Jessica Sarrach ‘24, News Editor
For many years now, social media has controlled the way we live our lives, and 2020 is no different. Whether it is for entertainment purposes or for keeping track of the latest breaking news, social media is at the center of it all. With apps like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat holding our attention for hours on end, it is likely possible they are controlling more than just the way we view entertainment or how we communicate with our friends.
Everytime you like a photo, tap on an advertisement, or visit someone’s profile, companies like Instagram take note. It is through this digital footprint that companies can target ads or other propaganda towards users. The computer programs know what ads people are most likely to tap on, and how to subtly change people’s view points to fit said companies agendas, through meticulous placement of influencers and ad campaigns.
Social media websites know they can get away with subliminal messaging and personally targeted ads because society has grown so addicted to social media that people do not have the willpower to quit, even if they wanted to.
The first president of Facebook, Sean Parker said, “It’s exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology… The inventors, creators, it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg]… understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.” He discussed how he and other executives continuously made the decision to make social media addictive. He goes on to explain how the “like” button is similar to drug use because receiving ‘likes’ can release endorphins, quivilating relating the use of social media to that of happiness, as drug use also does.
With the addictiveness of social media platforms, and the majority of the world being a member of the online communities, many people are slowly becoming slaves to their phones. Freshman Madeleine Epler said, “Social media to me is definitely like a drug. I could be doing my homework and if I saw a notification, I would instantly drop what I’m doing and pick up my phone to check it.” Social media finds ways to capture our society’s attention at any given minute, regardless of the task at hand. Social media fuels the need to feel accepted, and it creates a vicious circle of self-worth being determined through shares and likes through a phone screen.
Media platforms have a lot more faults than just being addictive, however. In the online realm, ads are a commonality, with personalized ads being the most intrusive. For these kinds of ads, social media sites look through your digital footprint to examine your personal interests, your age range, your sexuality, and your gender. With all this information they can place ads they know will spark your interest. This increases the chances of their ads getting used, because they know how to place ads that make each individual tick. This is horrifying because it means social media platforms know everything about you, including how to manipulate you.
Members of the South Lyon community have taken note of these placed ads they cannot seem to get rid of. Junior Jacob Dunham said, “I hate it when I’m shopping online for stuff, and then I see those same things pop up in my Instagram feed.” Dunham has grown to detest this recurring theme in his usage of social media: what he wants to buy magically finds their way as ads in his feed. But in reality these ads do not just appear out of nowhere; instead, they are purposely placed there by companies based on the information left in digital footprints.
The majority of today’s society are active participants in social media, and therefore are targeted by ad companies. When we need a good pick-me-up or the latest breaking news, the first thing we usually turn to is our phones which puts us in danger of being used or manipulated by social media companies. With social media being able to monitor our every move, and use that information to fulfill their own agendas, it is not far off to say that they may be controlling us as well. By finding ways to limit time spent on media sites, refraining from window shopping on such sites, and not giving as much personal information to apps, we can limit the control our phones may have on us.