Category : –Social Networking

(Economist) Facebook and the conglomerate curse

In 1997, in his first letter to shareholders, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, wrote that it was still “Day 1” for his firm. Day 2, he later explained, would mean stasis, followed by irrelevance. His rousing call to avoid complacency seems apt today. Silicon Valley’s five big tech giants, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Microsoft, have long been the bedrock of America’s stockmarket and economy, miraculously combining reliable growth and profitability. But after a torrid third quarter their market capitalisations have now collectively dropped by 37% so far this year. About $3.7trn of value has evaporated.

The law of large numbers made it inevitable that the tech giants would mature. Sales growth in the last quarter slowed to 9%—barely above inflation. As they have grown bigger, they have become tied to the economic cycle; a fact which the digital surge during the pandemic only temporarily masked. Penetration rates for smartphones, digital advertising and streaming are plateauing. With slowing core businesses, the giants are venturing onto each other’s turf, increasing competition.

Meanwhile, they are threatened by “conglomeritis”. The symptoms of this disease are bloating and egomania. Consider the recent orgy of spending on hiring, experimental ventures, vanity projects and building data centres. In March the five firms’ combined annual expenses reached $1trn for the first time, and the value of the physical plant of these supposedly asset-light businesses has reached $600bn, over triple the level of five years ago. Swollen costs and balance-sheets mean returns on capital have fallen from over 60% five years ago to 26%. Three of the five do not deign to pay dividends.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Science & Technology

(CT) Robert Tracy McKenzie reviews Bonnie Kristian’s book ‘ Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community’

In sum, we’ve always canceled social transgressors. We’ve always been drawn to simple answers to complex questions. We’ve always been susceptible to emotional manipulation. What is new is the speed with which vast volumes of information—true and false, balanced and distorted—can be generated with such astonishing ease. This trend only magnifies tendencies to which we are already prone. Gradually remade by the devices that mesmerize us, we become less and less willing to listen, less and less tolerant of dissent, less and less able to engage constructively and charitably with others in pursuit of a common good.

In recent years, writers across the spectrum have noted the detrimental effect of social media on our politics and connected political dysfunction to a larger epistemic crisis. Christian observers like Stetzer and Daniel Darling are among those examining how social media is corrupting Christian witness. What distinguishes Kristian is the sheer comprehensiveness of her examination and, above all, her demonstration that the knowledge crisis may harm the church even more than democracy.

At the heart of Untrustworthy is a clarion call for Christians to awaken to how this crisis is wreaking havoc on our churches and tarnishing our testimony. Kristian grieves over the division of churches; the estrangement of families; and, most poignantly, her pain while watching helplessly as a Christian colleague succumbed to the power of “fearmongering falsehoods.” When we can’t agree on basic facts, conversation becomes futile, intimate connection impossible, and real Christian community unattainable. “If we can’t talk to one another,” Kristian asks plaintively, “how do we worship together?”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Corporations/Corporate Life, Philosophy, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Unherd) How Turbo-Wokism broke America

So who does control the new American system? The answer isn’t broke woke-ists. It’s the monopolists who own the platforms where the woke-ists live. Elon Musk and Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett and Sergei Brin and Larry Page and Lorraine Jobs don’t care about mean tweets. They care about the hundreds of billions of dollars in their bank accounts, their lavish mansions and private jets, and pursuing rich person hobbies like colonising Mars. Their primary political goal, as a class, is to prevent the state from ever getting strong enough to tax their fortunes, break up their monopolies, or interfere with the supplies of cheap immigrant and offshore labour from which they profit. The more fractured, dejected, and heavily surveilled the America public is, the less likely a strong state is to emerge.

