Twitter’s removal of millions of fake accounts reminds us that not everything is what it seems. The internet is full of bots, replicating humans, even programmed to act more human than the humans themselves.
We too are conscious automata, no more authentic than the droids themselves. People are just savvy editors. We present our best selves online to increase our self-worth make other people envious.
Artifice defeats authenticity in all chess matches of the irreality we crave.
Yet, the push to be at our best could be the resolution to our proposed mediocrity. Why shoot ourselves down when a quasi-celebrity lifestyle sits at our fingertips.
Fame happens to the mobile holder. Stuck in a ludic loop, we are the host of our own Truman Show. Attention captured, republished, and released. We’re neither superior to bots nor are we consciously behind.
Ubiquitous and abundant, social media companies manipulate human pysche. They are addictive by design. Yet users continue to consent to sell their attention (re: data) to merchants.
Each platform — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat — has their own cunning way of keeping us hooked.
New York based artist Ben Fearnley designed some visualizations to illustrate our sticky social media relationships.
“Each one of these platforms encourages a different kind of communication and the amount of time we spend on social media has skyrocketed. I challenged myself to create a visualisation of how I could represent each social platform’s user interaction in the most simplistic way that people could relate to and find conceptually amusing at the same time.”
Feel free to laugh and cry while I check my Tweets.
Social media is the story we want to tell about ourselves. It is the edited self.
The problem occurs when that ideal self fails to match up with the real one. Can we live up to the image and credentials minted in our LinkedIn profile?
Fake it until you make it?
We paint our social media feeds with fantasies and hang them like pictures on a wall. For some people, it’s like directing and starring in their own movie. For others, sharing can make them feel like they have to be more accountable in real life. It’s a chance to match in action what our thumbs project in our profiles.
The internet is a chance to choose ourselves. We don’t need permission to post. As dehumanizing as it sounds, everyone can be their own brand without losing a sense of self.
The butterfly has to come out of the cocoon and face the music eventually.
Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter — they all work like any other placebo. They inspire us to be our best self. The only hope is that we can match the narrative on the other side of the screen.
We are not only taking too many photographs and spending little time looking at them, but we’re also inhibiting in our memory in the act.
In a recent study done by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, those who document and Instagram their images are consistently less likely to remember their experience compared to the camera-less participants.
Across three studies, participants without media consistently remembered their experience more precisely than participants who used media. There is no conclusive evidence that media use impacted subjective measures of experience. Together, these findings suggest that using media may prevent people from remembering the very events they are attempting to preserve.
Just as we outsource our memory to Google — knowing it’s all too accessible with just a click — so to do we our experiential minds.
While we know our digital images will be archived in iPhoto or Google Photo libraries for eternity, we’ll be unlikely to recall vivid details of the event when we return to look at them.
“A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it—by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.”
Externalizing events is not just limited to the camera. We can impair our memories with a notebook in hand. Similarly, if we take down every note the teacher repeated in class we are less likely to remember the most important takeaways. If we want to better remember the things we experience, we have to remember to look up every once in a while.
We must compel ourselves our see in order to notice the interesting things in the world around us. Perhaps our inner eye cameras are all we need to remember what we want.
Instagram is making tweaks to the algorithmic feed it introduced two years ago. While the social network won’t bring back the chronological feed, it will emphasize newer posts first. You’ll also be able to manually refresh your feeds instead of kicked up to the to while browsing.
We’ve heard it can feel unexpected when your feed refreshes and automatically bumps you to the top. So today we’re testing a “New Posts” button that lets you choose when you want to refresh, rather than it happening automatically. Tap the button and you’ll be taken to new posts at the top of feed — don’t tap, and you’ll stay where you are. We hope this makes browsing Instagram much more enjoyable.
Based on your feedback, we’re also making changes to ensure that newer posts are more likely to appear first in feed. With these changes, your feed will feel more fresh, and you won’t miss the moments you care about. So if your best friend shares a selfie from her vacation in Australia, it will be waiting for you when you wake up.
I no longer use Instagram like I used to because the feed feels like a disorganized mosh pit. Timestamps are all over the place and my friends’ posts went missing at the cost of brands.
