Does nobody remember the 80s? TV was turning people into fricken' zombies. People would sit on the boob tube for days at a time, stopping only to go to work to mindlessly knock out chores for a shift, then get back to their vapid entertainment.
People would make a game out of who could play the longest in the arcade on one quarter. With $5, a savvy gamer could spend all day staring at lights and hearing beeps.
The world survived, thrived, and devised ever more devious and insidious ways to hook your mind. We weathered Everquest and the MMORPGs. Psychedelic drugs. Outrage didn't stop those from spreading long and wide.
My uncle lost years to Everquest. When he came up for air he found the world just as he left it. Now he manages his gaming habits just like everyone else.
Out of all the pseudo-addictive things people want to complain about, we're picking on Facebook? The thing that actually holds old friendships together and provides endless opportunities to interact with other people that you would have never done otherwise? Or is the argument that every time someone gets the urge to play Scrabble, they need to coordinate a face-to-face game instead of just loading up Words with Friends?
C'mon. I guess bombastic apocalyptic bullshit will never go out of style.
What about monetizing and marketing people's affection? The dowry would be the classic example, I'd be curious why you (presumably) are against dowries.
To me it's basically the same, certain things are corrupted by their commodification, affection, attention, others.
Besides when you say:
>The world survived, thrived
You're not exactly speaking to the people hooked on video games or TV or Facebook. Your uncle lost years to a game but because what, he doesn't do it anymore it's magically fine?
Are you also okay with advertising cigarettes to children? Cigarette breaks provide great opportunities for social gathering and let you interact with other people you never would have otherwise. A smoker may lose a lot of time to smoking but when they come up for air the world will be exactly as they left it. They'll manage their enjoyment of tobacco just like everyone else.
Is it disgusting when a casino calls up a gambler who's trying to quit and offers them a credit to come back and play? I happen to believe that's a huge social ill and in many cases basically equivalent to what Facebook is doing, just that it costs time instead of money.
> What about monetizing and marketing people's affection? The dowry would be the classic example, I'd be curious why you (presumably) are against dowries.
No, the dowry wouldn't be the classic example because that's more akin to prostitution or slave trade than monetizing and marketing affection. This especially considering a lot of marriages were done out of convenience and need rather than out of love.
Better examples: Valentines day, Christmas day, or the mere idea that you have to celebrate someone's birthday. I have seen movies about the tragedy of a kid not getting a christmas present like it's traumatizing. This is marketing. As a result you have hordes of parents playing into an objectively ridiculous legend that has transformed St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, 2nd century into a Coca-cola developed mascot of consumption.
Anyone who's gotten married can see how ridiculous the "love" and "affection" marketing gets. Facebook isn't as much in this business; it actually is on the business of attention, and there's stuff to be said about that.
> Are you also okay with advertising cigarettes to children?
I get that Facebook keeps being compared to cigarette companies under the whole addiction narrative, but lets not forget the big reason cigarettes aren't marketed to children; they kill a lot of people, and perhaps most distressing, they kill people who don't smoke them. They are also physically addictive; this is a big issue.
I think your comparison with gambling was more appropriate, or one to video games / TV like the in the comment you replied to.
Tossing aside slavery, it's akin to prostitution because it's very similar. But prostitution is also a classic example of the commoditization of affection/sex.
>This especially considering a lot of marriages were done out of convenience and need rather than out of love.
Well yes, that's what commoditization does. It turns something into a marketable commodity. That people bargained over dowries/marriage like they do over other goods is exactly the point.
I think what you and many of us feel is that there is some intrinsic quality to our affection that is degraded when it's turned into a commodity and I'm using that to suggest that there is something similarly degrading about turning our attention into a commodity, to be bought and sold and exploited for profit whenever possible.
I do like the example of Christmas, you could draw a parallel between the message of a Charlie Brown Christmas and the message of a Target Christmas commercial that would prove a similar point.
>I think your comparison with gambling was more appropriate, or one to video games / TV like the in the comment you replied to.
You're right, cigarettes are an overblown comparison. I was just hunting for something which is pushed on children, fortunately gambling isn't usually. (maybe csgo lotteries are something are an exception here which would be a good example)
> Tossing aside slavery, it's akin to prostitution because it's very similar. But prostitution is also a classic example of the commoditization of affection/sex.
Or, you know... porn?
It's not quite the same level, but we're finding increasing evidence that Facebook and general social media use is associated with increased anxiety and depression . Since depression is now the leading source of disability world-wide, the comparison is not entirely overblown.
I do like and agree with your alternate example of Valentine's Day.
I mean, what does Heroin do to your brain? Releases a ton of extra dopamine and serotonin and crap, right? And what happens when you see that 14 people liked your post?
Okay, so maybe Facebook doesn't change the way that your brain's receptors work with long-term use, but don't deny that people keep going back for that hit of inclusion.
Effect size matters. A lot. I haven't seen any convincing arguments that Facebook is even as bad as the classic "couch potato" TV junkie scenario. It's impossible to prevent someone from making bad decisions, so the size of the downside risk has to be strongly considered before claiming a problem is worth heavy-handed fixes.
People behave differently due to new technology, sure, that's a given. Is it catastrophically worse than easy access to extremely potent drugs? The outcomes suggest no.
Some people use "it releases dopamine" like that's a bad thing, like our bodies weren't wired with dopamine receptors to teach us how to function in a society. Are you proposing we get rid of everything that releases dopamine? We should all live a bleak and meaningless life?
