Is Social Media Anti-social? I’m More Convinced Than Ever (Part II)

n-FACEBOOK-ADDICTION-large570

As a veteran of the computer industry, lover of technology and all things robotic, perfectly prepared to worship our all-mighty robot overlords when they spring up from the A.I-verse, I still haven’t changed my perspective on social media. See: Anti-Social Media (Part I). It is the bane of the First World’s existence.

Social media is believed to lead to shortening attention spans, reducing our ability to read, analyse, and comprehend longer works, reducing our ability to gauge emotion, it’s reducing our empathy to our fellow man and increasing narcissistic tendencies all over the developed world. It might even contribute to global warming.  Just wanted to get that out there so if you are a standard social media user, you’ll understood where I was going before your attention…waned.

Social media is the scourge of our century the same way rock and roll affected our grandparents in the Fifties. And like Rock and Roll, it isn’t going anywhere soon.

Response to The Shut-In EconomyYes, I know the benefits of technology. I recognize it allows us to have friends outside of our geographical area. It lets us connect to people who share our ideals and beliefs. It can also allow us access to publishing and more permanent forms of information manipulation bringing us closer to people who we might not have ever met in the flesh.

Technology has brought us drones that deliver packages to our doorsteps or hellfire missiles to our enemies in whatever third-world nation managed to piss off Fox News and the government this week. Technology has also put people out of work, caused the Uberfication of the modern workplace where once highly employable folks are driven to desperate measures working as Uber drivers, Task Rabbits or Alfreds for overworked, overpaid yuppies who live in overpriced apartments while carrying too much educational debt and having nothing resembling a social life for all that money.

(NOTE: if you don’t read anything else, read the article linked also linked above “The Shut-in Economy.” It paints a picture of the modern workplace and economy of workers that investors are wanting to create more of almost certainly ensuring society spins further out of control as economic inequality escalates.)

However, Social media, for all of its potential benefits, including its participation in world shaking events such as the Arab Spring protests and subsequent uprisings and the Hong Kong Protests, still strikes me more as a tool for addiction development than a benefit to society as a whole. A wide array of opinions around social media addiction exists.

“Any application that provides variable and strong rewards and is regularly accessible is potentially addictive,” Dr. Olif Turel, an information systems and decision sciences professor at California State University at Fullerton, said in a statement. “With social media, you never know what friends have posted, so it encourages regular use.”

Be with the friends who are here.But this is just some over-educated scientist’s opinion. You know how oppressive science can be when it comes to opinion. But if your dinner table looks like our opening photograph or you have a basket at your front door insisting your friends drop their addiction at the door, with a note saying: Be with the friends who are here!  You know what I’m talking about.

No matter what we may think of social media overall, we cannot deny its increasing intrusiveness, its crushing of personal creativity and potentially devastating effects on our economy. It’s estimated social media may have cost as much as $650 billion in lost revenue nationwide just from the two largest social media platforms of Facebook and Twitter.

Why do I mention this at all? Most of you will not change your habits, no matter how much you know about social media’s ill effects on you, your friends, the world, your pets, your health and your life in general. This article is for those times when you find yourself wondering if you are spending too much time online, whether your social media may be affecting your life in a negative way, when you look around and wonder if anyone has ever warned you about the potential detrimental effects on you or your business, the answer can be: Yes. You were warned. Now get up. Open the blinds, behold the sun, squint, take a shower, put on some clothes. Go outside. Say hello to someone without using your fingers. Who knows, you might even make a friend, in real time, locally who might actually go with you to the movies…together.

Watch the incredible animated video that follows. This video puts social media in the light I believe it needs to be seen in. Done to the tune of Carmen, no less. Enjoy!

Enjoy the awesome infographic: Thumbnail image courtesy of iDream_in_Infrared.

estimated cost of social media

Advertisements

Media Consolidation Means Less Consumer Choices

MEDIA | INFOGRAPHICS | COMMENTARY | 

Comcast said Thursday it had agreed to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion in a deal that would combine the two biggest cable companies in the United States.

Yes, this was the news that shocked the nation and threatened to make Comcast one of the largest service providers in the United States, arguably the world. Somehow the media managed to convince people it was no big deal and nothing would change for people who used their services. But there was more to it than that. This consolidation would not only cause people to lose their jobs, it would also cause organizations to have to worry that they would not be able to provide their services over the internet services that Comcast would now have even MORE control over. This is not just a struggle over customers, it is a struggle over content and who provides it. Don’t let anyone tell you this isn’t a problem. It is even bigger than it appears.

A few months ago, I wrote an article discussing the consolidation of media companies (Are You Still Looking for the Illuminati?) and how more and more of our media content is being generated and controlled by fewer and fewer organizations. I promised you an update to the graphic in the document so you could see how each of these mega-corporations  held dominion over what you saw and heard. Even this chart isn’t quite perfect but it is closer than the last one.

