In the day and age of technological advancement, it is inevitable that it’s users will feed into the attention and consumer market. If you are on any form of social media outlet, read or watch the news, or use search engines, you have been a part of internet manipulation.
As the monopoly on tech continues to grow, the ways in which it is marketed will also continue forward. And, as we continue to buy into tech production, it is important that we keep our eyes on, not just the abundance of toys available to us, but also to the ways in which they are available.
Some of the most current examples of tech manipulation include things such as Facebook politics, Instagram influencer marketing ploys, deep fakes, and many other internet fads have the power to affect the way we think, feel and act.
One of the most common tactics to get people invested on the internet – particularly on social media apps, is Facebook. There is evidence to suggest that Facebook is not clear of manipulation and that it could be a contributor to the mood and thus health, of users.
According to Meyers, “Facebook’s News Feed—the main list of status updates, messages, and photos you see when you open Facebook on your computer or phone—is not a perfect mirror of the world.
But few users expect that Facebook would change their News Feed in order to manipulate their emotional state.”
Clearly, the increase in Facebook users has been monumental since the company’s establishment in 2004. Since it is so common place for so many of us, it is easy to see the possibility for users to assume the app is a fairly unbiased source for information and networking. And, even if some of us do regard it as a biased site, it’s easy not to pay attention to the actual effect it can have on our emotional health and wellbeing.
Further considering the topic of direct emotional effects of social media related bias and manipulation, in 2012, scientists conducted a study skewing 700,000 Facebook occupants’ feeds for a week. Some received happy upbeat words and others were sadder than the average mood. By the end of the week, the participants were more likely to share particularly uplifting or unhappy posts themselves depending on what it was they had seen that week.
This is pretty straightforward evidence that, whether we like it or not, as users we are susceptible to what it is we are taking in. When you consider the amount of time many of us spend with online platforms, what we are seeing can have a huge impact on our overall health, wellness and outlook on the world.
Another common cause of virtual management and potential manipulation, is the Instagram influencer marketing tactic. Many of us begin following someone on Instagram (often who has anywhere from about 500k-400million followers) because we like their style, art, health tips, music, etc.,
But it’s easy to forget that the bigger the platform (i.e. more followers), the more opportunity they have to make money off advertising sponsorships. For example, here we have Kim Kardashian with a following of 190 million on instagram selling Skims undergarments.
If you’ve been on Instagram you probably know the feeling. You’re following someone for a few months (in this situation this person is Kim K) and all of a sudden here they are, telling you to buy something. At first, you get excited thinking this must be a great product if she is showing it off. But then the second thought here is, “Wait a second…Why are you trying to sell me something?”
When it is someone with as many followers as Kim K has, this is a huge opportunity for companies to get their product out there, sometimes with the user barely even registering they are being advertised to. I don’t know about you, but I had never even heard of Skims until seeing this Instagram post.
This advertising technique has a way of feeling more personable than other forms of marketing. If you follow the person who is influencing, you most likely respect them and to at least some extent, their power. But it can often also leave us feeling unsure of the person and what they are willing to do to profit off their platform.
Using respected public figures for marketing campaigns isn’t anything new. But it reaches another level of concern when we find it has made its way into the feeds we choose to follow on such a big platform as Instagram that is used for so many different things by so many different people.
One of the more alarming and stand out examples of online manipulation and particularly fake news, is the deepfake. These are synthetic media representations of people which have the power to use tech to essentially fake video material of the face. This makes it often very difficult to decipher what someone has actually said.
It happens all the time in both personal and political content. As Teows states, “Several deepfake videos have gone viral recently, giving millions around the world their first taste of this new technology: President Obama using an expletive to describe President Trump, Mark Zuckerberg admitting that Facebook’s true goal is to manipulate and exploit its users, Bill Hader morphing into Al Pacino on a late-night talk show.”
In this article the first three examples of deepfake usage are politically oriented, but then the reader is thrown a curve ball this being that the technology was also used on TV as one celebrity was turned into another. This sets a precedent for the deepfake, as its representation in politics has proven to have volatile potential, it can also be detrimental on a personal level. Studies show 96% of deepfake videos on the internet are pornographic and most all of them non-consensual.
The technological advancement of deepfake videos is growing at an incredible rate. It is not hard to imagine that in the next couple of years it will be virtually impossible to tell the difference between deep fakes and actual video footage.
I think we can all agree it’s a scary thought to think that it is possible for someone to construct a visual framework of you, or those around you, doing and saying anything they want is a terrifying idea.
When we consider even just a few of the ideas of both the present and the future, it’s easy to feel taken advantage of, guilty, and fearful. The truth is, the internet is a for better and worse, a big, wide world.
News and social outlets have the power to manipulate the way we view the world, social platforms can worm their way into the consumer parts of your brain, and we are coming closer and closer to technology that is capable of reformatting a person to say or do anything the programmer desires.
This is why it is becoming increasingly important to do your research, to stay curious, to look out for ourselves and each other. It also means that, as consumers, we do have the power to reorient our thinking and thus, the way we do things.
Within the budding world of technology, we as individuals have the power to create platforms, build and organize communities all over, and use these things to get information out. For better and for worse, at least some of the power is in our hands.
Kardashian, Kim “Match Made in Heaven”
https://w ww.ins tagram.com/p/CEzSb8bAfL_/?i gshid= 1km8uhealv28c
Meyer, Robinson “Everything We Know About Facebook’s Secret Mood
Teows, Rob “Deepfakes Are Going To Wreak Havoc On Society. We Are Not Prepared.”