The Human Connection in a Digital World

The Human Connection in a Digital World

Human Connection in a Digital Environment

Technology has been in our lives for a long time now. It has made a lot of progress since its inception. It has become an integral part of our everyday lives. It has changed the way we communicate. Every step of the way, technology was being developed in its dynamic ways.

The human connection evolved because of technological advancements. We connect with people in many ways that are fairly simple and straightforward to operate or use. We see people through our screens to conversate and enjoy with each other, and we have these great moments that truly define how we connect with each other.

Cultivation of Human Connection in a digital space

The pandemic has made us connect to our others through our devices more than ever. We now attend our classes on our computer devices. Broadened examples would be, attending our meetings, our club gatherings and activities, and, finally, daily work meetings.

The creation of technology

The creation of digital media has changed the face of the world. We have all sorts of platforms available to use for our businesses, for building a fundraising page, for important causes, and way more in the technology aspect in which you can do so much.

Artificial Intelligence: What do I need to know?

Artificial Intelligence: What do I need to know?

In a lot of movies, AI is portrayed as a bad thing, with the thought that it might become “self-aware” and try to destroy our world with an army of robots. As much as that’s possible, we are very far away from the truth. Let’s take a dive deeper into the subject.

What is AI (Artificial Intelligence)?

AI is the development of computers that can mimic and think like humans. It also refers to any machine that solves problems and has human-like learning abilities.
The main idea behind AI is its ability to make rational decisions and then follow through with the best actions according to those decisions.

Scientists use a lot of data with a lot of fast processing algorithms and specific conditions. When those conditions are met, AI does what’s told.

How is AI being used today?

In our day and age, AI is all around us, from personal assistants like Siri, to search engines on the Internet and much more. We use it more than we actually recognize or give it credit for.

Here are a few ways that AI is being used everyday:

Healthcare:

Artificial intelligence applications in the health care system gives us customized medication and X-ray readings. Individual medical service aides can act as personal assistants, reminding you to take your pills, exercise or to eat better. It’s also being used for many surgical procedures in the operation room.

Retail:

Computer-based intelligence gives virtual shopping abilities that offer customized suggestions and examine buying choices with the purchaser. Stock administration and site design advances will likewise be improved with AI.

Manufacturing:

AI can also dissect information as it streams from associated gear to gauge expected burden and request utilizing intermittent organizations, a particular sort of profound learning network utilized with succession information. Self driving cars are also becoming a major part of AI and perhaps our future lives eventually.

Banking:

In financial establishments, AI methods can be utilized to recognize which exchanges are going to be fraudulent, adapt quick and precise credit scoring, as well as computerize physical information.

What are the risks of AI?

The learning curve on AI is large, especially with the huge amounts of data we can input into it. AI is going to change a lot in our lives and because of that we have to learn and understand its limits. 

A lot of the worry regarding AI comes in the forms of privacy violation or job losses since a lot of the work AI is going to automate in the future is currently done by actual humans.

“I think that kind of argument is really overhyped. I think it overestimates the technology in terms of the speed of advancement.” – Li Deng, Chief AI officer, Citadel.

Final words
We have to work closely with AI, it improves our lives drastically but as we keep advancing the technology. Despite all the positive attributes, AI has brought to the world. There can be some negative implications that should be taken into consideration when using it. 

We can’t stop progress, it’s inevitable.

Technology & Time

Technology & Time

How much time does technology actually save us?

Breaking the ice

We built technology to help us live life easier, right? We use it to save time and spend that time with our loved ones. 

We humans in our current day and age have been reliant on computers, smartphones, e-mails, and recently with social distancing guidelines videoconferencing. 

Human advancements

Being able to send a text message without using ink or paper or having to wait for it to go through a bunch of post offices to reach the recipient saves us a lot of time. What about phone calls?  We can talk directly with the intended person without having to meet them in person. Pretty crazy how far we’ve come as a species.

Smartphones are getting better and better every day, and staying organized is a huge part of saving our precious time. Using our phones to keep up with school, work, as well as family and friends at any time is what this technology is all about. Accessibility is now easier than ever, but so is the ability to get distracted. 

In order for technology to save us time, we have to understand that it is heavily user dependent. A person who is being distracted online by scrolling through social media is not saving time, but instead wasting their valuable time. On the other hand, a person who’s doing their job from home is saving the time of the commute to and from the workplace.

Actual numbers

According to an article written by Gemma Francis for The Independent, Mobile devices were also revealed to save people significant time. For example, the article claims that “mobile phones alone save people approximately 1 hour every week by making navigation more efficient and providing users with updates on traffic and public transport time.”

A poll conducted revealed that modern technology saves an average individual two weeks annually that would be spent on routine banking and shopping activities. For instance, “the survey showed that the amount of time spent in the bank is reduced by forty minutes every week in the last ten years as people embraced online and mobile banking.”

