By Craig Dunn, founder at HeadsUp.social.
Humane technology aligns itself with human needs and aspirations rather than exploiting its users.
In the case of social media, exploitive technology collects huge amounts of personal data for the purpose of selling its users' attention to advertisers. Tricks of the trade include causing addiction and exacerbating conflict, both of which maximize users' engagement with digital platforms.
Many techniques and dark-patterns are used to make social media platforms "persuasive", all of them exploitive and extractive, none of them intended to satisfy people's social needs.
In fact, extractive social media has created new
needs that people didn't have before - dependency on "Likes" for repeated personal affirmation, to mention just one.
These are the accreditations I earned during my study at the Center for Humane Technology
. The Fundamentals
course is a deep dive into the societal harms caused by surveillance-capitalism
and the application of surveillance-advertising
to finance social media platforms.
This education encourages humane technologists
to re-imagine social media as a healthy online environment which enhances people's well-being. That's what HeadsUp.social
Every new or enhanced opportunity provided by technology changes the people who use it, for better or for worse. We can clearly see the damage done by tech whose purpose is to create demand and get people to buy stuff - it's time to invoke a new mindset.
How about tech whose purpose is to develop greater understanding, further education and find harmonious ways of co-existing across cultures?Isn't that
what social media should do?
- Instead of chasing richeswe should develop tech that values people.
- There are many alternatives to surveillance-advertising that can provide adequate funding for social media platforms. HeadsUp.social is a not-for-profit venture, relying on voluntary contributions.
- Instead of maximizing screentimetech should help people get what they need online, then get back to real life.
- People are spending more time online than in in-person relationships, causing degrees of alienation and degradation of personal connections. Online time should be made more useful, and less addictive.
- Instead of designing new societytech should be guided by society's organic wisdoms.
- While some technologies have brought great benefits for society, commercial social media has been largely detrimental to society's well-being. Let technologists be guided by real human needs and aspirations.
Practical Steps Forward
Some negative aspects of ad-driven social media are clear to see and easy to address, some require deeper insight to understand properly, and there undoubtedly some things we have yet to uncover.
- Surveillance-advertisingis the business model which requires huge amounts of personal data in order to present "relevant" ads in social feeds. The dark-side of this is that the data is not only used to analyse and understand personalities, it is used to influence people to believe and feel things that advertisers want them to. It undermines people's free will and agency over their own decisions.
- So remove the ads- easy! But how, then, to finance the platform?HeadsUp.social has chosen to pursue a reputation as a valuable, safe and ethical resource by elevating the quality and purpose of conversations in the online space, thereby generating organic growth among people of noble intentions. Our not-for-profit commitment relies, then, on empathy and voluntary contributions from people who find real value in the product.
- Offer a viable alternativeto the standard social media platforms of the day. Social commentary, exchange of ideas, connection opportunities, private messaging and video calling. HeadsUp.social ticks all those boxes.
- Remove the "Like" button- Facebook invented the Like button, presenting it as a way to show approval without verbal comment. Not only has this lead to weakened relationships and shallow interactions, many poor souls have become emotionally dependent on Likes in order to feel validated. By removing the Like button, HeadsUp.social encourages written replies which require thought and deeper engagement.
- Remove the "Share" button- sharing spawns multiple copies of social posts which can spread like wildfire - go viral - across then internet, gaining prominence far beyond their true worth even though their contentions are seldom peer-reviewed and often inaccurate. HeadsUp.social elevates posts which garner replies and provides only a "Link" button to facilitate invitations to join the conversation.
- Do not collect personal data- this is a no-brainer. Since we have no use for info other than usernames and passwords, we have no need to collect it. Members can share as much or as little information about themselves, either publicly or privately, as they choose.
We consider issues like how to counter narcissism (we do not provide image filters, for example), how to increase accountability while enabling speech by members who, for reasons of safety in their geo-political locations, should not be personally identified, how to enhance connection opportunities without sending spammy messages, and how to avoid disinformation and anti-social behaviour.
We invite our community members to engage in self - and community - content-moderation, to participate constructively and invite new members away from exploitive, exctractive digital platforms.