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Addiction to Social Media and how it is designed to keep you hooked. - Musings from a SM junkie

"I wonder if I'm hooked? A thought nagging my mind as I push my kids to the side to read another article on SM or watch a video. After an enlightening conversation with one of our members after a workout one day, I decided to collaborate to dig deeper into his IT world and figure if I could uncover any truths about social media addiction.

late night scrolling

Many of our members have super interesting jobs and viewpoints to share. This particular member works in the IT / cyber world, and happens to be a really switched on human. He prefers to remain anonymous so we will call him ‘Anthony’ (it was the 21st most popular Name in 1984 in the USA FYI).

Anthony, Thanks for sharing a few of your thoughts on some of the social media topics that are gaining popularity at the moment. The use of Social Media is at the forefront of my mind as I consider a massive FB detox! But let’s start with the backbone of how it all works to figure out whats going on behind the scenes.

I always think of artificial intelligence as pretty much just like the movie 'I, Robot'. But, you have shared with me that AI and Computer Learning is already in our homes and pockets! Briefly what is AI and how are we using this everyday already:

Anthony: Artificial intelligence is the ability of computers to understand and perform tasks which normally require human intelligence. Machine learning is a popular application of AI where we provide access to huge amounts of data and teach them to learn for themselves.

There are many other branches of AI. Facebook recently launched a new research lab dedicated to AI research and development. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that the "goal is to build AI systems that are better than humans at our primary senses: vision, listening, etc.

Google recently acquired DeepMind ("the machine that dreams"), which focuses on simulating neural networks, i.e. the brain, to analyse and deduce patterns to achieve objectives. Like a brain figures out equations or problems.

LM: Ok now I’m totally seeing I Robot. Do social media platforms use AI?

Anthony: Absolutely. Along with every other organisation which has a digital feed of our activities. Banks, supermarkets, driving assistants, gaming consoles, etc everything is capturing and analyzing our behavior. Across all industries. With the explosion of rich data and the lower cost of computing it means companies which ignore AI will be left behind!

LM: What do they use this data for?

Anthony: Competitive advantage. Most obviously, in Facebook's case, selling ads. Facebook creates a staggering 29,000 individual categories (that you are placed in) to sell to its advertisers. It allows advertisers to single-out Facebook users in categories including, "total liquid investible assets $1 - $24,999", "people in households that have an estimated household income of between $100K and $125K", or even "individuals that are frequent transactions at lower cost department or dollar stores".

LM: Yesh, I feel a little ripped off that my information is being sold like that for someone’s profit! Its also a little bit ‘big brother’ ish to me!

Down to the personal level. Do you think social media can be addictive?