Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Facebook – yet another intrusion into your privacy

Yes they want to spy on your facial features in real-time so they can judge your mood and target you with relevant adverts. Just split up? Have some booze. Where will it end?

Facebook was granted  a patent in 2015 for emotion-detection software that will allow them to discreetly take control of your phone or computer camera while you are browsing so they can analyse your emotions. Then they can serve you uplifting adverts. Or manipulate you in other ways of course. They will be spying on you without your knowledge.

Facebook calls this spyware “passive imaging data” which means its taking footage when you’ve not got your device switched on. Then an algorithm (they love their algorithms at Facebook (and Amazon too for that matter) decides if you are happy sad or bored.

Facebook has continued in its quest to analyse your emotions and manipulate you by getting patents that analyses how hard and fast you type  and adjust the font size or change the emoji to reflect your mood. In fact the have another where they analyse your facial expression instead.

They’ve already been criticised for telling advertisers that it could identify when teenagers felt insecure” or “worthless” and in need of a confidence boost.

You have to ask about Facebook‘s ethics here. Never mind that fact that they are lax in closing down jihadis and hate sites, relying on the public rather than employing enough people to monitor the platform, this is yet another intrusion into your personal space.

Zuckerberg is a messianic about this believing that no-one should have any boundaries and we should all share information (except himself). It’s time Facebook and the other tech companies learnt to respect their users a bit more.

If the government did this there would be an uproar. Companies like Facebook try to operate globally so they can avoid legal restrictions (and tax).

Part of this I blame on the freebie culture and sense of entitlement among young people. If they had to pay for Facebook directly (rather than through the advertising revenue Facebook generates) they might think differently. However given they way they voted in the recent general election I doubt it. One day they will realise that nothing in life is free.


1 Comment

Social media really is bad for kids (as if you didn’t already know this)

It only takes one hour a day on social media to make children unhappy, whether it’s Facebook or Snapchat or any other platform.

Researchers at the University of Sheffield asked 4,000 10-15 year-olds to rate how happy they were with different aspects of their lives.

They found that the more time children spent chatting online the less happy they were about their school and work, their appearance, their family and their life in general.

Spending only 1 hour a day on social networks reduced the probability of a child being completely happy with his or her life by 14%.

This is three times higher than the impact of being in a single-parent household and greater than the effect of playing truant.

However they did feel happier about their friendships. They just haven’t realised that social media friends are not real friends as previous research has shown. Spending time on social networks can actually make you feel more lonely.

Some experts argue that spending time on social networks diverse children from risky behaviours such as smoking and under-age drinking (but what about sexting?) while other studies show that it contributes to poor mental health, especially among girls. And in this study it was also the girls who felt worse about their appearance and their school.

90% of 16-24 year-olds use online social networks and younger users routinely get round the 13 year threshold for users. More than three-quarters of 10-12 year-olds have social media accounts. According to Ofcom children aged 8-11 send 11 hours a week on social media and 12-15 year-olds almost 19 hours, both figures double what they were 10 years ago.

But do the social network providers care? Of course not, it’s all about advertising revenue for them and the earlier they catch people the better as far as they’re concerned. You only have to look at the resistance of Google/YouTube to doing anything about the hate videos and pornography to realise what drives them. $$$$…

And it’s interesting that the likes of the late Steve Jobs and other Silicon Valley techno-billionaires didn’t allow their own kids to access social networks.


Facebook helping you suss out snoopers

It’s not often I say anything good about Facebook (and I’m still not happy with their attitude to fake news – expecting the public to discover it rather than spend money on doing it themselves – not unlike YouTube).

But dwelling on a positive for a moment. Facebook has introduced a facility so you can check who’s been looking at you. So your ex-partners or other leery types will no longer be able to stalk you anonymously.

Look for the Stories feature at the top of your news feed in the Facebook app. Tap on the roundel for any friend and you will get any short video clips or pictures they have uploaded in the past 24 hours.

This collection of selfies and video footage of your wildest moments are likely to be of much interest to anyone checking you out. Unlike ordinary updates the creators of the post can see exactly who has looked at them.

Facebook has never previously allowed users to know who was looking at their updates. A study found that a third of users in a relationship regularly checked out their partner’s Facebook page and a third continue to do so after a breakup.

This is known to have negative effects. Regular monitoring of an ex online is associated with “greater distress over the break-up, more negative feelings, more sexual desire, more longing for the ex-partner, and lower personal growth”

I knew there were many reasons I disliked Facebook!


1 Comment

Social media makes you more lonely

I’ve been saying it for years (see my first post about it in 2010), social media is bad for you.

It lowers your self-esteem, makes you depressed, more narcissistic, makes you more stupid, and I could go on, especially about Facebook (See here).

Do the social media giants care? of course not. All they care about is large numbers, your personal data, and advertising.