In the contest between the oligarchs and the fading Rooseveltian state, the woke is a useful tool— not an independent power. Its members are the foot soldiers of the Democratic Party, whose job it is to organise the dispossessed into groups that are narrow, factional, and divided enough that they can’t come together into a force that threatens oligarchical control. Its discontent with the Turbo-Capitalist order can be usefully turned against anyone who refuses to follow the ever-changing party line — beginning with the “deplorables” who are now regularly portrayed as murderous, undemocratic racists and fascists, and extending to JK Rowling and Margaret Atwood. The result is a closed circuit in which Turbo-Capitalist oligarchs and Woke activists make common cause against formerly independent institutions like universities, professional associations, and the press. All of these institutions rely on guarantees of individual and collective rights by the state, which the Turbo-Capitalists and the Woke seek to capture and use as an instrument to enforce their own privatised social bargain: everything within the Party, nothing outside the Party, nothing against the Party.

The unprecedented reach of the technologies that the new oligarchy commands has already destroyed the press and replaced it with a government-corporate censorship regime that has no parallel in peacetime America. Combined with what appears to be a healthy appetite for humiliating others, this power does not bode well for the future of social peace in America, or for the health of the next American Republic.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Politics in General, Psychology

([London] Times) The Church of England threatens tech giants over child safety

The Church of England has threatened to use its influence as a multimillion-pound investor in companies such as Meta, Google and Amazon to challenge them if they fail to protect children from harmful content.

Investing in big technology firms and social media sites “may not be consistent with Christian values”, the Church said. It has issued a list of demands to the companies it invests in, including a call for “enhanced protections” for children.

It has £10.1 billion in assets and investments across a range of sectors, and already uses its clout as a big-money investor in oil firms to lobby them to step up their efforts to tackle climate change.

Among its 20 biggest equity holdings are Amazon, Microsoft, Alibaba, Meta and Alphabet, parent companyt of Google. It does not disclose how much it invests in each.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Children, Church of England, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Caitlin Macy–The Age of Emotional Overstatement

From the modest, anodyne “Have a nice day” I remember growing up with in the ‘80s, in the last decade a giant lovefest has taken over our day-to-day interactions so thoroughly that to abstain from appending heart emojis to everything that comes your way leaves you feeling sidelined and defensively out of tune. Remember “Mean Girls”—the movie, yes, but also the phenomenon? Nowadays the average teenage selfie post is met with reactions that run the gamut from “Luuuuuv!” to “Beauty!” to heart emojis to “Worship!”

I confess I wasn’t prepared for society to speed its way to the love shack. I’d been on a journey to somewhere else entirely. In college, I majored in classics, a field then populated, even in the U.S., by Oxbridge dons. Giving me notes on a scholarship-application essay I’d written that went on and on about my passion for this and my life’s desire for that, a professor remarked mildly, “Sometimes…less is more.”

His remark stayed with me—and not solely as the mother of all writing tips. The essence of adulthood, I suddenly grasped, was internalizing understatement. It meant sublimating one’s raw, emotional insides to something drier on the outside, something more even-tempered and hence more sophisticated. To put aside childish things, one had to ditch not only the tantrums of the toddler years but the gushing of the early teens.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Psychology

(Economist) Who’s afraid of TikTok? The world’s most exciting app is also its most mistrusted

With its wholesome dancing and lip-syncing videos, TikTok once billed itself as “the last sunny corner on the internet”. Since launching just five years ago the app has brought a warm glow to its 1bn-plus users, as well as an icy dash of competition to the social-media incumbents of Silicon Valley. With its rise, a part of the tech industry that had seemed closed to competition has been cracked wide open.

Yet even as TikTok delights consumers and advertisers, others believe the sunny app has a dark side. ByteDance, its owner, has its headquarters in China, whose government is addicted to surveillance and propaganda—making it a worrying place for a media app to be based. As TikTok’s clout grows and as elections loom in America, there is a brewing bipartisan storm in Congress over its supposed role as a “Trojan horse”.

The hype about TikTok is justified—and so are the concerns. The app has transformed competition in social media. Yet unchecked, it presents a security risk to the Chinese Communist Party’s enemies. Finding a way for TikTok to operate safely in the West is a test of whether global business and the global internet can remain intact as us-China relations deteriorate.

