As a concerned citizen I’m urging you to watch this an alarming documentary about a severe threat to our civilization.
What an outrageous pretentious opening! Yet after several weeks’ reflection I think the issue is that important and that severe. Smart industry experts fear civil war or the end of western civilization because of the forces outlined in this short movie.
The documentary is The Social Dilemma. It’s on Netflix. The Social Dilemma is about an industry that studied and deliberately imitated gambling psychology to increase the odds that users would return for additional stimulation. I’m talking about social media.
One Silicon Valley insider, Tristan Harris, even told 60 Minutes that your smartphone is “a slot machine in your pocket.” The idea is to get you and your kids and your friends to spend as much time as possible looking at your screen. That’s how social media companies make money.
Social media knows that your time and attention are the product. Savvy influencers pay billions to post carefully crafted mesasages based on each user’s tendencies and deliver them when the user is in a suggestible mental state. Much of the most effective persuasion is not even screened by the rational part of the brain.
One claim is that that because of how the human brain works, social media spreads fake news six time faster than truth. Fake news is crafted with strong emotional content. That content is targeted to people likely to be affected by it and pass it on to their friends.
The targeting is based on data that companies like Google and Facebook have gained by observing your online behavior. They run it all through artificial intelligence programs and tailor your experience to what they know you like and fear.
Each of us has perceptions, biases. Social media presents messages in ways each user is most likely to accept. For example, one person reads about a dispute that involves freedom of choice and global warming. A few feet away another person may be reading about the same dispute, but ideas are labeled as right to life and climate change.
This is insidious. Insidious means that by the time you learn the motive it’s too late. Did Facebook, Twitter, or other social media explain to you or your kids that they want to control your life? Did they tell you they want to gain an even greater share of time and attention? Did they mention they programmed algorithms to get you hooked, addicted to their platform?
Most Americans think it’s wrong to take advantage of the week. Many people know vulnerable souls who became addicted to painkillers, nicotine, or gambling without realizing they were in jeopardy. Americans find that practice reprehensible.
Would you warn your kids about a drug dealer? Only two industries refer to customers as users – illegal drugs and software. The Social Dilemma documents how the owners and leaders of social media have become more skilled at bringing people back. In other words, they are making social media more addictive.
Many titans in social media firms prohibit their children from being on social media. What are they know that you don’t?
Sixty years ago, America was shocked to read that advertisers were using subliminal messages to manipulate the public. Vance Packard’s Hidden Persuaders got laws changed. Those practices are child play compare to the millions of messages that have been received while you read this post.
Our society is more splintered, contentious, and suspicious than ever before. Haters and malicious profiteers love what social media allows them to do without you even realizing you’ve been influenced. Those carefully crafted, emotionally charged messages on social media are a big part of the reason.
This post may seem ridiculous. Please, take a couple of minutes to review The Social Dilemma trailer on YouTube. Then do yourself and those you love a favor. Watch The Social Dilemma for an hour. If after an hour it is waste of your time, then turn it off.
You know I ask for your feedback. Your response matters more this time than most posts.
Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.”