Warnings and regrets over the negative psychological and societal consequences of social media are adding up quickly and should not be ignored. They say social media is ruining our lives and altering how our brains work, much like how a casinos capture and exploit gamblers to spend all their money and even the money they don’t have. These aren’t the rantings of wide-eyed neo-Luddites, but the serious public disclosures of some of the very people who brought these technologies to market.
Billionaire financier George Soros raised the warning flag on the social media threat at his annual dinner on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He said that firms like Google and Facebook exploit the social environment like the mining and oil industries exploit the physical environment, the natural resource extracted in this case being our conditioned mental response to advertising. Without our knowledge, he says, social media companies are not only driving people to distraction and addiction, like gambling companies do, but robbing people of their autonomy, their freedom of choice, and thereby making them easy to manipulate for financial and political gain. Furthermore, he warns that these few large corporations, which currently enjoy a monopoly in the social media space, are aligning with authoritarian regimes to create a global system of mind control.
Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said that he limits his nephew’s use social media. In 2017, he warned of the dangers of getting caught up in trivial matters online, “where basic rules of decency are suspended and pettiness and negativity thrive.”
Two years after releasing the iPad, Apple’s famed CEO at the time, Steve Jobs, said he didn’t allow kids to have them. Why? Because iPads, and by extension the social apps that run on them, are addictive. “We think it’s too dangerous for them in effect,” he said.
Two former Facebook execs say they regret the monster they helped to create. First, former Facebook president Sean Parker warned that the social media feedback-loop they engineered to be addicting alters the human psyche. Then, former Facebook VP Chamath Palihapitiya, said he felt “tremendous guilt” over helping to design a system that has shaken “the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”
Donald Trump, America’s casino-owning Commander in Chief, used Twitter during his campaign to get elected and continues to utilize it on a daily basis to great effect, and now White House news coverage has been reduced to tweet analysis. “President Trump has redefined how world leaders will likely use social media going forward,” says John Foy, attorney and founder of John Foy & Associates.
Where this stops, nobody knows, but Soros thinks the social media monopoly will soon come to an end. Whether or not that changes this trend remains to be seen, but in the meantime, you may want to take a hint from some of the world’s top executives and high tech pioneers and curtail your family’s use of social media.