Media-Consolidation-Final

ULTRA CONCENTRATED MEDIA

mediacontrol51_03

Open in new window for larger image.

 

REFERENCES

Who Owns The Media?

Federal Communications Commission

The Real Reason They Still Play Mrs. Robinson on the Radio

The FCC’s Big Move to Curb Media Consolidation

One big reason we lack Internet competition: Starting an ISP is really hard

Can we stop worrying about Millennials yet?

I know it has been fashionable and even acceptable since Time magazine (pay-walled article) made it okay, but it is time to stop hating on the Millennials.

5303695-Time-Magazine-on-the-Me-Generation-Selfish-20

As a social group, they have enough issues without the socially acceptable, yet completely reprehensible treatment they receive in the media, particularly from the conservative side. But no one treats them particularly well, no matter which side of the fence you find yourself perched.

As an employer I have never had any issues working with them, understanding their expectations from work, or dealing with their often peculiar work ethic. I tried to treat them the way I would like to be treated with the understanding, their job was not the center of the Universe. And given how the workplace environment often treated them, I could completely relate to their viewpoint.

Poverty sucks

The Trickle Down Theory: The principle that the poor, who must subsist on the table scraps dropped by the rich, can best be served by giving the rich, bigger meals. –William Blum

Seeing how I don’t happen to agree with that happily Reaganesque mindset either, enjoy playing a wide array of video games, like leaving work on time (screw unpaid overtime), focusing my time for things and people I enjoy like skateboarding, hang-gliding, pub-crawling, playing with my son and utilizing social media technology, in some ways, even though there are a few decades between our ages, I am completely in sync with their viewpoint.

The Boomer generation which currently rules the economic world and is giving themselves the best of executive pay, exotic homes and off-shore bank accounts seems completely dickish by complaining about a social group that starts with so little all things considered and expected to handle the worst of the Boomer excesses while starting off in debt, with poor credit, with criminalized poverty, no homes, no cars and little in the way of effective training in “How to Screw Over Your Fellow Workers While You Dine, Shark-like, on Their Inner Organs.”

Lately, I have been questioning the wisdom of indenturing out children with the idea they should have to pay for an education. I recognize we are a profit-driven society, but I believe paying for education should be something society does for our children, not the other way around. We invest in them so they can, return that investment in the development, improvement and effective management of the Commons. In countries like Sweden, Finland and places where reason is still a facet of their social consciousness, they recognize investment in youth, improving their lifestyles in the future. They look at us with nothing but contempt. I secretly sneer with them…

This should be a no-brainer. Instead, someone decided they should not only pay for education, but it should cost them as much as a home in the Midwestern United States. Anywhere from $30,000 to $250,ooo ended up seeming like a reasonable amount of money to pay for an education.

But wait, there’s more. We have also told them they should leave college in great debt, bearing great responsibility (paraphrasing Spider-Man) and do it with minimum wage pay. When you do the math, using the debt they leave college with and assuming minimum wage pay, it will take nearly as long as a 30 year mortgage to pay off and cost double the amount of the starting debt.

We have told our children that they have to save the world while being handicapped with major debt while starting off poorly socialized. Consumer technologically literate and hyper-connected but only interested in things which promote their internet meme of choice and assorted cat videos. Cursed with short attention-spans and the entire bulk of the world’s knowledge at their fingertips, they flit from info-bit to info-bit, full of memes and fury, signifying nothing.

So, how about we get off their backs, give them some tools, get away from our partisan political bickering, stop putting wealth and profit before streets, sewers, bridges and opportunity to participate in what was once one of the greatest economies in the world and find a way to help them with the long, damned list of things that have been screwed up under our watch during the era of Saint Reagan and the Greed Over People party. And no, I won’t give the Democrats a pass because they did their share of dirt too. They just appeared to care a bit more (and seemed more emotionally disturbed when they were caught doing dirt) while they were doing it.

The Millennials with our help will have to tackle a long list of issues. What issues? Here is a quick and dirty list:

  • reasonable and affordable health care,
  • a collapsing economic structure that needs a complete retooling,
  • reducing military interactions in foreign countries,
  • feeding and caring for the disenfranchised members of our societies,
  • our failing education system and improving its quality,
  • economic disparity between the rich and poor,
  • the digital divide all over the world and in all layers of economic strata,
  • effective socio-economic relationships with other sovereign nations,
  • global climate control and management,
  • toxic waste and overall waste management,
  • desertification of our food producing areas on our planet,
  • destruction of our planet’s rain forests at 20 square miles a day,
  • eradication of cancer,
  • HIV, AIDS, and management of growing list of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, 
  • renewable energy development,
  • loss of fossil fuels and what that means to our lifestyles,
  • failing infrastructures of power and roads and
  • corporate malfeasance just to name the few I could think of in about 30 seconds. 