Humans are social creatures. We're wired to seek positive feedback from our peers. Getting a laugh in a face-to-face conversation is no different than getting a smiley face in an SMS is no different than getting likes on Facebook.
Obviously not, but you believe gambling can be addictive right?
"Is having a conversation a chemical addiction?"
"My point is, dopamine is addictive."
This means your argument isn't over whether or not social media (or other dopaminagenic activities) are or aren't addictive. You've conceded that point. Which ryandrake had expressly rejected another two posts up:
The question is whether or not they ought be regulated in some way.
I'd also focus far less on the specific mechanism (though gambling, drugs, social interactions, and A/B-tested sticky-on-page highly-habit-forming social media all do, as you've explicitly stated, rely on the same chemical mechanism), and instead, in the resultant behaviours.
I'm well aware that etymologies are neither clinical diagnostic tools nor necessary indications of present use. I still find them interesting in informing a discussion. And the etymology of "addiction" is a case in point:
c. 1600, "tendency, inclination, penchant" (a less severe sense now obsolete); 1640s as "state of being (self)-addicted" to a habit, pursuit, etc., from Latin addictionem (nominative addictio) "an awarding, a delivering up," noun of action from past participle stem of addicere "to deliver, award; devote, consecrate, sacrifice" (see addict (v.)). In the sense "compulsion and need to take a drug as a result of prior use of it" from 1906, in reference to opium (there is an isolated instance from 1779 with reference to tobacco).
Same point. Same goalposts. Same location. Feel free to disagree, but I know what I wrote.
Internet gambling is discouraged/banned to the extent it threatens the local tax base, nobody cares about gambling addicts.
What I'm really asking though is what lines you draw between something like 'social media addiction' and 'gambling addiction'? Or is the only difference in your mind the inclusion in the DSM?
To me, Facebook use is a dirty bad habit like nail biting. It’s not a family-destroying addiction. Totally open to the medical establishment proving otherwise though.
Seriously though good points. I understand the hate and fear (if you would call it that) of old FB, however, and am among the group who is definitely Social Media averse. I'm not convinced Facebook actually holds old friendships together (anecdotal: I don't have FB and have lots of old friends. The same can be said for my parents and grandparents...). I also don't expect 100% of my waking hours to be spent productively (whee MUGEN and IRC, or whatever your drug is.)
However, with all that being considered, there is something very weird about the asymmetry of Facebook. They collect and store all this data, know a lot of intimate details and personal information about people, control the medium in which many people use exclusively for digital communication, and aren't really answerable to anyone except their Executives, Board of Directors and Shareholders (Wealthy people? I don't know anyone who owns a significant share of this big corporation). So yeah, weird. "Hi, please use your free time to tell me a lot of intimate and personal detail about yourself so that I can do whatever I want with this information and you have no say in how its used. Kthx"
Yeah, um, no.
What I think is interesting about the events in the article is the way the that politicians and media express concern without proposing anything. Could this kind of talk be reasonably interpreted as a negotiation between Facebook and the political class relating to Facebook’s add sales practices and political influence?
People are certainly talking about excessive social media use whether FB likes it or not. I have seen tons of articles and prominent quotes on the subject of social media harm to health. I just searched for “excessive social media use” and got articles from Forbes, The Telegraph, Time, BBC, HuffPo, thetimes.co.uk, Vancouver University, and a large pile of high impact journal articles that seem to contain related language, like “impact of social media use on children.”
So lots of people are upset but neither Soros nor the author proposed any particular remedy, and the problem sounds awfully hard to clearly understand, let alone to effectively regulate. The economics of social media seem to necessitate maximizing user engagement, and wining at network effect. If Facebook didn’t do it this way, would whoever did have won the space instead? How do we incentivize social media companies to make products that are somewhat compelling, but not too much?
Is it cynical to suppose that politicians are using the implicit threat of regulation and bad press to compel FB to limit it’s add sales and suppress “fake news”, while actually having little appetite to intervene in the interest of public health? Also, are conventional media outlets afraid of Facebook because it threatens their revenue model, and undermines their credibility?
The goal of propaganda is not to make people think a certain way; it's to get people to act a certain way. Entertainment is centered around consumption, not interaction. If I can get people who dislike something to read entertaining articles about how it's bad instead of going out and protesting or canceling accounts, then I've successfully suppressed dissent.
The solution to Facebook was already spelled out in the article. There just wasn't a call to action.
Facebook’s revenue, for example, is almost entirely a function of the number of minutes the average user spends per week engaging with the service. Reducing this by even 5 to 10% — by tamping down or eliminating some of Facebook’s most addictive features — would have a disastrous impact on the quarterly earnings of this $500 billion company.
Just stop using it and it will die. I don't. Why can't you?
I don't use it either, but apparently lots of people still do. It seems like you're proposing that we should, in aggregate, spontaneously become more virtuous. How?
Since you've done that, you have several options to change other people. You can evangelize. You can promote or design alternatives. GNU Social has been extremely successful. Running an instance would be an easy and educational way to help. You could write libraries for the newly specified social web protocols.
The important thing to remember is that it's okay to fail. It's better to be a hypocrite than apathetic.
What is holding them back are the friends who are not using any other social media.
This statement is laughable:
> The thing that actually holds old friendships together and provides endless opportunities to interact with other people that you would have never done otherwise
Facebook's innovation was trapping users in a walled garden with omnipresent surveillance and advertising, perfectly timed with mass adoption of social media.
Assumption: Facebook is more effective at capturing attention than TV, TV was more effective than radio, radio was more effective than newspaper.
