It’s no secret that being isolated from the rest of the world and all of our friends can make us lonely. I’ve tweeted a lot about how social media creates pseudo-connectedness (making us think that we’re really connecting with people). How we use social media normally (outside of isolation) is different than how we use it today (in isolation).
Platforms have brought us and our loved ones closer, but we can't get carried away with addictive behaviors (and how such platforms command our attention). I'm not advocating for the complete eradication of social media from a point of utility during isolation, but that we should be more intentional in how we use it. The opportunity cost of deleting social media (our most convenient means of being connected) and the perception of privacy-breaches as not harmful have kept us in line.
In a time of dreadful statistics, how is isolation transforming the way we interact with the world? The use of apps that don’t support end-to-end encryption like Zoom put our privacy at risk every single day.
Our reliance on technology has never been greater.
Isolation exacerbates the threats our society faces: recently another 5.2 million Americans having recently filed for unemployment, and the United States became the epicenter of the coronavirus.
Companies all over the internet like Dropbox and Netflix have had to expand their operations and scale quickly, pushing us all toward a massive digital transformation.
How this affects us
Cyberattacks and phishing attacks have peaked, and most people are illiterate in these areas, unsure of how to deal with them. By being extra cautious of what we read online, and the services we use, we can effectively eliminate these threats.
A huge issue I see is misinformation, be it on a WhatsApp group, or just on Google. To combat this, here are a few steps that anyone can implement to ensure they get quality news.
1. Fact check everything. See a story from a friend that seems a little out there? Google it. Use Snopes to double-check what you’re reading.
2. Focus on the positives. Films like Nightcrawler (highly recommend it!) have shown us: If it bleeds, it leads. 90% of what you see on the news is negative. We look at the news as our primary source for information, and this phenomenon has damaged our happiness.
How we can change this to protect ourselves
1. Be more privacy-conscious and increase intentionality. Many people make the argument: Who cares, I have nothing to hide!
Yes, you have nothing to hide, but think about how companies use your data that’s in the public domain. For example, our social media providers share our data with data brokers, who are third party intermediaries in the collection, use, and sharing of our information. Our social media providers exploit our personal information (sometimes even with our consent, unbeknownst to us!) to the highest bidder, which feeds into targeted ads, political scandals like Cambridge Analytica, and even subtler manipulations through surveillance capitalism.
By allowing companies to effectively monetize our behavior and attention, we’ve maximized potential revenue for advertisers, who can apply widespread advertising (applying an ad to a class or group of people) to particular individualized customers.
A large-scale study of the top 1 million websites found that websites send data to at least 34 third parties on average.
2. Appeal to a higher power. When you sign up to a social media platform, you effectively transfer the ownership of your data to them. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram only have certain measures to reclaim your data and save offline information. The U.S. doesn't have the convenience of E.U. level GDPR legislative frameworks for data ownership, so we need to appeal to our government officials and legislators to go up against how these platforms are regulated. Organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation advocate for these issues. By doing your part to contribute to platform regulation, you can effectively make things better for a lot of people.
3. Be introspective instead. Negativity in the media isn’t good for your mental health. Pick up a habit like meditation (check out this talk) to help calm your worried mind. I currently practice TM twice a day, and it really calms me down. Reading books or listening to podcasts like this are also quite helpful.