The truth is that social media apps designed to help you communicate with other people actually make you feel more lonely.

The more time young adults spend on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and similar sites the more likely they are to feel cutoff. More than two hours a day of social media use doubles the chance of a person experiencing social isolation.

Both higher numbers of visits and the total time spent online have negative effects according to the American research, carried out in 2014 on almost 1800 people aged 19-32 years of age, by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

The researchers said “we are inherently social creatures but modern life tends to compartmentalise us instead of bringing us together”.

They believe that social media use displaces more authentic experiences because the more time a person spends online, the less time is left for real-life contacts. Obvious really.


1 Comment

Should we dumb down our smartphones to stop us becoming more stupid?

Last September I asked on my other blog: Have we finally realised we need to unplug ourselves from endless apps and social media connections?

aansyq1I described the Light Phone and the fact that the old Nokia 3310 from 2000 was selling well on the internet. Now it’s been announced that the Nokia will be sold again with a larger colour screen but with only basic call and text facilities for around £49 in the UK.

It seems that the smartphone idea was being dumbed-down. Is that a bad idea?

Well in the Times Body & Soul section last weekend they asked “is your smartphone making you stupid?.

41-epxoutyl-_sx309_bo1204203200_They thought it was – if you count a fleeting attention span, a poorer memory, and a more passive intellect as signs of increasing stupidity.

Arianna Huffington‘s book “Thrive: The third metric to redefining success and creating a happier life” made similar points referring to the downside of online life as poor sleep, low attention span, diminishing empathy, not to mention wasted time.

And in Adam Alter‘s new book “Irresistible. The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked” or in the UK edition “Why we can’t stop checking, scrolling, clicking and watching” the author , an associate professor of marketing at New York University’s school of business, describes how the internet changes your brain.

41xdmdoe5wl-_sx336_bo1204203200_Or as he says “Once your cucumber brain is pickled it can never go back to being a cucumber”. Tech companies manipulate you in all sorts of ways using random reinforcement methods (like slot machines), where the unexpected win increases the level of the pleasure chemical dopamine in the brain e.g. using “likes” – you have to check your post because you’re not sure how it will be received.

A company designed an app, Lovematically, that automatically liked everything you posted . It was banned within two hours. Instagram (owned by Facebook) wanted to remain the dealer not have the “online crack” given away for free.

And he’s not the only one writing about this. Nicholas Carr’s book “The Shallows: what the internet is doing to your brain” was listed for a Pulitzer prize in 2011 so he’s been making his points for a few years now.

41gwbs8qckl-_sx327_bo1204203200_He thinks “We’ve never had a technology so intrusive into our moment by moment thinking, perception and attention. … it hijacks our attention faculty. Instead of choosing what we focus on we begin to focus the newest thing on our smartphone, whether it’s important or not”.

He points out that our short-term memory has a limited capacity but the contents can be transferred to our long-term memory through making associations and connections. He says “everyone who has a smartphone and is honest with themselves knows that it is shaping their consciousness and the way they think or don’t think

He cites research at Stanford University which found that media multi-taskers (never a good idea) i.e. those who jump from one social media app to another, browsing or posting, had a weakened anterior cingulate cortex, that part of the brain area involved in high level information and emotion processing. They had smaller grey matter density and decreased cognitive control. 

So  a shrunken brain, more impulsive, and less empathetic?

Larry Rosen, a professor in psychology at California State University, agrees about the effect of smartphones and says “We don’t process information as deeply any more. Our brains are wired to process it just enough to get it through the moment, knowing full well that if we need it, we know where to find it again because we have this great external memory called Mr Google“.

41qm9rez-wl-_ac_us218_ 41r7ybyxnjl-_ac_us218_Author of “iDisorder: Understanding our obsession with technology and overcoming its hold on us”  and co-author of “Distracted Minds: Ancient Brains in a high tech world“, he believes the short attention span we now have is linked to smartphone technology.

The smartphone “stimulated this concept of ‘do it and get out’. We’re very task driven and categorise every action as a task.”

Now that we don’t have to rely on our recall as much we’ll see less of the taxi-driver effect where their hippcampuses, the part of the brain associated with long-term memory and spatial awareness, became more developed than normal because of learning “the knowledge.

Tech companies like to promote intelligence based on the idea that the more information we take in the smarter we get. Carr believes the opposite is true. “We don’t get smart, we don’t become knowledgeable through the speed with which we take in information, but through our ability to synthesise information into context, into some broader understanding of the world”.

He argues that feeding us information like feeding babies milk makes us more dependent, lazier and more accepting. We become less able to apply intellectual or critical analyses to the information.

Acquiring true knowledge takes time and “requires us to think without interruption or distraction. All higher forms of thought, reasoning, critical thinking, require control over our attention; require the ability to turn off the flow of information and think deeply and over an extended period of time about things.

