Is Social Media worth the price of entry?

Kevin O'Meara

When social media was in its infancy, it was sold as a way for friends and loved ones to be connected; with more immediacy and intimacy than ever before.

Now, a decade into the life of the major social platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.), ‘digital detoxes’ and ‘mindfulness” are quickly becoming a big business rather than just buzzwords about breaks from your devices. Instagram is investigating ways to make its platform less alienating, and multiple events of the past few years have shown how easily exposed and exploited our personal information can be.

The news that Instagram was trialling changes in the Oceania territory that will hide the number of likes a post has gotten from anyone but the user sent waves through the influencer community this week, with perhaps good reason (for them), given their livelihoods can depend on algorithms driven by these sorts of systems.

The move is part of a wider initiative by the company that also includes new anti-bullying measures, which they hope will get “people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting and spend a bit more time connecting” according to Instagram chief Adam Mosseri.

Instagram recently came under fire in Denmark when popular influencer Fie Laursen posted her suicide note to her Instagram feed and her 336,000 followers. The post was liked 30,000 times, and received 8,000 comments in the two days it took for her family to have the post removed while Laursen recuperated in hospital. Denmark’s Minister of Children and Education Pernille Rosenkrantz highlighted the case when calling for restrictions on certain types of posts, as well as help in removing offending posts from the Social Media platforms themselves.

Social Media has also been shown to have a detrimental effect on cognitive ability, with people who record a lot of their life through facebook posts, Instagram stories, etc. shown to form worse memories than those who don’t. This so-called ‘Google Effect’, wherein the brain offloads certain memory caches to external storage (phone numbers for example) is not a new phenomenon, though it does stand to reason that this is a trend that will continue as we grow increasingly entwined with our digital selves.

This increased investment in the digital realm can also have chilling real-life consequences; fake news (and its proliferation through social channels) and its effect on the 2016 US Presidential race, the Cambridge Analytica scandal of 2018, or more recently, the viral sensation Face App, Owned by a Russia based company, and whose terms of service are very suspect indeed with one section reading;

“You grant FaceApp a perpetual, irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, publicly perform and display your User Content and any name, username or likeness provided in connection with your User Content in all media formats and channels now known or later developed, without compensation to you.”

For many, privacy is the least of their concerns online. Most have public feeds, allowing anyone at all to see what they post, and automatically tick terms of use agreements without even skimming the particulars. But, given the above concerns alone, this is a stance they should perhaps reconsider.

Author: Kevin O’Meara

Image Credit: Pxhere