Some negative uses of social media

Loss of privacy as everything on the internet is open, marketable & transparent, eg Google can collect data from

- Google+ (contacts, photos, etc)

- Phone (time, date & call duration, SMS details)

- YouTube (videos you watch, etc)

- Apps (documents & calendar. etc)

- Your device (browser details, unique device no., mobile network, search history, interests, etc)

- GPS (current location, etc)

- Gmail (contact list, messages, etc)

Google's response to a lawsuit against ad-targeting

"...A person has no legitimate expectation in privacy in information he voluntary turns over to third parties..."

as quoted by James Hutchinson et al, 2014

Even though Google is known as a search engine and e-mail service, 84% of its 2013 revenue (around US$ 60B) comes from advertising based on information it has about people's lives.

"... Everything you search or write in a Google service - especially the free services - is up for grabs by advertisers..."

James Hutchinson et al, 2014

An example of loss of privacy is USA's National Security Agency (NSA)

- under "Prism" (surveillance system). NSA and others are able to access private information, eg e-mails and Internet communications, from hundreds of millions of users. - this information is stored by major players in social media/Internet/telecommunications sector like Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Skype, Apple, AT&T, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc
- also, NSA stole information by tapping into the undersea cables of Google and Yahoo; it implanted spying devices in a 850,000 + computer systems in around 90 countries (Snowdon, 2014)

People finding out, via Internet & social media, sensitive Government information before it is released to the general public

Phishing (spear-phishing) = when staff who have access to sensitive information are fooled into supplying it to those that shouldn't have it, eg mistakenly clicking on a fake email from your bank, etc. The weakest link is the human element

Increasing power, inter-linkages & scope of systems increases the chance of disrupting an entire organisation rather than just one system

Buying of illicit drugs on the internet, ie "deep or dark web" eg Silk Road (it is claimed that they traded $1.2 b until it was closed in Oct. 2013)

White House Twitter hoax (April 23, 2013) - a hacked Twitter account of Associated Press falsely reported 2 explosions at the White House and that Pres. Barack Obama had been injured. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 150 points. This wiped US $136.5b from the US Equity market in 3 minutes

Cyber-predators like cyber-bullying, eg estimates upto 40% of Australian children suffer from this (2014)

Child abuse/pornography

Social gambling (social gambling is where people gamble on-line for no financial prizes but can be charged minimal amounts for upgrades, etc. It is feared that this is a training ground for money gambling, ie a source of future customers. In 2012, gamers spent around US$1.7 billion on online slot machines and virtual poker games. Even though this is a small % of the US$390.5 billion global gaming industry, it is expected to grow. Thus many of the traditional gaming players are becoming actively involved. For example, poker-machine manufacturer Aristocrat Leisure bought social casino game maker Product Madness in late 2012. It is estimated that 3.5+ million play Product Madness slot games like 3D Slots and Hollywood Spins on Facebook. An added concern is the easy access to these sites 24/7)

Chasing quick buck - many organisations in social media are funded by venture capitalists who are not about sustainability as they are keen to build something very quick and sell it off to someone else (Fiona Smith, 2015a)

Graphic displays of violence and/or atrocities including murders, executions, beheadings, accidents (vehicles, etc), shootings, etc. The more shocking the scene, the more interest in it, eg goes viral on the Internet. On the other hand, there is some research ( Texas A&M International University, 2008) which found that there was no evidence to suggest that exposure to media violence leads to violence in the viewer

Instant celebrity status that many people are unable to handle. In ancient times a person's role in life would be assigned at birth and only a few could escape this destiny; in recent times there is a possibility of self-advancement through innate talent. There is an abiding myth that anyone can become a star with the right combination of talent, looks and luck. The rise of social media platforms like YouTube have created a channel that via which would-be "stars" can reach a global audience instantaneously: this was previously unimaginable. The flip side of this opportunity is that sudden stardom can lead to unanticipated unhappiness and tragedy.

It is claimed that the Internet has reduced our collective attention span. For example, people used to lose themselves in a novel for hours; now, they are inclined to flick through "pages" on the Internet. This has led to a condition which has been called reading insecurity, ie a subjective experience of thinking that you are not getting as much from reading as you used to and a suspicion that the ability to concentrate and absorb has atrophied.
. Many studies (Katy Waldman, 2015) suggest that people read the Internet differently than they read print. We skim and scan for information we want on the Internet rather than starting at the beginning and ploughing through to the end. Our eyes jump around, magnetised to links - which imply authority and importance. If need be, we will scroll. We read faster and lighter engaging in skim reading and hopping from one source to another
. The difference between these modes of reading have caused a debate around "orality and literacy".
. It is much harder to concentrate when you read online, eg e-mails, social media, etc.. It has been suggested (Katy Waldman, 2015) that people's comprehension suffers when they read online because of the barrage of extraneous stimuli interrupting the transfer of information from sensory to working memory, and from working to long-term memory. People also report being more impatient when they read online
. It has been suggested that the "deep reading brain" is becoming redundant and therfore in danger of disapperaring if we don't learn how to handle online distractions.
. We are becoming more e-dependent and reading more electronically as it is more convenient, more accessibility, cost-effective, user-friendly, etc
. With traditional reading methods, we read more slowly when we like a text as our brains enter a state of arousal that resembles hypnosis, ie a trance; it is claimed that this reading requires deeper engagement.

Some research (Daniel Willingham, 2015) shows that attention span is not shrinking with the digital age. In fact, attention span is divided into 2 elements, ie

i) how much we can keep in our mind (this is measured by asking people to repeat increasingly long strings of digits in reverse order)
ii) how well we can we maintain focus (asking people to monitor visual stimuli for occasional subtle changes)
Over a 50 year period there has been little change. On the other hand, there are 2 systems of attention and associated thought, ie
i) directed outwards like when you are scrolling through e-mails or playing a video game
ii) directed inwards like when you daydream, plan the future or reflect on the past
Both systems of attention cannot be working at the same time.
Most digital activities involve outwardly-directed attention and there are some fears that we could be losing our ability to daydream. Daydreaming is associated with greater creativity.
The downsides of inwardly-directed thought are
- daydreaming can distract us when we need to be focused
- reflection can turn ugly, eg fixating on some past insult or error

It is claimed (Katy Waldman, 2015) that the younger generation have fewer problems with comprehension and recall than older generations when engaged in on-line reading

Also memories are being altered by the digital revolution, ie

"...the savage irony is that the more accurately the Internet remembers everything, the more our memories atrophy. The result is an amnesia about everything except the immediate, the instant, and now and the me..."

Jonathan Freedland as quoted by Andrew Keen, 2015

Some Australian examples

- Whitehaven Coal Press Release hoax (Jan. 7, 2013) resulted in A$ 300 m being temporarily wiped off the firm's value

- David Jones fake bid of A$ 1.6 b by penniless recluse living in a Scottish housing estate (July 2, 2012) instantly affected the share price

Some general comments

- On Facebook it is best to be positive

- Twitter is an early warning system/leading indicator/real time engagement

- YouTube is like having own cable channel

- Data on the network is doubling every year

- Use of media sectors by frequency (% who use several times per day), ie Facebook (53%), TV (44%), Radio (32%), Online news (24%) & Newspaper (5%)

- Social media is a great media for storytelling

(sources: James Hutchinson et al, 2014; Michael Rosenberg, 2014; Michael Harris, 2014)

 

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