Peter 'Fish' Case: It's death by digital and we're pulling the trigger

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Here's something I recently heard that resonated with me: if you're not paying for the product, you are the product. If you use social media, then, you are the product. Yes, I did just watch the "Social Dilemma," the new Netflix documentary. Honestly, it wasn't anything I didn't already know, there was nothing knew there for me. I already knew that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and any social media platform was rife for controlling you. You've probably heard the phrase, once it's on the internet, it's there forever, it never truly goes away. Well, this documentary takes it to a new level.

Did you ever do a search for shoes then pop onto Facebook to see what's happening and you get nothing but shoe ads? It's called an algorithm and it's designed to act like a digital narcotic to get you hooked. If you frequent the World Wide Web, then you've probably seen the little pop up that now warns you that the site you're visiting is going to leave cookies on your computer. The disclaimer that now pops up says it's there to improve your user experience. No, it's actually there so they can eventually put something in front of you that they will get paid for. Look at it this way: an absolute stranger walks up to you and says, "Good afternoon, I'm going to embed this GPS tracker on you, but don't worry, we'll only find you wherever you are if we need to sell you something, now pass that onto your kids." You still comfortable with it? Yeah, I didn't think so.

It's death by digital and we're pulling the trigger. Our phones, our computers, if you have a newer model car, those too. You can literally not hide anymore; if you're connected, you are being steered through a portion of your life by a computer program that has built a prediction model about you. It knows what you like, it knows what you click on, it knows when you've been away for awhile, then it finds you and BAM reels you right back in. It's a digital form of dopamine, and it knows literally everything about you (well, at least what you've shared on the internet). It's not all bad, it merely seems that way. But all of these things you and I perceive as a complete and utter violation of our privacy also help bring the evil doers down.

Facebook is free, we all connect with it. Most of us have gotten into huge political spitting matches or just plain ol' spitting matches. It's a non-stop source for unnecessary drama impacted by lies and false statements. It's tone deaf comment after tone deaf comment. My favorite tone deaf and racist meme that floats around states "We need to end all hate groups," with four symbols, the KKK, a Nazi Swastika, The Antifa logo and the Black Lives Matter logo. So, I ask, how can you scroll past that and pretend you didn't see it? Also, the person who posted it has just stepped out of the bigot closet and all this time you thought it was someone you liked, and you thought was reasonable. Oh well, another soul lost, the cause of death: digital dystopia.

I'm not putting myself on a pedestal and proclaiming myself better than the rest. I have my own issues with digital technology that I have to address. So I get it. I do use a lot of it for my work and things I do. But, by and large, I allow these social platforms to pimp out my views so that they can sell them for 4 cents an impression, or 10 cents for a click. I understand that my phone knows where my car is parked and in turn is feeding that to the algorithm so it can not only build a digital map about me, it's also building an actual map. If all of that wasn't enough, we're less than 50 days from choosing a new president, well, hopefully. So, the rhetoric is next level right now. At some point I'm going to pull the plug and go back to good old fashion analog conversation. But for now, I'll use social media as an amplification tool, and it'll use me the same way.

Peter "Fish" Case is a man with an opinion. He offers up a weekly podcast discussion that can be heard at theearspoon.com. Questions, compliments and complaints can be sent to him at fish@theearspoon.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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