The Hissy Fit Generation and The Loss of Free Speech VI: The Jekyll & Hyde of Social Media (2)

“It is no longer possible to stand up for all speech.”

Sinead McSweeney, Twitter’s vice president of public policy and communications for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa

***

“The First Amendment doesn’t protect a user’s speech on a private company’s site. On the contrary, the First Amendment protects Facebook’s right to say what can appear on its platform.”

— Jack Smith, Business Insider


Whether we have our faces glued to the smartphone in the street or feverishly checking our Twitter and Facebook accounts on our lap top at work, face-to-face interaction is fast being replaced by social media, which has society built around it. These networks offer steadily diminishing returns on social investment since a large proportion is rooted in self-promotion, self-admiration and the endless noise of opinions. The latter is drawn from a long since compromised mainstream media that has the audacity to charge alternative media with propagating “fake news,” a meme expressly created by neo-Cold War strategists within the Deep State to counter the non-existent presence of Russian interference in US elections. Opinions therefore are useful for creating emotional capital  and the noise of distraction for the rest of us, so that intel agencies can continue to extract all the data they want.

Meantime, young adults are having to cope with an economic time-bomb; the legacy of poor parenting and a lack of play; minimal contact with nature and poor social skills. On top of a pervasive technology that is re-wiring the brain from easily accessible hardcore porn to virtual and highly superficial forms of exchange which, by their very nature, “optimise” and “compress” information down to soundbites. The pace of information exchange and the ratio of quantity over quality means that the highs and consequent lows are making addicts and infants out of many millennials and Generation Zer’s. The neuro-hacking of culture over the last few decades has given us a crisis in the young, now exacerbated by social media and smartphone technology. Yet, such technology is here to stay. So, can we turn it around and apply its true potential?

First, we must dig deep in order to find out what’s truly going on.

***

Facebook, more popular than Google, is now herding over 2 billion users and growing faster than any year since 2012. According to Tech Crunch the platform hasn’t lost its popularity with”66 percent of Facebook’s monthly users return each day now compared to 55 percent when it hit 1 billion.”  The social networking giant has an enormous influence on young minds and society as a whole in ways we are only just beginning to fathom.

Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered his new mission statement to “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” This has to get the prize for the most disingenuous statement since George W. Bush claimed he was bringing freedom to Iraq. The world is getting closer together all right but we ‘ain’t holding hands. Rather, we are giving over our freedom and the very kernel of our minds to a new form of corporatism and surveillance. Analysts can barely keep up with how Facebook and other social media platforms are literally redesigning our lives and psychology.

As smartphone usage attests, there are voluminous studies indicating how social media (Facebook) is bad for your health. A family member often tells me: “Time just seems to disappear when I’m checking Facebook…It’s like I’m under a spell!” Two hours almost seem like two minutes. Yet, they frequently come away feeling exhausted rather than inspired. Why? University of Kent psychologists wrote in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology that compared to general internet use Facebook and its related stimuli can lead us to underestimate time. Although general internet use has the same effect, Facebook was the  worst offender for such time distortion. The distortion of time locks us into a greater exposure to social media and internet surfing than we realise, suggesting that our mind is in a specific state of addictive suggestibility.[1] They found that it was Facebook-related images that changed how we pay attention to this visual stimuli, and likely plays a significant part in the rise of internet addiction as a whole.

techcrunch.com

That social media addiction is a reality, isn’t hard to understand. All of us can appreciate how easy it is to become glued to our smartphone, spending hours on our various social media accounts attending to messages, comments and friend requests etc. But it is the millennial and Z generations that are of most concern in this respect. Adults under 45 years-old use on average four digital devices daily, with smartphone usage up by 90% between 2013 – 2017. [2]  That is an extraordinary jump in just four years which means this is much more than mere interest but a habitualisation that has become powerfully addictive. Female adolescents – already fielding a rise in narcissism – are dealing with further encroachments into their psyche through excessive texting, sexting, email and Facebook messaging.

