WARNING! Staying Safe Online – It’s not just Social Media that Sells you Fake News
By TODD KAUFMAN, BA, BFA, MDiv, RP
There has been much discussion and research of late around how logarithms in social media can take note of what you click on and then teach the Artificial Intelligence (AI) behind the social media to feed you more of the same. AI creates a social media rabbit hole that only serves to reconfirm an original curiosity, which, at the time of your initial search, you may or may not have held as either truth or particularly relative.
Beware the Man Behind the Curtain
Perhaps you see a post talking about a protest or violence, and you may be simply concerned whether it is in your neighbourhood, so you click the angry icon and then on the post and comment. As you begin to read the article, perhaps it mentions something you remembered your friend saying, so you click through on that link. Maybe you share this post with your neighbour. Instantly the social media logarithms (much like “the Man Behind the Curtain”) takes note of your ‘Like/Angry Icon,’ your click on the article, how long you took to read it, what you said in your comment, and the fact you clicked through and shared it. Your actions are a trove of information about you! It notes this gets your attention, that is it possibly emotionally triggering for you, and therefore its corporate sponsors might just be able to make money from you.
Very quickly, your feed becomes populated with like posts. Since they look a little interesting as you read something about this yesterday… You again click, ‘Like,’ comment and or share. All the while, your behaviour is being watched, and your comments are being read. Your unknowing descent down the rabbit hole has begun, and quietly in the background, the AI is calculating how to get you to invest further.
Your world is quickly and quietly filled with protest activity and even violence. It must be the state of the world. You learn to think, as you see so much in your daily browsing. And it is not just online articles – after all, you now are seeing advertisements for self-defence classes and even weapons.
What’s the Worst that Could Happen?
At its worst, locked away due to the pandemic, or perhaps unemployed and living in your parent’s basement, you learn online the world is a pretty violent and dangerous place. After all, that is what you are seeing. It only makes sense to spend a lot of time thinking about this and doing what humans naturally do; think about how to stay safe. And that neither feels good or contributes to having a happy and fulfilling existence. Quite the opposite.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent developing the logarithms that operate this Artificial Intelligence designed to rule your attention. It is both powerful and sneaky. They appeal to your fear or whatever emotions that will elicit the most outrage. Your clicks tell them what ‘really gets your goat,’ as my mom would say.
The man behind the curtain, to profit from you, has effectively redirected what you think. And what you spend time thinking about becomes more important, more real. The thinking process has been hijacked, and frequently before we notice it.
It’s no longer just the social media feeding you fake news. Research has shown us this Artificial Intelligence re-wires your brain. (It’s called neuroplasticity.) As the re-wiring takes place, your brain is now feeding you fake news. Since it directly provides you stories of any one type of person or group or profession, any one of many diverse groups that make up our community, it or they must be their fault or at least problem! It’s obvious! This overwhelming pervasive information now all seems just to make sense because it is actually hard-wired into our brains!
We can’t avoid the media and the artificial intelligence designed to hijack our thoughts. Nor do we want to remain completely uninformed. It’s a sticky wicket, again, as my wise old mom would say!
Fake News and the Man Behind the Curtain is a Cancer
Think about your exposure to this media/Artificial Intelligence as you would expose yourself to radiation. Radiation kills, but it can also cure.
If you had cancer and the best-known cure was radiation treatment, you’d likely sign up.
Ideally, you would select an ethical skilled Radiation Oncologist (cancer doctor) who would carefully create a treatment program to minimize your exposure to the deadly radiation. They would do so by carefully focussing a small beam of radiation on the cancer only to give you as much as necessary to kill the tumour.
In short, your doctor will do what needs to be done to get the job done as efficiently and effectively as possible while trying to minimize the dangerous side effects of the radiation.
How Can We Avoid Being a Victim?
- Be very intentional about when and why you get online and are exposed.
- Be confident your purpose is for your betterment.
- Make sure it is worth the risk.
Get on, stay focussed, and get off.
Limiting your activity to a constructive ethical purpose to achieve your goals will minimize your exposure to this nefarious ‘Man Behind the Curtain.’ The less time and engagement, the more difficult it is to build logarithms to feed the AI designed to entrap you.
If I Don’t Learn from Random Browsing, How Do I Learn?
Be Smart, Humble and Wise.
Smart enough to know what you don’t know.
And you’re likely already there because you are reading this and want to learn. And, it is likely why, at least in part, you went online in the first place.
Humble enough to let go of being right and listen to learn.
Wise enough to select the best sources from whom to learn.
Mom always said, ‘Get it from the horse’s mouth!’
Since horses can’t talk, I am sure she means learning about space flight and learning from a good rocket engineer. Or if you want to know about viruses’, learn from a virologist. And if you’re going to quote statistics, learn from a statistician.
But let’s be clear, Dr. Karen Facebook MD, like most things ranting on social media NOT a wise source of information. Avoid them, and you avoid becoming a victim to this AI re-wiring your brain.
Growing up, my mom had a policy: never leave the house without kissing her goodbye. “Be careful,” she would admonish! “And look both ways before crossing the street. You need to see if a car is coming.” We didn’t live in a busy neighbourhood with lots of traffic, but I suspect my mom’s advice is why, in part, I survived my childhood.
The internet is a VERY busy neighbourhood and purposefully designed to hijack your thoughts, take money out of your pocket, and promote someone else’s agenda. Mom’s advice is more real now than ever. So, if you want to return home safe, it is time to pay attention.
Get on, stay focussed, and get off.
Todd Kaufman is a Registered Psychotherapist and Coach specializing in anxiety disorders. You can reach Todd or book an appointment online at www.TheAnxiety.Clinic 1-800-699-3396.
“Fear is a very natural response,” said Kaufman, who specializes in treating anxiety disorders at his Toronto-based clinic.
It’s not uncommon that a new patient will meet with me for the first time and feel completely overwhelmed.
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