Digital Cult: Is Online Dating Making You Socially Awkward?

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Perspectives in Digital Literacy

The current, editable version of this book is available in Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection, at

Permission is granted to copy, distribute, and/or modify this document under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.


Welcome to Perspectives in Digital Literacy! The goal of this book is to encourage critical reading and thinking of the origins, evolution, and underlying values of the Internet and the World Wide Web so that readers may reflect on the consequences of such values to their selves and their society.

As the collection grows, we hope to label each lesson based on the specific characteristics of its target audience (right now we are thinking of age, but we are open to other classifications). This means that there could be more than one lesson for a specific topic, if the lesson is clearly targeted for different audiences.

Since Perspectives in Digital Literacy was set up as a school project, the majority of its contributors will be students exploring how they wish to "teach" others a specific topic they studied while taking a composition class; nevertheless, we welcome all contributors who wish to offer a reflection on a notable topic about issues of the Net and Web.

Below you will find some ideas of how to create a simple lesson for your text(s) of choice. If you wish to suggest ideas for lessons, leave a note on the page of this introduction, or on my Talk page.

Dr. X
February 9, 2021

How can I create a lesson for my favorite text(s)?[edit | edit source]

The way you create your chapter will depend on your target audience and what you want them to focus on when thinking of the text(s). Here is a list of typical information that helps a reader understand a text and reflect on its purpose and significance:

  • Epigraph: a short quotation or saying (may be more than one) at the beginning of the chapter that suggests its themes or concerns.
  • Context: the circumstances that frame a text and provide resources for its appropriate interpretation. In other words, the historical, cultural, and/or textual situation in which the text was created, perhaps including relevant biographical information about the text's creator(s).
  • Summary: an account of the main points of a text. Summaries are useful if the text is long or complex.
  • Quotes: a selection of passages from a text that reflect some particularly important idea that cannot be paraphrased. Quotes are useful if you want to attract the reader's attention to specific moments in the text or to the way language is being used. It is especially useful when combined with close reading questions (see below).
  • Images, sound, and/ or video to illustrate or explain a concept, theme, and/or purpose in a non-textual manner.[1]
  • Textual analysis: an examination of the elements and structure of a text to explain it, explain its importance, and its relationship to other texts or to the larger culture.
  • Notes: a short comment on or explanation of a word or passage in a text; an annotation.[2]
  • Glossary: an alphabetical list of words found in the text with explanations; a brief dictionary. It is particularly useful if your text uses words in a language other than English.
  • References/Works Cited: a list of sources of information used in the chapter or sections of it.

If you want your reader to engage with the text(s), you may try adding a few of the following sections:

  • Comprehension questions: questions intended to help readers process and understand the information they are reading.[3] These questions usually have right and wrong answers; if so, you may want to include the correct answers in a separate section.
  • Close reading questions: questions intended to help readers to "micro-read"[4] selected segments and/or aspects of the text(s) such as their structural elements, rhetorical features, and cultural and historical allusions.
  • Critical thinking questions: questions intended to have the reader reflect or inquire, such as open-ended questions, (re)search questions, comparison questions, problem-solving questions, connecting questions, and meta-cognitive questions about the text(s).
  • Further reading: a usually chronological or alphabetical list of texts which a reader may consult for additional and more detailed coverage of the topic or themes of the text(s). It may include brief annotations.
  • Extension activities: Ask the reader to create something connected to the text, like writing a poem or putting together a collage or a video in response to it, or writing a sequel or a different ending to the story. Or have the reader conduct a search, a survey, or an interview on a topic connected to the story. If you want them to have lots of fun, try some of the extension activities recommended by teacher Marilyn Pryle.
  • Games: Create a crossword puzzle using key vocabulary from your text. Or put together a Jeopardy! interactive game using a free template from JeopardyLabs. Or choose one of the four game styles offered at Trivia Maker.


  1. Media for Wikibook chapters must come from Wikimedia Commons.
  2. This is a note. For more examples of what Notes do, see this use of notes in Shakespearean sonnets and for Shakespeare's play Macbeth.
  3. "Catalog of question types | Reading comprehension." Khan Academy
  4. "Close and Critical Reading."

What is Digital Literacy?

Digital Literacy: “[t]he capability to use digital technology and knowing when and how to use it.” --Mike Ribble, "Passport to Digital Citizenship."

Is the Internet the same as the World-Wide-Web? How does the online world work and how has it changed? What are some useful, proper, and safe ways to navigate it? What is my role in it?

This book intends to help you become better educated about the Internet and the World-Wide-Web. Thus our definition of “digital literacy” includes the capacity to decipher online media, how to behave and communicate properly in online environments, and how to manipulate online tools to create content on the Web.

Misuse of Smartphones: A Device Meant for Connection Slowly Isolating Society

Perhaps the best way I can express this idea is to say that the question, “What will a new technology do?” is no more important than the question, “What will a new technology undo?” Indeed, the latter question is more important, precisely because it is asked so infrequently.

-Neil Postman, later cultural critic and professor at New York University.[1]

Steven (an arbitrary name chosen for anonymity) is a 14-year-old teenager that I deeply care about. Since he was a toddler, he always seemed to be highly social. I remember his days in middle school when his teacher would constantly send letters complaining about how she would try to sit Steven in different spots during class, but the child somehow managed to always find somebody to talk to. When he joined high school, however, Steven became introverted. After school, you would always find him hanging around friends, but now he would spend this time continuously scrolling through social media or wasting hours watching videos on apps like YouTube while in the solitude of his room. I felt worried about Steven; he, who was always full of energy and seemed to find conversation and make friends with even the driest of kids, slowly became socially awkward and withdrawn. Many months after his first day of high school, I finally asked him, "Hey, how's high school going? I haven't seen you around your friends that often. Does schoolwork make you that busy?" to which he responded, "I actually don't have any friends… maybe just one, but he's always busy… but it is okay, I text people online every day with my phone." Instantly, I knew Steven was not okay; worried I tried to understand the boy’s switch in behavior. High school was the time when Steven got his first smartphone. Therefore, could this device have enabled or even influenced his depression and asocial behavior?

An infant using an Smartphone.

Today smartphones are regarded as a must-have among adolescents; these devices are commonly used for leisure, connecting with others, and learning new things, according to Pew Research Center. In addition, Freelance writer Sarah J. Purewal wrote an article in 2015 detailing some of the not-so-obvious but still valuable services smartphones can provide.[2] In one of her points, the author mentions how smartphones can keep users relatively safe while in scary situations by allowing them to share the personal live location with friends. This tracker proves handy for parents who naturally want to ensure their child's safety; it can alert them of unusual behavior or possible dangers their kid could be facing while on the outside. And there has been evidence of the GPS tracker saving teens' lives. For example, in 2019, reporter Allyson Chiu wrote an article for The Washington Post detailing how teenage Catrina Cramer Alexander suffered a car accident while driving through a dense forest but was found and eventually rescued after her mom received Alexander's location through the "Find My Friends" app. This information adds to the idea that, if appropriately used, smartphones can be a beneficial tool for adolescents.[3]

And what could be more beneficial than saving a life?[edit | edit source]

The Pew Research Center showed an increase in teen's smartphone access from 73% in 2015 to 95% in 2018. With this in mind, I find it redundant to keep talking about the pros of having this technology around us. Otherwise, why would the majority of people keep around something that could be harmful to them?[4]

But, as famous author, NYU professor, and cultural critic Neil Postman once said, "Technological change is a trade-off... Think of the automobile, which for all of its obvious advantages, has poisoned our air, choked our cities, and degraded the beauty of our landscape". We must try to understand what we are giving in return for providing this seemingly exceptional technology to people that are now growing up with these devices.

Problematic Smartphone Use[edit | edit source]

The Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization that promotes safe technology and media for children, reported in 2019 on the average screen time teenagers spend on their phones. The research showed that the average teen spends an alarming amount of seven and a half hours a day using their smartphones devices. However, to talk about the problems that smartphones bring to teenage lives, we need to first discuss Problematic Smartphone Use (PSU).[5]

you may wonder: why call it PSU instead of smartphone addiction?[edit | edit source]

In the study titled "Smartphone Addiction of Adolescents, Not a Smart Choice" made for the Journal of Korean medical science, researcher Seung Min Bae mentions that psychiatry has not considered smartphone addiction a proper illness because of current disagreements at the moment of measuring withdrawal and tolerance. Because of this, scientists prefer the term "Problematic Smartphone Use" instead of considering it a proper addiction.[6] Surprisingly however, in the Forbes article "The Truth About Smartphone Addiction, And How To Beat It," Brian Scudamore explains that similarly to how we get a dopamine rush by eating our favorite meal, we also get a dopamine rush whenever we receive a new notification in our cell phones. Being the "feel-good hormone," dopamine usually motivates the behavior that caused its release; Scudamore then explains how this dopamine rush can subsequently lead to an addiction to said behavior, similar to what happens with cocaine users.[7] In another article made for Insider in 2020, senior health reporter Anna Medaris references an extensive study comparing smartphone addiction effects to those found in people with drug addiction.[8] Medaris mentioned how the study related both types of addiction victims' tendency to have fewer brain cells, a lesser sense of empathy, impulse control, emotions, and decision making. While problematic smartphone use may still not be considered a proper illness or addiction, it is scary to think that the issues it brings can be compared to those that real substance abusers often face.

And it is scarier when you consider that the teenage population has been identified as a major risk group for PSU, according to Bae's research mentioned above. Bae describes that one of the main reasons for this is that the teenage years are a period of brain development in which one is more susceptible to addiction. A literature study by Linda Fischer-Grote for the Neuropsychiatrie medical journal also backs the previous information since it also shows data linking PSU to difficulties in self-regulation and immature control competencies commonly present at a young age.[9]

“Too much of anything is bad,” and these studies have proven excessive use of smartphones may turn that valuable tool into something detrimental to their users. In addition, we have identified how Problematic Smartphone Use compares to substance addiction and how teenagers are especially vulnerable to it. We can now proceed to the harmful effects of PSU on teenage lives.

The negative effects[edit | edit source]

The teenage years are when people learn and develop their social skills; smartphones can negatively impact this process by altering how teenagers communicate. In the article "Can You Hear Me Now," professor of social studies of science and technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sherry Turkle explains that teens need to have some time alone to develop their personal feelings and ideas to then share with others.[10] Still, with smartphones, Turkle warns it is easier for said teens to express online whatever thought comes to mind quickly. This ease of communication is problematic since it removes that necessary self-reflection time in which teenagers can develop, change or discard said thoughts. Smartphones are designed for an easy, quick, and simplified way of communication. Yet, if people adopt said way of communication from an early age, profound and meaningful talks are lost in the process. Therefore, the usage of smartphones in youth can affect the development of one's persona.

Smartphones are often used during late night hours, causing disruptions in sleep schedules.

Years later, Sherry Turkle also gave a TED talk titled "Connected, But Alone?" in which she warns about how new technology such as smartphones has influenced human interactions, evolving them to superficiality.[11] Turkle elaborates by explaining how humans have a natural inclination to connect with others, and the way of communication that smartphones provide is unnatural to us. The main reason is that technology such as smartphones provides us with easy, surface-level text conversations in which we control how we are perceived. This issue is especially harmful to young people who are still learning to manage themselves in social situations because it gives them a wrong idea of human interactions. In the words of an 18-year-old who reached out to Turkle: "Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I'd like to learn how to have a conversation."

The Center For Humane Technology is a website that compiles summaries and references to lots of studies proving the harmful effects of smartphones on users with PSU. One of the referenced studies showed a relationship between smartphone use and sleep difficulties; these sleep difficulties were then proven to connect to high levels of depression during adolescence. The website also referenced another study proving a 66% increase in suicide-related outcomes in teenage girls who spend more than five hours daily on social media through their smartphones. It is ironic then how this device that could even save lives, as we mentioned earlier, can also be the reason for someone's tragic fate.

