Take a lesson from the business model created from social media.
Fifty years ago tech companies in Silicon Valley manufactured and sold products, hardware and software.
simple. business. model.
Today, the largest, most powerful online business and social media companies have discovered the exacting secret to achieving maximum profit in the form of keeping people’s undivided attention to stay online for as long as possible.
We happily and willingly supply them with all the data they need to use against us to create false narratives and belief structures that alter our perception and influence our decisions.
This is accomplished with such superb precision on levels we cannot perceive.
It just feels like we made the choice.
YouTube just recommended another video to me based on my watching history. Big deal.
In reality, it is a very big deal.
The content that you see, that you assume occurs by accident, is actually being served up by hundreds of thousands of supercomputers running countless and complex algorithms that are engineered in such a way that can grow, and adapt instantly to changes, while amassing data gathered from the nearly 4.57 billions of online users worldwide in the form of curated content.
Just imagine what can be done with THAT amount of data.
Question: What is the goal for every company?
Answer: To consistently make a profit by attracting and keeping the most customers.
What better business model for monetization exists than social media?
It is a ready-made global audience with built-in receptivity that is designed to consume and be consumed using the largest amount of time and money possible as consumers keep consuming the massively consumable content it delivers.
- A voracious, seemingly unquenchable appetite for content, thus creating…
The perfect business model.
Unlimited Supply with a virtually unlimited demand.
These companies, you know them well. Google, Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, SnapChat, Reddit, Linked-in.
Question: What do these ALL have in common?
Answer: The proven ability to collect, categorize, and monetize data. And they are very, very good at it.
Google and Facebook exemplify this high-profitable, massively scalable business model. Very low overhead costs, few employees; Advertisers pay for the products being used.
This model offers a near guarantee that their ads will be successful while ensuring that the data is reliable. Trillions of advertising dollars prop up the internet companies.
Trades are made in human futures.
Looking at this another way…
If you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product.
Question: How much of your life is given over to these businesses?
Answer: You tell me.
The change is slight, almost imperceptible.
I see the results of this reliance on technology and the amount of time traded for task-related requests in my own children.
I let them know it’s time to eat… I get no response.
I raise my voice, I assume they hear me over the Bluetooth, noise-cancelling headphones, I just bought them. Yes, I know, the pot is definitely calling the kettle black on that one! So maybe I’m to blame in part. I’ll take credit for that. (I can rest assured that the internet cookie traces I leave behind will remind me of that purchase soon enough.)
BUT with that said…
Even after I knock on their door to come to dinner, I may get a response if I’m lucky.
I’m guilty too.
Netflix has me again. This time, It’s the remake of the classic film Karate Kid based on the more aggressive fighting style taught in the infamous dojo named Cobra Kai that steals my attention. In the original film, a naïve kid, Daniel, played by Ralph Macchio, moves to Southern California only to find himself the target of a group of bullies who study karate at the Cobra Kai dojo. Fortunately, Daniel befriends Mr. Miyagi, played by (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita), an unassuming repairman who just teaches him his own style of less aggressive martial arts.
A classic tale of an unlikely underdog overcoming the challenges in his life — what’s not to love?
Well, inherently nothing. But when my daughter says, “Daddy, come here. I really want to show you something.” I use this as an excuse NOT to see what she has to show me… then I am guilty as charged.
Another slave to the media machine.
The real tragedy is by not responding, or in making excuses, I am not showing her love, by giving her the attention she needs.
I’m ashamed. But it happens often.
The obsession continues.
As a father of 4, who loves his children, I should immediately drop whatever I am doing, and see what they have to show me. It’s moments like THIS that exist for only a brief amount of time.. Fleeting, Wondrous in the moment. Gone in an instant. Never to return the same way.
TIME is the Greatest gift we can give to our children, and to each other.
Note to self: What am I really spending my time on?
At what COST?
Back to the data…
Question: What is all this data REALLY being used for?
Answer: To create and scale the MOST accurate model for human prediction that has ever existed.
Think about it…
If you could predict what your customer was thinking, how they were thinking — what really drives their thought processes, their motivations, their dreams, their biases… what advantage would that give you to accurately predict EXACTLY what it would take to influence them in any way you so desired?
This is the Manipulation model in its finest, most controllable form.
The perfect model of a faceless generation.
When it comes to social media, particularly Facebook, there seems to be 3 main goals at play here:
- Engagement goal — time spent scrolling and viewing content
- Growth goal — Time coming back for more related content
- Advertising — Profit machine based on individually tailored marketing
This all leads to One thing:
The goal of social media: How much time and money can we steal from you by fueling your favorite addiction?
Social media can be a double-edged sword.
On one hand, it provides an outlet (at least on the surface), to connect on a “surface-level” with other people who share or stand contrary to your viewpoints. On the other, it opens up areas of hidden vulnerability — feelings of discouragement and frustration for not living up the same level of success standards reflected in what we perceive their lives to be.
This ability for technology to effect us on such a powerful, visceral level, how our exposure and reaction to it, how it can play with our emotions and self-worth… is a powerful force indeed.
We could learn a lot from Arthur C. Clarke . Not only is he an English science-fiction writer, science writer, and futurist, inventor, undersea explorer, and television series host, but he co-wrote the screenplay for the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of the most influential films of all time.
The film explores the social dynamics of isolation on a remote space station, and how the crew aboard combat the ever-growing AI computer simulation named HAL. As the intelligence level grows, so does the threat they must face to overcome.
Here is a quote from Clarke that is applicable:
We start them off young.
I remember purchasing our first tablet for our youngest daughter from the beloved store, Toys-R-Us. Her own special device. Her own starting point of magic to be obsessed with.
Guilty as charged.