Follows: If this process continues, at some point we will develop something which captures attention as perfectly as possible.
Opinion: That hypothetical end case is most certainly a social ill, especially for democracies.
So whether it's Facebook, or whether it's the thing after Facebook, if we keep stepping down this path we're eventually going to end up somewhere very dark.
That isn't an innovation. They're AOL 2.0.
So... a shopping mall? A school? Any corporate job? A walk through downtown? "In-network" minutes and long distance charges on your phone? Religious institutions?
Whatever Facebook is doing wrong for society, they are standing on the backs of giants. Walled garden or not, surveillance or not, advertising or not, people have never been as free to socialize as they are today. If there is something negative on your Facebook feed, you are solely responsible for it being there. It takes two clicks to make it go away forever.
What do I click on to make the stuff Facebook decided I shouldn't see show up?
Content editors and curators have existed for a long time.
Were TV ads ever as granular in its tracking as Facebook is today?
You're being silly.
It was a broadcasting-only service with a high cost of entry. You need big money to put your thoughts on TV. As someone from a country where the big media conglomerates and the government are helplessly colluded, social media comes as a very welcome break and counter-force.
They have always had ways of knowing exactly what their content does without having to track millions of clicks.
We have had sampling methods that makes the need to examine census pointless, it is just cool that today computing can handle the whole data set and scary that we are.
Still, today, some of the best ways to truly examine massive swaths of data is deducing to what is missing. Who turns their phones off from 10pm-2am and turns them back on at 2am? Who wasn't looking at facebook and watching netflix all night while everyone else was?
> Internet Gaming Disorder is a “Condition for Further Study” in the DSM-5 (APA 2013). This means that it is not an "official" disorder in the DSM, but one on which the American Psychiatric Association request additional research. Upon further research, the APA may or may not decide to make the disorder "official" in future editions of the DSM.
These things don't share many of the symptoms that physical addictions or even gambling are associated with.
Have a look at the actual DSM-V section on it (starts at p795):
As for how proposed criteria sets are actually recognized:
Proposed Criteria sets are presented for conditions on which future research is encouraged. The specific items, thresholds, and durations contained in these research criteria sets were set by expert consensus—informed by literature review, data reanalysis, and field trial results, where available—and are intended to provide a common language for researchers and clinicians who are interested in studying these disorders. It is hoped that such research will allow the field to better understand these conditions and will inform decisions about possible placement in forthcoming editions of DSM. The DSM-5 Task Force and Work Groups subjected each of these proposed criteria sets to a careful empirical review and invited wide commentary from the field as well as from the general public. The Task Force determined that there was insufficient evidence to warrant inclusion of these proposals as official mental disorder diagnoses in Section II. These proposed criteria sets are not intended fo r clinical use; only the criteria sets and disorders in Section II of D S M -5 are officially recognized and can be used for clinical purposes.
I think the best example are little kids with no self control watching endless amount of dopamine hitting videos like kinder eggs. People realized little kids loved these simple toy opening videos and the algorithm was more than happy enough to increase engagement by feeding kids these videos.
What's wrong with this? Lots of people like television. I like television. My life isn't that great and I'll take the distraction, thanks.
Moreover, "who cares" now includes numerous former (and current) Facebook employees, executives, and investors.
Even if I don't have a Facebook account, I am tagged in so many pictures that Facebook can identify me. I find that problematic.
Even if I don't have a Gmail account, so many people do that Google has a significant number of my email conversations.
There are many things Facebook/Google/Amazon can do, and I cannot prevent them even if I never interacted or wished to interact with them.
What is MY recourse against Facebook/Google/Amazon if I wish them not to be in my life?
But an answer to your specific question, as far as specifically avoiding Facebook, Google, and Amazon, is to only visit websites that don't have any link to those sites (e.g. no Facebook link, no Google Analytics script and make sure no one you know uses Google Voice, and not built on AWS), and don't use email anymore, just text messaging and phone calls.
I'm from a country where the TV and state are highly colluded and social media has come as a welcome alternative. Moreover, are these "polarization issues" the USA currently experiencing a product of social media, or its own cultural problems, surfaced by social media? You're not the only country on Facebook, remember that.
Also, I'd rewrite your opening rhetorical question for clarity:
Was TV, as a homogenizing force that entertained and dumbed people down to what big-money publishers wanted them to believe, a better alternative?
I'm from Mexico. A good example to look at is Carmen Aristegui. She's an award winning journalist, most recently named one of the world's greatest leaders by Forbes, but she's been shunned from most traditional media outlets. After she reported on a corruption scandal involving the president she was fired from the broadcaster she worked for, and has since relied on web/social media to keep doing her job.
Meanwhile Televisa (biggest TV network in Mexico) reports memes , random crazy people , and is known to be very politically biased . No award-winning journalists on TV.
: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl1XceNu-LE (this girl's XV birthday became a big meme in Mexico)
You may be right that cries of "society is being ruined" are nothing new. However, I think Facebook is different enough from what came before (such as TV) in a few ways that matter, that we should take this more seriously.
* FB is _interactive_. The effects of somebody responding to you, liking your posts, etc., are much deeper than you passively consuming some content on a screen.
* FB is _intrusive_. It sends you notifications on your phone, reminder emails, inserts calls-to-action in your news feed, etc. It's really hard to ignore.
* FB is a lot more _personalized_. It knows a lot about you. Ads are personalized. Content is specifically targeted towards your interests. Stuff is "recommended by <your-friend>". This makes it a much harder addiction to kick.