On a last note, the data center Statista provided information about the preferred methods of communication of teens and their change between the years 2012 and 2018:[12]

Texting In-person Social media Video-chatting Talking on the phone Other
2012 33% 49% 7% 2% 4% 5%
2018 35% 32% 16% 10% 5% 2%

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Smartphones are helpful tools that make our lives easier. However, supporting evidence shows that these devices can also contribute to the depression and isolation of teenage users. The harmful effects demonstrated in this research are just a few of many others that PSU brings to those affected. However, this research aimed to shed some light on the negatives that seemingly good technology can bring to people growing up with it. I encourage further reading about the issue and spreading information to help and prevent an increase in PSU victims. Do not let Steven’s experience repeat itself on someone you love.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Postman, Neil. “Five Things We Need to Know about Technological Change.” March 28, 1998.
  2. Purewal, S, J. “Ways Smartphones are making our lives better”. Accessed May 2022
  3. Chiu, Allyson. “A Teenager Didn't Come Home. an IPhone App Led Her Mother to a Ravine.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 17 June 2019,
  4. Anderson, Monica, and Jingjing Jiang. “Teens, Social Media and Technology 2018.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, Pew Research Center, 27 May 2021,,and%20ethnicities%20and%20socioeconomic%20backgrounds.
  5. “Tweens, Teens, and Phones: What Our 2019 Research Reveals.” Common Sense Media,
  6. Bae, Seung Min. “Smartphone Addiction of Adolescents, Not a Smart Choice.” Journal of Korean medical science vol. 32,10 (2017): 1563-1564. doi:10.3346/jkms.2017.32.10.1563
  7. Scudamore, Brian. “The Truth about Smartphone Addiction, and How to Beat It.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 10 Dec. 2021,
  8. Medaris, Anna. “Smartphone Addiction May Shrink Key Areas of Your Brain in a Similar Way to Drugs.” Insider, Insider, 19 Feb. 2020,
  9. Fischer-Grote, Linda, et al. “Risk Factors for Problematic Smartphone Use in Children and Adolescents: A Review of Existing Literature.” Neuropsychiatrie, vol. 33, no. 4, 2019, pp. 179–90. Crossref,
  10. Turkle, Sherry. “Can You Hear Me Now.” Forbes. April, 2007.
  11. Turkle, Sherry “Connected, but Alone?” February 2012.
  12. Richter, Felix. “Infographic: Less Talk, More Texting.” Statista Infographics, 21 Sept. 2018,

Libérate de la Esclavitud Digital

Warning: Display title "Libérese de la Esclavitud Digital" overrides earlier display title "Misuse of Smartphones: A Device Meant for Connection, Slowly Isolating Society".

La conectividad es un derecho humano - Mark Zuckerberg, fundador de Facebook

Manteniendo las redes sociales bajo control[edit | edit source]

Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey, Kevin Systrom, Mike Krieger, Evan Spiegel y muchos más crearon las redes sociales para conectar a la gente. Gracias a Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram y muchos otros, personas de diferentes estados, países y continentes pueden informarse de las últimas noticias e interactuar con personas que comparten los mismos intereses. Pero expertos como Neil Postman, Sherry Turkle y Nicholas Carr advierten sobre los peligros que conlleva esta nueva tecnología.

¿Cómo puede usted tomar el control del tiempo que dedica a las redes sociales?[1]

Siga estos pasos importantes para poder utilizar las redes sociales sin ser esclavo de ellas. Empiece con sus dispositivos e invite a sus amigos y familiares a unirse.

¡Juntos podemos cambiar el sistema!

1. Apague las notificaciones

El color rojo llama más la atención porque es el color más destacado. Por eso, controle su tiempo apagando las notificaciones.

Recupere el control

Vaya a Configuración > Notificaciones > Apagado

Las toxinas nos lastiman físicamente. De la misma manera, las aplicaciones tóxicas dañan nuestro estado mental.
Las toxinas nos lastiman físicamente. Las aplicaciones tóxicas dañan nuestro estado mental.

2. Elimine aplicaciones tóxicas

Elimine aplicaciones que se lucran a través de la adicción, la distracción, las divisiones y la información falsa para atraer a los usuarios.

Recupere el control

  • Elimine Facebook → Puede enviar mensajes a sus amigos con Signal
  • Elimine TikTok → Envíe mensajes de video directamente o usa MarcoPolo
  • Elimine Snapchat → Sea creativo en sus mensajes de texto
  • Elimine Instagram → Retoque sus fotos usando VSCO

3. Descargue herramientas que realmente lo ayudarán

No podemos solucionar los problemas causados por la tecnología con más tecnología. Pero, hay herramientas que pueden minimizar el problema.

Recupere el control

  • Elimine la luz azul y duerma mejor → Flux
  • Controle el tiempo de pantalla y cultive buenos hábitos → iOS Android
  • Reduzca distracciones → News Feed Eradactor
  • Ayudese a concentrarse en sus metas → Flipd
  • Bloquee distracciones → Freedom
  • Reduzca el estrés y la ansiedad → Insight Timer
Así como no se relacionaría físicamente con alguien que solo quiere pelear, ¿por qué exponerse a ello en línea?

4. Elimine contenido que le provoca ira

Al hacer clic, dio su voto. No apoye a sitios que solo contaminan nuestro entorno digital con "clickbaits" que provocan enojo.

Recupere el control

  • Deje de seguir a los usuarios que buscan resolver problemas con violencia → Use iUnfollow para limpiar su lista de seguidos. Empiece de nuevo y, esta vez, escuche las opiniones a las que desea exponerse intencionalmente.
  • Deje de seguir los grupos de Facebook donde reina la ira → Revise sus Grupos > Ajustes > Siguiendo
  • Evite los canales de noticias conocidos por crear divisiones tal como MSNBC y FOXNews

5. Esté dispuesto a escuchar diferentes opiniones

Las redes sociales se utilizan generalmente para conectar a personas que comparten la misma perspectiva, lo que limita la posibilidad de interactuar con alguien que piensa diferente. Exponerse a diferentes puntos de vista.

Recupere el control

Lea sitios de noticias que tienen un enfoque muy diferente al suyo→ Allsides cubre sucesos mundiales de una manera imparcial y sigue el modelo híbrido de ingresos para evitar prejuicios

6. Sea amable

La ira y el enojo generan muchas ganancias en las redes sociales porque generan más participación entre los usuarios. ¿Por qué no vencer el mal con la bondad?

Recupere el control

  • Deténgase y piense por un momento. Recuerde que detrás de cada pantalla hay una persona con sentimientos, así que no se apresure a insultar públicamente a un usuario que opine muy diferente a usted.
  • Sea compasivo. Con un sincero interés, puede enviarle un mensaje en privado preguntándole por qué se siente así y esforzarse por entenderlo.

7. Póngase límites

Use una alarma normal para evitar dormir y despertar con el celular

Desde que no nos levantamos por la mañana hasta que nos vamos a dormir, siempre tenemos nuestro celular con nosotros, incluso lo llevamos al baño.

Recupere el control

  • Desconéctese por un rato en la mañana y tarde. Propongase un tiempo en concreto en pasarla sin tecnología
  • Coma sin distracciones. En familia, pueden jugar al "primero que agarra su teléfono, lava los trastes."
  • Establezca una estación para cargar los celulares. Antes de dormir, todos pueden dejar sus celulares en la estación, asegúrese de que esté lejos de las habitaciones.
  • Compre una alarma. Empiece su día sin tener los ojos pegados a la pantalla.

8. Desconéctese un día a la semana

Desconectarse en línea le dará más tiempo para conectarse consigo mismo y con sus seres queridos. Esta acción resultará en que usted reducirá su tiempo en las redes en un 15%. Puede que la compañía pierda alguna ganancia, pero usted saldrá ganado y se sentirá mucho mejor.

Recupere el control

Escoja un día y avísele a su familia y amigos de sus planes. Incluso puede invitarlos a que lo acompañen.

9. Concéntrese en lo positivo

¿Por qué nos mortificamos por un comentario negativo cuando tenemos 99 comentarios positivos? Por supervivencia, nuestro cerebro usualmente se enfoca en lo negativo, incluso cuando estamos desconectados digitalmente.

Recupere el control

Tome una foto de los mensajes positivos que ha recibido y guárdelo en una carpeta en su celular. Lo demás se puede borrar. La tecnología ha distorsionado nuestro cerebro para ver la corrección como algo negativo, pero podemos luchar contra esos pensamientos negativos si nos centramos en lo positivo.

10. Apoye a sus periodistas locales

No deje que su periodista local se sienta obligado a jugar con el "clickbait" como lo hacen las redes sociales. Apóyelos directamente al pagar una membresía. Así, usted seguirá siendo el cliente en vez del producto. La democracia y la publicidad de buena calidad van de la mano.

Recupere el control

  • Busque su periódico local y apóyelos → USPNL Directory
  • Sea miembro de plataformas que proveen información de buena calidad.

Notas[edit | edit source]

  1. Las recomendaciones en esta página web han sido traducidas de "Take Control Toolkit" del sitio Center for Humane Technology, una organización que se esfuerza por educar a más personas sobre los peligros que las redes sociales e internet pueden traer. También ofrecen consejos sobre cómo podemos protegernos del peligro. Para más información, puedes visitar el sitio de internet del Center for Humane Technology.

Caught in the Web: Exploring How Social Media Persuasive Strategies Can Lead to Addiction

Warning: Display title "Caught in the Web: Exploring How Social Media Persuasive Strategies Can Lead to Addiction" overrides earlier display title "Libérese de la Esclavitud Digital".

Social media platforms drive surges of dopamine to the brain to keep consumers coming back over and over again. The shares, likes and comments on these platforms trigger the brain’s reward center, resulting in a high similar to the one people feel when gambling or using drugs. -DR. NANCY DEANGELIS, CRNP, Director of Behavioral Health

The world of social media is constantly evolving, particularly when it comes to teenagers who are often at the forefront of these changes. There is no denying that it has been very valuable and useful in terms of communication, entertainment and sharing of information. However, just like the moon, it also has its dark side. In 2022, Pew Research Center conducted a survey among teenagers about how much time they spend on social media:

a majority of U.S. teens (55%) say they spend about the right amount of time on these apps and sites, while about a third of teens (36%) say they spend too much time on social media. Just 8% of teens think they spend too little time on these platforms. Asked about the idea of giving up social media, 54% of teens say it would be at least somewhat hard to give it up, while 46% say it would be at least somewhat easy. Teen girls are more likely than teen boys to express it would be difficult to give up social media (58% vs. 49%). Conversely, a quarter of teen boys say giving up social media would be very easy, while 15% of teen girls say the same. Older teens also say they would have difficulty giving up social media. About six-in-ten teens ages 15 to 17 (58%) say giving up social media would be at least somewhat difficult to do. A smaller share of 13- to 14-year-olds (48%) think this would be difficult.[1]  

As you can see from this data, 54% of teenagers said that it will be difficult for them to give up social media. One of the reasons why is how engaging social media has become. It was purposely designed to get the most time from its users, their manipulative tactics were constructed to persuade the users to stay connected online.  

Addictive Design[edit | edit source]


Let's identify some of the common tactics or tricks social media has been doing. The first is the “like” button, a simple feature that can make its users feel socially validated by different users and urges them to post more content to get the most likes from their friends. It creates this illusion of rewards that can make them come back to get more. And the second is the “pull to refresh,” which mimics the addictive nature of slot machines. This trick will give its users endless content on on their social media news feed. Every time it reaches the end of their news feed, it will suggest to its users to pull down, to create fresh content that is based on the things they view online. Video platforms like YouTube and Netflix follow the same idea; they automatically play the next movie or episode for their users. [2]

In addition to these common techniques, algorithms can create social media bubbles. As Wendy Rose Gould states in her article “Are you in a social media bubble? Here's how to tell” there are two types of social media bubbles. The first is the self-perpetuated bubble, which is created by the user itself, filtering or choosing only contents that what the user think is right. A neuroscientist, Don Vaughn from the University of California-Los Angeles explains that humans tend to surround themselves with like-minded individuals, creating their own “bubble” of beliefs and opinions.  The second type is filter bubbles;[3] this term was coined by Eli Pariser who is an author and internet activist. On a 2011 TedTalk presentation, he explained that filter bubbles depend on the things that you do. This algorithm will then decide what contents to show in your social media feed. To simply explain, what filter bubble means, it is a computer algorithm that gathers all your personal information, including things you like, watch, and buy online. Using these data, it will create this personalized world based on the information that it collected. It chooses contents for you, without knowing what gets filtered out. [4]

Furthermore, from the data and information social media companies have gathered comes another persuasive tactic, which is called targeted ads. This may seem a small thing, but it does contribute to social media addiction. Targeted ads are digital advertisements that are designed based on our likings and interests.[5] Advertisers can collect your data through your web history, recent location from Google maps, even from Android phones. Another way they gather its users data is from “cookies.” Every time that you click “accept” cookies on different webpages, these websites will instantly store your information and data.[6] In addition, social media companies collect our data without our knowledge to provide the most interesting content that will keep us scrolling to their apps. This tactic is a win-win situation for them and the advertisers, but not for its users.