Back in 2009, a report by researchers at The Journal of Adolescence, were already finding excessive social media usage led to increased levels of anxiety and depression. It was the discussion of problems with friends which were “significantly” linked with higher levels of depression, whereas more sexual/romantic experiences were linked to just the symptoms of depression. [3] Since tweens and teenagers have not yet developed the emotional skills to deal with the instantaneous nature of social media and the habitualistion of click bait information, mental illness can be exacerbated and induced.

In addition to the challenges discussed in The Narcissism Factor and Millennials and Generation Z, the young are being exposed to a new form of addiction, since the same reward centres of the brain involved with opioid addiction are triggered in the same way through social media.  It’s the same old re-play of escape from what is often a hostile world since time immemorial. As philosopher Alain de Botton observed: “addiction is basically any pattern of behaviour whereby you cannot stand to be with yourself and … the more uncomfortable thoughts and more importantly, emotions that come from being on your own.” Self-knowledge is a hard task master and Facebook seems to guarantee the perfect buffer against the slippery shadows within.

While millennials have generally turned away from traditional avenues for numbing out reality such as alcohol and drug use, [4] addiction to social media and technology in general is replacing such an avoidance and is actually just as harmful, potentially changing behaviour in equally damaging ways. With our smartphones acting like virtual dummies and with us from dawn to dusk, a compulsive need to check social media and the lack of awareness of time can lead to sleep deprivation, which further exacerbates depression and/or anxiety. When in states of stress decision-making is likely to be impaired and therefore life choices. Seeking help from online communities is no substitute to face-to-face exchange and the rich nuance of choices it can provide. Perhaps this is especially true when one is accustomed to receiving “instant” messaging advice predicated on selling an exaggerated self image to one’s allotted peer group, whether conscious or not.

Social media generally functions through celebrating self-promotion/admiration so it’s not necessarily a place to find sanctuary or solace, rather, as the studies have shown, it is more likely to increase  feelings of isolation and hopelessness as any drug tends to do. The capacity to self-reflect is denied in such a technological crucible of endless regurgitation. Yet, the nature of a virtual world and its instant responses lulls the child and young adult into a false-reliance on illusory logic: the more I engage the better I feel, but these happy hits of dopamine last that bit shorter each times so I need to re-engage that bit longer…And so the treadmill begins. This may be why studies have found that FB users get lower grades in college and is linked to a downturn in workplace productivity, with 77% of workers with an FB account using it during work hours. [5]

However, with those youngsters who have a relatively balanced social and family life, it seems technology can further enhance an already positive state-of-play. A study on 13-14 year olds from the January 2010 issue of the journal Developmental Psychology stated: “We were interested to find that the best-adjusted young people were far more likely to use social media as an extension of their positive friendships, while less socially adept youth either did not have Facebook or MySpace pages, or, if they did, were more likely to use these sites in less-than-positive ways.” [6]

While this tells us it is not technology per se, that is the problem but the focus, application and perception of a culture that uses it, the incidences of maladaptive behaviour and mental illness are increasing about as fast as technology itself. [7] Therefore, it is likely that well-adjusted young people are increasingly rare while the rise in maladjusted youth is more common, ergo – the problem is likely to worsen until we change the values upon which social media thrives.


‘You don’t realise it but you are being programmed’

— Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice-president for Facebook’s  user growth


The psychological harm resulting from excessive use of Facebook is no fear-mongering. Earlier this month, former vice president for user growth at Facebook Chamath Palihapitiya pulled no punches when he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business: “I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.” He believes the way in which we all use social media and the internet desperately needs evaluation since the addictive “short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” …”No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth.” He further states: “And it’s not an American problem – this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem.”

Although he conceded that Facebook did positive things he was clearly disturbed by the replacement of morality and values with a virtual copy that is value-less: where “We curate our lives around this perceived sense of perfection, because we get rewarded in these short term signals: Hearts, likes, thumbs up,” And moreover: “We conflate that with value and we conflate it with truth, and instead what it really is is fake, brittle popularity that’s short term and leaves you even more vacant and empty before you did it. You don’t realise it, but you are being programmed.” [8] And he isn’t the only Facebook insider to sound the alarm.

