Updated: Aug 8, 2022
I'm watching The Politician on Netflix while working out. Deep into the second season, there is a teen and mom in their kitchen, arguing about which state senator to vote for in the upcoming New York election.
Teen is first time voter, just 18, and wants to vote for the 24 yr old male candidate running on the Green ticket, vs. the mid-aged female 20 yr incumbent, virtually unchallenged in every election till now.
“Boomer,” the child mocks her mother who is listing the contributions of the older incumbent against the sole climate platform the 24 yr old is running on. “The world is gonna end in 10 yrs, Mom.”
“I am barely a boomer, okay?” Mom defends. “So don't throw that shit at me,” she says. “And the world is not going to end in 10 yrs, Jayne!” She goes on and lists all she does for her daughter, the vegan cooking, the composting, even the hyper-vigilant recycling her child insists on. “And still, I am the problem, according to you.”
“Not YOU, mom. People your age.”
Right about now I feel my body tense as I run on the machine. I AM her mother's age.
“Let me tell ya something, Jayne. People YOUR age think you know everything and you are fucking naive. When I was your age, I thought I knew everything too.”
“We're not naive, mom. We're INFORMED. You had, what, like two newspapers, three networks. I've got a SUPER COMPUTER in my pocket.”
She is, of course, referring to her cellphone, and, in fact, showing how naive this child really is.
Unfortunately, mom didn't come back at Jayne. Mom doesn't know (nor the writers of the show) that the SUPER COMPUTER in both their pockets, well, isn't informing them of anything but what they already believe. So, in effect, it is MANIPULATING this ignorant, yet rather arrogant child, and anyone else who believes they have a SUPER COMPUTER in their cellphone.
The cellphone we all carry around is a RECOMMENDATION ENGINE. It isn't INFORMING us, it is RECOMMENDING we read, watch, buy, and even think about what Google, Facebook, Instagram...etc., wants us to. Every social platform we are on, every YouTube vid we watch, every document we SEARCH for, shows us what their AI algorithms think we'll be RECEPTIVE to. Marketing knows that it pisses most of us off getting information opposed to what we already believe, regardless of the truth in the information. And they want to endear themselves to customers, not piss us off.
Today's internet does NOT deliver access to unfettered information like the world wide web once did. You'll be hard-pressed to find anything that isn't already somewhere in your belief system. Search for anything now, you will ONLY get back what Google thinks you are amenable to seeing, as you are more likely to buy the offerings, or into the messaging of their affiliate advertisers if you, or people with behavior like yours, have engaged with the brand.
Now, the internet is a MARKETING ENGINE to make these social media platforms money. Every time you log onto Instagram, Facebook, YouTube or Google, they 'scrape' your posts, simultaneously putting 'cookies' on your mobile and laptop to follow you wherever you go on the net, and in real life, as your phones have an accelerometer in them, which says how fast you are moving, and GPS to inform Google and their like where you are on the planet, revealing when and where you shop, what you buy, how much you spend, what you read, watch, glance at, or frequently visit.
Machine Learning, Natural Language Process, Deep Learning, AI, are all software processes that analyze data from trillions of posts, IMs, and searches, and then CORRELATE that data for patterns of behavior through COLLABORATIVE FILTERING.
COLLABORATIVE FILTERS [à la] Wikipedia:
Collaborative filtering is a method of making automatic predictions (filtering) about the interests of a user by collecting preferences or taste information from many users (collaborating).
In other words, gathering and filtering your data from the net tells Google and Facebook what you will likely buy, or rhetoric you likely believe in. Then these social platforms slam you with marketing targeted @ YOU, not "For You," as they claim.
They tell you it's to HELP YOU find things you like quicker. But this isn't exactly the truth. Netflix's recommendation engine returns only movies they have purchased rights to show their subscribers. The fewer movies and series they have to offer, the less likely they are to match your interests.
Google SEARCH is the only way to find anything now, locally or globally, since phone books don't exist anymore. But Google is ONLY returning the businesses buying the most ad space and spending the most money on their platforms. I used to get pages and pages of returns on any given subject 10 yrs ago. Now I only get a few pages before Google says, “We have omitted some entries very similar to those already displayed.” And while they do indicate you can search the omissions, this too is a joke. Google simply will not give you information that they feel you don't need (and won't serve their agenda), based on your internet and cellphone usage history.
My 19 yr old daughter, and most of her friends, are on the same page as Jayne in The Politician. They are simply ignorant of what it is they are addicted to, and how their phones are manipulating them to THINK, FEEL and ACT the way these social platforms and their affiliate marketers want her to. She is SURE that “no one is manipulating ME, Mom!” She “knows” when she's being hit with ads, and she “just ignores them.”
My daughter, you, me, can't ignore them when we don't even know they are happening while we IM through Facebook on our mobile.
Mary is IMing a good friend on Facebook, whining about her marriage "in crisis."
Facebook's algorithms are scraping her and her friend's IM for SENTIMENT ANALYSIS to find out where Mary might be vulnerable to purchase something...anything really, as FB has advertisers that sell just about everything.
The next ad Mary sees on her mobile is an ad for a singles dating site. The ad is targeted at divorcees, showing an older woman having fun with a stunning man, and the copy says, “Your second change at true love.” In a few short sentences the copy describes the relationship you'll find on their site like a Cinderella story, the evil step-mom played by the partner's spouse.
A while later, Mary goes on to YouTube, and the next series of ads she sees vacillate from singles dating sites to divorce lawyers. The ads appear on the side of her emails, and in her Instagram feed, and most anywhere she goes online.
Mary never mentioned divorcing her husband when IMing her friend. She'd not even thought of it, really. In fact, she's frequently sounded off about her relationship to friends through IM, as many do. And it isn't the first time Mary has gotten these dating and lawyer ads. It's been going on a long time now, one ad after the other every time she even posts a back-handed joke about marriage in general, regardless if through her phone or laptop. And after this last fight with her husband, well, like the ads keep saying, Mary deserves more! Like the ads say, she can find someone better than her husband. And like the ads say, a divorce will, “Open her life to the possible!”
These ads appear whenever Mary is feeling vulnerable about her marriage. (Marketing is an iterative process.) And instead of looking to make it work with her husband, after a while all Mary wants to do is divorce, and open her life up to new possibilities.
To Google, Facebook, Mary's divorce is a WIN! Their algorithms and the engineers who code them don't know they've torn apart a family, for their profit. The software did its job and rewarded their advertisers. Some lawyer who advertises on their site just got themselves a client. Some dating app that spends millions annually in affiliate marketing on their platform just got a new subscriber. Multiply that with the hundreds of thousands of businesses doing affiliate marketing on the net, and you have, well, today's internet.
NOT a SUPER COMPUTER. And no longer, "The Information Highway."
But simply a RECOMMENDATION ENGINE, a marketing tool in which YOU are a PRODUCT of the platforms you frequent.