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Social Media and The Seven Deadly Sins. Part 2: It's Dangerous to Go Alone! Take This

Welcome back to our series on Social Media and The Seven Deadly Sins. In this series, I am sharing summaries of each chapter from my book to spread its key sentiments wider than the Amazon paywall. These blog posts aim to expose the dark side of social media and encourage reflection and change. Join me on this journey of revelation and redemption as we delve into the ethical dilemmas, manipulative tactics, and addictive nature of social media.


 

Chapter 2

It's Dangerous to Go Alone! Take This


As we embark on this journey through the digital wilderness, it's important to reflect on how we got here. Two decades into a career supporting global brands in their digital endeavours, I find myself pondering the twists and turns that led us to this point.

Born into Generation X, I grew up in a simpler, analogue time. My parents worked full-time jobs, leaving me to my own devices on my beloved BMX bike. We roamed our neighbourhoods, free from the tether of mobile phones and the internet, driven by our imaginations. It was a time when we used red phone boxes and memorised phone numbers, a stark contrast to today’s digital saturation.


My father, a movie lover, took me to see E.T. and Empire Strikes Back, planting the seeds of my fascination with technology and storytelling. My love for gaming blossomed with the Atari 2600, followed by the Nintendo NES and a lifelong devotion to console games like The Legend of Zelda and Mega Man. This love for technology naturally led to an early encounter with the internet.


The first time I logged onto CompuServe with a 56k modem, I was hooked. The symphony of dial-up sounds signified a connection to a vast, unexplored world. As HTML became the language of the web, I discovered tools like Dreamweaver, Director, and Flash, learning to code and create interactive websites. This self-taught journey was fuelled by a passion for photography and multimedia storytelling.


In 1998, I co-founded an online forum called The-Flipside, a community where we shared creativity and discussed global events. This was my introduction to social media, long before Zuckerberg's Facebook. We built a global community, sharing our thoughts, photos, and videos, showcasing the best of the internet without the plague of advertising.

Fast forward to today, and social media is dominated by surveillance capitalism. The data exhaust we leave behind is more valuable than gold, mined by tech giants for profit and control. The dream of a connected world has become a nightmare of data exploitation and privacy erosion.


Consider the “People You May Know” feature on Facebook. While ostensibly a tool to connect with friends, it often suggests connections based on invasive data mining techniques. This feature, created by Facebook's Growth Team, highlights the ethical grey areas of social media growth strategies. It’s a stark reminder of the manipulative power these platforms wield over our personal information.


As we ended the year 2020, the storming of the Capitol in Washington DC showcased the darker side of social media. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter, initially champions of free speech, became the organisers and amplifiers of insurrection. The consequences of de-platforming prominent figures raise questions about the balance between free speech and responsible moderation.


Social media addiction is real, driven by the pursuit of likes, shares, and comments. These platforms are designed to keep us hooked, manipulating our psychology with each notification. The algorithms behind them are biased, perpetuating sexism, racism, and misinformation. Sean Parker, Facebook’s founding president, admitted that these applications were built to consume as much of our time and conscious attention as possible, exploiting vulnerabilities in human psychology.


The exponential growth in social media revenue highlights the success of this model. Facebook’s revenue in 2020 was a staggering $86 billion, with 94% of global marketers using the platform. This success, however, comes at the cost of independent journalism and a post-truth world dominated by fake news.


As advertisers compete for dominance, creative and media agencies often struggle to understand and effectively utilise the vast metrics provided by social media platforms. This naivety underscores the need for a deeper understanding of how these platforms manipulate our time and attention.


Time is a precious resource, finite and irreplaceable. The more time we spend on social media, the less we engage with the real world. Campaigns like Ruavieja’s #WeHaveToSeeMoreOfEachOther remind us of the importance of spending time with loved ones rather than staring at screens. Digital wellbeing has become a trend, but true change requires more than surface-level commitments.


Social media has placed creativity in the hands of users, democratising content creation. Yet, it’s also an addiction, a dopamine-driven cycle that keeps us coming back for more. As we navigate this digital landscape, it’s crucial to remember that our time is our most valuable asset. Use it wisely.


 

Ready to uncover more about the dark side of social media? Continue this journey with my book Social Media and The Seven Deadly Sins. Get your copy now and join the movement to reclaim your digital life.

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