Strategies for breaking free from social media addiction[edit | edit source]

Without a doubt, these persuasive techniques have led its users to social and digital addiction, affecting their mental and psychological health. Bernard Marr, a well-known author from Forbes suggests 7 ways to help curb social media addiction:

  • Reset your brain’s pathways and gain perspective on your relationship with your screens by doing a digital detox of 12-24 hours
  • Set aside a certain amount of time each day to just be still with your thoughts
  • Put your phone in automatic “bedtime” mode, which will turn off all notifications at a certain time of night
  • Set time limits for apps or websites using tools like Freedom or Space
  • Consider turning off all notifications on your phone
  • Delete your most distracting or time-consuming apps from your phone
  • Set up a “one screen” rule in your house, which means you can’t use more than one screen at a time (i.e. no watching TV while scrolling through your social media feeds!)

In addition to that, disabling or deleting the apps that consume vast amounts of your time can be another way too.[7] By doing this they can now focus and dedicate their time exploring new activities and hobbies. Taking responsibility and being held accountable you can help them break free from social media addiction. These are just a few steps on how to break free from social media, just remember that it starts with you. By doing this it can help not only you but also the people around you.   

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Social media addiction is something that has been affecting the lives of teenagers. According to the data presented, more than 54% of teenagers said that they will have a hard time giving up using social media. These persuasive tactics that social media companies have designed, were not just to improve their platform but to get the time and attention of its users, specifically teenagers, because all of them have access to social media. This paper aims to give you a better understanding of what these tactics were. By taking responsibility and actively seeking alternative activities, you can help them regain control of their relationship with you and find a healthier balance in their lives. Breaking free from social media addiction starts with you, and the benefits extend not only to yourself but also to the people around you.

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

Sarah Miller, "The Addictiveness of Social Media: How Teens Get Hooked", This article provides the psychological effect of social media addiction to teenagers.

Erwin Lima, "How to End Social Media Addiction and Protect Your Mental Health in 2023", A great article that lays out broad information about why and how social media is addicting, and provides steps to break free from social media addiction.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Atske, Sara (2022-08-10). "Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022". Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved 2023-06-08.
  2. "Welcome to Science Focus". BBC Science Focus Magazine. Retrieved 2023-06-08.
  3. Gould, wendy rose (October 21, 2019). ""Are you in a social media bubble? Here's how to tell"".
  4. "Eli Pariser: Beware online "filter bubbles"". 2011. Retrieved 2023-06-08.
  5. Kapur, Annie (2021). ""Is Targeted Advertising Turning Us into Addicts?"".
  6. "Why Targeted Ads Are a Serious Threat to Your Privacy". MUO. 2019-04-01. Retrieved 2023-06-08.
  7. Ivanov, Kelly Burch, Zlatin. "How to break social media addiction, or spend less time online". Insider. Retrieved 2023-06-08.

The Beauty Algorithm

Warning: Display title "The Beauty Algorithm: The New Tool of Manipulation" overrides earlier display title "Caught in the Web: Exploring How Social Media Persuasive Strategies Can Lead to Addiction".

Technology is taking us to places where we don't want to go.

-Sherry Turkle, founding director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self [1]

We are living through the technology era; everything is being or has already been changed by technology. Now technological evolution is attempting to tell us how we should look. Beauty algorithms such as the ones created by the technology company Megvii and the "facial aesthetics consultancy" Qoves have already begun to judge our looks based on parameters such as "symmetry, facial blemishes, wrinkles, estimated age and age appearance, and comparisons to actors and models."[2] Meanwhile, to get more likes and followers on social media platforms, we have to use filters to “better” the way we look.[3]

The problem with filters[edit | edit source]

That constant use of filters is especially unfavorable because it makes people addicted to filtering, and consequently, they don’t feel beautiful when they don’t use them. As Dr. Amy Stater, deputy director at the University of West England’s Center for Appearance Research, explains, “[t]he concern is that consistent exposure to a perfect image will leave people feeling like they don’t measure up.”[citation needed] In reality, filtering one’s pictures every day or seeing perfect images of others makes people insecure and makes them feel less comfortable and beautiful naturally. People always feel the constant need to retouch their pictures or videos and at some point will want to feel permanently “beautiful,”  which in some cases has led to unnecessary cosmetic surgeries that sometimes lead to death. Take the case of Solange Magnano, a former Miss Argentine who died in 2009 after a “complication arising from plastic surgery,” as reported by CNN's Marc Tutton.[4]

The problem with beauty algorithms[edit | edit source]

The use of beauty algorithms by every social media site is intentional. Beauty algorithms were made to make us insecure about ourselves so that we will need assistance to “perfect” ourselves. As Joshi Naveen explains in “What AI is doing in the beauty and cosmetic industry," beauty algorithms help companies to increase their sales and profits.[5] Beauty algorithms happen to be an “illusion of perfection,” which hides what digital director, writer, and creative consultant Brooke McCord calls a “disturbing truth.” She explains how the beauty algorithm is trying to convince us that it can better our looks and life, but the reality is that it is just being used to brainwash people to manipulate them. Facebook and other social media platforms are already doing this by selling us the entertainment dream to be able to spy on us, get all the information they need. At the same time,  we are connected to their platforms, and after selling our data to third parties without our acknowledgement and making money on our backs. That is exactly what Jeff Orlowski explained in his 2020 documentary The Social Dilemma.

Beauty algorithms are affecting us physically, emotionally and mentally. We are now more stressed about how we look and are desperately trying to look like the “perfect” faces and sharpened bodies we constantly have been shown by social media. In the podcast interview “The AI of Beholder” by Jennifer Strong[6], she explained that Computers are ranking the way people look—and the results are influencing the things we do, the posts we see, and the way we think. Ideas about what constitutes “beauty” are complex, subjective, and by no means limited to physical appearances. Elusive though it is, everyone wants more of it. That means big business and increasingly, people harnessing algorithms to create their ideal selves in the digital and, sometimes, physical worlds. During the report, Strong and everyone she interviews agrees on the same fact that beauty is a vast industry that is ready to make profits off consumers at any cost.

Behind the design[edit | edit source]

Beauty algorithms and technological inventions in general are designed by a small group of people mostly white and or asian who don’t know much about other societies' cultures. They innocently acknowledge or rely only on their own culture.And, their judgments and point of view always show up in their inventions. That clearly explains whyThe assistant Professor of Information system at Robert H. Smith School of business in college Park, Lauren Rhue,Ph.D [7], Found out that facial recognition programs exhibit “Two distinct types of bias”, the stereotype and racist. In fact, she demonstrated how the facial recognition software  failed to give real and objective results for each of the 400 NBA player photos from the 2016 to 2017 season she used for the experiment. Rhue believes The emotions reading Tech reflects stereotypes and prejudices since it scored black faces angrier than white faces even when they both had the same smile. She also attested that facial recognition programs as well as beauty algorithms are coded in favor of one group (whites), excluding others, especially blacks.

Why would a program designed to be used by everyone focus only on one group of people and ignore other people’s reality during the coding process? Well, the best way to destabilize and dominate a group of people is to make them doubtful about who they really are. By using beauty algorithms , racism is being implanted into our everyday lives. We are so confused about ourselves that now what we used to call “beautiful” is progressively becoming “ugly” to us. I remember, growing up in West Africa, plus size women were the most “beautiful” in the eyes of most people. To them, being plus size showed how well-fed and healthy people are. Yes, it was not always a good fact for skinnier people, but that is how it was. Years later, when TV started to broadcast more European movies, promoting skinny as sexy, the ideal of beauty started to change.

Men started to prefer skinnier women and the plus size beauties became “unwanted.” I also remember in my younger years, I used to hear people say “Wow! This person is so dark! She is so black, her skin is so beautiful!”As the years went on and the cosmetic industry promoted skin bleaching products, being black became a shame; it now shows that you don’t have good body hygiene. For example in the Pears’ soap advertisement based on the “washing the blackamoor white” it was said that black skin is dirty and needs to be washed off to become clean, white. From this, we can say imperialism has never really stopped, the heir to imperialism just made imperialism subtle.  Like old Africans like to say, “The dog will never change the way he  sits.” The saddest part is that the younger generation are now thinking that it’s not normal to be natural. Most of them don't know about imperialism, racism, and or slavery so it make it easier for imperialismst hidding behind technologies and progress to manipulate them. I have a sad memory of a young lady in my high school that boys used to bully by calling her “midnight” just because she was very black.  

The positive side[edit | edit source]

We all know that when opening up to the world, a person is opening up to diversity, and I believe diversity is the most beautiful and essential part of human history; it’s not always easy to be fair or accept everyone’s values and or ways to live, but as a globalized society we must take each other’s differences in a way to make the world a better place to live in. Beauty algorithms, filters, and cosmetic surgeries are indeed having a very negative impact on our modern society by causing self-consciousness, worry, and pessimistic views of our bodies. However, they have some agreable aspects in our everyday lives. Filters make our interactions on social media more interesting and relaxing, contributing to our well-being. In fact, filters Like Sun Baby, Shrek, Disney Pixar Face, and Moth Everywhere were first introduced to us for fun purposes and they are still being used for that purpose on platforms like Instagram,TikTok and Snapchat. These filters are so funny and entertaining that Lauren Webber, popularly known as LaurenzSide, an American online gamer, commentator, YouTuber, TikToker and social media star, decided to try them during videos for her followers.

In her video called “Trying the WEIRDEST Instagram filters ever made,” she tried some filters on herself. She was happy and relaxed during the process and honestly I was also enjoying it while watching the videos. We have too many severe topics like Coronavirus, cancer, mass shootings, climate change, and all the disasters that come with it, so we need amusing things like emojis and filters to relax us. Also, beauty algorithms and plastic surgery could be used to give back smiles to people after accidents or disasters where a person has lost one or several body parts. Many women in the world have been victims of acid attacks that completely destroyed the look of their faces and bodies. Plastic surgeries and beauty algorithms may be the only options they may  have to get a better look and make them happy again. I agree that we “are beautiful just the way we are” and “we don’t have to change a thing, the world should change its heart,” like Alesia Cara says in her song “Scars to Your Beautiful,” but if you think you need to change a thing to be happy, you should be given the chance to do so because the only real reason for living is happiness.

To conclude, it can be said that overall, technology has helped us have a better life. However, our new way to live is not always what we plan it to be. We are being dragged by “monsters” hiding behind technology to make profit from us. We should now know that everything “new is not always good” and be careful with what we believe in.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Turkle, Sherry. “Connected, but Alone?” TED.COM, February 2012.
  2. Wikipedia contributors. "Beauty.AI." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Feb. 2021. Web. 15 Dec. 2021.
  3. Yaseen, Rene.“Changing Your Face for Your Following:The Implication of Tik Tok ‘Beauty Algorithm’”,, March 15 2021
  4. Marc, Tutto, "Model's death highlights plastic surgery risks”,,December 02,2009
  5. Naveen, Joshi, “What AI is Doing in The Beauty and Cosmetic Industry”, 08 June, 2020
  6. Strong, Jennifer. “The Al of the Beholder”. In machine we trust, Podcast, YouTube, April
  7. Rhue, Lauren. “The Emotions Reading Tech Fails the Racial Bias Test” The January 13, 2019.  

The Futility of Personal Data Security

Warning: Display title "The Futility of Personal Data Security: How Data Breaches Reveal Fundamental Issues in Data Harvesting" overrides earlier display title "The Beauty Algorithm: The New Tool of Manipulation".

Cybercrime Abstract Concept
Cybercrime Abstract Concept

The advent of the World Wide Web and the subsequent technology that built off of its eventual widespread availability in the twenty-first century, served to connect people from one end of the world to the next. And while no one can disparage the tremendous benefits the internet has brought, the other side of that gleaming technological coin should also be carefully considered. As limitless as the internet seems, the issues it brings to rise are as well. One of the most insidious issues that has come to rise alongside the progression of the internet is the sheer amount of information that people willingly, and often obligatorily provide about themselves.

Since the scandal of Facebook’s involvement with Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 election, companies selling personal information to third party apps and data harvesters have come into the awareness of the general public. However, the increased awareness of data tracking does not mean that the average person, specifically the average American, understands the extent of their data being tracked, and where this data may be going. Moreover, 2017 studies from the Pew Research Center have shown that a large percentage of Americans are unsure or misinformed about many topics on proper cybersecurity.[1] Oftentimes, lack of awareness also comes from assumptions that basic security practices will prevent sites from collecting an individual’s data, or that a site only has the data that people have consciously entered, such as an individual’s username, password, date of birth, etc. that is often the basic sign-up procedure for most sites on the internet.

