The greatest threat to the state is not faction but distraction.


Aristotle

Social media is not free. How much are you actually paying for it? And what’s your value to those who hold your data? The answers I give to these questions in the following paragraphs may be of concern to you. So, I’m going a little off the normal path with this blog post, but my beliefs I share here are one of many reasons why I’ve left social media. With this in mind, the ideas I share may seem like a conspiracy theory, I welcome you to challenge it.

How much do you pay for social media?

The short-term answer is probably nothing. That’s if you consider a financial transaction as the form of payment. Aside from paying to access the internet, using various social media platforms is “free” from any financial burden. But will it always be free? Would you pay for it? Will the payment always be voluntary?

There is a long-term cost to using social media, and it’s not financial -yet.

Nothing in life comes for free; what goes up must come down, what is born, must die; Yin and Yang. Our perceived view of freedom goes against nature’s law of balance. For the most part, free feels good. It’s a dopamine hit without the challenge.

But free always has a cost and balance must be restored.

Social media and other “free” apps on the market today request no financial payment upfront. We are lead to believe that targeted ads are the drawbacks of using a free app. And for the most part, we’ve become comfortable with that. But targeted ads are not the pain of free. There’s a much bigger picture cost at play, and it has to do with your online privacy.

What is the value of your online privacy and the data trail you leave behind?

What we don’t recognize is that behind the scenes all of our data is being captured. All of our thoughts, memories, photographs, status updates, reactions, likes, comments and friendship connections are conveniently saved. Every Google search, email, Amazon query, the blog posts you write and every game you play, emotional and behavioural information about you is captured.

Why is this such a big deal?

With a little bit of artificial intelligence, those who hold all of your online data can compile all of your data and create a digital avatar of you. A virtual profile who thinks like you, speak like you, learn like you and react like you. In other words, once all of those are combined, your virtual profile will be able to create and work like you. The best thing about virtual you? It can do all of this with no financial compensation. The virtual you can work for free and for a fraction of the time it takes you.

Where do you fit in this picture?

Imagine a world where you are no longer needed. A world where you no longer hold any more value. Therefore, once your value is completely transferred to a machine, where will you work? What will you do? What will your purpose be?

That world is already here.

We are witnessing a massive shift of jobs in an increasingly technological world. The middle class is shrinking fast, and the income divide is growing even more quickly. For instance, it took a skilled tradesman to work in a factory; now factories are almost entirely automated. Also, replacing customer service with virtual agents who are getting increasingly more intelligent and empathetic with artificial intelligence is the norm. Finally, with the advent of self-driving vehicles, the transportation industry workforce will likely be dramatically reduced.

Your ability to provide value is diminishing by the day. Sadly, we’re
exponentially giving it up to chase more “free.” Our gained spare time from automation, means we have more time to be distracted, and the more we’re distracted, the more we feed our data, our privacy and our value to the online machine. The more it learns from us, to be us.

What can you do?

Be curious. Truly understand the price of “free” when it comes to sharing your life online. This idea of “free” is much more than a bunch of targeted ads and spam emails. Everything you do online is saved and not just for your convenience now, but for future value. Guard your online privacy, it is the only way to truly maintain your value.

In conclusion, privacy MUST be made into a fundamental human right, just as important as food and shelter. Understand the consequences of using “free” may mean that someday you will no longer be free to live a life that is of your choosing. By consenting to use any “free” app now, you are paying with your most valued piece of property for the future: your privacy.

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