We grew up on puppets and cartoons, teaching us life lessons on sharing, caring and adapting to the world around us. Teachers, parents, books, libraries were our go-to sources for knowledge and fact finding quests.
Today, kids grow up watching the stories and videos of children, and adults playing with toys, and showcasing their lives through YouTube — Many of which have become multi-millionaires because of their loyal fan base and the reliability they have found in using a global platform (with the ability to reach the masses with their brand of curated content). The ads shown before, after, and during their videos re-assure that the eyes of the viewer, see their ads, and provide the platform, the opportunity for getting their message heard.
It’s never going away, and to some, making money online has become the new American dream.
I see my an accurate, but unsatisfying depiction of my oldest boy in this picture.
The boy does not look happy, yet he has ACCESS to anything and everything we could only dream of growing up. I see my son, well actually, I don’t see my son, because there is often a shut door between us…. I see him not as happy as he could be. I give them space to be happy. To find their own way. They often remain isolated. It doesn’t seem healthy for their well-being and development. A reflection of society.
BUT, independence that leads to isolation comes with a price.
I tell my kids now, there was a time growing up, that the internet did not exist. A portable phone was anything but smart. Used only by the corporate types. It was big, bulky, and only served one function, to make phone calls.
It’s absolutely mind-blowing. The technology of my smartphone has advanced to the point that it has. Everything is designed to keep us transfixed in a state of personal isolation for as long as possible.
Having instant on-demand access to all the internet has offer has been so ingrained into our societal DNA, that is hard to imagine what our life was like before.
Can we really imagine our life without technology?
Question: At what point does our obsession with social media overtake and consume us completely?
Answer: ….tbd… It’s a chilling thought.
There is a dark side to technology.
Our dependence on cell phone usage has crippled our ability to communicate, to share… For some reason, when I am online, even something simple as reading an email, or looking for a Chinese restaurant for our a family meal…
And I’m interrupted.
I feel only slightly annoyed.
Guilty as charged.
By WHY should I be annoyed, when the only thing that has really happened is something has taken my attention away momentarily.
Let’s not minimize the effect the online obsession has on our mental health, specifically social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The reach is global, but particularly effecting the Generation Z, those born after 1996, as they are the first generation to live with social media since middle school.
The Fact is…
The human psyche was not meant to accept the opinions of thousands of strangers as they critique and make us feel less than we should about ourselves. These apps present an idolized world that may or may not exist as they look on the surface. They provide images that create a false narrative and standard few could live up to. One mean tweet, one intentionally hurtful comment can have a devastating effect leading to anxiety, depression, and in some cases, self-harm.
The universal need to belong and be accepted by others is so deeply engrained in our DNA, that anything that contradicts this belief, throws us in an emotional tail-spin, and causes us to question our sense of self-worth and identity in negative ways.
Ironically, when this occurs, we turn back to the same medium that caused the pain. We accept it, and reward ourselves with short-term cues — likes, emojis, hearts, all designed to reinforce our sense that people like us.
A false sense of security to salve the wounds left behind from careless words.
The real danger lies in the speed at which technology has expanded exponentially. It’s near impossible to imagine the Trillion-fold increase in computing power since the first computers back in 1960.
Question: How could we as mere mortals ever keep up with technology?
Answer: We can’t.
AI or Artificial Intelligence does not exist in the form of a “Terminator”, or a killer Cyborg robot sent to exterminate the human race, but rather, it lives in supercomputers as massively connected networking constantly sends and receives immeasurable amounts of data.
That AI used against us, is cloaked in the form of content packaged perfectly — based on the information we search for and what we watch online.
It’s very, very smart.
It knows just the right colors, the right combination of posts, what it thinks YOU like.
And we believe it to be true.
This reminds me of the line in the Truman Show. In the film, Truman Burbank, played charismatically by Jim Carrey, confronts the reality that the events of his life are being recorded and offered as content for a mass audience.
Sound familiar? (There’s a “liar” in fami-liar).
At some point, when the truth is revealed, a reporter asks Cristof, the creator of the Truman Show, “Why does he not realize what is happening?” The answer given is very telling and applicable..
It’s quite Simple. We accept the reality of the world in which we are presented.
Let’s expand this even further…
Into the political realm.
- Misinformation is an epidemic. It can be spread quickly, effectively, and efficiently through social media.
- Tailor-made content is targeted to specific audience groups based on bias and similar belief structures. You get enough of these like-minded people focused on the same goal. Give them a time and place. Fuel their dissension and paranoia… and wallah!
You’ve got Protest!
Protesting can be a positive force, and if exercised properly can be healthy for a society to err grievances, to unite with like-minded people to make notice of, push and effect change.
But, we are talking specifically about misinformation spread through Facebook, online chat groups, Twitter etc… of a negative nature that sparks anger fires, and ignites hatred.
Suddenly, we are triggered.
Similar content appears on our YouTube feed.
We are encouraged to like, comment, and subscribe.
We are blasted with recommendations. Discourse is rampant. True or untrue (who can tell?). The opinions of many strangers fill our heads.
You are triggered again. Believing manipulations, lies, false opinions, …
TOO MUCH DATA
All of this culminating into one thing…
What do we truly believe?
And more importantly, what do we truly care about?
It was not meant to be this way.
This process of offering up our privacy in our exchange for data to the highest bidder.
Some effective ways that we can deal with this issue are…
- Limit screen time for children to an acceptable range
- Open your mind to multiple sources of information
- Delete all social media accounts immediately and throw away all devices that have access to the internet!
Ok, I’m sure the last one may be a stretch…
But, the bottom line is…
I believe there is hope.
It requires the best of us, in all of us.
It may not be in our nature to work together, but the hope of our survival demands otherwise.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want a deeper connection with our community, please join us as a Premium Member today.
Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS. Need more info?
Photo credit: Franki Chamaki on Unsplash