However, this is barely the tip of what sites, especially the larger social media sites such as Facebook and its affiliates Instagram and WhatsApp collect, and this is often revealed by bad-faith data breaches and the information those behind the breaches gain from site’s databases. Observing some of the largest data breaches, such as the Yahoo[2] and Cambridge Analytica breaches lays out how often these breaches are out of the hands of the individual. Adding to the fact that Statista has reported an increase in the number of data breaches yearly, reform at a national level on what individual data can be collected in the U.S., like the General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR) in the European Union, becomes a clear necessity.

Instances of data breaches have been occurring for as long as data has been collected, but the advent of the internet and subsequent movement of most data into digital storage has only served to increase the number of data breaches per year, while the number of people impacted per data breach has exponentially risen. While data breaches from stolen files and leaked information from employees was not unheard of in the past, data collected and stored online is uniquely vulnerable to anyone with malicious intent and the knowledge of getting past security systems. Granted, it is not the easiest thing in the world to get past robust security systems in place to protect people’s information, but security has not stopped–or even slowed successful breaches, regardless of any security advent. As shown in data collected by Statista since 2005, the number of data compromises has increased tenfold, from 157 instances in 2005 impacting 66.9 million records, to peaking in 2021 at 1,862 compromises and 298.08 million records impacted.[3] This erosion of privacy was inevitable in a landscape where personal information has become a commodity to sell to the highest bidder, often to gain insight into user bases to manipulate individual choices.

Facebook's estimates on users affected by Cambridge Analytica

The most spotlighted instance of personal information being used to manipulate user opinions was the data breach by whistleblower Christopher Wylie, revealing Cambridge Analytica’s data harvesting methods of Facebook users and subsequent targeted posts to sway voters during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As explained by Wylie in an interview regarding the purpose of Cambridge Analytica, “We exploited Facebook to harvest millions of people’s profiles. And built models to exploit what we knew about them and target their inner demons. That was the basis the entire company was built on." [4]

This was a breakdown of privacy at an unprecedented level, and the bigger issue was how Facebook handled the data breach following the reveal of Cambridge Analytica’s harvesting of millions of users’ data. Facebook was exceedingly slow in ensuring the security of its user’s data following the breach, only issuing a letter ordering the harvested data to be deleted months after the fact, and doing little to nothing to ensure that the data was out of third-party hands. [4] As data protection specialist and forefront investigator into Facebook’s involvement Paul-Olivier Dehaye explains, despite the evidence that Facebook was not doing its due diligence following the breach, “Facebook has denied and denied and denied this. It has misled MPs and congressional investigators…. It has a legal obligation to inform regulators and individuals about this data breach, and it hasn’t." [4] Unfortunately, Facebook’s refusal to acknowledge the data breach for what it was, and subsequent lack of transparency regarding what happened to that data afterwards, is a common practice for companies to downplay their involvement and severity of a breach.

Currently, there is no federal standard of what is required of companies to disclose to the impacted persons of a data breach, and while most states have passed laws regarding transparency surrounding breaches, the requirements and charges for failure in compliance often vary. Troy Hunt, a cybersecurity expert, provided overviews of companies’ responses to data breaches while outlining what the best practices are when responding to a data breach, and where a companies’ moral responsibilities lie. From his comparisons, it becomes evident that while a few companies will respond promptly with transparency upon a data breach, it’s much more likely for a company to attempt to evade the issue until it has no choice but to address it.[5]

In addition, companies will often attempt to obfuscate the importance of the data that was exposed, such as making statements assuring customers that no credit card or payment information tied to an account has been stolen, just e-mail addresses and similar, seemingly non-consequential information in comparison. However, the unencrypted information found through a data breach, especially a user’s personal information, is always connected to other aspects of a user’s online presence, and creates vulnerabilities in more than just the original breached site. In the experience of Megan Clifford, a victim of T-Mobile’s 2017 data breach,  hackers getting access to her phone number lead to their ability to access almost all of her accounts, as Alix Langone reported, “Now that someone had her phone number, they could get into her bank account and gain access the common apps she had on her phone, including Venmo and iTunes.”[6] Aside from porting scams like the one Clifford faced, access to email lists often spawn targeted phishing scams, or can be sold to another party for further exploitation.

Without standardization on consequences of breaches, compensation and responsibility is often determined on a case-to-case basis, and the impacted users will rarely have legal recourse regarding stolen data, as the lower courts have struggled to define harm when it comes to data breaches. As Solove and Citron summarized in a thesis published in The Texas Law Review:

In the past two decades, plaintiffs in hundreds of cases have sought redress for data breaches caused by inadequate data security. In most instances, there is evidence that the defendants failed to use reasonable care in securing plaintiffs’ data. The majority of the cases, however, have not turned on whether the defendants were at fault. Instead, the cases have been bogged down with the issue of harm. No matter how derelict defendants might be with regard to security, no matter how much warning defendants have about prior hacks and breaches, if plaintiffs cannot show harm, they cannot succeed in their lawsuits (739).[7]

The thesis further provides examples of cases in which plaintiffs have failed in their lawsuits, even with clear evidence of potential harm from the data disseminated by the breach, because the courts could not define the harm in a concrete manner (779).[7] With the sheer amount of information that is being collected through usage of the internet on the individual, and the modern-day inaccessibility to existing without an online footprint in some way, the responsibility of bearing the burden of data breaches should not be left on the individual being affected. However, without regulation surrounding the data being collected and how this data is meant to be treated in the first place, the onus in the U.S. lands on the individual to handle.

Regulations in personal data privacy clearly need to be passed and fortunately, a functioning example to structure federal regulations already exists in the form of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a European Union regulation approved by the European Union in May of 2018. The goal of the GDPR is to put the power of personal data back into the hands of users to minimize the risk and more forward with transparency in the event a data breach was to occur. The GDPR has proven to be complex for companies to fall under compliance but essentially, it aims to allow users to request information on what data a site is collecting, and permanent erasure of data records if desired. The GDPR also has fines that may be levied to companies that fail to report data breaches within a timely and in a transparent manner, with delays incurring heavier fines the more time that passes since the initial notice of a breach.

Security expert Saryu Nayyar writes for the implementation of something akin to the GDPR in her Forbes article, “For simplicity’s sake, businesses want one unified and standard set of regulatory requirements to meet. This is precisely what the GDPR did, replacing numerous disparate regulations instituted by various EU member states.”[8] As she points out in the article, states have begun to pass laws surrounding data breaches, but the lack of standardization creates a difficult environment for companies to be compliant, and loopholes for ones that are not looking to be. Users in the U.S. have seen the effects of the GDPR from companies that have had to change their privacy policies to comply with the GDPR, and federal regulations regarding data privacy exist for specific sets of data already, like the FTC’s regulations for breaches in medical records. With these systems already in place and functioning, unified regulation is less unimaginable.

Like any market, data collection needs to be regulated and have enforced rules in place to protect the consumers from bad business practices, whether intentionally malicious or otherwise. And while the necessity is becoming more of a forefront issue, there has yet to be any significant change on a federal level regarding data collection and response to data breaches. Until change is demanded enough, it is ultimately up to the individual in the U.S. to protect their own data and information accessible on the internet. Cybersecurity experts recommend using unique and strong passwords for every account created with two factor authentication enabled, and to manage those under a password manager. In addition, investing in a VPN to obscure internet activity and IP addresses from providers and affiliated companies is good practice, as is using internet browsers that do not profit from collecting user data. However, this is ultimately a band-aid on a larger issue of unnecessary and excessive data collection, which only something akin to the GDPR passing could even begin to address.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Olmstead, Kenneth, and Aaron Smith. “What the Public Knows about Cybersecurity.” Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech, 22 Mar. 2017,
  2. Brown, Shelby. “Robinhood data breach is bad, but we've seen much worse.CNET. Nov, 2021./
  3. Statista. “Cyber Crime: Number of Compromises and Victims in U.S. 2005-HI 2022.” Statista, 31 Aug. 2022.
  4. a b c Cadwallader, Carole, and Graham-Harrison, Emma. “Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach.The Guardian. Mar, 2018.
  5. Hunt, Troy. Data breach disclosure 101: How to succeed after you've failed. March, 2017.
  6. Langone, Alexandra, "Personal Privacy And Data Security In The Age Of The Internet" (2017). CUNY Academic Works.
  7. a b Solove, Daniel J, and Danielle Keats Citron. “Risk and Anxiety: A Theory of Data-Breach Harms.” Texas Law Review, vol. 96, Dec. 2017, pp. 737–786.
  8. Nayyar, Saryu. “Is It Time For a U.S. Version of GDPR?Forbes. February, 2022.

Evolving Walls of Ones and Zeroes

Warning: Display title "Evolving Walls of Ones and Zeroes: Deep Learning and its Uses in Cybersecurity" overrides earlier display title "The Futility of Personal Data Security: How Data Breaches Reveal Fundamental Issues in Data Harvesting". Only eleven years after the electromechanical computer was created, the world's first design for a computer virus was born. John Von Neumann, a mathematician and engineer, gave a series of lectures at the University of Illinois about the theory of self-replicating computer programs. However, it would not be until the early 1970’s that the first functional computer virus would be created. This virus, named “Creeper,” was the first computer program to spread and self-replicate, and was deleted by “Reaper,” the world's first anti-virus software[1]. This cycle of a computer virus being created, and an anti-virus being written to combat it has been going on for over fifty years.

However, with recent developments in machine learning, the classification and removal of malware may end up being entirely automated. A majority of new malware is built upon existing malware, and classifying the type is often the first step towards eradicating it. Deep learning programs have shown exceptional performance in dentification tasks, and, at the 9th New Technologies, Mobility and Security conference, an artificial neural network used to analyze imagery was shown to have “better than...state of the art performance”[2] when it came to identifying malware.

What ways do today's antivirus programs identify malware, and what are their flaws?[edit | edit source]

Anti-virus programs usually go about detection using a few methods, such as sandboxing, heuristic detection, and real-time detection. Sandboxing runs programs in a virtual environment and records what the program does. If the program is deemed non-malicious, the antivirus software then runs it on your actual computer.[3] While this technique is effective, it is slow and resource heavy, and therefore is not used in many user-side antivirus programs. Heuristic detection, or “genetic detection” is the process of identifying viruses by checking for similarities with already existing viruses. This method is effective but relies entirely on the limited databases used by the antivirus software. Real-time detection is the process of scanning a file when it is being downloaded or opened. This is the method that most anti-malware programs use. The biggest issue with this is that if the virus is not previously known, the antivirus will not flag it.

What are some deep learning antivirus programs, and how do they work?[edit | edit source]

Shallow machine learning programs predict the relationship between two variables and are used in many cybersecurity programs. However, new advances in deep learning technologies have led to neural networks outperforming even the best shallow learning algorithms. At the 9th New Technologies, Mobility and Security conference, an artificial neural network used to analyze imagery was shown to have outdone the winners of the Microsoft Malware Classification Challenge[2]. This system converts files into binary, and then turns the binary into a grayscale image, at which point the neural network scans it for similarities with other malware. This system had a 99.97% success rate on a dataset of over 10,000 malware samples. The neural network model used in this method is a convolutional neural network, which is based on the visual cortex of animals.

A model of a neural network, showing the input, hidden, and output layers

Another neural network program, the FO-SAIR (Factional-Order Susceptible-Antidote-Infected-Removed) framework, has shown great success in removing viruses. This program is modeled after organic disease treatments, and is a modified version of the SIR (Susceptible-Infected-Removed) framework. FO-SAIR is examined through stochastic optimization, a method that generates random variables to simulate an actual system. This program is one of the most cost-efficient antivirus methods, as it creates “antidotes” at a rate dependent on how much the virus has spread, and deletes these antidotes after they have no more use.[4] As powerful as these programs are, they are limited by hefty storage requirements, and by the time it takes to train them. While effective, this makes them not a reasonable option for an everyday consumer.

