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Could Social Media Be Facing a Wave of Backlash?

social media backlash

For many years, social media was heralded as a universally beneficial new technology. It was seen as something that could keep us connected with our friends and family members, a tool to meet new people and support important causes, and a platform that could potentially allow us to redefine work and personal relationships forever.

To an extent, social media platforms have revolutionized the way we live and interact with others. Between 2006 and 2020, we’ve seen the rise and fall of dozens of platforms, with a few mainstays that have evolved over the years (for better and for worse). But where does social media go from here?

It seems like cultural attitudes toward social media are beginning to change, and if this trend continues, social media could feel the force of a full-fledged societal backlash. What would that mean for the future of social media? And how could this unfold?

Increased Attention on Social Media

Part of the reason that social media is getting more negative attention is because it’s being scrutinized more heavily. Some of this is due to social media platforms attracting more users and becoming more embedded in our daily lives; naturally, more impactful platforms tend to get more attention.

Casting doubt.

But this is also due to a growing number of experts, celebrities, and other high-profile individuals casting doubt on the idea that social media is doing good for our society.

As a recent example, the Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma has gotten significant attention for its insinuations that social media platforms are dividing us and making us miserable.

There have been hundreds of books published in the past few years studying the correlations between social media use and mental health issues. Millions of people, including reputable authorities, have pledged to delete their social media accounts, or claim to periodically “detox� by not using these social channels (or using them in different ways).

The social media scrutiny.

It’s also worth noting that social media companies are facing increased scrutiny from politicians and policymakers all over the world.

CEOs are being interrogated by members of Congress, and leaders across the globe are questioning whether it’s important to impose new limitations on what social media companies can do—or even nationalize these platforms.

…miserable!

Collectively, all this attention is making users more aware of the dangers and drawbacks of the platforms they use. And this isn’t exactly new information; if you talk to the people in your social circle who seem to use social media the most, they’ll likely acknowledge that it harms their mental health or makes them miserable, at least in some way.

The Issues With Social Media

There are a number of negative issues associated with social media, which users are becoming increasingly aware of. For example:

  • Depression, loneliness, and anxiety.Many people who use social media platforms excessively, or even regularly, suffer from mental health afflictions like loneliness, depression, and anxiety.

    There are many reasons for this. For example, social media tends to put pressure on people to keep up with their friends; images of people you know going out and having fun while you’re home alone can make you feel like you’re missing out, or that you’re unimportant.

    Similarly, social media newsfeeds tend to favor emotionally charged stories, making it more likely for you to read bad or infuriating news on your timeline, rather than seeing more positive stories.

    On top of that, social media gives you the illusion of connectedness, making you less likely to reach out to the important people in your life in meaningful ways.

  • Data privacy issues.

    Social media companies, especially Facebook, have been criticized for their lack of data privacy and lack of transparency and user control. For example, most social media platforms openly collect millions of data points on their users, selling them to advertisers as a way to generate revenue.The data-point-selling is why most social media platforms are free. But what happens when third-party apps can collect this information, or even more information on you, without your consent?

    You may have your profile set to private, but are you sure that other people or organizations can’t find meaningful data on you? Social media platforms have earned a reputation for neglecting privacy.

  • Censorship and information control.Social media companies also have the power to censor or remove stories they don’t like; they have some degree of control over the information that circulates on their platforms. In some ways, this is a good thing for users.

    For example, Google is known for penalizing sites that violate its terms of service, leading to search users having a better all-around experience when trying to find valuable content online (incidentally it’s one of the reasons rankings fluctuate frequently as well).

    Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms take a proactive role in removing content from circulation that could be harmful or disturbing to its users, such as violent or pornographic material.

    This is a form of censorship most people are fine with. But what about deliberately removing mentions of a story that could harm a favored political candidate?

  • Echo chambers and bubbles.Most of us have fallen into echo chambers and bubbles, whether we realize it or not. We tend to seek out and engage with like-minded people, who reinforce our opinions and our own worldviews.

