker stated, “I don’t know if I really understood — what I was saying, because of the unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or two [billion] people. It literally changes your relationship with society.”
Through writing articles, one has the opportunity to express personal opinions in an expanded way. On social media, unlike with articles in the printed media, mostly the words are brief comments to other people’s views. As Twitter users well know many can be offensive or hurtful, to no end really, but as the article has highlighted, the dopamine of the moment kicks in and the excitement of the exchange takes over and sometimes anything goes, but to what benefit.
When there is a controversial subject being debated, is the online dialogue achieving any genuine outcome, that is the question? Obviously, people get some issues off their chest, as the saying goes, believing that they have been read or heard by someone, anyone. Beneficial? Maybe!
How often have you gone to an article or subject that is being debated and read through all of the comments? Still, by going through a whole lot of comments, you will often find a balance between those in support and those against, with no final conclusion reached, or at least not publically online unless a poll in involved. Perhaps though, the individual is influenced in a certain way and his position endorsed and that may be a good outcome.
The sharing of thoughts and ideas is important and definitely linked to the issue of freedom of speech, which is very much in the news at the moment with changes to certain legislation. Having the conversations are most important in our society.
What else comes out of this thought process is a recognition we continue to on a passage of change in our lives brought on by the advances in technology, which in some ways seems to gather more and more pace. Our verbal interaction with people is more on text and internet, which changes our personal behaviour as well as exposing our privacy, another element in this discussion.
I immediately think of one particular new product, the Google Home, with which those that purchase it will be talking through it to carry out tasks and enquiries. An even further changing social trend leaving one wondering about the future makeup of society.
Many of us will remember going through the changes we have experienced that new technology has provided — from the arrival of TV through to the Internet and all its associated activities — and survived. Many of these have caused massive changes in our social behaviour, some good, some bad. More free time, more entertainment, more travel, better health services, faster international travel, cheaper fares, even more, food choices. The benefits go on and keep coming, but as populations have grown, so social communication through the internet perhaps does benefit us by reaching a wider audience.
The question still remains, does it create less harmony or does it provide a positive outcome for the world?