We’re about 15 years into the age of social media and people. It is part of our lives and much as there are now quarters in society that seek to demonize it, the fact is humanity remains squarely in a trajectory that leads to a world where human behaviour is increasingly guided — very likely driven — by one machine algorithm or another.
Indeed, social media just happens to be the easy most politicised target for vilification. The fact is, however, we have long ago been subservient to algorithms. Think of those traffic lights that guide your driving. We wholeheartedly trust a green light assured that, as it signals us to proceed, it is signalling others to stop and give way to us. Stepping back further, consider other mundane examples. Airplanes carrying hundreds of people are routinely landed by algorithms. Crewmembers of fast food outlets like McDonald’s move to the instructions displayed on monitors by computerised order fulfillment systems. Closer to home, drivers that form the vast on-demand delivery and transport systems of Uber, Grab, and FoodPanda are no better than blind aimless ants derailed from their pheromone trail without the apps through which the system they are a part of direct their actions.
One therefore comes to thinking about these elections. The Philippine Opposition have turned into a chi chi fashion statement the blaming of all their troubles on social media and the bits of “disinformation” (along with “legit” information) that live, breed, and die within its ecosystem. They whine about one partisan camp “weaponising” it to their “nefarious” ends. One wonders though; if it was the Opposition that had been more successful at using social media (which, one needs to be reminded, is a tool available to everyone) to achieve their “disente” ends, would they and their lackeys in Big Corporate “News” Media still describe the way they wielded it with a loaded word like “weaponise”?
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A certain Vip Malixi who is a “freelance iOS developer, cartoonist, and writer who covers information technology and psychology” was given a bit of space on the Inquirer today to warn the peasantry about how social media is skewing their world view and issues this pompous lament…
I find this state of things depressing, as the average Joe, indeed, will not bother to make the extra effort to find out what’s what. The result: These social media companies are priming an army of ignorant people, who can be more easily manipulated, to lead our society to god-knows-what ends.
Well now, “priming an army of ignorant people”. Gee, that’s you and me, right? This is the professor suggesting that whoever is losing in these elections are “victims” of “ignorant” voters who were “easily manipulated” by presumably “evil” forces. That’s a convenient excuse for losing elections that is certainly on its way to become an overused one. One wonders if the Opposition led by the Yellowtard bloc have their own social media operations; because if they do have one (and most likely they do have one) then they are hypocrites.
The fact is, the Yellowtards are losing this popularity contest because they did not choose their weapons well and wield what they chose competently. They’re effectively saying that they lost because the enemy fought better — but said in a shrill whiny way. Social media is here to stay and it is evolving at a pace that keeps it five steps ahead of legislation and regulators. Best way to deal with it is to see it for the sword that it is and be a better swordsman in the battles you choose.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.