Time for a Reckoning

Selena Gomez has come out with a strong critique of social media and big tech. One might say that she sees social media as anti-social.

I note as well that Facebook critic Roger McNamee, an early Facebook mentor and facilitator who has turned against Zuckerberg & Co., has recently blamed the Washington meltdown on Facebook and its bottom-line-focus-at-all-cost business model for facilitating it. I agree with McNamee and think his idea of focusing on the social media firms’ business models that rely on algorithms designed to increase viewers’ time on site so as to justify advertisers buying time on the platforms is what needs to be addressed. In this CNBC interview he also implicates social media for violence perpetrated by the far left.


McNamee says he doesn’t think censorship is the answer as he is a strong first amendment advocate. But business models are another issue altogether. I commend him for his take on this issue.

Do Social Media Fuel Insurrection?

Given the events of the past 24 hours in Washington, D.C., what are we to make of what’s happened? Is there something about social media use that allows its messages to get past our built-in censors and sense of rationality? There has always been a conflict between emotion or affect and rationality or reason. And history has shown that affect tends to trump reason. “Feelings” overpower reasoning; they take some kind of intracranial short cut (or, perhaps, detour would be a better descriptor), bypassing the left side of the brain overall and the cerebral cortex in particular, putting hormonal responses into overdrive while driving out any prior disposition to thinking before acting.

Social media are clearly being weaponized. Whether it’s ISIS recruitment or QAnon and other conspiracy theories, bad results are being propagated through the use of otherwise benign media. Congress seems intent on reining in the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and other outlets. Perhaps the time has come when they should be held to the same standards as the print media, who can be held liable for messages that they disseminate.

The troubling question is, however, who would be the censors? Is it conceivably possible to obtain an unbiased, objective evaluation of media content? I would argue, not at this time. Perhaps we turn the job over to AI? But then, we already have seen critiques that point out programmers’ own biases tend to manifest in their AI-driven constructs. Given the current state of Americans’ distrust of print or “mainstream” media, could we expect anything better in the electronic media?

This is the defining conundrum of our time.

Does Social Media Use Fuel Depression?

A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine says this seems to be the case. The study recruited over 1,300 people between 18 and 30. They were screened at the start for symptoms of depression. Demographic, biographical, and behavioral data were also collected.

According to a review of the study published in Medium (https://elemental.medium.com/a-new-study-strengthens-the-case-that-social-media-use-fuels-depression-5eabf51b2918), after six months the researchers found “…that among those who were not depressed at the start of the study, heavy social media use was robustly associated with the emergence of depression. The more time a nondepressed person spent on social media at the start of the study, the greater the odds that person would go on to develop depression” (para. 5).

Study subjects who were on social media for five hours or more per day were nearly three times as likely to develop depressive symptoms as those who used social media two hours or less per day.

“Among the roughly 300 people who fell into the lightest tier of social media use, about 6% developed depression during the study. Among the roughly 150 people who fell into the heaviest-use tier, that figures jumped to 17%…” per the Medium review (para. 7).

The study also looked at those who were already exhibiting depressive symptoms at the start of the study and found that they were averaging about three hours a day on social media. Their use of social media did not increase during the six-month study period.

The research article itself is in press at the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The title is “Temporal Associations Between Social Media Use and Depression.” Authors are Primack, B.A., Shensa, A., Sidani, J.E., Escobar-Viera, C.G., and Fine, M.J. The Science Direct database has the full text.

Elon Musk Owes It All to Playing Video Games

So he says in this article in Inc. magazine. Apparently, he got interested in programming after starting to play video games. He thought he could make his own games. He started on a Commodore computer with the Basic language—remember?

He sold his first video game for $500 at the age of 12. Read more here:


Media Psychology Theory

My former dissertation chair, Dr. Bernard Luskin, has made a very nice video presentation about media psychology and his own “3s” (three-S) theory of how media psychology works and how it can be used for good. Here’s the link.

Multitasking and Memory

I have posted several times in this blog about the downsides of multitasking and now here is one more: It seems that engaging with multiple media platforms at the same time may diminish one’s ability to remember things. This article in Scientific American cites a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

“The research suggests that ‘media multitasking’—or engaging with multiple forms of digital or screen-based media simultaneously, whether they are television, texting or Instagram—may impair attention in young adults, worsening their ability to later recall specific situations or experiences.”

Younger Millennials and all Gen Z’ers should take note. Here’s the link:


Screen Time v. Bed Time

Today’s Wall Street Journal provides a nice summary of some recent research about screen time. The gist is that what is on the screen is more important than the screen being on or not.

For parents with school-age children, there is sound advice for how to manage screen viewing for their youngsters, particularly for households that are now impacted by the stay-at-home mandates imposed by pandemic responses.

Here’s the link:


Enola Holmes Rocks!

The Netflix movie Enola Holmes is well worth watching. This fanciful tale of a precocious 16-year-old, the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, is an odd hybrid that nicely bridges the gap between two audiences: young adults and those of us on the older side. The appeal is truly universal.

Ms. Holmes proves to be every bit as witty, observant, and persistent as her famous brother, played here to perfection by Henry Cavill (aka Superman). Enola is most fetchingly portrayed by Millie Bobby Brown and she is clearly the star of this show, outwitting everyone, including Sherlock. Helena Bonham Carter plays a very likable rebel mother to her three offspring. When she abruptly departs the household without saying goodbye, “the game is afoot.”

The writing is excellent, the cinematography superb. The psychological profiles of the Holmeses and certain other important characters makes for an interesting study in its own right. But rather than analyze these characters, it’s much better to just enjoy them! Sit back, relax, and enjoy 123 minutes of really fine filmmaking.

A Must-Watch Video

One of my MBA students sent me a link to a trailer for a Netflix program about social media and after viewing it, I consider it something everyone should watch. This is a cold, hard, sober look at the platforms that have become so big a part of our lives. Here’s the link:

Samsung Fails the Digital Media Test

You would probably think that a big-time tech company like Samsung would have its act together in the digital arena, wouldn’t you? I certainly thought so.

But lo and behold, my 8-month-old Samsung 43″ HDTV has had its HDMI 2 and HDMI 3 ports go south; 2 went about 5 weeks ago, so I switched my FireStick to 3; then 3 went out last week.

Customer service? Nope. Call their toll-free number to speak to someone and your only option is to go online. Go online and start a chat and the first attempt ends with the bot not recognizing what I am saying and thinking my problem has to do with using a soundbar. Huh? So, I end that chat and start a new one. The new chat session starts out pretty well with the stock replies but after I describe my particular problem and give the bot my name and email, it tells me, “We are notifying top Samsung experts. It usually takes 1-2 minutes.”

From 4: 20 pm to 5:05 pm, NOTHING. Samsung fails the digital media test miserably. I wish Apple made actual TV sets. I will never buy another Samsung product again.

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