An Inevitable Outcome...
In a June 3rd article in the Seattle Times, the headline read "Instagram photo feed opens wide to ads". Who would have guessed? All those wonderful features touted by the social media sites are undergoing a change that was quite predictable and is now taking hold at an ever-accelerating pace. The pressure on the social media providers to continue to grow and to show increasing revenue and higher profits is now in full force. So these "free" services are finding it necessary to extract an indirect price from all users by pushing more and more advertising our way.
The new wrinkle is that this advertising is being tailored to what the social media sites think we want to see and to what we are most likely going to respond. And how do they know to do this? Basically, by snooping in on our every conversation and every posting to analyze our behaviors. This is happening so gradually that most of us are not paying much attention. And that is exactly how these providers want us to behave.
A few weeks ago, I ordered some new toner for a photographic-quality color printer. Soon my every Internet search showed up with a sidebar ad for related items such as photographic paper from the same manufacturer as my printer. And I almost responded because I had been thinking about trying out some papers with different surface textures. Because this was something that really was of interest to me, I did not think of it as an obnoxious intrusion. So here we go down the slippery slope of lost privacy and a society where we become the objects of cleverly researched electronic sales pitches.
What we are undergoing is not unlike becoming hooked on an addictive drug. First, it is offered to us as virtually free with seemingly no downside consequences. But as we become regular users the situation begins to change. Our behaviors are monitored and analyzed and we become the targets of sales pitches based on the results of having our every communication automatically assessed. In itself this may not be all that terrible. However, as the available space on our computer screens becomes ever more cluttered with these targeted sales pitches the original benefits begin to fade and what we see instead are blatant attempts to influence us to look and buy.
It seems to me that from the very beginnings of the Internet we have been way too trusting that the seamier sides of human behavior would not be a serious problem. But here we are today with never-ending viruses, thefts of our identities, phishing attacks, and hundreds of spams each day " many that are malicious. Should we expect that the social media providers will always behave with total honesty? That is unfortunately hard to believe when we cannot even count on that from our own government agencies.
Are there experiences that you would like to share on this topic or others? You may contact me directly from this site or by phone at 425-898-9117.