I spend around 5 hours on my phone every day.

I spend around 5 hours on my phone every day. Most of it on Twitter and Instagram. Over the past few months, I’ve been trying hard to reduce that number.

Overall, I think Instagram is the nicer platform — there have been (and I guess always will be) questions around whether Instagram does enough in terms of online safety, body image issues and mental health. I find it’s quite easy to waste hours on Instagram, without really trying very hard.

But, where do I even begin with Twitter? When I first joined Twitter in 2013 (do you remember the egg avis?), it was a place for memes and jokes. Over time, Twitter has evolved, with more and more information on current affairs and news. Like Instagram, Twitter has also been under the spotlight, with questions over how it deals with fake news, misinformation (or indeed disinformation) and abusive language.

I still love social media

To be honest, I say all of this but I wouldn’t still use Twitter and Instagram if I didn’t see the value of it. Out of the two, Twitter is a bit more traditional, but I still use it multiple times a day. When Spotify went down this week, the first thing I did was go to Twitter and search for ‘Spotify down’. I did the same thing when BBC News stopped working earlier in the year after Amazon Web Services went down. More recently, I’ve started using Twitter to get my news and stay up-to-date on what’s going on around the world. I like how Twitter has recently embedded sports scores and news stories too: it’s easier to read a thread than long-form articles or news stories.

Instagram lets us share content in a new way — as an example, I’ve been thinking of whether I could turn this blog into a set of ‘slides’ that you all could swipe across. Or maybe, when I (eventually) record podcasts, I could clip up the more exciting sections and use them as promotional material?

Photo-sharing and short-form video-sharing is changing the way that we create, share and understand information. That’s not to say that there’s not a space for long-form articles and news stories — I wouldn’t be writing a blog if I didn’t think anyone would read it, after all…

The way we consume and share information is changing rapidly.

More m̶o̶n̶e̶y̶ monetised data, more problems

At some point during one of the lockdowns, I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix. I would recommend you watch it if you haven’t already.

The documentary goes through quite a few things but mainly talks about all the data that all social networks collect from us. The documentary, with some dramatisation, then talks about how social networks use this data, monetise it for advertisers and essentially ‘playback’ content that you are more likely to agree with. Now, obviously, this is an issue.

Humans intrinsically have ‘confirmation bias’ — we are more likely to find, use and remember information that reinforces the points that we would like to make. Here’s a case in point: I do not want Pochettino to be the next Manchester United manager because he hasn’t won the Champions League even though he has a frontline of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar Jr and Lionel Messi at Paris St Germain. I (or the computer in my brain) fail to remember (or perhaps even ignore) the fact that Thomas Tuchel had both Mbappe and Neymar Jr and also lost the 2019/20 Champions League final, before winning it with Chelsea a season after.

Anyways, back to the documentary. Using the Cambridge Analytica scandal as an example in the 2016 United States elections and the Brexit referendum, The Social Dilemma shows us the risks of creating an ‘echo chamber’, if you do not seek out new information or try to critique what you are presented with on social media. When combined with our ‘confirmation bias’, social media ‘echo chambers’ can be dangerous. It’s why fake news, misinformation (sharing false information without the intention of doing so / by mistake) and disinformation (deliberately sharing false information/propaganda) have become so common.

Human tendency for confirmation bias combined with social media echo chambers is dangerous. Photo credits: Agility PR Solutions.

Taking back control

How do we make sure that we are not locked away in these echo chambers? More importantly still — how do we stop lending our voices to these echo chambers?

I think there are three important points to make here.

Ask yourself what you’re not being told

Try this: close your right eyelid and point your thumb over an object to cover it (a light bulb in the room you’re in will do). Now open your right eyelid and close your left eyelid instead. What do you notice — let me know below!

Every author, content creator or speaker is trying to convince you that their information, argument or point is valid. But you shouldn’t take this at face value. Whatever you’re being told is only part of the story, and you can probably learn more from what is not said instead. Take the time to understand who is presenting or telling you information, and more importantly why they’re telling you this. Do they have anything to gain from it? How would your opinion change if someone else was telling you this information?

Challenge your own biases

There are almost 8 billion people on Earth. That’s almost 8 billion lived experiences, ways of thinking and sets of opinions. You would find it impossible to agree with a single person on everything. That’s why it becomes important to challenge yourself: understand what biases you have and where they come from. Why do you think in the way that you do?

There’s a couple of ways in which you can do this: for example — last week, I started watching Russia Today live on YouTube for a couple of minutes each day to understand how the invasion was covered by Russian state media. I don’t agree with their reporting, but it’s useful context to have. The second way I’d recommend is to find people with opposite views who are willing to debate with you. Daryl Davis, a musician from the United States, did this by speaking to KKK members to understand where their beliefs came from. Safe to say he has found some success with this approach, managing to convince clan members to leave and denounce the KKK.

Teach yourself to think differently

This is still an area that I’m working away at, and maybe one that I will write about more in future. But one thing I’ve found useful is to try and use systems thinking. I should make it clear that I’m by no means an expert in systems thinking.

I’m not an expert in systems thinking.

— Keval Chavda

There’s so much information flying around on social media that it can (at times) seem difficult in trying to see the wood from the trees. A system thinker tries to take a step back and understand everything about what they’re reading. They not only plot out the system but draw out the key links between all of the information they have and then decide if there are any gaps that they want to investigate further.

I’m still halfway through this process, and I’ll be honest, I’ve been caught out a couple of times by not verifying the information I’ve read before sharing it. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Full steam ahead

As I wrote this week’s entry, there was a nice afternoon sun setting in London. I’m glad that we are nearly back to summer, and hopefully, one that we can all enjoy without the threat of another Covid scare.

If all goes well, I’ll be able to go interrailing this summer. If not, endless nights playing PlayStation. I guess we’ll find out in the months to come…

See you in two weeks.

KC

Keval’s Corner

In Keval’s Corner, I will share three things: a song that I’ve had on repeat; an interesting book/ article/ report that I’ve read; and a question for you to respond to below. This week in Keval’s Corner:

🎵 Listen to this: Mo Money Mo Problems — The Notorious B.I.G.

📖 Read this: Jobfished: the con that tricked dozens into working for a fake design agency

🤔 Respond to this: What’s your ideal holiday destination?

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Aspiring writer interested in technology, personal development, sports, music and more. Fortnightly uploads. Views expressed are entirely my own.

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Keval Chavda

Keval Chavda

Aspiring writer interested in technology, personal development, sports, music and more. Fortnightly uploads. Views expressed are entirely my own.

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