Won't hackers have access to deep learning too?[edit | edit source]

As technology becomes more accessible, both the quantity and quality of malware have skyrocketed. Former general manager of Australia's Computer Emergency Response Team Graham Ingram stated that “We are getting code of a quality that is probably worthy of software engineers[,]”[5] in reference to the skill of newer malware authors. However, there are several key factors that make deep learning more suited for antiviruses than malware. The need for both substantial computing power and a very large dataset make deep learning inaccessible to many people. This is especially true for malware authors, as large datasets of antivirus software is much harder to find than large datasets of viruses, meaning it would be harder to train a virus on antiviruses than it would be to train an antivirus on viruses. In addition, according to MathWorks, deep learning is used to “perform classification tasks directly from images, text, or sound[,]” which is useful for identifying, but not hiding, malware. While both malware authors and antivirus authors will have access to deep learning, by its nature it is more suited for antiviruses than malware.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Machine learning has advanced rapidly over the years and has impacted many fields; both those directly connected to technology and those that are not. As this technology continues to be improved upon, it will be used more and more frequently. This will especially be the case in the field of cybersecurity, as the deep learning programs are showing very high levels of success, especially compared to most modern antivirus programs. As machine learning grows more advanced, it will become the leading approach to cybersecurity due to its speed and accuracy in malware classification.

Discussion questions[edit | edit source]

  1. Do you think deep learning programs will fully replace traditional antivirus software in the future? Why or why not? What challenges still exist?
  2. How might advances in deep learning impact the "arms race" between malware creators and cybersecurity specialists? Will one side gain an upper hand?
  3. Should machine learning algorithms used for cybersecurity purposes be open source? What are the ethical implications around transparency and scrutiny in this case?
  4. What other applications of deep learning show promise for improving cybersecurity beyond analyzing malware? For example, could it detect intrusions or compromised accounts?
  5. Do you believe enough is being done legally and politically to prepare for emerging technologies like AI-powered cyberattacks or cyberwarfare? What policies or regulations could help address these threats?

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Chen, Thomas, and Jean-Marc, Robert (2004). "The Evolution of Viruses and Worms" Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  2. a b Kalash, Mahmoud et al. “Malware Classification with Deep Convolutional Neural Networks.” 2018 9th IFIP International Conference on New Technologies, Mobility and Security. 2018
  3. “Sandboxing Protects Endpoints | Stay Ahead of Zero Day Threats” (June 20, 2014)
  4. Noinang, Sakda et al. “Numerical Assessments Employing Neural Networks for a Novel Drafted Anti-Virus Subcategory in a Nonlinear Fractional-Order SIR Differential System” IEEE Access vol. 10 (2022)
  5. Kotadia, Munir. "Why popular antivirus apps 'do not work'". (July 2006)

The Great Awakening

Warning: Display title "Waiting for "The Great Awakening": QAnon as the Mother of All Conspiracy Theories" overrides earlier display title "Evolving Walls of Ones and Zeroes: Deep Learning and its Uses in Cybersecurity".

Very few people know how to protect themselves from the corrosive influences that surround them.

Fortunate is the person that during their adolescence years doesn't give up on education.

- Orison Swett Marden.

One of the most controversial and influential conspiracy theories of 21st Century America is QAnon. At its core is the belief that a worldwide shadow government of the elite secretly runs the world; its members have been variously accused of following Satan, of cannibalism, of running a child sex trafficking ring, and, more recently, of creating and deploying the coronavirus. This "deep state" cabal manipulates the public, democratically-elected state with the help of the mainstream media and Hollywood. Because the majority of those who believe in QAnon conspiracy theory may be categorized as politically far-right, they see the election of President Donald J. Trump as marking the beginning of a behind-the-scenes battle against this secret cabal, which, in turn, plotted to remove him from office and is now blocking his return. QAnon followers are kept in the know about this battle through cryptic coded postings on the Web by a supposed government agent who signs the messages with "Q-Clearance Patriot," which is meant to indicate the poster has Q security clearance, that is, top-level security clearance in the U.S. Department of Energy. Q's revelations will lead to a "Great Awakening" and to the ultimate event of this battle between the forces of good and evil, "the Storm," when the cabal will be defeated and the truth revealed to all. [1][2]

As a Q follower reveals to filmmakers Bayam Nooman and Mary Clements during an interview for their documentary QAnon 101: The Search for Q, Q's communications have all the characteristics of a psychological operation (psy-op), that is, "a military-led strategy to influence a population’s emotions, motives, and objective reasoning."[1][3] By using a "gamified model" that requires readers (known as Anons) to follow clues and conduct research to decode their meaning, Q's postings engrosses its audience. The Anons' hard work is then rewarded by the top-security insider information supposedly obtained, which further encourages their buy in. Since the goal of a psy-op is to undermine an adversary's ability to command and control its military operations,[4] the process of decoding Q's messages is seen by QAnons as a means of liberation from the lies and propaganda by a corrupt establishment.

"Q Shaman" January 6, 2021

The Consequences of QAnon: Division and Chaos[edit | edit source]

On January 6, 2021, the United States suffered an attack on the Capitol, where members of Congress were meeting to confirm the victory of Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. Some of the attackers were QAnon followers who believed in President Trump's affirmation that the election had been stolen from him. That day many QAnon supporters were expecting to get more instructions from Trump to finally bring the secret shadow government to justice and allow him to rule for the next four years as he deserved. Inflamed by the president’s rhetoric, they forced their way into the capitol to “stop the steal,” threatening our democracy and causing the death of five people.[5]

This was not the first time that individuals who believed in the reality of a “deep state” cabal had taken matters into their own hands. In 2016, Edgar Welch, a man from North Carolina armed himself and went to self-investigate conspiracy theory allegations that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring out of Comet Pong, a pizza restaurant located in Washington D.C. After finding that no children were being held in the pizza place, he surrendered to the police.[1] A second example happened in in 2019, when Anthony Comello, a Staten Island man, fatally shot the Mafia boss Frank Cali because he believed he was a member of the deep state. That was when the FBI classified QAnon as a domestic terror threat. [6]

Even after President's Joe Biden victory was confirmed, the QAnon movement did not stop its spread of false assertions, the latest of which concerns the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines. Believers in the QAnon conspiracy theory refuse to get vaccinated because they think that the government’s “elite” wants to control humanity and that the COVID-19 virus was developed to reduce the population. The fact that some of those vaccinated have suffered complications has given more credibility to these false assertions, creating fear between American communities, preventing people from getting the vaccine, and slowing the process to end to the pandemic. [7]

How Do Conspiracy Theories Interfere With Our Commonsense Reasoning?[edit | edit source]

Conspiracy theories have always been with us. However, in recent years we have seen a dramatic rise in their influence on politics thanks to social media. While in its most basic form social media helps us express freely, instantly, and globally, the repetition of ideas via "likes" and "re-posts" gives power to irrational and harmful beliefs that only end up destroying commonsense reasoning and may end up creating an unstable and dangerous society.

"Conspiracy theories arise in the context of fear, anxiety, mistrust, uncertainty, and feeling of powerless," explains John Ehrenreich when reporting on the phenomenon for Slate magazine. People who present anxiety, stress, and a need for control over the environment are more susceptible to believing in conspiracies because they are frequently suspicious and distrustful, easily believing that others are plotting against them. They find relief in theories that explain their feelings and concerns, which offers them a safe environment. Conspiracy theories also fill psychological and ideological needs as individuals are more likely to pay attention to and believe information that validates their existing beliefs. This is referred to as “confirmation bias” by psychologists. Here, again, is where technology tips the scales: because the algorithms on which social media platforms are built tend to give us more of what we have indicated that we like, we may get our biases confirmed as “facts” when we interact with others who share our opinions through social media.[8]

Americans and News Consumption[edit | edit source]

Americans rely on their news from social platforms

The frightful way Americans are consuming their news nowadays is one of the main reasons they are often falling for the misinformation shared on the Web, as shown on a survey analysis by the Pew Research Center. About 18% of adults confirmed getting their political and election news from social platforms, and about 25% from news websites and apps. According to the survey, only 8% of these adults followed the 2020 election “very closely.” The lack of attention leads to insufficient knowledge for which users who rely on social media to get their news are less likely to get the facts and more likely to hear unproven claims.[9]

Based on the Pew Research Center Survey [9]
Source Percentage % Source Percentage % Source Percentage %
News Websites/ Apps 25% Cable Tv 16% Print 3%
Social Media 18% Network 13% No Answer 1%
Local Tv 16% Radio 8%

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Americans should become more cautious about how they consume their news. The Internet and Web can be great tools for unscrupulous people attempting to manipulate information, which ends up threatening our daily lives, national security, and democracy.

Conspiracy Theories Trivia Game[edit | edit source]

The goal of this trivia game is to create awareness of how easily we may believe in conspiracy theories. You have one minute and thirty seconds to answer as many questions as you can!

Trivia Game: Are you a conspiracy theory believer?

If you like the game and want to learn more about each topic presented, go to this link click on the ? as you play the game.

Further Learning[edit | edit source]

  • Eli Pariser, Beware online "filter bubbles" TED. March, 2011. In this TED conference the activist and entrepreneur Eli Pariser explains how algorithms used by social media shape our political views.
  • Myles Bess. "Why Do Our Brains Love Fake News?" Above the Noise. An explanation of how confirmation bias works so that we end up believing what we want to believe. A lesson from National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).
  • Claire Wardle, "Can you outsmart a troll (by thinking like one)?" TED-Ed. October, 2020. This video illustrates how quick and easy it is to spread false information with the purpose of manipulating people's beliefs.
  • United States Department of Homeland Security, Analytic Exchange Program. "Combatting Targeted Disinformation Campaigns: A Whole-Of-Society Issue." Homeland Security Digital Library. October, 2019. In this article a team of researchers explain how disinformation campaigns became popular, how they work, and what we can do to combat this threat.

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

  1. List the common elements of conspiracy theories. Discuss what these common elements can tell us about those who believe them, about the historical moment we are living in, and about our society.
  2. Where do you usually get your information? How do you know these sources are credible?
  3. Look at the types of information that the Web algorithms are suggesting that you check. What trends, biases, or possibly filter bubbles do you see? How could you train the algorithms to give you more diverse information?
  4. "The best way to fight ... fake news discourse is not to give counterarguments, but to try to check the validity of the other person's argument." --Journalist Thomas Huchon, "A Conspiracy Video Teaches Kids A Lesson About Fake News." Do you agree with Huchon? Is it better to fact-check the sources of a person's story than to counteract the story's fake information with facts? Which method, in your view, might change the mind of a conspiracy theory believer? Why?

References[edit | edit source]

The Fake News Effect

Warning: Display title "The Fake News Effect: The Impact of COVID-19 on 5G" overrides earlier display title "Waiting for "The Great Awakening": QAnon as the Mother of All Conspiracy Theories".

Don't waste your time with explanations: people only hear what they want to hear.

― Paulo Coelho

To be independent of public opinion is the first formal condition of achieving anything great.  

― Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Background[edit | edit source]

Transmission and life-cycle of SARS-CoV-2-causing COVID-19

In 2019, a great number of people were infected by pneumonia in Wuhan, China. Experts investigated, finding its cause was a new betacoronavirus and called it COVID-19. This virus spreads out swiftly via droplets so humans get infected at a high rate and there is no specific medication accessible in hospitals to treat it. There are countries that have thousands of people who have died. The number of patients at the hospital has reached an all-time high, and ambulances have been running around the clock every day. Because it is a horrifying virus that dramatically alters people’s lives, governments around the world have ordered citizens to wear masks and stay home for over a year. Many people have lost their jobs and some young people who do not have savings have had a hard time getting through this period. In the United States, for example, the unemployment rate climbed steadily from the end of 2019 through mid 2020:

In April 2020, the unemployment rate reached 14.8%—the highest rate observed since data collection began in 1948. In April 2021, unemployment remained higher (6.1%) than it had been in February 2020 (3.5%). The labor force participation rate declined to 60.2% in April 2020—a level not seen since the early 1970s—then began a partial recovery in May 2020. The labor force participation rate was 61.7% in April 2021, 1.7 percentage points below the level in January 2020, before the pandemic and the economic recession.[10]

Many are irritated, bewildered, and concerned about what causes the virus. In response to the uncertainty brought by the epidemic, a bizarre conspiracy hypothesis has emerged on social media about Fifth Generation (5G) technology aiding in the spread of the coronavirus, which has been shared widely by Internet users.