FWIW, I don't think FB is _that_ bad. Many mobile "free to play" games, on the other hand, ... They use so many dark patterns and insidious techniques to purposely capture people's (and especially kids') attention and time, while simultaneously trying to get them to spend real money. Geez. I hate them with a passion.
> There is nothing about Facebook that's in any way worse than the old ways companies used to do this.
Even if that were true - and I don't think it is - I'm not sure why we should just accept the idea that it's OK for us to be lied to and manipulated. I remember TV in the 90s, and the ads were fucking horrible - many would try to capitalize on the same basic motivations: sex, greed, vanity.
Why is it OK that Facebook is going down the same path? Why should we not expect a better society than this same garbage repeated at us using every new medium? If AR becomes a big thing, are we going to have to live in a world filled with virtual Viagra billboards everywhere we walk?
That this is a social illness that has been with us since before the Internet does not excuse its continued existence. It's a waste of what Clay Shirky has dubbed "Cognitive Surplus":
> It represents the ability of the world's population to volunteer and to contribute and collaborate on large, sometimes global, projects. Cognitive surplus is made up of two things. [First,] the world's free time and talents. The world has over a trillion hours a year of free time to commit to shared projects. Now, that free time existed in the 20th century. [However, the media landscape in the 20th century was mainly very good] at helping people consume, and we got, as a result, very good at consuming.
> [That is the second part of cognitive surplus. Now that] we've been given media tools -- the Internet, mobile phones -- that let us do more than consume, what we're seeing is that people weren't couch potatoes because we liked to be. We were couch potatoes because that was the only opportunity given to us. We still like to consume, of course. But it turns out we also like to create, and we like to share. And it's those two things together -- ancient human motivation and the modern tools to allow that motivation to be joined up in large-scale efforts -- that are the new design resource. And using cognitive surplus, we're starting to see truly incredible experiments in scientific, literary, artistic, political efforts.
That people wasted their lives in front of TV does not mean that we should have to keep accepting business models based on "zombification", especially when the media of the 21st century has so much potential for individual empowerment compared to television before it.
But I do agree that Facebook should not receive all the blame. You know which product is not criticised nearly enough in this context? The iPhone. Because at its core, what differentiated the iPhone from the other smartphones when it was introduced, was that is was a portable, always-online computer optimised for consumption. And it definitely had a large role in the rise of the current form of social media, compared to the internet communities that existed before it.
The attention economy is the equivalent of bitcoin mining, except with human brain cycles: its economy is fundamentally based on wasting resources, revealing an utterly cynical view of the worth of human life.
On an individual level the attention economy is a waste of human life. On a societal level it is a waste of cognitive surplus. On a global level, whether or not we waste that cognitive surplus will mean the difference between collectively being able to get out of the mess we dug ourselves into in the last century, or racing ever harder towards collapse with then having to try to recover after that.
How is that for apocalyptic bombast?
The war on social media is simply about who gets control over people's minds.
Social media sites like Reddit, Google and even HN gave in to the elite. Facebook is holding out.
You're kidding, right? Facebook sells ad space to "the elite" at bargain basement prices. Never in history has micro-targeted propaganda been this cheap for someone looking to manipulate public opinion.
Most people I know are completely addicted to their smartphones. It's taken me about a year to stop reflexively checking mine every time I go near it, and even now I will do it if I'm not being mindful of my situation. I'm infinitely better off for it, and I can't imagine how someone who has always had one in their life will be able to imagine anything different (I'm 46, so fortunate to have lived before the current era).
For me and I think most people the smartphone is a way of connecting with other people. The need to check it is a need to see what your mates are saying in a conversation - the electronic gizmo is just a conduit.
And people chatting to each other has probably been a thing for millions of years. I'm not sure what's so bad about chatting at a distance via tech.
>The need to check it is a need to see what your mates are saying in a conversation
Many people are now constantly doing that, and unable to focus on the task in hand. They are constantly distracted with thoughts such as 'I wonder what XYZ is up to', and unable to settle without finding out. I find it interesting that you say 'the need' to do that, BTW!
> And people chatting to each other has probably been a thing for millions of years.
Certainly for a long time, but not in the same way - this isn't something that even the (normal) phone did - this is a step change in the way that it encroaches on you if you let it, partly because it's with everyone all the time, partly because it's become semi-socially acceptable to be distracted and elsewhere, and partly because the technology behind it is doing everything it can to attract our attention via whatever means works for each individual.
>I'm not sure what's so bad about chatting at a distance via tech.
Then we'll have to agree to differ on that point. I don't think that technology itself is bad, but I am absolutely convinced that the way it is insidiously grabbing people's attention is a bad thing. I don't think it is about the communication at all - that is almost a bi-product of the main intention.
Even today, the typical citizen spends more time watching TV than on social media, I bet.
That's a stretch. Not sure what the argument is there.
In the absence of social media, do people simply replace their wasted time there with leisure like video games, television, texting, and the like? If yes, the net impact of Facebook is small.
Or, have the addictivity wizards actually managed to increase the amount of time spent in leisure, taking away from familial connection and deep friendships?
With Facebook in particular, there's a generated sense of belonging that comes along with the quantified social proof which makes the hits of dopamine much more personal and meaningful. I see this as trading off against getting that sense of connection in reality.
But much of the other 'damage' from Facebook is fungible, and people would turn to other sources of leisure and addiction soon after losing it. Perhaps one day these addictive engines will be powerful enough to make this untrue, but we're not there quite yet.
You're being naive if you think it's about where people spend their time if facebook didn't exist.
