The Dead May Outnumber the Living on Facebook in 50 Years

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Findings from OII indicate that at least 1.4 billion Facebook members will die before the year 2100. In that scenario, based on last year’s user levels, experts believe the dead will surpass the living on the social media platform by 2070.

The report looks at this phenomenon in the extreme, predicting that the number of dead users could grow as high as 4.9 billion before the end of the century. Researchers believe dead profiles will proliferate from non-Western countries, particularly in Asia where numbers could raise to 2 billion by 2100.

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We All Work For Facebook

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Typically, we don’t think of social media use as labor. Finding your way with Google Maps seems (particularly to those of us old enough to remember planning a trip with paper maps) like a luxurious free service. Keeping up with distant friends on Facebook feels like recreation. Answering questions on Yelp about whether the library you just visited has a wheelchair ramp is like a tiny public service.

But, of course, these companies aren’t providing anything for free. In Radical Markets (2017), Eric A. Posner, a law professor at the University of Chicago, and E. Glen Weyl, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research and visiting scholar at Princeton University, make the case that companies should pay for the information they collect from us. They point to Big Tech’s use of our data, not just to choose what ads we’ll see—or to sell to questionable political targeting operations—but also to create new technology. Facebook and Instagram (a Facebook property) use the images and videos we upload to power machine learning. That’s where new artificial intelligence products like face recognition and automated video editing come from. Translating a photo caption for your friends helps teach Google Translate how languages work. When you click the boxes on ReCAPTCHA, the ubiquitous anti-spam tool owned by Google, it helps computers learn to digitize text and—probably—improves self-driving car technology.

When a Country Bans Social Media

Mark Zuckerberg onstage with a microphone

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Sri Lanka’s ban on social media carries an implicit, and crucial, assumption: that the internet can produce good and ill effects, but its fundamental structure—a global information network that works more or less the same anywhere on Earth—is an unimpeachable given. But what if it’s not? What if the very fact of a global social network is impossible?

Workism Is Making Americans Miserable

A man sleeps at his desk.

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The second external trauma of the Millennial generation has been the disturbance of social media, which has amplified the pressure to craft an image of success—for oneself, for one’s friends and colleagues, and even for one’s parents. But literally visualizing career success can be difficult in a services and information economy. Blue-collar jobs produce tangible products, like coal, steel rods, and houses. The output of white-collar work—algorithms, consulting projects, programmatic advertising campaigns—is more shapeless and often quite invisible. It’s not glib to say that the whiter the collar, the more invisible the product.

Since the physical world leaves few traces of achievement, today’s workers turn to social media to make manifest their accomplishments. Many of them spend hours crafting a separate reality of stress-free smiles, postcard vistas, and Edison-lightbulbed working spaces. “The social media feed [is] evidence of the fruits of hard, rewarding labor and the labor itself,” Petersen writes.

Among Millennial workers, it seems, overwork and “burnout” are outwardly celebrated (even if, one suspects, they’re inwardly mourned)…

The problem with this gospel—Your dream job is out there, so never stop hustling—is that it’s a blueprint for spiritual and physical exhaustion.

Keeping Your Wedding Guests Off Social Media Is Basically Hopeless. Just Ask Princess Eugenie.

Britain’s Princess Eugenie of York and her husband Jack Brooksbank at their wedding ceremony in St. George’s Chapel in Windsor on Friday.

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The reasons why a royal couple might ban social media from their wedding seem fairly obvious: The royals are notoriously private and picky about controlling their images. Better to leave things mysterious than risk an image or post that sends the wrong message getting out. For the average couple walking down the aisle, though, this type of social media policy might come off as a tad draconian. Social media is part of how people enjoy events nowadays, and arguments that it’s shallow or takes people out of the moment feel less compelling with each passing year.

Either way, it seems clear that just asking your guests to refrain won’t do the trick, even when they have the best of intentions. This is where Eugenie and Jack would seem to have gone wrong—either by not actually confiscating smartphones, or by having a dragnet that scofflaw selfie-takers like Bonas could sneak through.

The End of the “Real You” Online

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A quick experiment: scroll through your social feeds right now. How many posts/statements make you cringe? Sure, some heartfelt ones may be nice to see — if you have an actual connection to that person. But are they sharing that personal expression with thousands of people? Should they be? Even crazier: are some people you know saying things they absolutely shouldn’t be saying in public? Twitter has unleashed the id in far too many people. And jacked it directly into the largest and loudest megaphone ever created.

And so I’m left wondering if the kids haven’t shown us the right path here. For years, young people have been locking down their social accounts to new followers, opting to add (and remove) people on an ad-hoc basis. Certainly, in an era where your parents are on said networks, this makes sense. But it actually makes sense for a number of reasons. And many people I know who are not kids are now locking down their accounts — some even after years spent living in public.

 

Digital commemoration: a new way to remember victims of terrorism

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Social media platforms, through the digital traces they create, will lend these passing events greater permanence. The social media archive of images, videos and hashtags is, of course, ephemeral in its own way (posts have limited circulation, a narrow window in which they are viewed and are vulnerable to deletion and loss). But it is important to understand that social media plays more than a documentary role. They enable unique and spontaneous commemorative practices such as people sharing photographs of themselves with tattoos, balloons and other memorials that need to be studied further. They create a shared sense of commemoration between those present at public memorials and those participating online.