Is Social Media the Greatest Swindle of All Time?

Social Media is selling our time and attention for billions of dollars. Are you exchanging your valuable commodity (time) for almost nothing in return?

When it comes to managing our time and attention we either take control or we cede control … it’s one or the other, and too many people just don’t realize that they have that choice.

Before we go any further let me be perfectly clear that I am not opposed to technology and our modern forms of communication in any way, in fact I love our wired world and I wouldn’t want to be without it, but that doesn’t mean I have to blindly succumb to its trickery like some automaton following the Pied Piper.

The eye-watering profits of the big social media companies don’t come from product development … they come from their sleight-of-hand influence and their uncanny ability to deliver, to the advertiser, a semi-conscious mind that is perfectly prepped to receive “instruction” on thoughts, habits and buying decisions.

The success of online media companies is directly related to the degree in which they can con us into spending as much time as possible on their sites, and since this influence occurs beneath our level of awareness, we’re being managed and manipulated far more than we realize.

Here’s the Real Kicker

When social media first began they came to us with outspread arms, offering us free access to our friends and family in exchange for a little personal information. Fast-forward 20-years and that initial offering no longer seems so innocent.

We’re now the product being sold; we’re virtually algorithmic prey.

Advertisers not only track our meanderings around the web, but they continuously proposition us like an unctuous merchant. They know the exact buttons to push because we “willingly” gave them the most detailed and personal demographic data an advertiser could wish for. We gave social media access to our desires, thoughts and beliefs … our “personal codes”, and like any “good” programmer they seized control.

Social Media is Not Unlike Cigarette Companies

In every great swindle the victim falls prey for failing to understand the full terms of the deal. Consider an addicted cigarette smoker. When that smoker first began to smoke, did he/she fully grasp the particulars of the initial purchase? Highly unlikely. Who would “consciously” agree to fork over thousands of dollars to acquire an addiction that would systematically destroy one’s health?

The business model and goals of the Big Social Media companies is no different. Their mandate is to get the highest number of people to spend as much time as possible on their platforms by creating habits and addictions, and to that end they’ve been wildly successful.

Our brains are sculpted by whatever we do repeatedly and the hours we spend on our screens each day is resulting in significant mental-health issues not to mention plummeting attention spans, productivity, even memory.

Consider this; Americans check their phone on average every 12 minutes! People often equate freedom with spontaneity … they just want to react to life on the fly. But if you’re living a life of reaction then clearly you’re not in control, and never are you less free than when you’re living a life of reaction.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. I’m not suggesting you abandon social media whatsoever, but I am suggesting that you take back conscious control of where you direct your time, focus and attention.

For example, if you leave your email, text or Twitter notifications on, then whenever you get a notification you drop whatever you’re doing (to some degree) to tend to the incoming message. Every time you unthinkingly respond, you’re handing over your most valuable resource (time, focus and attention) to slavishly attend to this Siren’s call.

In other words, whenever this “notification” snaps its fingers, or whistles for your attention, you respond in knee-jerk fashion. That’s not self-directed control, that’s slavery!

You don’t have to look far to see the enslaved, they’re everywhere. You’ll see them in meetings, heads bowed, thumbs tapping intently. You’ll see them rushing to their next appointment, their sole attention directed to their incoming email or ringing cell phone. They’ll abruptly terminate a conversation to respond to a buzzing phone, their faces marred with the permanent scowl of someone who’s just missed the elevator door. In the middle of eating dinner with friends they’ll respond to a beeping phone like finely programmed automatons. They’ll cut off a conversation with a loved one to check an incoming message from a total stranger. Anxious, distracted, interminably busy, scurrying through life … reacting, reacting, reacting.

You Either Proactively Manage Your Time and Attention, or Big Media Will Play You for a Patsy

Every time your attention is captured by notifications, commercials and unnecessary interruptions, your awareness, and perhaps something more, has been taken from you … by deliberate attempt.

Many of us have unwittingly exposed ourselves to this round-the-clock exploitation, and never have the stakes been higher. It used to be that we were untouchable to Big Media … unless we went to it. We had to consciously tune into radio or television. With the Internet, and the ensuing SmartPhone there’s no escape, there’s no sanctuary; it becomes an all-controlling pervasive force, an attached appendage, unless we willfully take control.

Seizing complete control of your time and focus is a powerful form of self-determination.

You can exercise full control of where you direct your time and attention. In fact, it’s remarkably simple. All you need do is cut the cord. Do not allow any automatic incoming notifications of any kind. Turn your phone off. Try checking it once an hour and no more. Let people know that from now on that’s how you’re going to operate.You won’t miss out on a single thing and before you know it, you’ll have acquired a calm sense of control.

So in answer to the original question: Is Social Media the Biggest Swindle of All Time? … only if you allow it to be.

Your time is limited so guard it with your life, because after all … it is.


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