How have some people reacted to the theory that COVID-19 is caused by 5G?[edit | edit source]

Some individuals have bought into this fake theory and even committed atrocities to oppose 5G. In the United Kingdom, the conspiracy was peddled by conspiracy theorists and celebrities on social media, so there were many supporters of the hypothesis who set telephone poles on fire and attacked telecommunication engineers constructing fiber-optic connections.[11] In addition, many demonstrators marched in Australia, even preventing telecommuting workers from finishing their jobs.[12]  Why is this so? Because some people have been swayed by bad faith actors with ulterior objectives into thinking that a group of world leaders have orchestrated the pandemic to take control of the global economy. This conspiracy theory is called "The Great Reset", and it presents COVID-19 as a biological weapon that is being distributed in part via 5G cell towers as part of the depopulation plan.[13]

Why do people believe in this conspiracy?[edit | edit source]

There are three reasons: 1) people who reject 5G also reject 4G, 3G, and other wireless technologies, 2) the rise in the number of unemployed people has resulted in an increase in the number of people doing nothing, and 3) the dissemination of unverified information on social media. There have been conspiracy theories about the supposed harm of 5G wireless waves since the technology began gaining public attention. The basic idea is that 5G wireless signals use “additional higher frequency electromagnetic waves in addition to low and medium band frequencies used in previous cellular networks," [14] such as 4G or 3G, and they are therefore dangerous to humans and animals.[15] The origin story for this theory was presented in March 2020 in a YouTube video lecture by Dr. Thomas Cowan, who is an American doctor who is at present on disciplinary probation.[16] In the video, Dr. Thomas proposes that all viruses in human history are caused by electromagnetic waves, specifically mentioning that the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic coincided with the introduction of radio at a global scale. Dr. Thomas believes the coronavirus is a type of cellular poisoning caused by the lowering of the body’s immunity by electromagnetic fields.[17] People who live near a 5G base station are immune compromised by waves emitted by the base station, making them more vulnerable to the virus. As evidence, he cites the lack of outbreaks in Africa because there is no 5G in that continent yet. However, in the article “Does 5G Cause or Spread the Coronavirus? Here’s What Experts Say,” the author points out that the lower bands, encompassing everything from AM radio to cell phones to microwave ovens, are categorized as nonionizing radiation, and do not harm DNA directly. They have long been considered harmless except for potentially heating cells at close range.[1] Moreover, leading national authorities like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) maintain that there is little to no health risk from using mobile phones given the safety limits already in place.[1]

There is no relationship between COVID-19 and 5G[edit | edit source]

FACT: 5G mobile networks DO NOT spread COVID-19

A statement by the worldwide radiation watchdog the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), which issued revised recommendations for 5G frequency deployment, confirmed that the frequencies at which 5G would be implemented are safe:

ICNIRP has just released new guidelines for exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic fields, and we considered all possible adverse health effects. The only proven effect is that of heating of (parts of) the body, and the guidelines are set to such a low level that this will not occur if they are observed. Adverse health effects resulting from effects on the immune system have not been found and thus also cannot form a basis for exposure guidelines.[9]

Moreover, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), we must come into physical contact with the coronavirus to become sick because it is transmitted from human to human by tiny respiratory droplets which travel through the air through talking, breathing, and coughing. Because it is an electromagnetic wave, 5G cannot bring you into touch with the virus. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) of the United States also replied to the theory with “5G technology does not cause Coronavirus".[18] According to medical and scientific experts, like some other recent outbreaks, the novel coronavirus is most likely transmitted to humans by animals.[9]

Advantages of 5G[edit | edit source]

The pandemic has actually encouraged the adoption of 5G. In the article “COVID-19 showed the importance of 5G for the economy and the environment,” Börje Ekholm points out that during the pandemic, 5G has an important role for the economy and the environment. The data shows that:

In its first 5G Outlook Series report, the World Economic Forum highlighted several activities behind that increased usage: in healthcare, a 490% increase in telemedicine urgent care visits; in socialization a 75% increase in online gaming; and in retail, online transactions were up 74% globally. In the world of work, Ericsson’s Mobility Report showed 60% of white-collar workers increased their usage of video calls.
Despite the sudden and unprecedented changes in traffic patterns and demand, the networks performed well, with operators generally providing enough network performance. This strong performance was reflected in users’ perceptions, with 83% claiming ICT helped them a lot, in one way or another, to cope with lockdowns.
Without the investments made in 4G and 5G, none of the uses including telemedicine, video calls and gaming could have been delivered to the extent seen through the pandemic. [19]

In addition, All of the applications place demands on today's networks that would quickly push them to their limits. The development of 5G has increased network use and facilitated companies' significant science and technology development. Therefore, the development of 5G technology has brought us advantages and convenience. The most important thing is that 5G has also enabled more new positions in society, and local groups have more job opportunities.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

In conclusion, all evidence shows that COVID-19 is not caused by 5G.  Rather, the pandemic has promoted the demand and created a larger market for 5G, accelerating its application and providing opportunities for its global implementation. As 5G consumers, people will benefit from this new technology, which includes connection speeds as fast as fiber, more stable connections, smoother streaming, and video calling with fewer buffering. When deciding whether or not to adopt something new, we should not rely on public opinion to determine if it is good or bad. This should be a lesson as to why we must stick to the scientific method of separating facts from fiction.

Comprehension questions[edit | edit source]

  • How is 5G technology different from 4G and 3G? How did its difference cause some people to believe 5G was creating the pandemic?
  • Who and what was harmed by this conspiracy theory?
  • What real impact has 5G played in the epidemic?

Discussion questions[edit | edit source]

  • What could be the reasons why people began to spread this conspiracy theory about COVID-19 and 5G? What could be the reasons other people support this theory and share it?
  • Describe a conspiracy theory that you would never share with your social network and explain why you would not share it.

Further reading[edit | edit source]

  • Kaitlyn Tiffany, “Something in the Air.The Atlantic. This article examines in depth why the 5G fear is nothing new, and why the fears are unfounded.
  • James Meese, Jordan Frith, and Rowan Wilken, “COVID-19, 5G conspiracies and infrastructural futures.” Media International Australia. August 27, 2020. This article also gives background information on the fears of 5G but argues that we must “look beyond conspiracy theories to a larger set of [geopolitical and economic] concerns.”

References[edit | edit source]

More Than a Number

Warning: Display title "More Than a Number: China’s Social Crediting System Comes with Inherent Bias" overrides earlier display title "The Fake News Effect: The Impact of COVID-19 on 5G".

Introduction[edit | edit source]

In the episode “Nosedive” of the dystopian science fiction television series Black Mirror, Lacie, a woman obsessed with climbing up the social ladder but unable to secure the apartment of her dreams because of her low social media score, follows the advice of a social media consultant by attempting to impress “High Fours,” people whose score is closest to her society’s standard of social achievement, the five-star rating. Conceived by Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker as “a satire of acceptance and the image we like to portray”, “Nosedive” speaks to present social media anxieties and our excessive adoration of social media influencers.[20] But to actually lose one’s job because of a low social rating, as the episode portrays, is far-fetched, right? Not exactly. In fact, this is exactly what may be happening in China today due to its social crediting system.[21]

By the Numbers[edit | edit source]

China has the strongest presence on the Internet in the world, with nearly one billion users.[22] China also has some of the strictest media censorship, and most of the websites and Web 2.0 services used in the Western world are blocked completely and subsequently replaced by “copycats” of their own: while the Western world is used to Google, the Chinese have Baidu. Instead of Twitter, the Chinese have Weibo. In place of Facebook, the Chinese have created Renren. Instead of viewing videos on YouTube, Chinese people view them on Youku and Tudou.[1]

By keeping Chinese people on their own websites that usually record and store all their personal data within buildings in the country’s capital, Beijing, the government can constantly monitor what is done online and by whom.[23] And now that China is implementing a national social crediting system, this government surveillance coupled with the Chinese people’s embrace of their censored Internet could lead to a disastrous result. History has shown that people in power -- especially those with access to innovative technology -- tend to favor the wealthy and elite.

Social Credit[edit | edit source]

So, what is the new Chinese social credit system and how does it work? Formally introduced in 2011 by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, the social credit system is the Chinese government’s project to create a unified record system to track and evaluate its citizens, businesses, and regional administrations for trustworthiness. Some regional administrations rate trustworthiness using a numerical value, while the central government uses mostly blacklisting and whitelisting.[9] It was officially set to begin in 2020, but the deadline was pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[24] Some aspects of it are similar to the credit checks that banks run--using credit rating companies such as Experian in the United States--before providing someone with a loan. It also resembles the way that social media value is measured in the West, which usually depends on an Internet user’s follower count or the amount of likes they receive on online posts. The Chinese system, however, will apply these ratings to all aspects of Chinese life. A citizen or business can be given a high ranking for donating to charity, or have value deducted for grievances such as playing music loudly.[9] [25]

Once the national system is fully implemented, Chinese citizens, businesses, and local governments will be assigned a number based on the data gathered from Chinese “big tech,”[25] that is, the innovative technology across the country that collects personal information as well as other data gathered from websites that people and small businesses may access.

One such technology key to information gathering is Artificial Intelligence (AI) that uses facial recognition technology to monitor citizens and their movements. Since the transgressions that the Chinese government will look for can range from jaywalking and unsound business practices to evidence of sharing anti-government rhetoric, once the system is in place, AI and the cameras will be able to do most of the work in tracking the citizens and alerting the government of violations.[26]

The negative impact of a bad score for businesses and people will also varies. As mentioned, the central government already has a running blacklist of businesses and people who they feel have acted poorly. By being blacklisted, the government publicly shames the transgressors while banning some personal rights and potentially limiting their ability to continue to do business. Some local governments have offered positive incentives for having a good score to try to increase trust in the system, such as prioritized healthcare and deposit-free housing.[26]

China and the Internet[edit | edit source]

As stated earlier, the Chinese government blocks Western social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, replacing them with their own. By allowing only these websites to exist and monitoring the content their citizens are allowed to post, the Chinese government can control the narrative and opinions around the country.

Say something about a censorship law or something damning about your official? One can be expected to be taken offline, prosecuted, and even in some cases permanently blacklisted from basic human rights such as access to healthcare and transportation. Say something good or release a story about an official the government may already want ousted? Expect to gain some notoriety when the government allows your opinion to be circulated for days before they finally take it down. This type of selective censorship may raise alarms to a Chinese citizen who now faces the threat of the government applying scores that influence opinion on who is worthy of access to basic human liberties.[1]

With China being the most populated country in the world, holding about 20% of the world’s population according to their last census, the public’s desire for a watchful eye in the form of social crediting is expected, but may also be skewed because China is an authoritarian regime:  

Overall, [the Chinese] report a high degree of approval of SCSs [social crediting systems], with 80% of [participants] either approving or strongly approving SCSs. Only 19% of [participants] perceive the SCS in value neutral terms (neither disapprove nor approve) while just 1% reported either strong or somewhat disapproval. To some extent, the high degree of approval of SCSs and the almost non-existent disapproval we found might reflect the nature of conducting a survey in an authoritarian setting—while were clearly informed that that the data were anonymized and to be used for research purposes only, some more cautious [participants] may have falsified their preferences to a degree due to concerns about expressions of disapproval resulting in reprisals from the state.[27] 

People gather around an Artificial Intelligence exhibit.

This same ideology may contribute to the public’s general acceptance of their censored Internet. As Chinese people do not get the option to speak out against the government, one must hope that the new implementation of technology will cause more good than harm, especially now that the Chinese government is pushing the surveillance of children, as illustrated in the Wall Street Journal’s special report “How China Is Using Artificial Intelligence in Classrooms." At one point, the report focuses on an electroencephalography (EEG) headband that young students must wear to gauge their attention during lessons, whose output is monitored by the teacher and shared with all the students' parents. When the reporters show the footage to neuroscientist Theodore Santo of the University of California, San Francisco, he is surprised, noting that the technology is susceptible to false readings, so he is not sure how useful it would be for measuring attention. The Chinese teachers, however, explain that the use of the headbands themselves have "forced to make students more disciplined."[28] In other words, the technology is molding the behavior of students at a very early age.

Xinjiang[edit | edit source]

Xinjiang in China. Xinjiang means "new borderland" and borders the countries of Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.

Furthermore, China has long used technology to monitor and suppress their ethnic minority populations. In Xinjang, a region on the border of China and home to the country’s largest Muslim population, adherence is instilled in the forms of virtual checkpoints and the swiping of ID cards. The Chinese government has completely digitized policing and is creating a state of constant surveillance to keep the population in line. Some people are allowed to bypass these checkpoints and are not subject to digitized policing. Chris Buckley and Paul Mozur of the New York Times report that “at many checkpoints, privileged groups — Han Chinese, Uighur officials with passes, and foreign visitors — are waved through “green channels.” Although the Chinese may seek more trust and policing, this is an obvious form of targeted surveillance that can have the possibility of trickling into more minority groups.[29]

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

With China already implementing its social crediting system and the fear of being blacklisted at the forefront, I understand that resisting the government is a daunting task. I also understand that this is a great moral issue in which an increased number of Chinese people will be stripped of their basic human rights. Technological innovation is growing at a faster pace than anyone can keep up with and blindly following the government’s application of said technology will prove disastrous for all parties, but as history has shown, the minority will always be left with the biggest burden.

