Social networks are a phenomenon too new to have weighted accurately the weight of its effects. However, what we know is that they have disturbing effects on our mind, emotions and lifestyle. It is also clear that they involve mechanisms of ideological manipulation not always visible in a superficial analysis.
For social networks -as companies that are-, human behavior is a commodity. They have the capacity to study it, in order to know it, understand it and modify it. Mainly, modify it. Alongside the ideological manipulation that guides the market and consumption, there are also ways to make us think politically and humanly in one way or another.
Many wonder if social networks are exercising ideological manipulation over us, capable of completely changing our view of reality. Judging from the evidence, the answer is yes. The mechanisms they employ are so subtle that it is impossible to detect them. That is the most dangerous thing, because they change our mind and we cooperate with them to do it. If we are not aware of what they are doing to us, how can we resist it?
“As long as we remember that we are the source of our value, our creativity, our sense of reality, then all our work with computers will be worthwhile and beautiful.”
The bubble of ideological manipulation
Social networks make you, without realizing it, end up being part of a bubble. They build a story of reality specially designed for you – they know your fears, needs, tastes, desires… You are the one who decides what you want to follow or what topics interest you. A robot is attentive to this and on the basis of that it sends you one information or another.
Then it is the algorithms that decide for you. They indicate which are the contacts that you will most frequently see and which are the publications that you should find when you browse. That one of your contacts does not appear in a prominent place on your network does not mean that your last post was a long time ago. Simply the system has not selected your publications to appear in your daily updates.
Something similar happens with the contents. Do not think that the news or the information you see is the most current or the most relevant. What appears to you is a careful selection based on your tastes and preferences. Also, of course, on how the market can capture you. In short, we are likely to end up believing that the world is what appears in your networks, when it is not. You have access to a small bubble designed largely by the server that provides it.
Reasons to be cautious
Have you heard of Jaron Lanier? He is one of the great figures of Silicon Valley, the Mecca of computer systems in the world. In fact, he is one of the most brilliant computer scientists that has ever existed. Also, a very critical person with social networks. Before he believed that the Internet was the last bastion of democracy. Today, however, considers that the network, and social networks in particular, are a factory of absurd and tribal leaders, on the one hand, and idiots on the other.
Lanier wrote a book that has become Best Seller. His name is Ten reasons to erase your social networks immediately. Each of the reasons corresponds to one of the chapters of his book and are the following:
- You lose the freedom to decide.
- Networks are a form of madness in our times.
- Social networks idiotize people.
- Social networks manipulate the truth.
- Social networks take away from what you say.
- Social networks destroy the capacity for empathy.
- Social networks make people unhappy.
- Social networks seek to lose your economic dignity.
- Social networks are preventing the authentic exercise of politics.
- Social networks hate your soul.
The realm of the equal
Why do Lanier and other great thinkers, like Zygmunt Bauman, argue that networks idolize? Are they exaggerating? Unfortunately, everything seems to indicate that no. The Internet is not connecting us to each other, but to each other and to each other.
This means that you are promoting microdictatorships. Small spaces inhabited by virtual beings that make confirmation for certain ideas. People have become more radical and obstinate with social networks. Also more simplistic. Let’s think that we are smarter and better when we develop skills to relate to the different ones, not to the equals.
That staying in a bubble, believing that it is equivalent to the world, makes us idiotic. Reduce our panorama to the minimum. It induces us to believe that we are always right. In the end, we end up living as if reality were tiny and we are its owners. That is the main symptom of our contemporary ignorance and the main consequence of the ideological manipulation of networks.