First let me say that I am not against social media or the general use of the platforms. I love seeing what my friends are up to and sharing funny dog videos with my wife. I do not have anyone relying on LPC for a livelihood and I have yet to depend on the social platforms for supporting sales. I also do not want to drive moral direction, as I think that is an individual’s choice, but I do want to open up ideas for discussion.
My issue with FB, IG and Twitter (maybe others) is that the companies appear to be acting in a socially irresponsible manner and damaging their user’s well-being. The algorithms behind our social media favor the sensational, the most shocking, and the most damaging news because they know that will keep them on the platform longer and therefore, they can sell more ads. The social media companies know that they are contributing to tension, anxiety, division, and depression but they continue to push these algorithms because it makes them more money.
It appears the social media companies have no appetite to change, without incentive, and certainly not currently capable of policing themselves. We can hope that the government will enact laws to help but how long will that take, and will they get it right? The most efficient and effective way to make the social media companies change is by reducing shareholder value and forcing a pivot in the business model. The people running the companies do not care about the individual, they care about growth and making their board and stake holders happy.
Johann Hari, a best-selling author, uses this example when illustrating how huge change can take place when our health is being jeopardized by big business:
It used to be completely normal to have lead-based paint and gas. It was then discovered that exposure to lead profoundly impacts people’s ability to pay attention, particularly in children. So, what did we do? We did not ban paint and gas. We banned the lead in the paint and the gas.
The paint and gas companies did not change on their own and the legislation did not happen on its own- it was the mothers and fathers of the children affected that demanded the change to take place.
Maybe I am an optimist, but I think a balance can be found between making money and being responsible. I do not think there is a perfect solution but there is something better. As a collective we just need to make up our minds as to what is most important and act on it.
I would be remised if I did not mention the political news stations as another major contributor to tension and anxiety through divisive content. So if I had the resources I would also not be doing ads with them either.
I welcome any insight into this idea so please share any thoughts.