Sean Parker, who was one of the first in on the ground floor and responsible for making Facebook the success that it clearly is, also has serious reservations about the corporation’s direction. In an interview with Mike Allen from Axios, the former president of FB stated:

“The unintended consequences of a network when it grows to a billion or 2 billion people and it literally changes your relationship with society, with each other… it probably interferes with productivity in wierd ways; God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains…If the thought process that went into building these applications – Facebook being the first of them to really understand it –  that thought process was really about how we consume as much of your time and constant attention as possible. And that means that we need to…give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while because someone liked or commented on a post or …And that’s going to get you to contribute more content…It’s a social validation feedback loop…exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.”

Once you set up an FB account not only is it impossible to delete or retrieve the information and data that Facebook covets, it tends to make you more dependent the more you integrate the platform into your life. Although there is a fine line between dependency and addiction, Facebook encourages a new form of dependency in a generation that is already reeling from a lack of meaning and social disorientation.

Ferris and Erin Hollenbaugh, associate professors of communication studies at Kent State University at Stark, analysed 301 Facebook users between the ages of 18 and 68 who post on the site at least once a month. They found –  perhaps unsurprisingly – that the more individuals integrate FB into their personal and business lives the more dependent on the social media platform they become. This is especially true if tied to goal-orientated tasks and using the platform as a means to meet new people and gain attention – the latter suggesting an aversion to meeting people in real life. Ferris observed: “They might post that they went to the gym. Maybe they’ll share a post expressing a certain political or personal challenge they’re facing. They rely on feedback from Facebook friends to better understand themselves.” [9]

This is problematic for several reasons. Firstly, to rely on a social media platform to “understand ourselves” or seek like-minded friends for political or social issues means engaging in a monumental filtering system that is heavily biased towards a single world-view. Further, the nature of exchange is designed to be functionally superficial and much more so if it becomes a dependency buttressed by time distortion. This means that the quality of information will be lacking nuance and subtlety, feeding into the echo chamber effect on the one hand and the herd mentality of mob rule-trolling on the other.

If many users are seeking attention and self-validation through this medium it isn’t going to lend itself to objective discourse on politics and social issues. Quite the opposite. The complexities of social, cultural and political discourse is lost in FB bias and emotional noise that social media in general, encourages. Facebook is a means to a very profitable end. It wants your data and it’ll do anything to get it, including psychology experiments, censorship, embracing fake news and invasive surveillance.


“If you feed the beast that beast will destroy you. If you push back on it, we have a chance to reign it in.”

Chamath Palihapitiya


A Map of Social (Network) Dominance

Facebook Is Not your Friend

Not in any way, shape or form is Facebook your friend, despite Zuckerberg’s saccharin insistence.

The social network is a vast data gathering operation that is concerned with profits first, every detail of your life made into algorithms, second and a singular ideology that encircles both. It is not averse to manipulating its users’ psychology in order to obtain as much information about your daily habits, likes, dislikes, wishes and dreams in order to enhance its monopolisation of the mass mind. It doesn’t matter what FB minions tell you – they are usually utterly clueless and happy to have their pay-cheque and techtopian beliefs, But Zuckerberg does know. He knows very well what Facebook really is.

In June 2014, perhaps the most disturbing revelation yet came from FB’s team of innovators when details of a largescale experiment were published in the journal of the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences and carried out by a team of academics from Cornell and the University of California. The experiment involved a highly intrusive manipulation of information posted on 689,000 users’ home pages which le to the discovery that they could “make people feel more positive or negative through a process of ’emotional contagion’.” Robert Booth of The Guardian described the heart of the study where:  “Facebook filtered users’ news feeds – the flow of comments, videos, pictures and web links posted by other people in their social network. One test reduced users’ exposure to their friends’ ‘positive emotional content’, resulting in fewer positive posts of their own. Another test reduced exposure to ‘negative emotional content’ and the opposite happened. [10] 

The team gleefully concluded, as if this were all perfectly ethical: “Emotions expressed by friends, via online social networks, influence our own moods, constituting, to our knowledge, the first experimental evidence for massive-scale emotional contagion via social networks.” The usual FB spokesperson was wheeled out to counter considerable concerns voiced by civil rights lawyers, politicians and activists claiming this was a benign experiment “to improve our services and to make the content people see on Facebook as relevant and engaging as possible”. [11]

Riiiiight. That might fly in Tinseltown’s little white-washing of reality via its Social Network movie hoop-la but there are a few more nuggets of information to bring to light.


