It is official. Social media is bad for you. Maybe not for the reasons one might think.
Here is a reason why we need to teach philosophy, theology, sociology, history and critical thought from an early age: Cambridge Analytica and its use of Facebook user data to “influence” public opinion in favour of their clients, usually politicians.
It is a chilling thought that they might be effective but what does that say about free will?
Let us appreciate investigative journalists who broke the stories about CA and how creepy Facebook really is (always has been) because they have done us all an incredible service by documenting the story of all the big players in social media.
They have taught us the lesson we all need to embrace without willful ignorance or reservation: If you are not paying for a service, you are the product.
All the big companies —and small ones — are selling us out, starting with Google through Snapchat and literally everything else your unsupervised children are getting up to behind your back when they are on their screens.
They are all exploiting us in ways that demonstrate how hardcore social and neurosciences can be when combined with technology. This stuff runs deep and it is, unfortunately for us, extremely lucrative. Which means there will be no such thing as putting a stop to it, no matter what we try to regulate.
So while I invite you cordially to delete whatever social media you suspect might be eavesdropping on you, let me also assure you that it is pointless.
The present we live in was always going to materialise. We chose this present together, so let us live in it. Also, it really isn’t all doom and gloom.
Surviving and maybe even thriving in the Big Brother age might not actually turn out to be that hard. Take a nap, or three. The eternal sunshine of constant surveillance via the society around you and the technology you pay for can be…illuminating but it is also exhausting.
Embrace the lack of subtlety and the unintended communalism it has gifted us. Then put the phone down again and enjoy the fact that Africa is so far behind the digital revolution that we might have leapfrogged it — again — by mistake. By the time we catch up maybe things will have improved?
And we could also stand to behave better anyway. Those crazy messages about instant riches or how everything will give you cancer? All the more reason to press delete and rescue your dignity. I find plenty of things offline to develop debilitating and unreasonable fears about anyways.
While there might be some futility in trying to combat the kind of future these Cambridge Analytica types are trying to build, I think it is the good kind of futility. That which every individual’s natural intelligence combined with any configuration of confident public, private and self-education can always defeat.
Remember: There is a studied laziness that has always helped humanity evolve, especially intellectually. So maybe don’t do so much, especially not online. Spend time with nature, helping something live.
Now that we know we are gullible I predict a lot of us might start to think twice about everything which is an unexpected silver lining.