An article written by Alison McGuire for the Irish tech news states that, “at Marriott Hotels, 92 percent of business travelers originating from Spain, the UK, France, and Germany revealed that technology has made it possible for them to have more free time to engage in leisure while on their business trips.”

Final words

In conclusion, technology just like other things can be used for the wrong reasons or for the greater good. We can use it to create something terrible or something beautiful that helps humanity. 
The choice is all yours.

Are Smartphones and Social Media Affecting our Mental Health?

Are Smartphones and Social Media Affecting our Mental Health?

Smartphones are the center of everything that defines our modern daily lives and the way that we communicate with one another. Whether it be through communication, our consumption of entertainment, or the new ways we gain information; our lives have been forever changed by the unique qualities that smartphones provide us with. In fact, smartphones, and social media by extension have become so synonymous with our lives that many of us can no longer imagine living without these devices in the palm of our hands at all times. This has led to some concern with some researchers claiming that overuse in smartphones has caused a severe uptick in depression and anxiety. With it being such a major part of our life, could our reliance on smartphones be having a negative effect on our mental health and causing us to be the victim of an addiction that is beyond our control?

According to researcher Dr. Jean Twenge, smartphones have been the single largest contributor to a rising rate of depression amongst teens and young adults. Twenge published her findings in the aptly-titled, ‘Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?’ in the September 2017 edition of The Atlantic magazine. In the article, Twenge claims that social media, and its easy access through smartphones, have been the largest contributors to anxiety amongst teens, which leads to loneliness and insecurity. In some serious cases, Twenge believes that teens who use social media for more than three hours a day were more likely to have a risk factor for suicide, making children born between 1995-2012 the most at-risk generation yet. Twenge believes that the biggest cause of this is due to the perception of unreality that social media feeds to its users.

Sad young girl
The affects of social media usage.

Living in the age in which we document each of our activities online, browsing through social media can have its implications on our mental health. Twenge claims that because the nature of social media encourages users to broadcast the most fascinating and exciting elements of one’s activities, these postings create an unrealistic perspective of the lives of those we are connected with. While falling into the trap of looking at someone else’s far more exciting life, we begin to feel unsatisfied about our own. We become increasingly unaware that what we perceive are far from reality. In other words, the view seen through social media becomes unrealistic and is causing a negative implication on our mental health as a result.

When it came time to take upon a topic for my Integration Project, a project that is required of TAV College students completing the Arts, Letters, and Communication program, I decided to dedicate it to uncovering the effects that these devices, as well as social media platforms are having on our long-term health. Of course, I couldn’t approach the subject without reflecting upon myself and so I set out to document the ways that social media was influencing my life, my mental health state and, not to mention, my productivity. Needless to say, it was difficult to get through one single project without picking up my phone to answer messages or scroll through Instagram. Altogether, I noted that I spent over two and a half hours on social media each day, between checking my phone to view messages and comments or even just to scroll through my feed. Not only was this a detrimental blow to my productivity but it was evident that an overabundance of social media was negatively impacting the viewpoint of my own life and that something needed to be done about it. It was at this time that I decided to pursue a challenge that would see me quitting social media altogether, for as long as possible. The only problem? I was just as addicted to my device as Dr. Jean Twenge suggested in her findings.

It was evident that staying off my device was going to be a challenge and it was one I failed at miserably. It would be difficult to make it through the day without scrolling through my Instagram feed to check what I’ve missed out on in the world, since I last checked. However, I began to pay closer attention to how I perceived the world that was showcased through Instagram or Facebook, which almost always exclusively shows the positive, exciting aspects of my friend networks’ lives; As if to show that their life is increasingly more exciting than my own. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t maintain social media as a haven of positivity and connection but many of us find ourselves using social platforms as an effort to gloat about our own exciting activities in an attempt to feel better about ourselves. When we find ourselves on the receiving end of such a message, it dissuades us from being happy about our own lives and accomplishments, in comparison to the brightly-contrasted photos or fake-laughter photos of our friends making it seem like they were caught reacting to the world’s funniest joke on camera.

Even if it remains difficult to assume the challenge of disconnecting from these devices, this approach shined a bright light on how social media truly influences our lives. While it’s easy to suggest and more difficult to take action upon, it’s important to find ways to disconnect from our devices that connect us to the ones around us. More importantly, it’s important to remember that while our devices may offer the ability to connect us closer to our friends and family, the perception and the reality is never quite the same.

Have We become a Commodity?  A Look at Data Privacy on Social Media

Have We become a Commodity? A Look at Data Privacy on Social Media

There’s an age-old saying that goes; if the product is free, then you are the product. With a never-ending list of free products and applications that regularly rule our lives, from games to social media applications, these apps may not bring a loss to your wallet but they will certainly cost you nonetheless. The only charge associated with it: Your privacy.

