Monthly Archives: March 2019

Are Social Media the New Smoking?

This provocative question has been raised by Ben Maynard online at One Zero, as curated by Medium. Psychology has already identified excessive use of social media as a problem similar to bio-physiological addictions like narcotics and nicotine. (Think FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out.)

The book Zucked, by Roger McNamee, is a searing indictment of Facebook’s leaders Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, and their “profitability at all cost” business model, knowingly based on engineering the site’s algorithms to create an addictive dependence on Facebook and its other social media captures, Messenger and Instagram.

McNamee suggests that social media giants need to either be treated as monopolies and broken up or, at the very least, regulated.

Regulation of such a complex industry, however, is fraught with difficulty if it is built around the idea of censoring content.

What Maynard is proposing seems to me a much more feasible alternative: creating anti-social media messages that treat social media use like smoking and making it uncool. I guess we might call it a “cancer of the mind.” After all, smoking remains legal, yet it is also recognized as harmful. Maynard notes that social media have a good side but that they also are harmful, a point that McNamee’s book makes in chilling detail. Anti-smoking messages achieve maximum traction not because they emphasize negative physical harms but because smoking has become uncool. It’s really a psychological appeal.

I think Maynard’s on to something. Can we have a social media equivalent of a surgeon general’s warning?

Others are suggesting we all need to simply opt out of Facebook but I admit to enjoying the posts I see from my far-flung network of family members, friends, and a few Facebook groups I belong to, that I find both enjoyable and wholesome.

Here’s the link to Maynard’s article:

The Case for Breaking Up Facebook

Writing for MIT Technology Review, Constantine Kakaes dissects Mark Zuckerberg’s recent 3,000-word essay on how he intends to change the Facebookiverse, supposedly for our benefit, concluding that the changes will in fact only accrue more power and control to The Zuckster.

He is not alone in this assessment, as I learned this past weekend at Claremont Graduate University’s Drucker Day event. Speaker Roger McNamee, venture capitalist par excellence and early supporter of Facebook, has turned against Facebook and argues very convincingly for its breakup or at least some form of regulation to curb what he sees as its anti-democratic business model. His book, Zucked, paints quite the picture.

Here’s the link to the MIT article:

What do you think?

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