Windham Life and Times – October 16. 2020

/The Social Dilemma

The Kendall Mill was located on the Windham-Londonderry line and was operated as a grist, saw and cider mill. In the fall, farmers would bring their apples which were then pressed to make cider. Making cider was a social event for the community where friends and neighbors would meet and discuss the latest gossip and politics, face to face.

   OK, so I apologize; I was way too political in my last column. Just blame it on my social media feedback loop! My son was visiting for my birthday and we watched the eye-opening documentary on Netflix titled “/The Social Dilemma.” Everybody needs to see this documentary because it goes a long way toward explaining why we are so divided as a nation. The opening credits quote Sophocles which says, “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.” So here is the “Cliff Notes” summary: The social media monopolies, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, SnapChat, and the rest mine your searching data so they can sell to you. They track what you like, and they even track how long you look at a photograph so they can determine every intimate detail of who you are and what you believe. So you are saying to yourself that you are well aware of that. Here’s the thing; since the social media companies exist to make money, by selling your data and selling to you, they have a vested interest in only presenting to you in your feeds, the things that you have indicated that you like or believe. Why would they do this? They do this because they want you to spend as much time on their platform as possible, and they keep you glued to your feed by presenting you things that make you happy…the things that cause a dopamine rush into the body. This would be all fine and well if it was just about making tons of money which it is for the internet media giants. The problem is, because we only see what the media companies algorithms perceive that we want to see, everyone in America is stuck in a echo chamber and continuous feedback loop endorsing and magnifying their own ideas and beliefs. We are never presented with opposing viewpoints because that might upset us and cause us to spend less time on the social media platform. As individuals, we begin to think that everybody thinks the same way we do, because we are being given what we want to see in our feeds. Everything we see is individually tailored to us and no two people have the same feed. One of the most dramatic moments is when all of these social media founders and high level managers say that they do not allow their own children to access the very social media platforms they operate, because it is much to dangerous for them. One way to escape is to turn off your feed and notifications.  We need to find a way to interact with other people, especially with people who don’t agree with us. Just listen to their point of view. You don’t have to agree with what they believe, you just have to respect their right to believe it. Remember this point, “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”

    So these tech elites do offer a solution which is actually much scarier than the problem itself. They seem to say that society needs “one truth,” so that we can unite and move forward to solve the difficult problems we face. Climate Change is one issue they address in the documentary. In other words, they want the government to censor “fake news” and present us with “the truth” we need. This is a totalitarian dream, to be able to drop “the truth” and only the “state’s truth” into peoples feeds. The internet was founded as a free-wheeling place of diverse views. They seem to be advocating the establishment of a “Ministry of Truth,” straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. And once “the truth” comes from a Ministry of Truth can a Social Credit Score System be far behind? Maybe the for profit “Attention Extraction Model” isn’t so bad after all?

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