I implore the Chinese people to resist the use of such a credit system. The first step would be choosing not to opt-in to the private aggregators of data. Before the mass implementation of the social crediting system, private companies have begun to gather information on an opt-in basis, I implore you to resist. The government wins every time one of their allotted big corporations is favored. Small businesses and anyone with hiring power should also disregard consideration of the crediting scores when making hiring decisions. By doing this, the people could nullify the crediting system and leave it to the government to use it solely. Though Chinese citizens might think that the benefits of a surveillance state (including safety and security) outweigh the harms outlined in this paper, I ask you to reconsider. Further, I argue that the risk of loss of human rights and liberty for minor transgressions such as jaywalking should outweigh any benefits.

At the end of “Nosedive,” Lacie is finally overwhelmed by her lifelong desire to secure a high score. She realizes that her desire to fit into the pastel-perfect life of her disingenuous friend is made up of a societal standard that will never allow her to truly live a fulfilling life. Within a day, she was heaved to the bottom of the social ladder, along with the very people she ignored and chastised her entire life. By drinking out of a red flask of whiskey that finally released her from her flawed perception,* she was able to finally live again and see the people for who they really are, past their assigned scores. I ask Chinese citizens to do the same: take the red flask and see past whatever social crediting system may be implemented among them. Your children, your neighbor, and yourself will thank you in the long run. We are more than a number.


*This is reference to a scene from the 1999 sci-fi film The Matrix, where the protagonist is given the choice between learning the hard truth by taking a red pill or living in a comfortable illusion by taking a blue pill.

Further learning[edit | edit source]

Antonia Hmaidi. "The" Social Credit System in China. 35C3.

Discussion questions[edit | edit source]

  • What are forms of financial, work performance, and social credit scoring in the United States? How are they similar to the Chinese system? How are they different? In your opinion, could the institutions that run our financial and our social credit scores be turned into a loosely unified system similar to that of China?
  • What kind of citizen is the Chinese government attempting to obtain through its system of credit rewards and punishments? What could be the reasons for making every citizens' score public, accessible, and displayable? What could be the reasons for deploying monitoring technologies in school?
  • What could be some unintended consequences of manipulating a population's social behaviors?

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c d e f g LaFrance, Adrienne. “The Prophecies of Q.” The Atlantic. June 2020. Invalid <ref> tag; name ":0" defined multiple times with different content Invalid <ref> tag; name ":0" defined multiple times with different content
  2. Rozsa, Matthew. "QAnon is the conspiracy theory that won't die."Salon. August 18, 2019.
  3. Clements, Mary and Joonam Bayan. QAnon 101: The Search for Q. YouTube, January 25, 2021.
  4. Wikipedia contributors. "Psychological operations (United States)." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 May. 2021.
  5. Chason, Rachel and Samantha Schmidt. “Lafayette Square, Capitol rallies met starkly different policing response.” The Washington Post. January 14, 2021.
  6. Russonello, Giovanni. “QAnon Now as Popular in U.S. as Some Major Religions, Poll Suggests.” New York Times. May 27, 2021.
  7. MacFarquhar, Neil. “Far-Right Extremists Move from ‘Stop the Steal’ to Stop the Vaccine”. The New York Times. March 26, 2021.
  8. Ehrenreich, John. “Why People Believe in Conspiracy Theories.” Slate. January 11, 2021.
  9. a b c d e f Mitchell, Amy, et al. “Americans Who Mainly Get Their News on Social Media Are Less Engaged, Less Knowledgeable.” Pew Research Center. July 30,2020. Invalid <ref> tag; name ":1" defined multiple times with different content Invalid <ref> tag; name ":1" defined multiple times with different content
  10. Congressional Research Service. “Unemployment Rates During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Congressional Research Service, 20 May 2020. Updated June 15 2021.
  11. Heilweil, Rebecca. “How the 5G coronavirus conspiracy theory went from fringe to mainstream.VOX, 24 April 2020. Accessed 18 May 2021.
  12. Bibby, Paul. “Protesters stop work on 5G installation at Mullumbimby.Echo, 22 April 2020.  Accessed 18 May 2021.
  13. Goodman, Jack, and Flora Carmichael. “The coronavirus pandemic 'Great Reset' theory and a false vaccine claim debunked.BBC News, 22 November 2020. Accessed 28 May 2021.
  14. Wikipedia contributors. "5G." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 May. 2021. Web. 31 May. 2021.
  15. Hamilton, Isobel Asher. “Here's what we know about the bizarre coronavirus 5G conspiracy theory that is leading people to set mobile phone masts on fire.” Business Insider, 6 April 2020. Accessed 18 May 2021.
  16. Ostrov, Barbara Feder. “Conspiracy theory doctor surrenders medical license.” CAlmatters, 8 Feb 2021,   Accessed 28 May 2021.
  17. Nicholson, Katie, Jason Ho, and Jeff Yates. “Viral video claiming 5G caused pandemic is easily debunked.” CBC News March 23, 2020
  18. Mpoyo, Carol Fouke. “Are 5G Networks Spreading the Coronavirus?” United Church of Christ  6 July 2020.  Accessed 20 May 2021.
  19. Ekholm, Börje. “COVID-19 showed the importance of 5G for the economy and the environment.” Weforum, 13 January 2021. Accessed 10 May 2021.
  20. “Black Mirror Featurette: ‘Nosedive’.” YouTube. Oct 12, 2016.  
  21. Lee, Amanda. “What is China’s social credit system and why is it controversial?South China Morning Post, 9 August 2020
  22. Cheng, Evelyn. “China says it now has nearly 1 billion internet users.” CNBC, 4 Feb 2021.
  23. Liu, Gary. “The rapid growth of the Chinese internet-- and where it's April 2018.
  24. Donnelly, Drew. “An Introduction to the China Social Credit System.” New Horizons, 2021.  
  25. a b Kobie, Nicole. “The complicated truth about China's social credit system.Wired, 6 July 2019.  
  26. a b Robertson, Megan, et al. “China’s Social Credit System: Speculation vs. Reality.The Diplomat, 30 March 2021.  
  27. Kostka, Genia. “China’s social credit systems and public opinion: Explaining high levels of approval.” New Media & Society, 21.7 2019: 1565-1593.  
  28. Tai, Crystal. “How China Is Using Artificial Intelligence in Classrooms." The World Street Journal 1 October 2019.
  29. Buckley, Chris, and Paul Mozur. “How China Uses High-Tech Surveillance to Subdue Minorities.The New York Times 22 May 2019.


Expensive Textbooks Stressing You Out?

Warning: Display title "Expensive Textbooks Stressing You Out? The Need for Open Educational Resources" overrides earlier display title "More Than a Number: China’s Social Crediting System Comes with Inherent Bias". Introduction

In current times in our economy, inflation has skyrocketed and affected almost every American, and unfortunately education is not excluded. I have experienced some hardships with part of my income contributing to my education, as it is a new expense I have not experienced before. I’ve been living in New York City my whole life and with it being the most expensive city in the world I’ve struggled a bit financially.[1] For the spring semester I received the Federal Pell Grant and only had to pay $500 for tuition but for the following semester the grant was cut significantly and now I must pay most of my tuition. Alongside an expensive city,  there is also expensive rent and being a student with a part time job, it can become stressful living.[2] Although there has been some adjusting, all my classes use free academic resources so there isn’t an additional expense that I need to worry about. Providing open access to academic journals and articles can benefit society by making knowledge accessible to students who lack resources.

History/ background

If we are going back to the beginning of why there is a discussion surrounding OER’s, it starts with copyright laws. The most recent copyright law was passed in 1976 and in later years Congress has made accommodating acts to accompany it. Copyright allows people to reserve and obtain all rights to their work.[3] Only they are allowed to distribute their creations and no one else without their approval or permission. While some may perceive copyright as a modern concept, it stems back to the mid 1400’s[XG3]  with the European development of movable type.[4] The printing press allowed for spreading thoughts and opinions--the most popular being the Bible--faster than ever. Before the printing press, any form of tangible literature was done by hand, which was a slow and tedious process. The printing press raised conversation about ownership and the credibility of authors, who had been struggling to get paid, especially because there was no protection of their work. This conversation culminated in the Statute of Anne named after the queen of that time. This law is the first modern copyright statute that granted British authors copyright instead of the publisher. This laid the foundation for future copyright laws in the UK and U.S.[5]

There have been different modified versions of copyright laws in the U.S. As previously mentioned, the most recent copyright law was passed in 1976. Although the law itself has not been amended, there have been other acts to get more “with the times”: one prime example is the Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA), which  was passed in 1995 to keep up with the European nations’ own copyright law that allowed people to control their work for seventy years after their death, while the U.S allowed for fifty[6]. The passing of CTEA, now allows for Americans to have rights to their work for seventy years after death[7]. A similar extension act was the Sonny Bono CTEA which was later passed in 1998 to mostly cater to big corporations such as Disney, which extends the rights to ninety-five years after publication. Although this only applies if the creation was published before 1978, anything published after 1977 would continue to be seventy years after death. [8] While these acts are to ensure creators are credited and paid,[9] it wasn’t written with the thought of the Internet or the World Wide Web (web for short) which would soon rise in popularity around the world.

The Birth of Open Access

Aaron Swartz at Boston Wikipedia Meetup, 2009-08-18

Once Tim Berners-Lee made his invention of the Web available for all the world to use, the topic of copyright came back into question in America again.[10] From these discussions, the free culture movement emerged. The movement’s members believe that the web’s contents should be made easily accessible and not be so restricted to the public. Aaron Swartz was one of many free culture movement members who criticized the restrictions that copyright had on many works, especially with respect to educational materials.[11] Swartz was a programmer and political activist who engaged in a case correlating with copyright, around the time of his untimely death. [12]

Swartz and others realized that universities had many academic journals and scholarly articles available to students and faculty, but that paywalls were restricting the access to those same articles to others outside of American colleges.  When Swartz realized this,  he declared it to be unfair to other students who didn’t have the same privilege and decided to voice his opinion in a public document called the "Guerilla Open Access Manifesto." This manifesto was written by Swartz and others to express the disapproval of the paywall that sites have on scholarly articles. Throughout the document, they try to convince university students to see the disparity of knowledge of other students who are without these scholarly materials and to share them to close that gap:

you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends… as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn't immoral — it's a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.[13]

In 2011 the government decided to propose the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). This act was proposed as a “solution” to make sure websites followed copyright laws and if they didn’t make sure their site avoided any mistake, it would be restricted or completely shut down.[14] This means if someone uploaded a song to a site and forgot to credit the source, the entire site would be shut down for everyone and wouldn’t be accessible. Many, including Swartz, believed the act to be ludicrous and protested it. SOPA never made it to law due to the overwhelming opposition to it.[10]

During the protesting of SOPA, Swartz was facing criminal charges for illegally downloading millions of academic journals and articles from JSTOR by having access to MIT’s database. JSTOR is a site where they have accumulated many academic journals and resources only free if one is a U.S university student or else you must pay to have access to an article. While downloading some articles is okay, downloading in bulk is considered a federal offence. Many more charges were brought because of Swartz’ openness of OERs and the possibility that he was going to publish the articles for everyone to see. Many of Swartz’ family, friends, and fans protested the charges saying the initial act was proven but not the publishing of the pages. After two years with the government still wanting to put him in prison and his deteriorating mental health, Swartz ended his life.[10]

The advocating of Swartz and others has left a legacy behind. Starting the conversation of open education and OERs for all students so there isn’t a continuation of inaccessibility for those who want to learn. A beneficiary of the open access movement is Jack Andraka. Andraka was fourteen when he decided to invent a device to detect pancreatic cancer early on. When someone is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer it is usually too late to do anything about it. Andraka conducted his research on academic resources that were free and easily accessible to the public. In 2013, he successfully managed to make the first prototypes to be shipped out for others to use and credits Swartz on his accessibility to accomplish it.  

Open Access and Education

 Swartz and others continued to rally behind open access for educational materials or Open Education Resources (OERs). OERs are essentially textbooks and resources that are free, and anyone can access them. OERs can be revised and edited by others because of being in the public domain or the author had laxed some of their rights. OERs are essential because of the cost of college tuition rising, the separate cost of textbooks and resources deprives students who won’t be able to afford them.

