As a marketer, back in 2018, I began voicing my concern we were becoming algorithm hostages thanks to technology. This month I posted about social media key influencers spearheading Digital Groupthink. Today I am going to address how social media on a macro level, beyond marketing, is directing societal changes.
Has social media rewired our minds? There has been a plethora of books written by acclaimed journalists and academic studies published by psychologists conjecturing this topic, but nothing conclusive has emerged. Consequently, I am stepping out of my marketing comfort zone and posting a brief list how I believe social media is dictating societal transformation:
- Global Politics – Making headlines and trending on social media in the U.S. is how democracy is under threat. Voter suppression stories are in the spotlight, as well as a G.O.P. plot to influence voting in upcoming elections. Throw into the mix former President Trump and his followers promoting far-right conspiracies, American politics is in a state of disarray. Globally, in Myanmar, social media conspiracies generated hatred which fueled a violent military coup. In Sweden’s recent election September 11th, social media posts facilitated a surge in right-wing parties including one with neo fascist backing. As a result, their current Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson only won 30 percent of the vote impacting the country’s parliament since her party’s coalition has three fewer seats than their right-wing rivals. The list of European countries swinging right thanks to social media influencers posting misinformation continues to grow. This past Sunday, Italian voters elected what will most likely be a coalition of right-wing parties.
- Mental Health – For starters, psychologists estimate there is a small percentage of social media users (5 to 10%) who engage excessively, constantly checking and scrolling through social media platforms. This subset of Americans meets the criteria for social networking behavioral addiction devoting so much time online that it impairs other important life matters. Psychologists indicate addictive behavior resembles other substance abuse behavior – unpredictable moods, erratic emotional and interpersonal related symptoms, cognitive preoccupation, etc. Secondly, dark social bubbles, a topic I addressed at the end of last year. Specifically, about an easily accessible website where mentally unstable members from around the world can discuss their suicide plans (e.g., date, methodology) on the site’s public forums which are comparable to a social media platform; live chat rooms or member messaging. The site reportedly gets on average 6 million views a month which is quadruple the National Prevention Lifeline.
- Body Image – Bioethics experts are concerned social media has contributed to growing anxieties around body image, fueling a demand for cosmetic procedures (botox & dermal fillers). Consequently, the cosmetic procedures industry which is loosely regulated is booming globally. Young people on platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are concerned their photos can receive positive or negative ratings based on how they look in our celebrity culture of perfect lifestyles. Older people are obsessed with being forever young. For the record: The growing popularity of makeover plastic surgery games and apps such as “Plastic Surgery Princess” and “Pimp My Face” could also be contributing to mental health problems in young people.