We live in a fractured world. I don’t think that is a surprise to anyone or a controversial statement. We have some hope with the changes in leadership in the US but even with a new leader over there the country is fractured, torn down the middle by political and racial conflict, not to mention Covid.
How do we make sense of the senseless world?
How do we deal with the constant bombardment of negative news on our mental and physical health?
The previous president of the United States, and no I will not use his name as it only adds to his branding, shook the very meaning of reality by promoting the idea of alternative facts and fake news.
The fact that there are alternative theories is true but even scientists will say that there are no facts just proven or yet to be disproven theories. But that doesn’t mean complete fabrication is the same as a competing theory.
And yes, there is fake news out there. In both fringe alternative media and, unfortunately, more and more mainstream media. We know that clickbait is designed to go to the lowest base of your fears and stoke them up. Fear sells advertising. Social media and big tech are driving us into the attention economy that we have before us today.
We know this and yet every day we pick up our phones and scroll, like, and share.
We know these platforms and infiltrated by bad actors from foreign states, conspiracy theorists, hackers and crackers, and those that will willing and wilfully mislead us. Yet we scroll some more.
The news and social media can start to control us. Control our emotions. If we agree, and overtime on this site, we will detail this further, that our thoughts and the words that roll around in our minds control our emotions, and these emotions express themselves in our bodies as chemical reactions. Then it is not too far a stretch to say that the news media, social media, and bad actors all over the world can be affecting our very physiology. Think about that for a moment. Do you want them to have that influence and control over not only your thoughts but your neurology and physiology, your physical and mental wellbeing?
If we add into this that the fact that the product in new media and in social media that makes the most money is the advertising. Who are they advertising to? Well, you and me of course. So, in effect, you and I are the products that social media and the new media sell.
The product that TV, news media, and now social media have always sold is not the things they advertise, not even the things they write about but the advertising they sell. The platform that leads advertisers to their product and the people that use that media.
So, if we follow this through further what does that mean. It means that if we are the product and the media we use is influencing us negatively, changing our emotional and physiological state we are allowing the big tech companies and news media, the people behind them, and the ones that know how to manipulate the algorithms using behavioural data and psychological operations to reprogram and control us.
It means we are giving away our sovereignty and agency to businessmen and oligarchs, politicians and manipulators whose goal and focus is not to serve us but to work towards their own agenda.
This is not conspiracy theory nonsense. If you follow the logic you can see it as plain as day. As a specialist in data-driven behavioural marketing and communications, I know how to use your emotions and the data trail you leave to incite you to take action on a product, service or cause before you even know it yourself. I know how to nudge you in one direction or another. And no, it is not 100% effective all of the time. But enough of it is.
Many people have analysed the 2017 election in the US and Brexit in the UK to find out what happened. They have tried to analyse the rise of nationalism everywhere as a worrying trend that threatens a globalised society. They have come up with many theories from Russian and Chinese influence through political technologists that use the above techniques to hack, manipulate and influence events that will be the downfall of the western world. They have pointed to bad actors such as Cambridge Analytica that not only stole data but used, and even boasted about using, people’s data and psychology against them on these platforms. They have blamed social media for creating an attention economy that is a race to the bottom of the brains stem cell by promoting the most engaging content which happens to be the most controversial, fear-mongering and negative for pushing us into social echo chambers and bubbles, where the fear of missing out, or the urge to ‘fit in’ and be part of the crowd means that we see the social proof of friends and family as proof of concept and theory. We want to fit in, so we don’t question, we go along with it and soon, step by step, we start to post similar content, and bit by bit it starts to become part of our identity. Others blame the news media by keeping the names of the winners or their brand in the media constantly and in the mind of the people.
There are so many theories and the thing is are they are all right. They are all part of the problem and it is a complex web of influence and control. And we allow them access.
We allow them to have this influence on us. We allow our fear of missing out on something to draw us to check our social media, our messengers, and emails constantly. We allow them that influence to swing elections, change the course of a countries direction, and more importantly to influence our thinking, feelings, emotions and physiological state.
Now yes, the simplistic answer is to turn off and tune out. To go and live in the woods somewhere and go off-grid. But that is not a reality for most of us and if it was the woods would become very crowded. The complicated answer is to take control of those things influencing and controlling us. To take control back.
Social media, technology and news media are all great tools when used and interacted within the right way. They are great tools for positive influence, not just negative. and for getting out the news that would normally be suppressed or ignored. People now know that taking to social media and posting about atrocities, wars, and whatever is going on can go viral and affect a positive change to those situations.
So how do we do it? How do we take back control? How do we use these technologies and techniques to influence our lives for the better and not for the worse? Even better how do we use them to affect positive change around the world?
These are the big questions. We need to fine-tune our sensemaking and critical thinking. We need to not do anything in our day that does not serve us, those we love and care for or the cause we believe and drive us. We need to not just be the change we want to see in the world, but we need to influence it, even if it is just one person at a time.
Audit how much time do you spend on social media, on news media, and things that not only waste your time but make you unhappy and drain your energy as well. And how much time do you spend on chasing your dreams, your cause, and your compelling future? The greatest lie ever told to humankind is not that the devil does not exist but that we as individuals cannot change the world. We can. If we stay on course and find out life’s true meaning and purpose, we change the world either in our microcosm or the macrocosm and we can feel good about it.
If we apply our critical thinking capabilities, educate our minds, and use attentive sensemaking we can decide what we are going to let into our lives and to influence us. We can change our own personal internal worlds and the outer world with them.
How do you do that? Well, that will be the subject of many more posts on here in the future as I try to unpack it.
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