Beneath TikTok’s simple interface lies fearsomely advanced artificial intelligence (ai). Its knack for learning what people like helped TikTok sign up its first 1bn users in half the time it took Facebook. In America the average user spends 50% longer on the app each day than the typical user spends on Instagram. TikTok’s revenues are expected to reach $12bn this year and $23bn in 2024, drawing level with YouTube’s. Young creators are flocking to the app—along with some older ones. This week The Economist joined TikTok (no dancing, we promise).

The effect on competition has been dramatic. In 2020 American trustbusters sued Facebook, now known as Meta, for its alleged dominance of social media. Today such worries look eccentric; Meta has been particularly hard-hit as tech stocks have taken a beating, and the firm is re-engineering its products to mimic TikTok. America often accuses China of copycat capitalism. Now the boot is on the other foot.

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Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Asia, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

A [London] Times article on the new Christian app “glorify”

Both Beccle and Costa understand, nevertheless, that while A-list investors are incredibly helpful, they remain a means to an end. It is the millions of ordinary people looking for meaning and connection that remain their focus. “Everyone’s looking for connection. But a lot of people are getting that connection from the wrong places,” says Beccle. “Because you can jump on your phone and hop on TikTok or Instagram and suddenly you’ve got that superficial connection you think you need, only not to have it as soon as you put your phone away. And so you feel like you have to pick it back up again.”

Both men say they are surprised by the number of people who do not identify as Christian, but who nevertheless find themselves using the app every day. “Increasingly, people are opening themselves up to exploring this side of themselves,” says Costa. He and Beccle hint that the long-term plans for Glorify are grander and more ambitious than simply being a place where users can have some scripture read to them or send prayers to their friends. “The people who have invested in us saw a really big vision. Something gigantic. And they were willing to back that,” says Costa. “We’re very aware of the scale of what we can do. And this is the exciting bit. There’s a crisis of faith in many countries, and it’s spreading. We are reacting to that crisis and breaking down the barriers to provide more access points for people to be able to connect with God.”

Perhaps it will happen. After all, if you can create a piece of technology that manages to unite the Kardashians and Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in their praise, then who knows what else you can do? Beccle seems excited. Costa seems amazed to be here at all. It feels, he says, like “an answer to prayer”.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Globalization, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Spirituality/Prayer, Theology

(Economist) The serious business of being a social influencer

t is a sure sign that a hot trend has reached the mainstream when the tax authorities catch up. This week China promised a tax-evasion crackdown on social-media influencers, who are paid by brands to promote products online to armies of followers. One of the big stars, Viya, a 30-something fashionista known as the live-streaming queen, has already been fined $210m for not declaring her income. The size of that levy shows the sheer scale of the industry, which accounts for 12% of online sales in China. Outside China, influencers are also likely to have an enduring role in e-commerce. For all firms with brands—and together those brands are worth over $7trn—it is time to realise that influencing is more than just a hobby.

The use of personal endorsements used to be about harnessing existing celebrity power. Elizabeth Taylor touted Colgate-Palmolive’s shampoo in the 1950s, and Michael Jordan’s deal in 1984 with Nike revolutionised both basketball and branding. Influencers turn the logic on its head: selling things helps make them more famous. Through curated feeds of clipped videos and filtered photos they offer recommendations to consumers, mingled with glimpses into their daily lives that give their artifice an aura of authenticity. Sometimes they disclose how they are paid. Often they do not.

Initially dismissed as credulous Gen-Z folk who had mistaken posting selfies for having a job, these entrepreneurs have become a big business, boosted further by the e-commerce surge from the pandemic.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Psychology, Theology

(WSJ) Moms in Middle Age: Rarely Alone, Often Online and Increasingly Lonely

Middle age is a crowded time. It’s also a lonely one. Work and family demands leave little time for nurturing friendships, particularly for women.

