Saurabh Parmar shares his two cents post the delete Facebook scandal, shedding light on how the platform has far reaching effects on users’ lives.
Facebook’s value has fallen by 58 billion $$$ over the last week ( “ That’s billions ,not millions”; flashback the social network movie).
Even the real world ‘tony stark’ aka Elon Musk became one of the first big tech players to take a stand against the data theft scandal by deleting the pages of all his companies from Facebook.
But the weird bit is that some of the smartest minds in the world including Mark Zuckerberg& Sheryl Sandberg didn’t realize this earlier? And it’s not as if it wasn’t spoken about. Journalists across the world have brought about the issue of third party apps viz-a-viz data vulnerability even two years back, including lesser mortals like me who had written a piece on this.
Best of all even Mark Zuckerberg had written a blog on privacy after an outrage by users as early as in 2006
& then following that there was the Beacon Scandal and of course now there is the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
But this post is not about any of those. It’s about something worse-the impact Facebook could have or perhaps is already having but is not talked about that much.
1. The new ‘Big Brother’?
Ask most Facebook users and they would say Facebook just collects their basic personal information and ‘at most’ every post, like or share they have ever done on Facebook. Now even that is profound but perhaps most of us were aware of it.
However as software developer Dylan McKay recently discovered Facebook had logged all of his text messages and phone call history over the past few years. And he doesn’t use the Facebook app for calling or sending SMS! The same thing happened with tech journalist Sean Gallagher.
Think of this-it’s not just what you are doing on Facebook but in several ways what you are doing outside Facebook. For the technology industry which has always been against the ‘Big Brother’ approach,this sounds extremely intrusive to me.
Also Dylan McKay & Sean Gallagher are software engineers and tech journalists from the most developed economies of the world if they didn’t realize what was happening, what is the hope for a regular user in a small town in India to understand how Facebook is robbing us of our privacy.
Would you give your kid something which was addictive & then she or he ended up spending a lot of time on it? Or would you give the same thing to an adult without telling him the addictive aspect? Facebook is possibly that addictive substance.
According to a growing body of research social platforms like Facebook has several features specifically built to trigger dopamine release. And this is not some obscure research saying it,sample this:
“we… give you a little dopamine hit”- Sean Parker, founding president of Facebook
“It’s a variable reward, because sometimes you have new tweets or sometimes you have new messages, and sometimes you don’t. And that makes it intrinsically addictive.” -Tristan Harris,ex Google employee
So now you realize why you feel compelled to keep checking your Instagram feed or Facebook notifications multiple times through the day or just scroll through the Facebook news feed when you are free. It’s not just a harmless habit, it’s a well funded tech ecosystem which is built to exploit our behaviour.
Interestingly there are a growing number of people in the mecca of the tech world-silicon valley who do not allow their kids to use platforms like Facebook or even themselves.
3. Loneliness & Depression
UK recently appointed a minister of Loneliness. One of the biggest reasons that loneliness is becoming such a big issue today among young adults is because of platforms like Facebook.
We all feel we are connected more to our friends but end of the day we spend more time watching their lives, rather than being part of their lives. And since this technology is new to the human brain, we literally don’t know the difference.
So you may feel you know all about your friend Sakshi because you saw pictures from her holiday, her post about the current government and her having that amazing burger over lunch this weekend, .but do you really know about her life? And since social media makes us feel we are so connected we are growing further apart.
And you don’t need to take my word for it. Here are two interesting perspectives from the tech industry in fact in silicon valley itself:
“The Truth about Tech,” is a campaign launched by former employees of Silicon Valley tech firms. The agenda to make people aware how tech causes depression,attention deficiency disorder etc. And no it’s not a grass-root movement by some tech hippies. It’s a 57 million dollar campaign.
A piece from Facebook’s own newsroom which talks about possible impact Facebook could have on mental health & even they admit there is a negative side to the story.
When the guys who are selling tech ,been part of building these platforms including an ex-president are talking about it..isnt it time we woke up and raised some hard questions.
In fact the reason I felt compelled to write this piece is that I am someone who has strongly believed in the idea that technology especially socially media unifies us and brings us closer. And it did, but the challenge is somewhere along the way some tech companies got too greedy to build their empires and the cost was not just our data but our happiness & if things are not checked now this is just the beginning.
I still believe Facebook and Social media can have a really positive impact. For example, social media allows me to distribute and share articles like this. BUT what it’s taking away right now outweighs the benefit. We have to use it consciously, actively talk about it’s negative impact and encourage Facebook to change its policies, it’s approach.
The article is authored by Saurabh Parmar, brand and business consultant / trainer. You can connect with him here.