A One-Two Punch

Two, 90-minute Netflix “documentaries” have knocked the wind out of my sails, leaving me ailing and wailing about the unfairness of it all … and that there’s little I can do to create constructive, creative, proactive change.

The Social Dilemma (highlighted and linked in an earlier post here) focuses on the giants of technology – Facebook, YouTube, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, and others – with former supervisory employees and critics of these companies sounding the alarm.

What began as helpful “tools” for our personal space and productivity have evolved into manipulative, psychotic platforms that know more about us than we do about ourselves … including how much time we spend looking at a given image, what we supposedly #Like or makes us #Angry (and other designated reactive emotions) … and that, instead of tools for creating personal products, we ourselves have become the product. Based upon our digital DNA, we are being sold – with “how-to-use us” instructions — to the commercial and political marketplace.

Two take-aways that struck me quite personally, which I can’t seem to shake, are that: (1) Each of us is fed distinctly different news, comments, posts, replies and reactions, and (dis)information based on the sum total of what this artificial intelligence knows about us; and (2) Because of these algorithms, we only are able to reach like-minded people in sync with our personal data. All of our posts with distilled information and links for fact-checking – designed to reach others with different views, opinions, and perspectives – hardly ever reach our intended audience.

The brazen abuse and manipulation by these social media are chilling, frightening, and but a harbinger of what’s yet to come.

Starring Meryl Streep, the other Netflix docudrama that blew me away is The Laundromat (linked below). This is the story of how the rich, indeed, are very different from the rest of us … using shell games and companies to cheat, steal, manipulate, and get away with murder. Literally.

In response to these two Netflix films (along with my own observations and personal experiences), I am making some deliberate changes to my online habits. First and foremost is distancing myself from the worst players.

Here’s what that means for my own use of Facebook, as well as the other social media giants … especially as they relate to maintaining my own sanity and balance:

I will no longer post proactive positions about climate change (evidenced by the hottest weather ever on record, expanding forest fires that cannot be contained, fiercer and more frequent hurricanes devastating people and property, torrential rains and flash floods that take incredible tolls … typhoons and tsunamis, earthquakes that are shaking our very foundations, and the resulting pollution that is suffocating us). Because the climate change deniers believe what they do; nothing I can say will change their beliefs; and my posts probably won’t be reaching them, anyway.

• Similarly, I won’t be posting about dealing appropriately with Covid-19 (mask-wearing, social distancing, testing, avoiding large gatherings—especially indoor), for the same reasons. Not only has this pandemic been politicized, polarizing us yet further … but just as too many are climate change deniers, certain segments of the population are totally anti-vaccines.

• And, for the same reasons, I will no longer continue posting about Donald Trump, Trumpsters, and Trumpism. If his cultist fan club refuses to recognize and acknowledge the travesties he’s committing – and getting away with – in “real” time, right before their eyes, they are choosing to do so. My words and sources will neither engage nor convince them. “One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless,” states Proverbs 14:16.

Other behavioral changes I will try my best to make vis-à-vis Facebook and other social media include:

Not responding to “click-bait” suggestions of posts and people or groups which algorithms – based on my online behavior – recommend that I check out and consider.

Limiting the number of #Likes I post. After a friend thanks me for wishing him or her a happy birthday, there’s no need for me to #Like that #Like!  It’s far easier for Facebook to identify and quantify my emojis than to qualify any comments I may make.

Refusing to allow myself to fall down the rabbit hole. How many times have I read something of interest, then clicked on its link, pouring through post after post feeding my concerns and insecurities, while venturing farther into the quicksand?

Reviewing and refining my #Friends list. “Unfriending” someone seems so nasty and final; but I’m asking myself, “Who are these people? How do I know them? What kinds of interaction or communication have we engaged in since becoming #Friends?”

Deleting some of the Pages and Groups I have joined or liked. Look at your personal information: How many groups did you join that you really no longer participate in … or Pages you liked because you’ve been asked (by a FB friend or the Page itself) to #Like it?

Not giving any more personal or professional information to the social media. I don’t need to publish my cv or resume in my profile. (While I can delete some of the profile information I have already provided, the titans of social media already have saved everything I ever shared—despite my deletions.) I’ll be moving forward ever more cautiously.

Disengaging from the social media by spending less time there and using it for more constructive purposes. Yes, there certainly are some definite positives about our use of the Internet to engage with others. But, let’s be honest: Haven’t we become “conditioned,” like Pavlov’s dogs, to respond to the sounds of online alerts, alarms, and attention-getters?

Now, here’s a link to Netflix’s The Laundromat:


Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

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