Is it possible that social media is the new cigarette—the new thing that could end up seeing an ‘anti’ campaign much like the World Health Organization’s (WHO) anti-tobacco campaign of the 1980s?
Given the growing number of organizations and support groups campaigning for people to give up social media, it is quite possible.
Just like for smoking, the internet is now full of testimonials of purported “real people” who have kicked the social media habit and are eager to share the process with others. Some are claiming to be happier than ever. Others have relapsed.
The campaign, though, isn’t really sinking it yet. Massive privacy and data security controversies, widespread fake news and even the use of Facebook user private data in a sinister Russian campaign to influence U.S. presidential elections haven’t been enough to force masses to kick the habit.
In addition to the massive Cambridge Analytica data breach scandal that surfaced at the end of March, it was also revealed that CubeYou, a data analytics firm, was collecting information about users through viral quizzes and then selling it to third-party marketers.
Most recently, the New York Times reported that Facebook allowed outside companies to get a peek at users’ private messages.
Since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook has faced a series of controversies about misinformation and manipulation on its platform in the United States and abroad.
The result? Not very impressive. It’s an addiction that will take WHO-style maneuvering to fix.
According to a new survey, only one in four Facebook users from the U.S. has deleted his or her account following the data breach news. However, nearly half of them have adjusted their privacy settings.
There are, however, age differences that give us some insight into who is doing what, and which generations may be more concerned about social media addiction.
Of those who quit Facebook, 44 percent are younger users, while only 12 percent are users aged 65 and older. Is it time for the old to learn from the young?
At the end of the day, because social media has become so entrenched in American life, it is difficult to predict how many people—even precisely targeted victims of nefarious dealings—would be willing to give up Facebook. Last year, 81 percent of U.S. citizens had a social media profile, representing five percent growth compared to the previous year.
“Essentially, users think Facebook is so fun and so useful that they’re willing to set aside their privacy concerns,” Jay Corrigan, a professor of economics at Kenyon College, told CNBC Make It.
He is also the lead author of the latest survey on Facebook, which found that people would give up on Facebook (temporarily)—if someone paid to do it.
Through a series of real-life auctions, researchers found that the average Facebook user would require more than $1,000 to deactivate their account for one year. In the same study, students were ready to quit for about double as much money.
Still, the growing concern over Facebook’s data-sharing is understandable, but Facebook is only the tip of the iceberg and is not the worst data leak in recent history.
In late 2016, Yahoo announced that over 500 million users were impacted by what it claimed was a “state-sponsored attack.” The total number of users impacted as this escalated ended up being around 3 billion.
Even worse was the 2017 Equifax scandal, which exposed the name, date of birth, and even social security number of over 140 million individuals.
So, perhaps data leaks have become so pervasive that social media addicts can’t justifiably quit Facebook when there are a million other data-leak traps waiting to trip them up. Simply quitting Facebook may not solve any of their problems.
But for many, it appears to be an addiction to a vicarious way of life and an alter-ego whose sudden death would leave them struggling with a very existential dilemma.
By Michael Kern for Safehaven.com
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