Pre-pandemic, conversations about loneliness often centered on men, with talk of a “loneliness epidemic.” But during lockdown, Generation X women, who range in age from 41 to 57 years old, reported the sharpest rise in loneliness, according to a survey of more than 1,000 adults conducted in the spring of 2020 by the Roots of Loneliness Project, a research organization. And the increase in social isolation reported by women living with children was also greatest among those from Gen X, according to an unpublished portion of the survey shared with The Wall Street Journal.

For women feeling burned out from holding family life and work together, social media has typically been the most convenient place to vent and seek connection. But going online has surfaced feelings of inadequacy and loneliness, many say.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Health & Medicine, Marriage & Family, Women

(NYT) The End of a Return-to-Office Date

The executives had a good feeling about Jan. 10, 2022 — the date when DocuSign’s 7,000 employees worldwide would finally come back to work.

This deadline wouldn’t be like that earlier one in May 2020, which was always a fantasy, or August 2020, which was a bit ambitious, or October 2021, a plan derailed by the Delta variant. Fourth time’s the charm.

“Every time we delay this we’re pushing off the inevitable,” said Joan Burke, the chief people officer, in a late November interview. “At some point in time DocuSign is going to be open.”

That some point in time is no longer in January. The Omicron variant interjected. Just as companies from Ford Motor to Lyft have done in the past week, DocuSign postponed again. In place of a new date came the company’s promise to “reassess our plans as 2022 unfolds.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

(The Economist) How to manage the Great Resignation–High staff churn is here to stay. Retention strategies require a rethink

The spike in staff departures known as the Great Resignation is centred on America: a record 3% of the workforce there quit their jobs in September. But employees in other places are also footloose. Resignations explain why job-to-job moves in Britain reached a record high in the third quarter of this year.

Some of the churn is transitory. It was hard to act on pent-up job dissatisfaction while economies were in free fall, so there is a post-pandemic backlog of job switches to clear. And more quitting now is not the same as sustained job-hopping later. As Melissa Swift of Mercer, a consultancy, notes, white-collar workers in search of higher purpose will choose a new employer carefully and stay longer.

But there is also reason to believe that higher rates of churn are here to stay. The prevalence of remote working means that more roles are plausible options for more jobseekers. And the pandemic has driven home the precariousness of life at the bottom of the income ladder. Resignation rates are highest in industries, like hospitality, that are full of low-wage workers who have lots of potentially risky face-to-face contact with colleagues and customers.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Science & Technology

(WSJ) China’s Biggest Movie Star Was Erased From the Internet, and the Mystery Is Why

Zhao Wei spent the past two decades as China’s equivalent of Reese Witherspoon, a beloved actress turned business mogul.

She directed award-winning films, sold millions of records as a pop singer and built a large following on social media, amassing 86 million fans on Weibo, China’s Twitter -like microblogging site. She also made a fortune as an investor in Chinese technology and entertainment companies.

Today, the 45-year-old star has been erased from the Chinese internet. Searches for her name on the country’s biggest video-streaming sites come up blank. Her projects, including the wildly popular TV series “My Fair Princess,” have been removed. Anyone looking up her acclaimed film “So Young” on China’s equivalent of Wikipedia wouldn’t know she was the director; the field now reads “——.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Asia, Blogging & the Internet, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(WSJ front page) Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show

Eva Behrens, a 17-year-old student at Redwood High School in Marin County, Calif., said she estimates half the girls in her grade struggle with body-image concerns tied to Instagram. “Every time I feel good about myself, I go over to Instagram, and then it all goes away,” she said.

When her classmate Molly Pitts, 17, arrived at high school, she found her peers using Instagram as a tool to measure their relative popularity. Students referred to the number of followers their peers had as if the number was stamped on their foreheads, she said.

Now, she said, when she looks at her number of followers on Instagram, it is most often a “kick in the gut.”

For years, there has been little debate among medical doctors that for some patients, Instagram and other social media exacerbate their conditions. Angela Guarda, director for the eating-disorders program at Johns Hopkins Hospital and an associate professor of psychiatry in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said it is common for her patients to say they learned from social media tips for how to restrict food intake or purge. She estimates that Instagram and other social-media apps play a role in the disorders of about half her patients.