“Facebook is the pinnacle of social engineering, an online operant conditioning chamber – also known as a Skinner box – that is being used to track, trace, document, and manipulate half of the entire online population. Despite users attempting to utilize Facebook to connect and communicate with individuals and organizations of interest, Facebook has turned its features against users, insidiously manipulating their timelines to show selected posts and updates while “soft censoring” others to manage public perception.”

— Tony Cartalucci, New Eastern Outlook


While the Tavistock Institute would be rolling their eyes at such obvious social engineering capital, this experiment was likely part of the little-known United States Department of Defense program called the Minerva Research Initiative started in 2008, and since partnered with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.” RT reports:  “According to the program’s website, it has recently awarded millions of dollars to be divvied up among 12 proposals from colleges that have launched projects relevant to the Pentagon’s interest, including a Cornell University study called “Tracking Critical-Mass Outbreaks in Social Contagions” as well as others involving state stability, social disequilibrium and, in one instance, “Understanding American Muslims Converts in the Contexts of Security and Society.” The funding all comes entirely from the Dept. of Defense. [12] 

In fact, the Pentagon and the US Army Research office is involved in overseeing a number of projects in universities and with direct and indirect involvement of social media it seems, one of which  focuses on ” ‘large-scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants in enduring activity’ across 58 countries around the globe.” [13]  In other words, “Social science is being militarised to develop ‘operational tools’ to target peaceful activists and protest movements” in the face of future mass civil disorder and breakdown. [14]

It is not the first time FB has been called out for tinkering with their users’ psychology, though it is certainly the most disturbing for a number of reasons, most notably regarding how we absorb the flow of news, political beliefs and issues of censorship. Think of the easy power to sway billions of users without their ever knowing – literally from a few key strokes.

Facebook is not only top of the Fortune’s 500 fastest growing company list since 2015, its share of social media referrals  has overtaken Google according to traffic-analytics service Parse.ly, doubling its referral base (and its revenue) in only one year. Social-media sources saw Facebook with the lion’s share of the traffic to Parse.ly at 43% with Google significantly lagging in comparison at 38%. And that’s only the sources on which Parse.ly is able to retrieve data. [15] 

Taking over from Google as a traffic source for news is deeply troubling. Although involved in the same monopoly game as Facebook, Google has a more diverse and larger range of sites from which it sends traffic via its search engine. But it cannot halt the drift toward Facebook from larger news and media sites which have become much more reliant on the social media giant. Since its clients include over 400 mainstream news and media outlets it has no problem at all in manipulating data to serve its ideology as well as its profit margins. It means Zuckerberg can spin the news according to his beliefs and those to whom he is beholden.

www.parse.ly/

Regardless of what you believe about the sanctity of the US electoral process, Facebook offered its own contribution to distorting voter beliefs by manipulating its news feeds without users’ knowledge in order to increase 2012 US election turnouts. Three months prior to election day saw the social media giant “tweaking” news feeds, a fact that was shared with the public in two talks given by Facebook’s data scientist, Lada Adamic in the fall of 2012 and subsequently reported by RT and Mother Jones. It was reported that 1.9 million Americans shared “…their friends’ hard news posts rather than the usual personal posts. The effect was felt most by occasional Facebook users who reported in a survey they paid more attention to the government because of their friends’ hard news feeds.”  Voter turnout was boosted by 3 percent and “political engagement grew from a self-reported 64 percent to more than 67 percent.” [16]

Although one might say that this is a positive move to engage people in “democratic|” voting we would do well to remember that voting in the US and Europe has long been rigged by loading the die with corporate candidates and Deep State yes men alongside a bit of computational tweaking when necessary. (Which made Trump’s win all the more galling for The Liberal arm of the Establishment).

Yet, what right has Facebook to manipulate us – regardless of whether it is deemed positive or negative?

