I’ve read Jonathan Haidt’s essay, Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid. I can summarize Haidt by saying the algorithms in social media are destroying our democratic society. We have devolved in to the very things that James Madison feared when writing the Constitution.
While Haidt makes many good points I don’t think he gets to the root cause, which I think is our acceptance that it is ok for corporations to make money from addiction.
In the United States we want to put all the blame of one’s problem on themselves. Thus, the only problem with addiction is the addict and the consequences they bring upon themselves. Too many industries like technology, food, service/fast food, alcohol, health, and pharamceutical all profit from addiction. You should note the fundamental nature of these industries.
Even after lawsuits and public trials against the tobacco industry that exposed it knew nicotine is addictive and knew it causes cancer and yet still made money off of selling cigarettes, we give every industry with a business model that uses addiction to maximize profit and wealth a free pass. In the United States it is ok for someone to make a buck off the death of another, and somehow there are even “leaders” in this country who consider themselves pro-life.
In the beginning Facebook and Twitter did not make money, it wasn’t until they introduced algorithms to force content in front of users that they began making money. Research is showing the algorithms are optimized for addiction. And still I think you will find many people in the United States point the finger at people who use these networks as solely to blame and unwilling to restrict Facebook or Twitter from making money because we believe nobody should be restricted from making money.
The United States was founded upon the basic concept of freedom, and frankly that concept is no longer the prime directive of the United States. Today the United States is entirely driven by capitalism and the prime directive is to make a few people very rich, and a few rich people don’t need nor really want democracy, they just want the citiizens to be free to spend more and more money on their products.
Everybody knows money is the problem, but like an addict that just can’t do what is in their best interests, nobody is going to do anything about it. Sadly, like most addicts we know, I don’t think our country will seriously address our problems until we hit rock bottom, and I fear for what such a bottom will look like for a country that has accepted children being killed in schools and people in power acting to overthrow the government.