Can we stop worrying about Millennials yet? We have so many other, more important things to deal with…

bors-millennial-comicstrip4

Don’t get me started on Instagram…

E-waste Explosion Continues…

metrofax-growing-concern-of-ewaste-lead

Having talked about E-waste in past articles on Open Salon (Forget About Saving the Earth… and on the Good Men Project in Gadgets: A Perfect Storm of Wrong) this recent info-graphic embodies more up to date information from the EPA reinforcing the idea we are not handling the development of technology in a responsible manner for the simplest of reasons: No one is being held economically culpable for the development of new devices without concern for the disposal of the old technology.

What should happen from the development of any portable technology is a disposal fee built right into the cost of the device. The provider pays a part and the customer pays a part. When it’s time to dispose of the tech it is sent to a facility to maximize its safe disposal rather than shipping it overseas and allowing the lowest paid labor to handle the disposal in the most toxic method possible, usually by burning it, releasing long-lived and deadly dioxins into the atmosphere.

Remember, this info-graphic only discusses e-waste produced in the United States. As other countries ramp up their production, these numbers will continue to skyrocket. The only thing we know about e-waste for sure is eventually it will be coming to a landfill or garbage disposal facility near you. You won’t have a choice unless we start handling this problem today.

There IS a War on Women

Many have said the war on women doesn’t exist, that it’s a ploy by the left to demonize Republicans. But what have we seen since they took over the house and stormed state legislatures across the country in 2010?

We’ve seen no comprehensive jobs bills, no bills drafted to try to stabilize the economy or rein in the criminal excesses of Wall Street and the banking worlds; we’ve witnessed continued, unrelenting obstructionism…

And we’ve seen the passage of an unprecedented number of bills meant to limit women’s access to health care and abortion services, which, may I remind you, remains legal in the United States of America. By the end of 2011, 135 pieces of legislation had been passed out of 1100 introduced, and in 2012 alone over 30 new provisions or measures have already been enacted out of 944 bills introduced.

Here’s the reason government can’t vote in the interest of the people.

PVpFY1

Looking at the agencies, businesses and government and how porous these groups are, it is not hard to see why our government is unable to make decisions unaffected by lobbyists and special interests. Many of these charts show government officials who move back and forth between the government and leadership roles in corporations with special interests or seeking to craft laws to benefit the corporations in question.  Here is an excerpt from Public Citizen, an agency concerned with the revolving door between government and private enterprise and the potential conflict of interests:

“Revolving Door” Restrictions on Federal Employees Becoming Lobbyists

“Revolving door” is a term commonly used to describe a potentially corrupting interrelationship between the private sector and public service. The term is used to describe three distinct transitions for individuals between the private sector and public service:

  • The Government-to-Lobbyist Revolving Door, through which former lawmakers and government employees use their inside connections and knowledge to advance the policy and regulatory interests of their industry clients.
  • The Government-to-Industry Revolving Door, through which public officials move to lucrative private sector roles from which they can use their public service and experience to compromise government procurement contracts and regulatory policy.
  • The Industry-to-Government “Reverse” Revolving Door, through which the appointment of industry leaders and employees to key posts in federal agencies may establish a pro-business bias in policy formulation and regulatory enforcement.

Each of these types of revolving door situations is subject to different statutory and regulatory restrictions.

This fact sheet discusses regulation of the government-to-lobbyist revolving door, which first took shape at the federal level with the Ethics in Government Act of 1978. This law called for a “cooling off” period between retiring as a senior governmental employee in the executive branch of government and representing private interests before executive agencies as a lobbyist. The cooling off period was expanded to include members of Congress and senior congressional staff about a decade later in the Ethics Reform Act of 1989.

Since that time additional statutory and regulatory constraints have addressed some of the problems and abuses associated with the government-to-lobbyist revolving door. These include conflict of interest restrictions on negotiating future employment while serving as a public official, lobbying on legislation in which the former public official played a substantial role in shaping, representing foreign interests and governments, as well as the cooling off period. Although there are similarities of revolving door restrictions applying to officers and employees of the Senate, the House and the executive branch, these restrictions do vary significantly between the two branches of government and the level of government service.

The revolving door of former government officials-turned-lobbyists raises at least two serious ethical concerns:

  • The revolving door can cast significant doubt on the integrity of official actions and legislation. A Member of Congress or a government employee could well be influenced in their official actions by promises of high-paying jobs in the private sector from a business that has a pecuniary interest in the official’s actions while in government.
  • Former government officials turned lobbyists bring with them special attributes developed while working as a public servant. They typically have developed a closed network of friends and colleagues still in government service that they can tap on behalf of their paying clients as well as insider knowledge of legislators and public officials, legislation and the legislative process not available to others. In effect, former officials can “cash in” on their experience as a public servant.