Zuckerberg is pushing the same old Liberal Establishment agenda of one world, one community and one government word salad; the whitewash of homogeneity and bland group-think of “world citizenship” that is decidedly anti-human. Or, as one ironically Zionist commentator noted in the Jerusalem Post: “…real communities contradict being a ‘citizen of the world,’ which means belonging everywhere – i.e. belonging nowhere and to no one. Citizenship entails being situated in a community, which involves commitment. This American Jewish quest to create the first community without boundaries is impossible, like swimming in the sky. Swimming requires water; communities by definition define themselves, drawing lines, creating affiliations, identifying insiders and outsiders. Zuckerberg’s life project, Facebook, annihilates those real ties, creating virtual “communities” of fake “friends.” [17]

Although not pleasing to this particular Zionist, he would have been satisfied with the agreement Facebook has undertaken with the Israeli government to force social networks to effectively delete or “rein content” that may “incite violence.” This is from the same anti-free speech rule book that allows Israel to hone their propaganda by using incitement as a catch-all for any Palestinian content which goes against their large-scale efforts to persecute and eradicate all things Palestinian. “Online extremism” in Israel’s view, is anything that promotes Palestinian rights and raising awareness of more than 50 years of Israeli occupation and abuse. Censorship is a convenient solution to which Zuckerberg is only to happy to employ, evidence of which continues to mount with pro-Palestinian accounts disabled with no explanation. With sufficient up roar users have had their accounts restored but not without considerable pressure. [18]  [19]

And with this fakery backed up with huge profits, social science and tacit support from the military and corporate-intelligence apparatus censorship is steam-rolling ahead.

Continued…

 


Notes

[1] ‘Falling into a ‘Facebook hole’: How perception of time is altered when we go online – By Mark Prigg, Daily Mail UK, February 7th, 2017.
[2] ‘Americans and their gadgets’, By Aaron Smith, Pew Research Center | http://www.pewinternet.org/ October 17, 2010.
[3] ‘Excessive Chatting on Facebook can lead to Depression in Teenage Girls’ By Chris Irvine,Telegraph UK, 31 Jan 2009.
[4] ‘Adult drinking habits in Great Britain: 2005 to 2016’ https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/drugusealcoholandsmoking/bulletins/opinionsandlifestylesurveyadultdrinkinghabitsingreatbritain/2005to2016
[5] ‘Study: Facebook use cuts productivity at work’ By Sharon Gaudin, Computerworld, 24 Jul 2009.
[6] ‘Facebook or MySpace, Youths’ Use Reflect Face-to-Face Interactions’ ScienceDaily, 26 Jan 2010.
[7] ‘Millennials are facing a mental health crisis, and it was entirely preventable’ Huffington Post UK, February 2nd, 2017.
[8] Former Facebook exec says social media is ‘destroying how society works’, James Vincent,The Verge, 11 Dec 2017.
[9] ‘Are you Facebook dependent? New study findings reveal user trends’ Science Daily, 22nd December 2015.
[10] ‘Mind games: Facebook tweaks users feed, causes positive and negative emotions’ By Robert Booth, The Guardian, 29 Jun 2014. 2014.
[11] Ibid.
[12] ‘Pentagon prepares for mass civil unrest, spends millions’ RT, 13 Jun 2014.
[13] Ibid.
[14] ‘Pentagon Preparing for Mass Civil Breakdown’ by Nafeez Ahmed, The Guardian, June 12, 2014.
[15] ‘Facebook has taken over from Google as a traffic source for news’ By Mathew Ingram, August 18, 2015.
[16] ‘Psychological experiment: Facebook manipulated the news feed to increase 2012 U.S. election turnout’ RT, 04 Nov 2014.
[17] ‘Choose Zionism not Zuckerbergism – even at Harvard’s commencement’By Gil Troy,June 13, 2017.
[18] ‘More Facebook censorship: Palestinian editors’ accounts disabled – no explanation given’ by Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 23 Sep 2016.
[19] ‘Facebook and Israel to work to monitor posts that incite violence’ Associated Press in Jerusalem, 12 September 2016.

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