At least now it appears that Instagram is listening, sort of.
I’d still like the ability to create lists like Twitter. I’d create one feed specific to street photographers and another for my closest friends. An ad-less version of Instagram would be a bonus as well, even at the price of a monthly subscription.
“It’s not that I’m not social. I’m social enough. But the tools you guys create actually manufacture unnaturally extreme social needs. No one needs the level of contact you’re purveying. It improves nothing. It’s not nourishing. It’s like snack food. You know how they engineer this food? They scientifically determine precisely how much salt and fat they need to include to keep you eating. You’re not hungry, you don’t need the food, it does nothing for you, but you keep eating these empty calories. This is what you’re pushing. Same thing. Endless empty calories, but the digital-social equivalent. And you calibrate it so it’s equally addictive.”
Outside parties were abusing stolen Facebook data to develop psychological profiles of voters. The data mining company Cambridge Analytica was central to the information warfare. They allegedly worked with Russians to stoke fears in the UK and America on immigration and other polarizing issues. So people got fake news and conspiracy theories in their feeds which led to Brexit and Trump.
Facebook is like an adult video game. People are obsessed with the sensational. And reality pays the price of fabricated events.
‘Move fast and break things’ may be a popular hacker’s motto but it’s shown to breed more carelessness than good. Thankfully, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are facing up to the truth that while their tools bring us closer together but they also tear the world apart.
The damage has been done. The question now is how will they fix it? Some argue that the crackdown on Cambridge Analytic is just the start. Others like Om Malik are less optimistic. Pumping users and engagement are in Facebook’s DNA regardless of the consequences. Om writes:
Facebook is about making money by keeping us addicted to Facebook. It always has been — and that’s why all of our angst and headlines are not going to change a damn thing.
According to research done by data scientists at MIT, it is humans, not bots, which disseminate false news.
The study began with the 2013 Boston bombings when Twitter spread inaccurate rumors about the aftermath of the events.
The three authors of the study then took it upon themselves to dig deeper into the fake news phenomenon by examining tweets of 3 million users from the years 2006 to 2017.
Blame the humans, not the machines
The overarching result is that false news spreads faster than real news because people on Twitter are more likely to retweet novelty. Said MIT professor and researcher Sinan Aral, “We found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, bots accelerate the spread of true and false stories at the same rate. False news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.”
Sensationalism stokes retweets. In fact, “false news stories are 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than true stories are. It also takes true stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as it does for false stories to reach the same number of people.”
MIT scientists believe misinformation also runs rampant on Facebook but is harder to detect because it lives in the echo chambers of a walled garden: FB groups, private posts, and direct messages (re: dark social). Because of Russia’s election meddling in 2016, both Facebook and Twitter are finally taking efforts to improve their platforms for better veracity detection. Fact-checking is more vital than ever.
Humans are suckers for captivating but erroneous news. Some people even refuse to let go. As Mark Twain so wisely noted, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” The good news is that the truth never expires, even if it takes longer to percolate.
By all means, show your work. The internet is a great place to get feedback and build up your confidence. Just keep in mind, it’s all about you until it isn’t.
“It’s a total catch-22: if you don’t self-promote, you won’t be known to those who hold the keys to whatever kingdom you’re interested in unlocking. If you do self-promote, you might catch the gatekeepers’ attention, but pray they don’t read your self-promotion as needy or navel-gazing. Pray you don’t violate some unwritten code of class conduct or seem too eager. You have to appear to have a lot to offer without appearing to need anyone to take it. What a strange psychic and social predicament we’ve put ourselves in.”
In a 1999 interview with the BBC, David Bowie foresaw the internet’s impact on music and society. The walls between artist and fan would be broken down, but the era of echo chambers and fake news would break internet culture itself.
“We are living in total fragmentation…I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg. I think the potential of what the internet is going to do to society, both good and bad, is unimaginable. I think we’re actually on the cusp of something exhilarating and terrifying.
Is there life on Mars? Yes, it’s just landed here. I’m talking about the actual context and the state of content is going to be so different from anything we can envisage at the moment. With the interplay between the user and the provider will be so in sympatico it’s going to crush our ideas of what mediums are all about.”