In March of 2019, co-founder and CEO of Facebook Inc., Mark Zuckerberg, published a three thousand word essay outlining Facebook’s new plan to prioritize user data and improve the safety of this data in the future. Zuckerberg’s post is likely an attempt at damage control following several scandals of data breaching and instances of data misuse. As a result, Facebook has been at the forefront of controversy for many months but even while Facebook’s stock may have dropped, which also includes the Facebook-owned applications Instagram and WhatsApp, the company remains popular. However, what happens when a major company like this, one that owns more than half the market share of social media and digital communication, violates basic privacy ethics? And, how do we hold them accountable?

These issues may not even come as a surprise to frequent social media users, because the use of our private data is part of what shapes our personal social experiences on these platforms. Social media platforms gather your data to understand your unique consumer behavior, in order to create effective targeted advertising. With this data, social media companies can properly provide advertisers with quantifiable data about consumers for businesses to capitalize upon. Therefore, each and every advertisement that appears in your social media feeds are out there using the very data that you gave over to the company. Factors like this include, your geographical location, your education history, occupation, your likes, beliefs, and even your face.

Picture this scenario: You just finished uploading photos from your recent exciting holiday party and immediately upon uploading these photos of you and your friends, Facebook has already identified the faces in the photos and asks if you’d like to tag your friends in those photos. Meaning that Facebook’s facial recognition adds to the fact that the company knows everything about you, from your worst time-wasting habits to your own unique face (which gets more disconcerting when you consider that there’s a large database that stores and recognizes your face and can identify it as such whenever it appears in a photo or video.) Perhaps you become concerned by a major conglomerate’s ability to recognize you and quickly rush to Facebook to delete all the photos and videos of yourself from the platform. That may seem effective at first, until you consider the March 2018 report by New York Magazine, which claimed that the company hadn’t deleted any of the videos after users tried to delete old videos and other content that was still living on the company’s servers. This led to the company apologizing for this practice and promised to truly delete them upon user request. Despite everything, by using Facebook’s platform and agreeing to its Terms of Service, you provide the company with the license to use any pictures and videos that you publish to the platform for their own purposes. In other words, while the copyright to the photo may be your own intellectual property, Facebook reserves the right to re-publish your picture on one of their pages or use your likeness in a television commercial without paying you a dime.

Taking this all into account makes recent scandals surrounding the company even more troublesome, including last years infamous Cambridge Analytica scandal. Cambridge Analytica was a political consulting firm that leveraged data mining and data analysis to create communication strategies for political campaigns. During the 2016 election cycle, eighty seven million users had their personal data breached by the consulting firm through the two hundred seven thousand users who provided data for an app called “This is Your Digital Life”. Facebook gave permission to this third-party app to collect data of users who consented to answer surveys about their digital usage habits for monetary compensation. Violating their agreement with Facebook’s terms of service, the Cambridge Analytica application instead also gathered the information of the “friend network” of each user, which breached not only the users themselves but the entirety of each of their friends on the platform and beyond. With this data, the firm set about creating strategies to help boost its political client during that election cycle, the now-president Donald J. Trump, which led to Russian interference in the U.S. election using Facebook as a primary tool to spread false information through targeted advertising.

Aside from Facebook’s very disconcerting issues surrounding their ability to combat false information (all the while profiting the very same advertising), a far more personal question that we ought to ask ourselves is: How do we want these conglomerates to handle our private data and information? Ultimately, it comes down to how we legally view the service and the company as a whole. When testifying before the United States Supreme Court last year, Zuckerberg stated that he views Facebook Inc. as a “technology company” rather than a media company. The issue that lies here is that we don’t yet have guidelines to how we hold social platforms accountable with the law. Should Facebook be deemed a media or publishing company, it would be held accountable to laws and restrictions set in place for several decades, enforcing transparency from the electoral candidates themselves. In the meantime, United States lawmakers have scrambled to decide just how to regulate Facebook, and just what that regulation might even be.

Despite Facebook’s somewhat unethical practices, it’s certain that even with user dissatisfaction, its practices aren’t going to change anytime soon. This is because Facebook isn’t as interested in creating a positive user experience than it is interested in mining your data to sell to other corporate advertisers. Perhaps the biggest selling point of Facebook’s multiple major brands is that all of your co-workers, friends, and family members are omnisciently present on the platform, which makes it an integral part of how we communicate. In fact, it would be even more of an inconvenience to quit the platform entirely seeing as how our lives have become so integrated with it. It’s important that we remain careful about how much of our data we choose to share with these companies. The more that we surrender our privacy to the product, the more that we ourselves become the product worth re-selling.

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