Interesting question to raise, but you really can't come come to a conclusion without evidence.
Do you think, when they tweak it back to the old revenue-maximising version, they'll announce doing so? No, this is a trap.
IIRC, you can still full-delete, but you have to find a the link through a help page, not your profile.
I'm content to leave my profile up with a big reminder that I'm no longer using Facebook, so I'm never going to use either option. I actually get some satisfaction that my profile is basically an ad against Facebook, which worse for them than if it just vanished.
Despite what they say, I really doubt the ever truly delete the vertices after a profile-deletion, since they create vertices for people who have never even signed up (shadow profiles) from address book info they've slurped up.
Plus, I'm pretty pragmatic about this, and need to balance anti-social-network activist with personal inconvenience. My inactive profile's banners remind people that they need to contact me specially if they want to invite me to something, and the banner also increases the perception that people are leaving Facebook. Ultimately it's that perception that will start a snowball effect that will finally do it in.
We don't have for-profit companies because of some fundamental ideological commitment to capitalism uber alles. We have them because we judge their operation to be in society's best interest. When a particular one fails to do that, it raises a legitimate question about whether it should be allowed to continue with those actions or even be allowed to exist in its current form.
If a company is not acting on society's best interest, it should be made to or abolished.
> If a company is not acting on society's best interest, it should be made to or abolished.
Wow! And here was me naively thinking that we have for-profit companies to bring profit to their owners/shareholders.
Yeah, that is pretty naive thinking. We're talking about society as a whole, but that line stops at the motivations of a particular actor in it.
An ideal society allows for the seeking of personal profit, but only so long as the side effects of that profit-seeking are beneficial overall. When it isn't, you get things like externalities that need to be curtailed somehow.
Get rid of all laws and you will see companies naturally form except they would be held together by a myriad of individuals agreements.
Stopping companies or getting rid of them world requires stipping people from making agreements between themselves and be against human nature.
Because corporations are ultimately people, any restraints on them are essentially restraints on people. There is a very fine and difficult to draw line between a person talking about this awesome idea he has and a CEO talking about this awesome product he has, but the law does try to draw that line and I think is often fairly good at it.
In other words, fixing Facebook’s negative impacts on democracy won’t necessarily hurt their bottom line, while admitting that their business relies on a foundation of addiction and exploitation definitely would.
Bingo. Unfortunately they can probably keep up the shell game for a long time, until enough people recognize what FB actually “offers” the enduser. While plenty of people here understand the downsides of FB, I don’t know that most people do, yet.
A “service” offering dubious rewards for the ability to try and monopolize your time and attention, track you, and actively manipulate you, is simply not fixable.
However, I am not a big fan of Soros, I think he is misguided (to be generous). I don't think he really wants democracy, in the sense of governance by people. And the narrative that social networks are harmful is part of that belief, that "elites" should somehow shape what "common people" think.
And the absurdity of this narrative actually became apparent couple days ago, when Daily Telegraph published an article attacking George Soros, with antisemitic undertones. The reality is, most traditional media are not better.
Cal crusades against social media, but I don't see him crusade against video games, or watching TV for example. I think a good/better metric is total screen time.
My children are given an allowance in the form of screen time. I kind of do the same for myself and I have decent self-control. That is the key, I think... limits and control by taking responsibility for yourself and those you are charged to raise.
The problem is that these things are what are being directly undermined. As humans we have for example a built in fear of what is now called FOMO; if the tribe was doing something and you weren't, your survivability was directly threatened. That's why it feels bad to be lonely, and good to be part of a mob. Facebook has weaponised human urges that operate below the level of rational thought. It's targeting the Intel Management Engine of our brains.
I'd agree with you if it was firmly established that all people have full, conscious agency. But the very existence of compulsive behavior personalities and addiction demonstrates that agency is unequally distributed.
While person A may easily be able to walk away from the dopamine bar by sheer force of will, person B may not. Person A's problem is surely with self-discipline, but person B's problem is with the dopamine bar.
I think we need to have the self-awareness to acknowledge that humans are falliable, chemical creatures and that companies like Facebook are exploiting that in ways that are unethical and beyond most people's ability to adequately deal with. Let's not blame the victim here.
Social media with their superduper optimized notifications and timelines are especially designed to pull you out of work and focus to let a little more of that "oh new gif baby falling over" or "Oh another person liked photo of baguette I had for lunch, that makes 2, sweet" high. And it is east to just switch tab and write Face+Enter...
Are you telling me that people in HN cannot tell me when my argument is stupid? Is there some flag that I can toggle to let people know that it is ok to tell me when I make a stupid argument?
I mean, I don't know what else is preventing HN from being a safe place for stupid people to gather, pat each other on their back and feel safe, secure and validated...
Oh well, may be it is already is..
Edit: Plus, it's really not that hard to not use social media once you finish school if you don't feel it's beneficial.
Without such power, Trump would not be our president, the alt-right would not capture so many followers, and our democracy would be much much healthier. It would also be easier for people to exercise self control with their time spent on Facebook (because without algorithmic warm-bath-water content, you would be jarred out of your safe zone). And if people were pushed away from Facebook, normal media, including news media, would have an easier time profiting from providing useful journalism and deeper storytelling.
It seems like people (both Cal Newport, and the majority of commenters in this thread) are extremely uncomfortable admitting that Facebook wields this power over many people. It is a bit scary, and it calls into question individual rational self control (which many of you hold dear to your hearts), but there is massive evidence that this power exists, and that it is negatively affecting our society. We need to deal with it.
