Posts tagged #Silicon Valley

Is Social Media Addiction The Next American Mental Health Crisis?

There is a growing debate among Congress and the political pundit class on whether the Trump administration should consider breaking up the tech titans or if Congress should pass new regulations on Facebook, Google, Twitter and just for the fun of it, I’ll mention MySpace in this conversation as well. Yes, MySpace still exists. No, I don’t know anyone who uses it.

While freedom of speech issues on social networks and the possible breaking up of the Silicon Valley giants are both topics of great importance, the mental health issues that are being caused by social media use is equally as important.

Recent studies report a rise in levels of anxiety and depression among teenage and young adult users of social media. The BBC reported on a study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior that found participants who said they use seven or more social networks were more than three times as those that use between zero-two platforms to have higher levels of general anxiety symptoms.

 A study in the Clinical Psychological Science journal with a sample of over 500,000 U.S. adolescents in grades 8-12, found that between 2010-2015 there was an increased rate of depressive symptoms and suicide-related outcomes among those who spent more time on social media and smartphones with these participants reporting more mental health issues than those that spent time on non-screen activities.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology discussed the growing trend of people seeking surgery to make their face be more appealing for selfies. In 2017, the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that 55 percent of surgeons mentioned having patients that were seeking surgery procedures due to social media. 

These are just some of the many recent academic and mainstream press stories on the growing trend of mental health issues due to social media use. However, none of this should come as a surprise.

If you have spent any time on a social media platform, then you have encountered someone that is obsessed with likes, swipes and follows. Or, maybe you are the person that is spending hours per day trying to become social media famous.

This is not healthy behavior as research and common sense continues to prove. We have a generation of fame-obsessed teens and college students that I am afraid are becoming only more infatuated with fleeting social media fame. This behavior could be not only bad for their mental health but their physical health as well. If you browse YouTube, you’ll find videos of teenagers trying very dangerous stunts in an attempt to go viral.

The next time Congress holds hearings concerning social media and freedom of speech on these platforms and regulation, I hope Senators will also hold the wizards of Silicon Valley’s feet to the fire concerning their highly addictive products.

It’s not all Mark Zuckerberg’s fault. Healthy behaviors should start at home and in schools, but it’s time social media companies do more to help turn the tide of mental health issues that their products are no doubt partially contributing to in young adults.

Helping teens and young adults have less mental health issues is something we all can give a thumbs up to.

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How To Fix Facebook Before Users "Unfriend" Zuckerberg's Creation En Masse

Facebook is a mess right now.

The Mark Zuckerberg social giant is currently in the middle of multiple controversies that range from top executives leaving the company, to privacy concerns among a multitude of users, to talks of investigations into antitrust violations from Capitol Hill.

It seems the company is getting it from all sides and that many are wanting to “unfriend” them.

From a user standpoint, fixing Facebook isn’t as complicated as it may seem.

In fact, it’s a very simple solution.

Facebook users are becoming increasingly concerned with what personal data the company is obtaining and for what purposes they are using their data.

If Facebook wants to calm user’s fears, the social network should give users greater control over how their data is used. This would include providing more controls over how their data is used for advertising purposes and provide more opt-in and opt-out policies for consumers that would allow them to decide how their data is used.

Another move the company should make is to offer paid subscription options that provide users with an ad-free experience and also allows no data collection whatsoever by the social site. In addition, with a higher tier subscription plan, the site could offer a more encrypted experience for users to help protect their data better.

Not only would subscription tiers be great PR for the company to show they’re concerned about their user’s data, it would also help make up for loss revenue from their declining advertising business.

A report on Fast Company reports consumption time on Facebook was down from 16.5% in September 2017 to 14.3% in September of this year. The less people log onto Facebook, the less time they are seeing display ads resulting in a decline in revenue. However, the site is still second to only Google in digital consumption, so it’s not time to panic yet if you’re a Facebook investor. The company is still making billions.

To help stop accusations of political bias, Zuckerberg should show goodwill by creating a board that includes leaders from both the right and the left that meets to help discuss and put into practice policies that make sure all voices are heard fairly on the platform.

Facebook is a company in crisis on many fronts, but it’s silly to think the tech behemoth will suddenly disappear like MySpace. The company is almost too big to fail at this point and is too ingrained in our daily lives and culture for there to be a mass revolt of users away from the platform.

However, there are changes that the company can and should make in order to turn the ship around before it enters into uncharted tech territories that could eventually sink it because history has proven that even some of the world’s largest corporations can hit a financial iceberg and go down like the Titanic.  

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Here's Where The Government Can Start If They Want To Break Up Silicon Valley's Tech Titans

According to media reports, the Trump White House has drafted an executive order that would open an antitrust investigation into the business practice of some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent firms including Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

The investigation would examine whether online platforms have violated antitrust laws and address online platform bias as well. President Trump has Tweeted his concerns about the potential political bias of some of the nation’s largest social platforms that all lean left.

The federal government has a mixed record of success when it comes to breaking up mega-corporations.

The most famous examples of the government successfully breaking up companies include Rockefeller’s dominant Standard Oil and the 1980s breakup of the AT&T/Bell telephone system. 

We are many years, court cases and Trump Tweets away from coming even a 100 miles close to a breakup of any technology or social media company.

However, for the sake of discussion and argument, here is where the federal government could start if they want to breakup some of the biggest tech titans in the world:

1.    Require Facebook to sale Instagram and WhatsApp. According to recent reports, Instagram has over 800 million users and WhatsApp has over 1.5 billion. Facebook has over 2 billion users. That is a lot of access to user’s data for Mark Zuckerberg to have.

2.    Require Google to sale YouTube. The video sharing website reports nearly 1.8 billion users each month, almost matching Facebook’s 2 billion users.

3.    Spinoff Amazon into multiple smaller companies. Possible spinoffs: Twitch.TV, Whole Foods Market, Zappos, and the list could go on.

Of all the tech companies, Twitter is in the best position to not be broken up because the company is smaller than their bigger rivals and the company has not invested as heavily into acquiring other companies. If you want to include Apple on the list, you could require the spinoff of Apple Music or not allow the company to produce original content, but only offer music and TV shows on their apps from third-party producers. 

As I said before, we are years away from any potential breakup even becoming a possible reality, but there is no doubt that the tech titans have more influence and control over our lives than prior oligopolies could even imagine.

Instead of antitrust lawsuits and breakups, a quicker and simpler solution may be to pass more regulation that protects user’s privacy and governs more how these firms operate.   

Either way, the days of Silicon Valley having a blank check (or unlimited Bitcoin for all of the tech-minded readers) to do what they want is quickly coming to a close. 

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