The Invisible Enemy

The Invisible Enemy

Human beings are social creatures. Our ability to thrive in life relies on the presence of companionship of others. Being socially connected to others can ease stress and anxiety, while also helping us stay emotionally confident.

In today’s world, almost all of us heavily rely on social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, to find and connect with each other. While it’s true that social media has created some wonderful systematic changes in our lives, we are naive about the flip side of the coin. We cannot forget that they are not replacements for real physical face-to-face interactions. Paradoxically, for a technology crafted to enhance human connectivity, wasting away too much time can leave you; admit it, more vacant and empty than before.

“Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.”-Sophocles.

The flip side

Never before in history have 50 app developers; 20-35 year old white guys wielded such influence over decisions that affect 2 billion people.. Now, consider this question: if you were to go to the app store and download any cyber security app to protect you from viruses, would you be allowed to use it for free? The answer seems simple. So, why do you think you may download and use these social and other apps without cost? Who do you think is paying for it then?

“There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.”

As soon as you’re online, you’re being watched. It might sound paranoid, but it’s not. Every smartphone owner and social media user is tracked by algorithms. How long are you on for? What purchases do you make? How much time did you spend on every social post, and so on. It’s the advertisers that have found this data invaluable in growing their businesses.  A common saying goes that if you are not paying for the product, then you are the product.

Data is the new oil.

Social media companies monitor what pictures you look at and for how long you look at them. They know when you are depressed, when you are hopeful, when you are stressed, and even when you are confused about something. These companies have only three goals: engagement, to keep you scrolling; growth goal, to convince you to invite more friends; and the ad goal, to ensure they are making as much money from it as possible.

Now you might say,” So what if they are selling my data? I don’t have a problem with that!”. Studies have shown that on these social media platforms, fake news spreads six times faster than the truth. It’s not just fake news, it’s fake with consequences, spreading ridicule, hate, and vitriol. Polarization, dubious medical approaches to combat COVID-19, and terrorism all stem from this negative factor.

Adding to that, a concerning trend known as “Snapchat dysmorphia,” where young individuals seek surgical procedures to resemble their filtered selfie images, is proliferating at alarming rates.

The solution

The only possible way to shift away from this trend is to deliberately force yourself away from these apps. Turning notifications off, adding app limits, and monitoring your screen usage are some of the few ways to force yourself to limit these apps and lead a happier and hopefully more socially connected life.

Written by: Danial Asim.

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