    In small numbers, this isn’t a terrible consequence, but it can lead to increased polarization across society and lead to distorted facts and information.

  • Misinformation and disinformation.Speaking of inaccurate information, social media platforms are also rife with misinformation and disinformation. It’s incredibly easy to post and circulate “fake newsâ€� or misleading headlines on social media, and individuals and organizations all over the world use this to their advantage.

    Even if the story isn’t true, a circulating headline can do an incredible amount of damage if enough people see it.

  • Addiction potential.

    It’s also worth noting the potential for addiction, or at least compulsive behaviors associated with social media apps. Social apps tend to be designed in a way that encourages repetitive, or even constant use.There are bright red alerts and noisy notifications that demand your attention constantly. There is a never-ending infinite scroll of content to discover. And there are always new channels to find and new people to reach out to.

    In extreme cases, this can lead to tech addiction.

  • Use by children.Many adults have the maturity and cognitive potential to be aware of these issues and overcome them, but children may not be in a similar position.

    Increasingly, preteens and teenagers are using social media on a daily basis, and they’re being subjected to heightened versions of all these issues due to their vulnerabilities.

Can We Reach the Tipping Point?

Most of the issues listed above will be familiar to you, yet you probably still use at least one social media platform on a regular basis. What’s stopping you? Do you think you get more positive effects than negative effects when using this platform?

Or do you feel social pressure to keep using these apps because everyone else in your social circles are using them? Perhaps the tailored content is more meaningful there and other avenues are therefore lackluster?

What about the global social media scene?

Globally, social media user numbers aren’t declining; they’re increasing. And the more people using social media on a regular basis, the harder it is for any individual to voluntarily remove themselves from it.

That’s why, even though there are short-term pushes to “#deletefacebook� or “#deletetwitter,� these moments appear to be temporary. The waves of backlash a social media company can face are somewhat limited, because sooner or later, users want to come back and see what their friends or followed channels are saying.

Is there a way the backlash could grow so extreme and so powerful that it actually leads to a meaningful change?

After this long with the social media challenges—can there be a purposeful, worthwhile change??? We have to ask — is there even a chance that existing social media companies are capable to change how they operate or new social media companies rising to challenge the social media scene? That remains to be seen.

Facebook now has nearly 3 billion monthly active users, Instagram has more than 1 billion, and Twitter has more than 330 million. And many of those users, despite consciously acknowledging the drawbacks of these platforms, continue using them willingly, and following each change presented by the companies in charge of their management.

What’s Up?

Overall, despite increased attention on the negative aspects of social media and countless books, podcasts, and documentaries covering the topic, there probably won’t be a significant wave of backlash to put increased pressure on social media companies.

That said, if these problems get worse before they get better — it could motivate action.

The post Could Social Media Be Facing a Wave of Backlash? appeared first on ReadWrite.

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Why Big Tech Companies are Building Cities, and Why Many are Worried

tech companies building cities

Situated in Menlo Park, south of San Francisco, is a 59 acre of land adjacent to the Facebook campus, this piece of land is proposed to be a fully self-contained and functional city called Willow Village. Here is why big tech companies are building cities, and why many are worried.

However, there is one notable thing about Willow Village that makes it different from other communities in the US; it is owned and being developed by American social media giant, Facebook Inc. Proposed Plan for Willow Village, source: menlopark.org

The Facebook Village

In a few years’ time, Facebook employees will be able to work, live, and sleep without leaving the property of the 5th most valuable tech company in the world. This city is proposed to have more than 1500 homes, a pharmacy, a grocery store, office buildings, conference spaces, a 193 room hotel, and a public park.

Recently, there has been a trend of big tech getting involved in large construction projects with Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, investing One Billion Dollars in its plans to build 20000 homes in Mountain View and Apple finishing one of the world’s most expensive buildings; Apple Park estimated at Five Billion Dollars.

Privately Owned Cities

The future will surely see employees of large tech companies living luxury lives in private owned cities, rent-free, and with many benefits in the comfort of the property owned by the company they work for.

