Professor Chris Werry
October 17 2018
RWS Essay #2
It seems like in today’s culture, one cannot go a day without hearing some sort of opinion on the impact of technology, and whether or not technology is overtaking our lives.Initially In the article titled “I invested early in Google and Facebook. Now they terrify me.” by Roger Mcnamee, he makes the claim that McNamee does admit that social media has had a vast array of positive effects social media has had on our lives, but the positives do not outweigh the plethora of negatives. He introduced this idea when he says, “while the conveniences of smartphones has many benefits, the unintended consequences of well-intended product choices have become a menace to public health and to democracy” (McNamee). McNamee asserts his claim that the advertising aspect of social media is poisoning our minds, and creating an unwanted bias and influencing our political decisions. The author’s main claim is not that social media is the main issue, but the advertising that comes with it “the fault lies with advertising business models that drive companies to maximize attention at all costs, leading to ever more aggressive brain hacking” (McNamee). He makes the claim that social media itself is not the main issue, but the advertising that sways us to believe certain things and change our opinion and bias.
McNamee touches on the Arab Spring, a series of revolts in Middle Eastern countries such as Iran, Moldova, Tunisia, Egypt. Many believe that this revolution was semi-successful due to the advent of social media, and the doors of spreading revolutionary ideas and other forms of communication it opened. McNamee makes the argument that although social media did play a role in the attempt to implement democracy during the Arab Spring, this democracy was only temporary, he is quoted saying, “social media has not helped these revolutions turn into lasting democracies…the process is overly emotional…it speaks  to the emotional, reactive, quick fix parts of us, that are satisfied by images and clicks that look pleasing, that feed our egos, and that make us think we are heroic” (McNamee). His claim that social media does not create long lasting democracy is backed up by the factual evidence that the results of the Arab Spring ended up being almost completely reversed, and there is almost no trace of successful democracy remaining in the Middle East. McNamee utilizes the the events leading up to, during, and after the Arab Spring to appeal to the readers logos, in order to make the irrefutable claim that though social media did aid in creating temporary democratic governments, they were unstable and unable to be successful in the long term. During the peak of the Arab Spring, “ex-Google marketing executive and activist Wael Ghonim famously said; “A lot of this revolution started on Facebook. If you want to liberate a society, just give them the internet. If you want to have a free society just give them the internet.”’ (McNamee). Though social media did play a large role in the Arab Spring and the democratic laws it resulted in, the fixes were only temporary, and were universally unsuccessful in creating stable, long-term democracy.
There is no doubt that social media played a key role in the controversial 2016 election. Current United States President “Donald Trump himself believes that without social media”, he very likely would not have been elected, and many scholars agree” (McNamee). Social media giants such as Facebook, which is utilized by billions of people all over world, can be manipulated and skewed so that we as users only see certain, politically biased advertisements. Websites such as Youtube also utilize this advertisement theory in order to “produce short-term happiness with serious negative consequences in the long term’ (McNamee), he presents the claim that to a certain extent, people become addicted to the internet and the endorphin rush it gives, only to have a comedown of negative emotions after they log off. Another shocking example McNamee gives to aid in his argument that people have become far too reliant and addicted to technology is a quote from the CEO of Netflix who recently noted that “his company’s biggest rival was sleep” (McNamee). A tech giant such as netflix has billions of people watching for hours and hours a day and they only stop when they are forced to due to lack of sleep.
Perhaps the most jolting claim that McNamee makes is that through your surfing of the web each and every day, you are teaching your computer about yourself, and it is storing all the information you feed it through what you are shopping for, what videos you watch, and what you search for online. This peeking over the shoulder tactic these tech giants have adopted has landed them in hot water, “large social media and internet companies have faced a series of scandals over the past few years around issues such as privacy, monopoly power access to consumer information, fake news and media manipulation” (McNamee). Though many do not like acknowledging it, people in todays generation are online more than ever before; “average consumers check their smartphones 150 times a day…people spend up to 50 minutes on facebook….other social media apps such as snapchat, instagram, and twitter combine to take up still more time.” (McNamee). These huge industries such as google and facebook are paying attention to every thing you search and view on your computer, and “know more about you than you know about yourself” (McNamee). This access they have on your information allows them to persuade you economically, as well as catering certain ads to you based on what you have been choosing to view, until something you just glanced at on your screen yesterday has suddenly popped up as an ad on your phone, laptop, and ipad. The staggering statistic that “Facebook has over 2 billion active users around the world…Instagram, WhatsApp, WeChat, Snapchat and Twitter, also have userbases between 100 million and 1.3 billion” (McNamee), furthers his claim that more people are online than ever before, and this number will only continue to grow. With this increase in online users, will also come an increase of peoples lives being influenced and monitored by tech giants such as google and Facebook.
For many of us, we cannot go a day without using some form of social media or technology. From getting our news, to communicating with family and friends; technology does in some aspect, control our lives. In his article titled: “I invested early in Google and Facebook. Now they terrify me” author Roger Mcnamee asserts his claim that the hold that social media has on us is detrimental to our own privacy, and could potentially pose a threat to democracy. His main issue with the bias advertisements and sneaky algorithms enable tech giants such as google and facebook to peek over our shoulder at everything we view online, and than in turn give us specialized advertisements that are bias toward our own interests and political views, censoring any oppositional views. This censorship shelters our opinion and stunts the growth and development of our likes and opinions, which is a harrowing thought when thinking about the progression of democracy worldwide. Technology and social media open many doors to obtain new knowledge and connect with people all over the world, but not without a price.