“It’s the ones who are most vulnerable or are already developing a problem—the use of Instagram and other social media can escalate it,” she said.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology, Teens / Youth, Women

(NYT) Big Tech Has Outgrown This Planet

The already bonkers dollars of Big Tech have become even bonkers-er.

My colleagues and I have written a lot about the unreal sales, profits and oomph of America’s five technology titans — Apple, Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Facebook. This might feel like old news. Tech’s Titanic 5 have been big and rich for a long time, and they’ve gotten even more so as people and organizations have needed their products during the coronavirus pandemic. Yadda, yadda, yadda. We get it.

But no, we really don’t get it. American’s technology superstars have launched into a completely different stratosphere than even other wildly successful companies in tech and beyond.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Globalization, Science & Technology

Martyn Minns–Pittsburgh ad clerum on anti-social media

Today we are living with instant messaging in which many people document their every thought – almost in real time – on various social media platforms. There is no time to reflect on the impact of their words on the unsuspecting world. When they are feeling angry or hurt, social media is ready 24 hours a day to pass along the pain-filled sentiments to everyone. This is already generating unprecedented levels of depression and self-harming behavior among teenagers – both boys and girls. I have witnessed the potential for serious damage with our own grandchildren.

When I was a child – light years ago – we had a childhood chant: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words shall never hurt me!” It was intended to increase resiliency and avoid physical retaliation, but, sadly, it is simply not true. Hurtful words – uttered in person or via social media – can leave deep wounds long after physical scars might have healed. By way of response to this reality, our son and his wife have not only restricted the hours that social media is available in their home but also denied their 15-year-old son his own mobile phone – over considerable protestations!

I readily admit that the social media explosion has produced remarkable benefits. We are able to communicate with friends and family in ways that we never imagined. Angela serves as our family social media queen and stays in regular contact with our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and our rapidly growing global extended family. She passes along photographs, family news, and prayer needs, and because of her good efforts, we have stayed well connected throughout the pandemic lock down. We have even located high school friends with whom we had lost contact. I am also able to learn a great deal about the various clergy and churches that I now serve as interim bishop, because I can read through their websites and social media posts. But there is a dark side to all of this.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Language, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology, Theology

(NYT) Facebook’s Next Target: The Religious Experience

Months before the megachurch Hillsong opened its new outpost in Atlanta, its pastor sought advice on how to build a church in a pandemic.

From Facebook.

The social media giant had a proposition, Sam Collier, the pastor, recalled in an interview: to use the church as a case study to explore how churches can “go further farther on Facebook.”

For months Facebook developers met weekly with Hillsong and explored what the church would look like on Facebook and what apps they might create for financial giving, video capability or livestreaming. When it came time for Hillsong’s grand opening in June, the church issued a news release saying it was “partnering with Facebook” and began streaming its services exclusively on the platform.

Beyond that, Mr. Collier could not share many specifics — he had signed a nondisclosure agreement.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Religion & Culture

(C Of E) The church that grew out of a lockdown WhatsApp group

“Within a couple of days we had received lots of messages from people – mainly young adults,” Venessa said.

“We started engaging via WhatsApp on questions of spirituality and faith and out of that we began meeting on Zoom for social activities and to talk about faith. Gradually that transformed into something more formal and into an inter cultural worshipping community that we call Roots.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(CT) George Yancey–In the Push for Racial Justice, There’s a Middle Path Between Passivity and Aggression

….in our current society, we often deal with race by consistently trying to overpower our “enemies,” rather than by finding ways to communicate and persuade them of our perspective. Why can’t we work at finding common values and agreements? Why can’t we listen to each other until we accurately understand the interests and desires of others? Should not everyone be “quick to listen, slow to speak,” as James 1:19 reminds us?

Sometimes I think that we already know what we need to do to improve race relations but we simply don’t want to do it. But we are going to have to live in this society together. We are going to have to find answers to the racial issues of our day. We can choose to remain in a power struggle with each other, or we can begin to learn how to dialogue in a healthy fashion.