But what has he down to justify this? Nothing as far as I can tell. He made a bunch of money as a currency speculator, most famously breaking the British pound. Sure. Good for him. But if we're going to talk about adding value to society...
EDIT: And why did I get down voted? Genuinely curious; he didn't say anything inflammatory, polarizing or _wrong_. Replies are not even disagreeing, just "explaining".
This is the crux of the issue: what authority does anyone have to insist that a company should act in a manner consistent with their subjective view of what is 'good for democracy'?
What fair standards could exist that would limit Facebook's appeal without also upending the gambling industry, the entertainment industry, the food industry etc.?
Given that Facebook is not physically harming, stealing from, or unfairly discriminating against it's users, who use the service voluntarily, what infractions are they making that requires government intervention?
Since when is it not the right and responsibility of parents to judge which activities are healthy and productive for their child? Since when does the same right and responsibility for an adult not exclusively apply to themselves, outside of criminal activity?
My solution is the same as Lisa Simpson's in that Treehouse of Horror where giant corporate logos come to life and wreak havoc across Springfield: Just Don't Look!
That said, I've seen little sign that they're taking truly significant steps to protect Americans from insidious foreign propaganda, even now. I still don't think they've even been fully truthful about the extend of what happened in the days leading up to the election. I know for a fact that Twitter is still lying about that time, and I suspect Facebook may be doing so as well, or at the very least failing to disclose all relevant data.
I don't know anything about corporate financing but naive napkin math says if their 2 billion user base pays $1/month they would be pulling $24 billion a year. Wikipedia says their revenue is $24b/year. Now if they removed their entire advertising aspect (the human labor, infrastructure) their operating costs would go down and that $24b/year would mean more than it does now.
Is that bad math? I would readily pay $1/month to use a service designed for our well being rather than advertisers. I think anyone would. Why isn't this a thing?
What autonomy? I’m usually one to shrug off the “no free will” problem and just buy into reality, but the quoted statement brings the problem front-and-center.
We are all being manipulated, all the time, by everything that we interact with. So FB isn’t really stealing anything from us. And yes it manipulates the mind, but isn’t that just part of the human experience?
I think that quote understates it. Even people with freedom of mind can be manipulated. I would love to think I am a free-thinker. But there is no way I could honestly insulate myself from persuasion.
I've heard some suggested solutions from others, some of which are just impractical or are just crazy:
* Ban sale of all mobile device to anyone under 18 years of age, like we did with cigarettes.
* Illegalize usage of Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Weebo etc to all minors. Force manufacturer to limit kids to only basic phone calling and text messaging. Children using these apps can be cited for violation by the police, similar to curfew laws for minors in some states/countries.
* Force Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, Youtube, etc to prevent binge watching by allowing maximum of 2 hours of streamed videos per person per day. Limit consumption, similar to New York City's Soda Ban, banning large sugary drinks from stores.
* Force all ISP to disconnect their residential internet access between 10pm -6am.
* Add special tax on addictive products, including phone, video game consoles and game software, and social media apps (in similar manner to tobacco and alcohol)
* Run a government-funded national campaign and create grass-root movements similar to anti-smoking, anti-drinking/driving, and anti-drug campaigns. "Just say no to Snapchat".
* Create a law to force all companies with free products to charge fee to its users. No more free Facebook or League of Legends. Facebook will now cost $5/month, and LOL costs $20/month.
* Limit distribution hardware (iPhone, XBox, PC etc) and software (PUBG, Candy Crush, Facebook apps, etc) through increased special-tax. That $300 XBox one will now cost $900. Pixel XL will cost $1500 and iPhone will cost $2000 after tax.
NOTE: These sound like crazy idea, but laws like these had been implemented in real-life.
For example, France is making phones illegal at school for students. Greece banned all video game consoles, citing addiction problems.
In Korea, it is illegal to play online games between 12am-6am for anyone under 16.
Also there is this article from 2015 about the addiction and the idea of regulating the internet: https://aeon.co/essays/if-the-internet-is-addictive-why-don-...
I know this is almost certainly not true, but I'm so bothered that this is my immediate thought. I feel like the alt-right has succeeded in partially hijacking some of my brain.
Mayb some of you will think I'm some kind of easily-manipulated idiot and that you would never fall prey to similar thought processes. That we're all too smart to really believe Facebook and that "critical thinking" is all we need. That the things Soros is talking about in this article could never happen to us. I in turn think that this kind of intellectual arrogance is a bit dangerous and precisely leads to the kind of manipulation that social media can have on us.
He's also written a number of books, some a better read than others, but I find all of his ideas interesting, even if his communication of them is at times a little dense. (It's clear he is or wants to be a philosopher at heart)
It is striking the way he's demonized. When you press people (like in person, not on the internet) why they think he's the devil incarnate, you usually get some really wild ad hominem not rooted in reality or a realization that they don't really know why they hate him so much other than he's a benefactor of their political opposition and they were told to. It does have an effect, even subconsciously, after a while
Sure, but we could probably say the same of the Koch brothers. They both occupy similar positions of power and influence on opposite sides of the fence, and suffer similar attacks.
From my understanding, the reality is more like: The Kochs are typical dogmatic Libertarians who aren't anti-environment but have this simplistic economic model in their heads that insists that regulations are nearly always counterproductive. They don't support just any conservative view. They have good intentions and aren't about pursuing their own selfish power. They want to empower others. It's just that they are misled by their simplistic dogma (which certainly has a lot of actually fine ideas, but it's the holding them as a dogmatic set in the stereotypical Libertarian way that they go wrong). So, their opposition to mass incarceration and to regressive Nationalism… those things all fit their particular dogma that is simply not a plain polar opposite of progressive ideas but is more orthogonal in many ways.
