Social Media Applications and services occupy about majority of individual's screen time, smartphone & internet usage. About a large influx of internet traffic is attributed to these different social mediums and platforms. As a matter of fact, majority of the past time and off time of a lot of people is spent in these platforms. People are able to get closer with a lot of their peer groups, long time friends & professional networks as well. Global boundaries are no longer a concern to stay in touch and connected with friends & family. The connectivity has grown easier & stronger over the past decade, ever since the birth of Internet 2.0 or Web 2.0 as we call it.
Take a look at the above infographic, which outlays internet activity around the Globe.
The above snippet is the Global data for the amount of content consumed through social media per minute. This may not be the exact figure right now, as this data's from 2020. The current trends could be even more larger due to the pandemic and the worldwide lock down.
It's well established and understood that we as a society are spending more time online than offline. Sometime work demands & most of the other times the impulsive reflex demands.
There is an inherent behavior analysis and phycological attributes behind developing these platforms and products. Often these products are developed targeting the core user, which is us the consumers in mind. We are made the victims of these psychoanalysis and end up adding value to the multi-billion dollar conglomerates oblivious to our knowledge.
Behavior Designer & Author Nir Eyal explains this persona beautifully with his "Hook" model which involves 4 steps namely Trigger, Action, Reward & Investment. Trigger starts with an external trigger which is the notification sound, a message or a prompt that you get on your smartphone. This makes you take the action on the platform and start scrolling the feed or the page. Then you reward it with likes, comments & sharing or even consuming content on the platform which makes up as the investment in providing more data to these platforms & gets fed to the algorithms, eventually making the platform better. As we keep using these platforms, we keep investing in them through our time, data & content. Almost none of the social media platforms have their own content or generate one. They thrive on the content created by the users and the addiction to do so thereon. There has been a lot of debates and policies being drafted by Govts. to decide, as to who owns the data or who is responsible for the activities carried on in these platforms.
Companies involved in developing these products & services and the people engineering these services are some of the highly paid, influential and wealthiest around us. Companies working in this domain have different business models as per their will and wish. One thing most common is that their products are mostly free to the users. Most of these companies make their money from the Advt. revenue and also more precisely due to the targeted advertising model that they bask upon. This has been largely made possible due to the amount of data and the kind of analytical power house these organizations have. How much ever sophisticated the analytical and data engineering faculty be, it's of no worth if you don't have sufficient data to process. We the users are the providers of these data and continue to do so in large numbers. After a widespread awareness and large cry from users and various different governing bodies, there has been some baby steps from these tech behemoths towards addressing these data and privacy related concerns.
Data is the new oil. If you are not paying for the product, then you are the product. These statements have all, almost become a cliché.
Little has been done from both companies controlling as well as the users. We can't fall prey to data hungry conglomerates. Unfortunately, most of the common users don't understand and fathom the idiosyncratic intent of these platforms. Our average joe doesn't necessarily have to understand these genres and algorithmic attitudes.
Other than using them for fun, most of the users use these platforms to escape from their reality, to manage their stress & anxiety, to avoid facing their troubles or loneliness etc. But instead of relieving our stress, we get subsumed into an alternate reality, wherein we are faced with fusillades of depression, anxiety & jealousy. Social Media addiction have almost become a phobia in many places. There are a lot of cases, wherein these virtual social platforms have started creating ripples across the physical world. These social media platforms are no longer a separate virtual world anymore. They have started interacting directly or indirectly with the physical world and have been catalyzing agents of polarization, miscommunication & hatred among people.
We started interacting more in social medias and less in the physical mediums. Somehow, these platforms destructed the global boundaries and barriers, but has made the person next to you the farthest. There is no escapism to our reality, we have to face it and stand strong against the worst of our demons. Social Medias can't be the future of our social interactions.
A lot of times, if you track down the genesis of us using the social media in a given point, it would have been from a notification trigger just like Nir Eyal said. Maybe, we all can try minimizing or disabling most of the notifications to start with. Whatever anybody says or writes, it all lies within us to get out of something or understand the toxicity behind it. Self Control is one of the key towards escaping these alternate realities & social media addictions.
There's a saying since ages that, "Man is a Social Animal" and you can't confine that social animal into a 6" digital cage.
PS: Image credit to original creators.