In order to minimize abuses, federal revolving door policies attempt to address both of these concerns: Reducing the conflict of interests that may arise in negotiating future employment while a public employee; and limiting the lobbying activities of former officials for a specified period of time after leaving public office.

Negotiating Future Employment

Conflict of interest laws and regulations governing when and how public officials may seek future employment are very different between the executive branches and Congress. These different restrictions are as follows:

  • Executive Branch Officials and Employees
  • Officers and employees in the executive branch, are generally prohibited from seeking future employment and working on official acts simultaneously, if the official actions may be of significant benefit to the potential employer.[1]
  • Waivers may be granted to this prohibition for a number of reasons, as when the employee’s self-interest is “not so substantial” as to affect the integrity of services provided by the employee, or if the need for the employee’s services outweighs the potential for a conflict of interest, according to federal regulations.[2]
  • The granting of waivers is the responsibility of the director of each executive agency, though the Office of Governmental Ethics (OGE) – the agency that oversees the code of ethics for the executive branch – offers guidelines for waivers.[3]
  • Because of inconsistencies in the standards for granting waivers, President Bush issued an executive order on  January 6, 2004, requiring that agencies first consult with the White House Office of General Counsel. Waivers are not formally public record, unless requested through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).[4]

2.   Congressional Officials and Employees

Other than anti-bribery laws, for members of Congress and their staff:

  • No conflict of interest statute exists, similar to the executive branch, regulating negotiations of future employment.
  • Rules are described in the House and Senate code of ethics, which prohibit members and staff from receiving compensation “by virtue of influence improperly exerted” from their official positions.
  • The rules advise members and staff to recuse themselves from official actions of interest to a prospective employer while job negotiations are underway and for members to seek prior approval from the ethics committee about conducting such job negotiations. However, recusal is not mandatory and there is no system of waivers or public disclosure of these potential conflicts of interest.[5]

Post-Government “Cooling Off” Period

Under criminal statutes, Members of Congress and the employees of both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government are subject to restrictions on post-government lobbying activities.[6]   These restrictions include:

  1. One year “cooling-off” period on lobbying. Generally, former Members of Congress and senior level staff of both the executive and legislative branches are prohibited from making direct lobbying contacts with former colleagues for one year after leaving public service. Specifically:
  • Former members of Congress may not directly communicate with any member, officer or employee of either house of Congress with the intent to influence official action.
  • Senior congressional staff (having made at least 75 percent of a member’s salary) may not make direct lobbying contacts with members of Congress they served, or the members and staff of legislative committees or offices in which they served.
  • Former members of Congress and senior staff also may not represent, aid or advise a foreign government or foreign political party with the intent to influence a decision by any federal official in the executive or legislative branches.
  • “Very senior” staff of the executive branch, classified according to salary ranges, are prohibited from making direct lobbying contacts with any political appointee in the executive branch.
  • “Senior” staff of the executive branch, those previously paid at Executive Schedule V and up, are prohibited from making direct lobbying contacts with their former agency or on behalf of a foreign government or foreign political party.
  • Any former governmental employee, regardless of previous salary, may not use confidential information obtained by means of personal and substantial participation in trade or treaty negotiations in representing, aiding or advising anyone other than the United States regarding those negotiations.
  1. Two-year ban on “switching sides” by supervisory staff of the executive branch. Senior staff in the executive branch who served in a supervisory role over an official matter that involved a specific party, such as a government contract, may not make lobbying contacts on the same matter with executive agencies for two years after leaving public service.
  2. Life-time ban on “switching sides” by executive branch personnel substantially and personally involved in the matter. Senior staff in the executive branch who were substantially and personally involved in an official matter that involved a specific party, such as a government contract, are permanently prohibited from making lobbying contacts on the same matter with executive agencies.

The “cooling off” period applies only to making lobbying contacts with the restricted government agencies or personnel. As a result, a former public official or former senior government employee may research relevant issues, develop lobbying strategies and supervise those lobbying their former agencies or personnel immediately upon leaving office, so long as the former official does not make the actual lobbying contact during the cooling off period. The former official simply directs other lobbyists to make the contact.

July 25, 2005

Endnotes


[1]18 U.S.C. §208.

[2]5 C.F.R. § 2640.301(a).

[3] 5 USC 402.

[4] Andrew Card, “Memorandom for the Heads of Executive Departments & Agencies Re: Policy on Section 208 (B)(1) Waivers with Respect to Negotiations,” January 6, 2004.

[5]House Rule 47; Senate Rule 37.

[6]18 U.S.C. 207.