So even if the Kochs really do end up killing all of the polar bears, it'll be well documented on TV.
"What happens when one scientist goes head to head with EXTREME SHARK ATTACKS!!!11???" heave
Am I the only one who thinks pop-science shows have gone down hill a bit since reality tv came in to fashion? When I was younger Nova seemed like a dignified scholarly affair, but these days it seems like something always has to be exploding or attacking. Maybe it's just nostalgia...
Reading the article, there were a few points where I felt like I was reading a propoganda piece, which made the complaints about the Koch's newsletter being right-wing propoganda feel superficial and politically motivated, if not outright hypocritical.
Frankly, it's a great example of the sort of thing kbenson and spinchange were talking about above .
They've also paid over $733 mil in fines for environmental violations, and they're putting money into lobbying for stripping regulations. Whether you want to call this evil, I don't really care, but it's terrible for humanity and the world, and they should be stopped.
Along with a significant portion of other U.S. industry, including IBM, AT&T, Coca Cola, Ford, GM, and more.
This isn't the quality of reference I'd generally provide, but it's a quick find and seems generally accurate in the basics:
(Several of the listed companies are in fact German, which isn't surprising. There are several American firms as well, including Kodak and Standard Oil.)
Washington Post on Ford and GM:
The IBM case is exceedingly well documented:
Getting back to the Kochs and various Nazi, anti-semitic, and Holocaust-denial elements:
Reason Magazine, almost wholly backed by the Koch Brothers, ran a Holocaust-denial special issue, and doubled down on it when called out:
Regnery Press, strongly associated with Chicago School economists (it published Milton Friedman, George Stigler, F.A. Hayek, and others), and long a standard of the conservative Right and Libertarian movements, is strongly associated with the alt-right:
Regnery has become major figure in the white nationalist movement, having founded the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist “think tank,” and the Charles Martel Society, which publishes The Occidental Quarterly, a racist, anti-Semitic and pseudo-scholarly “journal.”
There is nothing one side's fever swamp does that the other can't match, which is why wise people attempting to discern truths ignore both, but most especially, ignore the one on the "other side".
The right/conservatives have turned a blind eye toward (and in some cases wholly embraced) their "fever swamp".
The truth is not in the middle.
I'm a right winger but I still believe in evolution and I don't have a portrait of Hitler on my wall.
> He's some kind of evil mastermind destroying civilisation with his vast wealth.
Those characterizations may have their origins in an element of truth, dating from the early 90s. Paul Krugman described his Soros's actions thusly:
> [N]obody who has read a business magazine in the last few years can be unaware that these days there really are investors who not only move money in anticipation of a currency crisis, but actually do their best to trigger that crisis for fun and profit. These new actors on the scene do not yet have a standard name; my proposed term is 'Soroi'. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Soros#1992_pound_short)
When you're screwing with monetary policy and most college kids (in finance and economics) know what you're doing will blow up in your face. To assume investors won't take advantage is not only naive but ignorant.
Play stupid games with your policy, win stupid prizes. This would be like turning over the Fed's duties to the US Congress. If this ever happens, diversify in other currencies, tangible assets, and precious metals. Because it's going to be a hell of a ride.
It might not be illegal but ethics come back to you
Comparing that to poor individuals who were abused by large corporations is disingenuous.
I only remember the outlines of the issue but I recall the Conservatives wanting to not "look weak" on policy reflecting ongoing negotiations in Berlin when they had already been repeatedly warned about the consequences and decided to play chicken with the market?
If it leads to a greater long term net suffering in the world then I would argue yes it is.
Joining the ERM invoked turmoil. It was a silly idea and the valuation being wrong wasn't exactly a minority view.
We should be criticising and remembering the idiocy of Norman Lamont rather than of George Soros for profiting from that idiocy.
Now I don't know enough about the rest of Soros' career to have a view of whether he's good or bad. The infamous ERM short is not a smoking gun here.
It was obvious to increasingly.. everyone .. that the Bank was playing chicken with the markets.
Soros was on the winning side.
I believe the point your parent post was making is that these distinctions are bogus. The entire investment business (and not only that) is amoral. This is unfortunately inherent to Capitalism.
Guns are amoral too, but we still expect people to use them morally.
We still expect people to act morally, even in the absence of laws to force them to do so.
I didn't mean to equate them and I don't think I did. I was implicitly making the same connection that you just made explicitly.
> We still expect people to act morally, even in the absence of laws force them to do so.
Who really expects investors to act morally rather than doing whatever's legal? Heck, who expects Facebook to prioritize morals over profits? Don't people who have these expectations deeply misunderstand how today's economic system works?
I expect (as in bound in duty or obligated) them to. However, I expect (as in predict) they will not.
Sure, I hope HSBC won't launder money for Mexican Cartels.
And when they do, I hope that some world government decides to toss the executives in jail and fine the company out of existence.
And yes, when the settlement is just a slap-on-the-wrist-fine, a low VP getting canned, and the execs sitting pretty I hope for a return in the guillotine.
And they all hope that I get fed up with hoping and become hopeless.
Is that what you hope as well?
Naive people do. However, part of the problem is what people believe is moral differs, it's not an absolute. Lots of people project their moralities onto society and the law and are just dumbfounded when they don't match. Is that a problem with society or the individual?