To develop common sense we need to think for ourselves says Richard Graham, a psychiatrist and technology addiction specialist in London. “Otherwise we become passive recipients of all sorts of information – one would file fake news into that category. One absolutely needs to have that mental agility and critical thinking to not become passive to information and judgement”.

So not looking good is it? And there’s more. What about its impact on our creativity? Well smartphones and social media might enable collaboration but being “always on” doesn’t allow much time for daydreaming which, according to neuroscientists at the University of California, leads to the brain engaging in a default mode of neural processing linked to “positive mental health  and cognitive abilities like reading, comprehension, and divergent thinking“.

While bouncing ideas off people can lead to creativity “original individual thinking does require an ability to be contemplative and reflective and introspective. None of these things can happen when you’re completely bombarded with information” says Carr.

And talking of collaboration, social media users might believe that they’re being thoughtful sending messages to their “friends” but it’s a fairly shallow and primitive method. Is sending someone a text message as meaningful as writing a letter or sending a card? “Online empathy is weak empathy and not as good as real-world empathy”. 

Sending a text message is often an emotional response without any thought going into it because it’s too easy. That lack of time for reflection makes us less human. No matter how many friends you think you have online the sad truth is that most of them aren’t real friends.

And part of this is due to the fact that we hate being bored. Students would rather give themselves electric shocks than sit quietly in a room for 15 minutes (University of Virginia). It seems we’d rather play mindless games that reward us with flashing lights or different levels than sit and reflect.

Have you noticed that when you watch a TV series on Amazon or a film on Netflix it automatically moves to the next episode? Its default setting is opting in not out and given our predilection for generally not changing things (Brexit being a rare counter example) its easy to see how viewers get sucked in.

Alter says silicon valley leaders are hypocrites who know the damage they are doing to people’s lives. Steve Jobs banned his kids from having iPads and many restrict screen time. He says games designers avoid playing World of Warcraft because they’ve seen how immersive socially interactive games can turn intelligent but lonely young men into overweight college dropouts.

The designer of Flappy Bird actually took the game app down because he feared the effect it was having on people.

So what’s to be done if we are not to succumb to smartphone induced mediocrity? Alter suggests the usual such as parental restraints, stopping programmes before the end so you can resist the next instalment (bloody annoying if you ask me) , or punishing yourself.

One tech entrepreneur apparently hired a woman from Craigslist to slap him across the face ever time he opened his Facebook account. You can use a program called WastenoTime which blocks you accessing youTube or Facebook between certain hours. Or if you use your smartphone more than an agreed number of hours you can pledge to donate to a cause you hate.

Or you can just leave your phone at home and go out for some fresh air.

I’ve posted before about nomophobia and trying to overcome anxiety from FOMO or FOBO? Research shows that half of smartphone owners are spending two to four  hours on our phones every day and say they couldn’t live without it, and a quarter of them more than that.

If you’re in denial about how much time you spend on your phone you can get an app called Moment which tracks how much time you spend on it. Try it, it might be a wake-up call to get a life! 


Facebook used by Hamas to lure Israeli soldiers

thief_coming_from_monitor_1600_wht_10122The Israeli army has used Facebook in the past to catch people trying to avoid national service.

Now its sworn enemy Hamas has used the same social media tool to try and lure Israeli soldiers into conversations by opening fake accounts with racy photographs of  girls taken from real accounts.

They then ask the soldiers to download a video messaging app which was in fact malware which allowed them to hack the contents of the phones and activate the cameras and microphones.

They hoped to get photos and information from inside army bases and armoured vehicles. The honeytrap operation lasted for a month and was focused on troops near the Gaza border.

Israeli intelligence  sources said that no sensitive information was hacked and that the majority of troops hacked were low-ranking. “There was a potential for serious harm to national security but the actual damage done as minor. Anyone who was infected is not any more”.

Previously Hamas has tried to infiltrate Facebook groups (of which there are thousands) used by army units by posing as Israeli soldiers in order to access sensitive information.

Hamas declined to comment. As far as I know no-one has asked Jeremy Corbin.

Facebook – why should anyone trust it? Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t – he employs a dozen people to censor comments about it and him.

 


Facebook can be used against you

ulearn2bu

dislike_ink_stamp_1600_wht_9113If you publicise your extravagant social activities on Facebook and other social media you run the risk of it being held against you.

Not just in your career (about which I have posted previously elsewhere) but in getting a mortgage or a loan .

A new company called Big Data Scoring is offering its services to banks and other financial organisations and says there has been a lot of interest.

It uses models and algorithms to predict the likelihood you will default on a loan based on thousands of data points including social media, blogs, web pages you have visited and information available on google.

Lenders ask permission from Facebook account holders to access the information as part of the loan application.”This is not as stalkerish as it sounds.We don’t look at the photographs or read people’s messages. We focus on the overall nature of the profile – how…

View original post 497 more words