Isn’t Facebook about keeping families, friends and acquaintances in touch with each other no matter where they are in the world? That may be what appears to be the goal, and many social networks would like us to believe that. However, there is a more sinister side to social networks and that involves using human psychology to exploit human weaknesses.
That is the message that the founding (now ex-) president of Facebook, Sean Parker told a US website last month. In fact, the goal of Facebook and other social networks is to “consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible”.
In fact, the psychology is very simple. Once you post something, get as many people as possible to comment on and like your post – this gives you a good and pleasant feeling and encourages you to contribute more posts of comments and photos. Then, of course, you may get more likes and comments which encourages you even more. According to Mr Parker, it’s all about consuming “as much of your time and conscious attention as possible” and “…exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology”.
What influence does this have on social network users, including youth? It is ironic that Mr Parker, being one who consciously used this psychology to exploit users, at the same time questions what influence it has on our children. He says “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains”. Although probably used simply to emphasise his point, his reference to “God only knows” is a whitewash as God has given parents and businesses a responsibility when our children are influenced. God does indeed know, and He requires that any technology created to assist in human interaction, must encourage users and children in a positive way – in this case, using social networks to keep people in contact without creating undue pressures and burdens to consume people’s precious time.
So there’s an ironic conflict here. On the one hand, social network operators are trying to get users, including youth, onto social networks as much and often as possible, and meanwhile, parents are trying to get their children to spend less time and not let social networking overly occupy and influence them. Given the little or no influence we have over the social network providers, the task of teaching appropriate usage of social media falls on parents and teachers with responsibility for their children and students.
Appropriate usage of social networking must be taught and learned, with a proper balance between posting, reading and limiting usage. As Prov 10:19 teaches us, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise”. There is a proper restraint in all the words we use, whether online or not. After all, online communication with family and friends is a rich privilege and blessing, but we also have many other forms of communication (including face-to-face) as well as other tasks to be busy with and to consume our time.
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