The Outsourcing Of The Human Brain To Social Media

The Outsourcing Of The Human Brain To Social Media

You never really liked Facebook. But you signed on when all your friends  opened accounts. Despite your privacy concerns, the alternatives are few. Leave  it; you have lost a stream of networks.


In this era of social networking, we simply follow the path of least  resistance. And it has been proven that in doing so, we lose a bit of our  independence. We begin and end the day with checking emails. Our lives resolve  around people that make up our social networks (and to a lesser extent,  professional networks).


Unlike before, reaching your friends demands immediacy. Otherwise, why will  someone provide GPS feeds of his movements to the world? The human networks have  become more communal and increasingly our social networks influence us so much  that we risk losing our independent ideologies.


The reality is that when a friend begins a conversation and finds it great,  others in the networks just agree, most times. Your friend rates a blog post  high, even without reading it, you also rate it high. A friend likes a video and  nearly everyone in the network will follow thus.


From CNN to Facebook, I have noticed that the very first comments in any post  influence the dialogue the most. Those early ones will decide the direction  other subsequent commentators will follow. Though there are deviations, on  average, the individual judgment is lost. We just follow the path of least  resistance by not disagreeing with those in our networks.


There are many reasons we act that way. One, we want to retain that  friendship and will work hard not to oppose our friends. Two, we never actually  read the post; we just made a decision based on the comments of our friends who  might have read the entire post. Three, the desire of least resistance and fear  of being attacked by providing independent insights by our networks encouraged  us to follow the popular opinion.


Unfortunately, irrespective of the reason under which we make comments, our  digital identities are registered and to most people, we made the comments. That  create a risk as in most cases we come back to notice that we misjudged. We  suddenly noticed that our casual comments were wrong and very embarrassing to  the issue under discussion.


In general, our personal independence on new ideas is under siege by social  networks and Internet. We follow a lot and new insights are lacking because like  buyer recommendations, we believe our social networks and follow their leads.  There are both positive and negative consequences to this new aspect of human  existence.


On the positive side, we can easily learn new things and some really good  ideas can inspire and motivate us. When a friend shares a good idea on  investing, the social network can help it go viral and it can benefit most that  will follow, even without asking questions.


On the negative side, it can make us very dumb. The reality is that most  people do not believe that the Internet is not edited and they believe  everything they read or see on the web. When someone passes an idea, we rarely  ask for facts. Take the PEW poll that 18% (24% from Time Magazine) of Americans  believe that President Obama is a Muslim. Despite all evidence to the contrary,  the most important being his relationship with his ex-pastor. He was vilified  for his pastor’s actions, yet he is still a Muslim. Before the Internet age, the  network TVs would have edited out most of the issues that derail honest dialogue  in political arenas. But with Internet, there is no editor and any idea can go  viral.


When you watch some videos that have gone viral, nothing comes clearly on why  they did. But on more observations, you can notice the social energy of  networks. That brings the question of quality in media. Who truly cares? In most  cases, it is not the quality that wins but social congregation. Provided that  more people click a post, it has more chances of becoming more popular. And  popularity is defined under the constructs of advertisement; more clicks, more  money.


Personally, I will say that my article is popular if a university professor  cites it, though few people have cared to read it. But in this age, it is not  what matters. Popularity is simply the click rate and how it can be monetized  for money.


As this dynamics emerge, firms must adapt to understand that man is  inherently being changed by the social circle. Having a good advertising  campaign need not focus on expensive ad, rather a focus on pushing the content  to few choreographed people with larger networks and then task them to give  positive reviews. As soon as they do that, others in the networks will follow  thus and a viral ad is born.


Also, companies must understand that immediacy triumphs over quality. A  website that is updated ten times in a day will be ranked more than one that has  a higher quality (who decides?) but updated once a day. To avoid this challenge  of the web algorithm, firms open visitor comments thereby increasing the level  of activity.


Man is passing through a very transformative phase. Today, a student can post  his homework on his Facebook account and his friends will provide answers. When  he is asked to develop a class concept, he goes to Yahoo Answers and someone  offers a free solution. We are increasingly outsourcing our minds to our  networks. We depend less on facts today than we did a few decades back. Anything  flows into the web and the world consumes. We can edit an encyclopedia (yes,  Wikipedia) and reference it immediately. It does not seem to be a progressive  evolution of the human species.


Originally published by N Ekekwe in EA

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