Many people on different sides of these racial issues have a vested interest in continuing our unproductive fighting. But if we learn to stop listening to those voices and start listening to each other, we can finally take important steps toward real racial unity and equality.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Apologetics, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology, Race/Race Relations, Religion & Culture

(Chris Martin) 10 Facts from New Pew Data on Social Media Usage

4) Young people flock to Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok.
Summarizing the data from the report, Brook Auxier and Monica Anderson write:

Majorities of 18- to 29-year-olds say they use Instagram or Snapchat and about half say they use TikTok, with those on the younger end of this cohort – ages 18 to 24 – being especially likely to report using Instagram (76%), Snapchat (75%) or TikTok (55%).

These shares stand in stark contrast to those in older age groups. For instance, while 65% of adults ages 18 to 29 say they use Snapchat, just 2% of those 65 and older report using the app – a difference of 63 percentage points.

This is probably the least surprising data of the whole study, if I’m being honest, but the stark contrast in age usages of these apps is notable.

5) About 95% of Americans ages 18-29 use YouTube, the highest usage rate of any social media platform by any demographic.
The greatest affinity between any demographic and any social media platform is 18-29-year-olds and YouTube. Check out this table (I’ve circled the stat for you). The darker the boxes on the table, the greater the affinity/usage.

YouTube is television for the youngest American adults, and I hesitate to say that 95% number could ever reach 100%, but it very well could.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Science & Technology

(RNS) Likes and prayers: Facebook tests new ‘prayer post’ feature

When the unfamiliar pop-up touting a new feature appeared on Robert P. Jones’ Facebook, the CEO and founder the CEO and founder of PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) posted a screen grab to Twitter.

“Wondering what fb algorithm thinks it knows about me?” Jones mused.

The new Facebook feature? Prayer posts. The function will allow members of Facebook groups to ask for and respond to prayer requests.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to Religion News Service that the social media platform is currently testing the prayer post feature.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Spirituality/Prayer

(PD) Adam Seagrave–The 50/50 Problem: How the Internet Is Distorting Our Reality

Many causes combined to produce the US Capitol insurrection on January 6. In the immediate aftermath, most of the blame has been assigned to Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric. Those inclined to look deeper connect the spark of Trump’s words to the tinder of extreme polarization that accompanied his presidency. Subgroups of Americans increasingly live in entirely different worlds from one another.

This is more than a metaphor. We—in the United States and throughout the world—have actually and quite literally lost the ability to interact and coexist in the common world we once shared.

I’m not just talking about conflicting worldviews, radically differing perspectives, disparate education, or political party polarization. I am talking about a specific, simple, everyday problem that has led to and reinforced all of these broader social and political causes. This is a problem so pervasive, so ubiquitous, so powerful, and so subtle that most of my readers probably have no idea what I’m about to say.

I’m referring to what I call the 50/50 problem: more than 50 percent of Americans spend more than 50 percent of their waking hours living in virtual, artificial worlds rather than the given, created one in which their bodies exist. The 50 percent threshold represents a tipping point that renders dialogue, deliberation, civic friendship, and compromise extraordinarily difficult in any society.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology

(University of Cambridge) Is Social Media Changing Your Life?

“Social media is inherently complex, but trying to set guidelines for ‘consumption’ the same way we do for alcohol or food – as policy makers have tried and failed to do – is a massive oversimplification,” says Orben.

Everybody uses social media differently, and it affects our lives in such a diversity of ways, that setting a recommended daily screen time is far from simple.

Orben adds: “You could use it for twenty minutes to keep in touch with family abroad, or twenty minutes to look at self-harm images on Instagram, for example. The relationship with mental health is really complicated.”

She has found that adolescents who use more social media score lower on mental health questionnaires – but it’s not clear whether social media makes them feel worse, or whether they turn to social media more when they feel worse. And of course, social media isn’t the only thing affecting how adolescents feel.