And to pull this back on track, this all came up in the context of the idea the market is amoral so we shouldn't expect the actors in that market to be anything but selfish and amoral. I think that's wrong and pernicious idea.
It makes him an amoral investor.
We need more rich people with morals, not those who use the letter of the law to destroy things and then claim they're not to blame because they played by the rules.
Because something is legal doesn't mean you should do it.
Maybe look at the idiots running those governments and their finance people when you want to pass judgment. Easy money is easy money. He had to have the capital to take advantage anyway.
That doesn't make it right. It just makes him amoral.
"I had to murder this guy, because if I didn't, someone else will!"
The problem with Soros (if you're not on the Left) is that he's become the principal funding source for a number of hard-left movements. If you are on the Left, then this is good, while if you're not then this is bad. I won't tell you how you should feel about Soros though -- you figure that out for yourself.
He definitely funds causes right wingers and Republicans oppose, but let's get the taxonomy correct here.
He is solidly liberal, not left. Think NAACP, not black lives matter. Hillary Clinton, not Bernie Sanders. The Democratic National Committee, not the Democratic Socialists of America.
This is becoming an increasingly serious problem, that contributions from the general public don't outspend rich people who are keen to push an idea.
(and http://www.harrowell.org.uk/blog/2018/01/26/pro-market-pro-b... )
On a more serious note, the local branch of his Open Society Foundation financially supported the translation and publishing of a lot of books about democracy and economics in the 1990s, so that we, as a people who had just got rid of Communism, could learn how the capitalist world was being run. I remember reading Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” in the mid-‘90s as a high-school student thanks to one of those Soros-sponsored translations.
I think that they become bogeymen because their wealth provides substantial power and they're involved with controversial things. On the other hand, people like the Gates focus more on "dry" issues. (Edit: or maybe they have better PR!)
Brexit advocacy has caused the British press to abandon the last vestiges of impartiality or connection to facts. It's going to be all "crush the saboteurs / financiers / international cosmopolitans" from here on out.
never believe anyone on the political stage let alone those who manipulated it from behind the curtains. these people know how to tailor the image and views they want you to have and prey of petty jealously to simple irrational dislikes.
One important takeaway though: "Critical thinking" is important. I'm not sure if people want it though. It is sad that political news and social media are treated as entertainment rather than as a tool. People are very quick to band together around a cause if it will make them feel like a part of something without investigating if that cause is based on any sort of factual information. And "fact checking" is definitely not the solution to this because that is also subject to the same bias.
Education is the treatment we have right now. Keep having students read and discuss Lord of the Flies, 1984, and Brave New World. Having skeptical 15-30 year olds will lead to more intuitive solutions down the road.
You noticed propaganda because you have built mental roadblocks for the alt-right.
You would probably have just operated on the assumption, if it wasn't for the fact your brain also noticed the links to something you distrust and kicked the thought upward for further inspection.
I don't think you're an easily manipulated idiot. It happens to all of us. Propoganda works; that's why people use it.
BUT, now that you have seen exactly how it works, you owe it to yourself to leverage that discovery into making your brain reject more propaganda (especially the kind you're predisposed to agree with).
From a Wikipedia page? Don't be naive.
> although I prefer to call them Nazis.
I guess you just like to speak in hyperbole.
Some excerpts from a detailed article about an alt-right leader:
It was in this spirit that Anglin “doxed” Gersh and her husband, Judah, as well as other Jews in Whitefish, by publishing their contact information and other personal details on his website. He plastered their photographs with yellow stars emblazoned with jude and posted a picture of the Gershes’ 12-year-old son superimposed on the gates at Auschwitz. He commanded his readers—his “Stormer Troll Army”—
to “hit ’em up.” ...
On July 4, 2013, The Daily Stormer launched in beta mode, replacing Total Fascism. Anglin named his new site after Der Stürmer, a virulently anti-Semitic Nazi-era weekly that Hitler had read devoutly. (As Anglin would later write, the official policy of his site was: “Jews should be exterminated.”) ...
The Stormers had a private chat server through a company called Discord, and I used an alias to listen in as they talked amongst themselves about genocide, often in graphic terms. “All I want is to see [Jews] screaming in a pit of suffering on the soil of my homeland before I die,” Auernheimer wrote. “I don’t want wealth. I don’t want power. I just want their daughters tortured to death in front of them and to laugh and spit in their faces while they scream.” ...
So yes, at least some prominent members of alt-right are nazis in deeds and words.
Either Nazis or a very bad case of post workout muscle soreness.
Pieces of flair.
He somehow never forgets to bring this up.
Substance Use Disorder (the new category for chemical addictions) has specifics such as withdrawal and physical dependency that you don't get from turning off your Facebook account.
Facebook is a habit that many people user too much. It isn't like a drug that has drastic and rapid physical changes in your brain. Your brain isn't literally hijacked anymore than TV or anything you like doing hijacks your brain. It reacts fairly normally actually.
Optimizing for somebody to use a site a lot isn't addicting people. The abuse of terminology has gone too far and is really clouding the discussion.
Besides what would it look like to not "optimize for addiction"? Give people news stories they don't want to read? The conversation has just gone off the rails when it starts to be compared to cocaine and heroin.
And for those that really literally compare fb to illegals drugs, they're complete idiots not to be taken seriously. It is so far divorced from every bit of evidence we have, i think they are more trying to push a particular narrative.
But even phones are not the problem. People are responsible for their own “addiction.” It’s like blaming food companies for fat people.
Widespread informed Democracy is not something we’ve ever had, and likely will never have. Democracy has always been led by the intelligentsia and the rich.