Written by Nandini Berry, a grade 11 student
“Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse” – Sophocles.
In today’s modern world the extensive access to technology comes with the curse of addiction. Technology and social media have largely dominated the world across all age groups, with children getting gadgets for their little fingers. Even senior citizens are addicted to their phones.
Technology has overpowered the mundane world in such a unique way it seems an arduous task trying to revive the world that was once united. As teenagers we try to match unrealistic beauty standards, democracy being at crossroads with technology and humans are practically being seduced by technological algorithms. This pressing issue needs to be brought to immediate attention. Even the thought of our phones being taken away from us instills a sense of fear, this has to stop or we may invite catastrophe into our everyday lives.
Snapchat, Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook are some of the most common social media platforms amongst teenagers. Tweens and teens spend an average of six to nine hours on social media. This alarming statistic causes us to wonder; what do teenagers do on their phones the whole day? We compare ourselves. We sit in sorrow, judging ourselves wanting to look like that model on Instagram with perfect features or wanting to look like the filters on Snapchat because we believe that there is a certain beauty standard for us to follow and abide by. The beauty standard set by our toxic society. Recent studies have concluded that there is an illness known as ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ where adolescents are obsessed with the perceived flaws in their body and assume plastic surgery will make them feel more accepted in society. Suicide and self-harm rates have been increasing exponentially in 2020 where 67% of participants reported that social media was responsible for their deteriorating self-esteem. Furthermore, suicide has become the second-leading cause of death among adolescents aged 10 to 24 years, and suicide rates have tripled among youth aged 10 to 14 years, and remember for every one of these deaths the trauma the families have to go through.
Our whole generation is more anxious, fragile, and prone to depression. Technology is dominating our self-worth and identity. The era of protecting and regulating our children has vanished. Social media is killing people. This itself is a revolution for our generation.
Is the internet causing the world to divide? The strongest tool that has the power to change people’s opinions in a split second can maneuver an issue casually. The internet is adding a boost to the existing disputes between people. If we, as users, don’t turn our heads to see other perspectives despite wanting to get a fair overview of social issues, we start to believe that the only stance that is correct is ours and do not tolerate the response from the opposing party.
We become trapped in an echo chamber where we only encounter information and opinions that resonate with ours. The media enhances remarkable gossip and exponential hearsay to the point we do not know what is valid. The platforms provide us with false information and fundamentally is a disinformation-for-profit business model. With every person trying to challenge the established laws and values, our democracy is facing a global assault and there is no sense of familiarity with reality. The difference in opinion is keeping people online and resulting in political polarisation, addiction, social isolation, and misinformation, they are all part of a correlated system known as human downgrading.
Polarisation has an upper hand in our society and it will eventually lead to a civil war. We could essentially be living in a dystopia where a totalitarian government that controls our thoughts and emotions exists. Our tools are eroding the way society works and it is an existential threat.
How do we get addicted? An unanswerable question. Our brains are being manipulated and we are being rewired by algorithms that are specifically only designed for us. Various tech firms are closely tracking our movements on social media, observing our likes and dislikes, and anticipating our next move. This is known as surveillance capitalism which depicts a market-driven interaction where the commodity of sale is your own information, and the capture and creation of this information depend on mass surveillance of your web.
The more attention we give our phones the more money we are funding for the technology companies to further invest and research into surveillance capitalism. For example, if the web catches you watching conspiracy theories they will redesign your algorithm specific to your current desires, perhaps put up a video of flat earth theories that would make you more addicted. If we are not paying for the product we are the product. Platforms now employ mental health experts to use persuasive technology that looks at how computers can change the way humans think and act. “It’s the gradual, slight, imperceptible change in our behaviour and perception that is the product” – Jaron Lanier.
Artificial intelligence wants us to see what they want us to see and this is pulled away from our actual goals and values. Our knowledge is up for sale and our thoughts are being chosen by someone else. We are disempowered by algorithms which are essentially just opinions embedded in codes.
Unknowingly, we are being manipulated by both people with false propaganda as well as a powerful algorithm created specifically to addict us to opinions that don’t necessarily reflect what we truly believe in, and, in turn, to social media. Business models are not aligned with the well-being of society, they have different incentives as organizations. The fabric of a healthy society depends on us getting rid of this corrosive model.
Online platforms are training and conditioning a generation of people that when they are uncertain, uncomfortable, or afraid they have a digital pacifier to make themselves feel better which is atrophying our own ability to deal with those problems emotionally. “There are two industries that call their customers users; illegal drugs and software.” Technology is a new species of power and influence. We are manipulated to adapt to our devices just like we adapt to everything else. It is a checkmate on humanity.
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