The financial crisis of 2008 ushered in a dramatic change in the way individuals choose college degrees. While the total number of available jobs took a downward turn during the recession, college students were far more likely to stay in school or go back and apply for a more marketable major. More people applied to majors that were more marketable or could provide better jobs rather than majors that interested them. 

According to a 2005 study, unemployment rates have an effect on the way people choose college majors, this can be seen in the way majors related to healthcare, engineering and computer science exploded after the great recession while the number of applicants in education, philosophy, and religious studies saw a decline. 

With the average salary of a US computer and information technology worker being $88,240which is $39,810 more than the average salary of all other occupations — it is easy to see why high school graduates are flocking to these majors in large numbers. 

Computer science students

With the influx of computer science students, many people wonder why the market is not saturated. Students are picking college majors according to their career prospects, getting a degree in computer science is easy to obtain and salaries are exceptionally high, which means the market should be flooded with computer scientists.

The problem is that demand for computer scientists has increased tremendously, however, the market is not flooded because universities have a hard time producing computer science professors, which in turn reduces the number of computer science graduates.

Rather than having to wait at least nine years to get a bachelor’s, masters, and then a doctorate, CS graduates would rather enter the job market and get paid the same salary they would have if they worked as a college teacher or even more because of the extra five years experience.

Why Are Tech Companies Building Cities?

The shortage of computer science professors has put universities in a tight spot, they can either choose to accept a particular amount of high school graduates applying for computer science majors, or they can increase class sizes to increase the number of CS graduates and risk hitting the staff to student ratio and lowering the schools ranking.

New shortage in grads

Today, there is a shortage of computer science graduates, so tech companies or organizations that wish to employ these graduates have to go the extra mile to please them with high salaries, stock options, bonuses, and many more benefits or, risk losing them to other nearby tech companies, leaving employees with an advantage.

Due to the fact that tech companies are so concentrated in certain areas like Silicon Valley, changing jobs is especially easy with huge tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple; being just a couple of miles from one another, Tech companies have a hard time retaining their employees as employees do not even have to change homes if they decide to switch jobs. Tech companies, therefore, have especially low turnover rates.

Average stay of employee in one company

The average employee at Google or Apple stays a little less than 2 years before calling it quits. The low retention rates of tech companies pose a huge problem and many are striving to remedy it.

Ways to garner retention of employees

With the low retention rate of employees, companies have to find new ways to retain their employees thus employers have to go the extra mile to make workers happy, with gym memberships, cell phones, fitness, and wellness programs, wifi equipped busses and subsidized uber rides.

A very good and effective way of keeping employees though is to involve themselves in every aspect of their lives. This is where company-owned homes come in, It is much harder to leave a company if that same company owns your home and that of your friends and family. 

By increasing employees’ dependence on the company, we can surely expect to see the average lifespan of employees increase, Companies have been trying to do this by building homes, with Facebook, even going as much as paying a $10000 bonus to employees who live close to the office.

Why Many Other Businesses (and People) are Worried

All the many benefits employees get from companies trying to keep them, surely increase employees’ well-being and retention rates, which is beneficial to both staff and organizations but might come at the expense of society.

Companies try to make commuting to work more enjoyable and living with the ultimate goal of increasing employees’ retention rates by providing transport like wifi equipped buses, cab rides and houses for employees, but by doing so, they use public infrastructure like bus stops without improving the quality of public transportation.

Affordable housing

Because of the tech boom and the concentration of tech companies in tech hubs like New York and San Francisco, housing has been made less affordable as there has been an increase in the average rent of these cities.

There have been a lot of concerns about the fact that as big tech companies expand their physical presence, the line between public and private is blurred.

Not only are the lines blurred, but local governments find themselves not governing but being governed by these companies.

Take for example; in 2014, facebook funded a police station next to its campus along with offering to pay an officer $200000 as a yearly salary. It is time for the country to reevaluate the power companies have over the government.

Please add your opinion in the comments. I’d like to know.

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