“There are other things like sleep, parenting, and environment that all affect wellbeing. I don’t think we have the evidence yet to say we should invest lots of money into decreasing social media use, and not invest in other things like youth clubs or better mental health care for adolescents,” she says.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Psychology, Science & Technology

(Sky News) Government urged to close loophole that allows extremists to radicalise others

The government has been urged to close a loophole in the law that allows extremists to operate with impunity, spreading hateful ideologies without fear of prosecution.

The Commission for Countering Extremism wants to see the introduction of a legal framework, enabling authorities to prosecute those who propagate harmful and hateful extremist views.

It said the “gaping chasm” in existing legislation meant many groups – from radical Islamists to far-right neo-Nazis – were able to spread hatred and radicalise others.

The commission – which was formed in the wake of the 2017 London Bridge attacks – said current legislation was focused on dealing with the threat of terrorism.

However, it meant that much extremist activity – so long as it did not cross a certain threshold – was not covered by the law.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General, Terrorism

Charleston, South Carolina’s St. John’s Chapel Experiences Growth through Social Media During COVID Pandemic

Before the lockdown, the Rev. Matthew Rivers wasn’t a fan of Facebook. But last spring when COVID-19 shut the doors of St. John’s Chapel, he reluctantly ventured into preaching via social media. To his surprise, the sermon and worship videos allowed the church to grow during the pandemic and expand the ministry far beyond its Eastside setting.

“God used the thing I wasn’t really enamored with, to enlarge the church,” Rivers said with a laugh.

In recent months, 22 new members have joined St. John’s Chapel, with about 30 percent discovering the church through its Facebook postings. In addition, more than 60,000 people around the world are following its Facebook services, which also feature the First Lady of the church, Chaplain Henrietta Rivers.

“The online ministry has been pivotal; St. John’s has been exposed,” Henrietta says. “We know God’s vision is larger than our small building.”

Read it all.

There are so many ways God can use us, especially when we follow him into uncomfortable and unknown places. Rev. Matthew…

Posted by The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina on Saturday, February 6, 2021

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * South Carolina, - Anglican: Latest News, --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Parish Ministry

(FT) Boom in private companies offering disinformation-for-hire

Politicians are increasingly hiring private companies to spread disinformation online, according to researchers who found campaigns run by third-party contractors targeting 48 different countries over the past year.

The Oxford Internet Institute said the “disinformation-for-hire” market is booming, with advertising, marketing and public relations companies offering to manipulate online opinion for political parties and governments.

The OII said private contractors help to identify which groups to target with messages, and then “prompt the trending of certain political messages” either through fake accounts or with armies of bots, or automated accounts.

Researchers said they had found evidence of at least $60m of spending on such campaigns since 2009, although the real total may be far higher.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(LA Times) Muslims reel over a prayer app that sold user data: ‘A betrayal from within our own community’

Five times a day, tens of millions of phones buzz with notifications from an app called Muslim Pro, reminding users it’s time to pray. While Muslims in Los Angeles woke Thursday to a dawn notification that read, “Fajr at 5:17 AM,” users in Sri Lanka were minutes away from getting a ping telling them it was time for Isha, or the night prayer.

The app’s Qibla compass quickly orients devices toward the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia — which Muslims face when praying. When prayers are done, the in-app Quran lets users pick up reading exactly where they left off. A counter tallies the days of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Listings guide users to halal food in their area.

These features make it easier to practice the many daily rituals prescribed in Islam, turning Muslim Pro into the most popular Muslim app in the world, according to the app’s maker, Singapore-based BitsMedia.

But revelations about the app’s data collection and sales practices have left some users wondering if the convenience is worth the risk.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology

(Wired) The Russian Hackers Playing ‘Chekhov’s Gun’ With US Infrastructure

Over the last half a decade, Russian state-sponsored hackers have triggered blackouts in Ukraine, released history’s most destructive computer worm, and stolen and leaked emails from Democratic targets in an effort to help elect Donald Trump. In that same stretch, one particular group of Kremlin-controlled hackers has gained a reputation for a very different habit: walking right up to the edge of cybersabotage—sometimes with hands-on-the-switches access to US critical infrastructure—and stopping just short.

Last week the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency published an advisory warning that a group known as Berserk Bear—or alternately Energetic Bear, TEMP.Isotope, and Dragonfly—had carried out a broad hacking campaign against US state, local, territorial, and tribal government agencies, as well aviation sector targets. The hackers breached the networks of at least two of those victims. The news of those intrusions, which was reported earlier last week by the news outlet Cyberscoop, presents the troubling but unconfirmed possibility that Russia may be laying the groundwork to disrupt the 2020 election with its access to election-adjacent local government IT systems.

In the context of Berserk Bear’s long history of US intrusions, though, it’s much harder to gauge the actual threat it poses. Since as early as 2012, cybersecurity researchers have been shocked to repeatedly find the group’s fingerprints deep inside infrastructure around the globe, from electric distribution utilities to nuclear power plants. Yet those researchers also say they’ve never seen Berserk Bear use that access to cause disruption. The group is a bit like Chekhov’s gun, hanging on the wall without being fired through all of Act I—and foreshadowing an ominous endgame at a critical moment for US democracy.

“What makes them unique is the fact that they have been so focused on infrastructure throughout their existence, whether it’s mining, oil, and natural gas in different countries or the grid,” says Vikram Thakur, a researcher at security firm Symantec who has tracked the group over several distinct hacking campaigns since 2013.

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Posted in --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, Russia, Science & Technology

(NBC) Best Story of the Week Candidate–Man’s Groovy Morning Commute Goes Viral

‘When Nathan Apodaca’s car broke down, he made a TikTok video of himself riding his longboard, drinking juice and listening to Fleetwood Mac. Now millions of Americans have enjoyed his video, and it’s changed his life forever.’

Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Music

(Phil Inquirer) Excessive social media use linked to depression during pandemic

Excessive social media use during the pandemic is a predictor of symptoms of depression and secondary trauma, suggests a new study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University and Jinan University in Guangzhou, China.

The study, published last month in Computers in Human Behavior, surveyed 320 participants living in Wuhan about how they accessed and shared health information with friends, family members, and colleagues over WeChat, China’s most popular social media app. They also used a stress scale to measure anxiety and depression by asking participants to rate statements such as “I felt that life was meaningless” and “I had disturbing dreams about the coronavirus epidemic.”

Bu Zhong, a journalism professor at Penn State and a coauthor of the study, said that the team began looking into the effects of social media use on people’s mental health right after Wuhan was locked down to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We didn’t expect that this would become a global pandemic,” he said. “We were just thinking that we could reveal some invisible harms caused by the outbreak. In China’s situation, local media was not reporting on COVID-19. If you just read the local newspaper and watched television, you didn’t get information about the virus. This made people extremely stressed, and they began relying overwhelmingly on social media.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Anthropology, Blogging & the Internet, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Pastoral Theology, Psychology, Science & Technology

(MIT News) Why social media has changed the world — and how to fix it

The numbers make this clear. In 2005, about 7 percent of American adults used social media. But by 2017, 80 percent of American adults used Facebook alone. About 3.5 billion people on the planet, out of 7.7 billion, are active social media participants. Globally, during a typical day, people post 500 million tweets, share over 10 billion pieces of Facebook content, and watch over a billion hours of YouTube video.

As social media platforms have grown, though, the once-prevalent, gauzy utopian vision of online community has disappeared. Along with the benefits of easy connectivity and increased information, social media has also become a vehicle for disinformation and political attacks from beyond sovereign borders.

“Social media disrupts our elections, our economy, and our health,” says Aral, who is the David Austin Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Now Aral has written a book about it. In “The Hype Machine,” published this month by Currency, a Random House imprint, Aral details why social media platforms have become so successful yet so problematic, and suggests ways to improve them.

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, Books, Science & Technology