City Tech is one CUNY college implementing the use of OERs and it conducted research on student performance and retention rates in their Undergraduate Engineering Departments.[15] Having easy accessibility allows for students to gain the knowledge they need for their classes and not have the extra cost of textbooks holding them back. The study showed that the implementation of OER’s helped engineering students save money and continue staying in school. Although the study shows that failing and D-grades haven’t changed, Zhao and his team make it a point that it didn’t decrease student performances.

There is also the case of students around the world not having access to American OERs because of the high prices. and because OERs authors and researchers must waive some rights for people to access them.  Professor Emeritus in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Cornell University. John McMurry did just that. McMurry wrote a chemistry textbook that many students have used around the world. When he felt the need to move on from his publisher, he decided to make Organic Chemistry a digital OER so students can have access to the textbook without the $100 price tag. Organic Chemistry has been translated into multiple languages and used many countries outside of the U.S, finally giving accessibility to students not just in the U.S, but in countries like India and Japan to reap the benefits of the knowledge that is out there.[16]

Although there are many that see the benefit of open access materials, such as the cost saving aspect, there are others who aren’t much on board or question the positive outcomes of it. The University of Buffalo (UB) conducted research on OERs, and the views of its financial values compared to more traditional textbooks and journals. The authors of the UB research noticed that even students who appreciated and found value of OERs comparable to those of traditional resources, wouldn’t pay the same amount for them. Even with many students favoring OERs, there were students who didn’t find them comparable and even believed they had less educational value because of them being accessible and free. Many seemed to see that something with no financial value equates to no beneficial or educational value. But even so, the researchers admit that the likely positives of OERs outweigh the negatives of it.[17]


Many people have the want and need to learn and unfortunately there are ways for them to be blocked from an education. If we’re blocking people from learning and seeking out solutions to humanity, what does that say about us? We need to allow academic resources to be available for those who may not be able to spend over $500 on textbooks.[18] Thankfully there are states starting to acknowledge the need for OERs such as California. Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law that a budget of $115 million will be used to lower the cost of textbooks at the college level so it won’t continue to be a financial burden for students.[19] Members of the pro OERs have said not only will it benefit college students but high school students as well. Giving them this new opportunity will allow for them to research advanced topics and careers. Allowing this accessibility won’t just help our wallets but will help us as a society. If we continue to rally for OERs we can soon see them being implemented across the country or even better, the world.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Tong, Goh Chiew. “New York Overtakes Hong Kong as the Most Expensive City in the World for Expats, New Survey Shows.CNBC, 8 June 2023,
  2. Bahney, Anna. “Manhattan Rents Reach (Another) Record High | CNN Business.” CNN, 18 May 2023,
  3. Peters, Justin. The Idealist: Aaron Swartz and the Rise of Free Culture on the Internet. First Scribner hardcover edition., Scribner, 2016. 129.
  4. Peters, p. 18.
  5. Peters, 19-20.
  6. Peters, p. 10.
  7. Peters, p. 110.
  8. Peters, p.119.
  9. Knappenberger, Brian. The Internet’s Own Boy. Ro*Co Films, 2014.
  10. a b c Knappenberger, Brian. The Internet’s Own Boy. Ro*Co Films, 2014
  11. Peters, pp. 3-4.
  12. Peters, p.1; p.10.
  13. Swartz, Aaron. “Guerilla Open Access Manifesto”. Internet Archive, 2011.
  14. "H.R.3261 - 112th Congress (2011-2012): Stop Online Piracy Act.", Library of Congress, 16 December 2011,
  15.   Zhao, Yonchao, et al. "Impact of Open Educational Resources (OER) on Student Academic Performance and Retention Rates in Undergraduate Engineering Departments." CUNY Academic Works, 2020.
  16. Knox, Liam. “Popular Chemistry Textbook’s New Edition Will Be Free.” Inside Higher Ed | Higher Education News, Events and Jobs, 10 Aug. 2022,  
  17. Dimeo, Jean. "Saving Students Money." Inside Higher Education. June 27, 2017.
  18. Abramovich, Samuel, and Mark McBride. “Open Education Resources and Perceptions of Financial Value.” The Internet and Higher Education, vol. 39, 2018, pp. 33–38, p.33.
  19. Cavanagh, Sean. “New California Law Pours Money into Open Educational Resources.” Market Brief, 30 June 2022,  

Digital Cult

Warning: Display title "Digital Cult: Is Online Dating Making You Socially Awkward?" overrides earlier display title "Expensive Textbooks Stressing You Out? The Need for Open Educational Resources".

If you want to be happy, learn to be alone without being lonely. Learn that being alone does not mean being unhappy. The world is full of plenty of interesting and enjoyable things to do and people who can enrich your life.
-Michael Josephson
Dating is about finding out who you are and who others are. If you show up in a masquerade outfit, neither is going to happen.
-Henry Cloud
Can digital love replace physical love?

In 1993, Gary Kremen saw the future in online dating; he knew the need for love was ubiquitous, so in 1995 he launched the first online dating site,, an online community where singles could connect; the rest was history. Today, tens of millions invest in dating sites every year; it seems everyone is looking for love online. According to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, three in ten U.S. adults say they have used an online dating site or app. And while technology has made it easier to find a potential partner, it has also reduced singles from three-dimensional people to two-dimensional displays of information.[1] Dating apps have also resulted in cognitive overload. It is almost like a video game in which we do not select people; we are selecting options. As singles continue to sign up, the corporations flourish while their customers become more socially or romantically awkward.

In the online dating world, the chances of people getting married are few. Roughly only 12 percent of online dating sites users reported marriage or long term commitment.[1] In some instances, the relationship leads to friendship, but many end up in heartbreak. Part of the problem is that while it is comfortable to sit behind the computer and converse, it can potentially lead people to be socially awkward if all they do is communicate via online chat. People who use online dating sites should make it a habit to get to a level where they can share via telephone and eventually plan an in-person date. The notion of only communicating via messages and having no personal interaction can ultimately lead to not speaking in person.

In her 2012 TEDTalk “Connected, but Alone?,” Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, discusses how our excessive reliance on online communication is making us less capable of deep interpersonal connections. Turkle is concerned that people do not know how to be alone anymore. We rely on technology to find attention whenever we need it, which leads to a false sense of security.[2] And the more we dive into technology to feel secure, the more we lose our sense of reality. Hiding from real life has become easy; texting, email, and social media has allowed us to create the version of ourselves that we want to be. People have become accustomed to one-word text and short emails so much that we sacrifice deep conversations and getting to know people. Thereby the paradox: online dating can be successful for a person who already knows how to communicate in real life.

Match Algorithms[edit | edit source]

Online dating has been a catalyst for matchmaking for over twenty years, yet people are still dissatisfied with their relationships’ stature. There may be a commercial reason for that. Violet Lim has been in the dating industry for over fourteen years. The online matchmaking she founded with her husband has matched over 100,000 singles. In her August 2018 TEDxntu talk,[3] Lim spoke of how dating algorithms’ created by companies like Match Group, the primary purpose is not to match you with your “perfect mate.” “swipe left” “ swipe right” every year, billions are swiping. Algorithms are set up to keep you in an endless cycle of matches to keep singles logged in longer. But with more matches comes more rejection - which can lead to being more disconnected or lonely. Lim points out that we may be so caught up in superficial criteria that we lose focus on significant criteria such as kindness, reliability, and trustworthiness. Thus many different dating websites can be a trap for everyone looking for rush rewards and gratification, especially now that it has become the “it thing” to date online. Even Facebook added an online dating option in 2016. So while Facebook originally was a way to connect with families and friends worldwide, it is now trending to make love connections.

Swiping Risk[edit | edit source]

While searching for love, online singles can put themselves at risk, at risk of identity theft, online harassment, and scammers. The instabilities and cruelty of society far too often have the dating scene appearing distorted. Lim explains that not everything on dating apps is accurate and that it is difficult to get an exact representation of a person from possibly altered photos. The MTV reality-TV documentary Catfish which examines the truths and lies of online relationships is a perfect example of this. This show has shown people falling in love, only for the person on the other side of the computer to refuse to meet on FaceTime and, in some cases, talk on the phone. All these are major red flags that should not be ignored, but far too often, singles get caught up in wanting to find love, and when they have exhausted all other options, and ignore the red flags. Red flags are not always apparent: scammers will request personal information such as your address, pretending to send you romantic gifts. Still, in all actuality, they want to steal your personal information. According to the FBI annual 2019 Internet Crime Report, 19,473 people were victims of romance scams.[4] A romance scam is usually a fake profile that scammers create to gain their victim’s trust and scam them out of money.[5]

The Bots[edit | edit source]

Additionally, before stepping into the online dating world, you need to know yourself, what you are looking for, and, most importantly, why you choose online dating versus the option of organically meeting someone the traditional way. Lim agrees that dating apps are meant to connect people, but all the generic profiles and faulty algorithms make it harder. The companies who run OkCupid, Tinder, Plenty of Fish, and are all interested in the same thing: click for profit. Lim gives an example of a single man signing up for a dating app; he receives a message from what seems an attractive young lady, but then he must pay when he tries to reply. And while many singles do so thinking they are responding to genuine messages, it’s an automated message sent by a bot. Some dating apps even create bots to lure users into paying.

Online dating comes with many issues. Let us take Josh Rivera, the editor for USA Today,[6] who dives right into bots and online dating scams in his article "You may be matching with a bot." Users Carlos Zavala from Washington DC and Frankie Heart in Tokyo said they had seen bots on dating apps, even more now during the coronavirus pandemic. Like all chatbots, dating-app bots are coded software that simulates a "chat" with users by utilizing natural language processing. These bots can be so advanced that many people fall for these tactics. Ruby Gonzalez, head of communications at NordVPN Virtual security, warns users that "Despite Tinder being one of the smoothest and easiest-to-use dating apps, it's full of fake accounts and bots that can ruin the whole user experience."[7]

The Illusion[edit | edit source]

While dating apps are a platform for finding love, it may all be an illusion; some singles are going online looking to feel desirable. In 2010, John C. Bridges, a professor, writer, and speaker, wrote The Illusion of Intimacy, covering the online dating process, intimacy issues, and how illusion and fantasy distort reality and shared online dating problems. Describing online dating as the “new form of hope,”[8]

Digital dating may very well be a Phantom

Bridges claims that in the online world, people are likely to engage in behaviors they usually would not in the real world because they are behind a veil. In chapter four of his book, Bridges explains that “[his] interviewees tell stories of people who have deliberately posted old photos of themselves that are not accurate representations of how they appear today or have posted photos that are simply the most flattering."[8] The online dating world is all about perfection, searching for the “perfect relationship,” where in reality, there is no such a thing as a “perfect relationship.” According to the Pew Research Center, about seven in ten online daters claim it is common for those who use online platforms to lie to appear more desirable. There are many fake profiles on dating sites, even some planted by dating sites to lure users. That kind of deception and false hope can affect users. About 45 percent of Americans who used dating apps say they were left feeling disappointed.[1]

Love Lockdown

Since there are so many online dating problems, one must ask whether online dating is worth it in the long run? It is essential to understand why we feel the need to turn to these platforms. For example, we were hit by the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, which has changed how people socialize because they must quarantine, socially isolate themselves, and find other ways to spend their time. The use of dating apps has grown because of being forced to stay at home. Tinder, one of the most common dating apps, has seen a significant increase in user engagement. Tinder claims that since being told to quarantine due to coronavirus in March 2020, users have sent an average of 52 percent more messages. In the article “College students are still finding romance in a pandemic, through Zoom crushes and actual dates,” author Annabelle Williams discusses the shift in campus dating due to the coronavirus. Some schools prohibit close contact with anyone outside of roommates; other schools like the University of Georgia recommend students wear masks while hooking up--then withdrew their statements when met with ridicule. Williams explains that traditional dating that allows you to present yourself during an actual interaction has ceased to exist. She claims dorm hookups, once a staple of college, has mostly become a thing of the past. She refers to “masked first dates being the new norm. She explains that the shift in campus life makes it harder to find romantic partners, social circles, lab partners, and gym partners, and all have been virtually replaced by Zoom and dating apps. And while some students are coping, some are getting bored. Scout Turkle, a senior at the University of California, Berkeley, says the pandemic has made what she calls “convenient intimacies less available. Turkle has been hooking up with her housemates because she says, "it does feel like a huge deal to lose [her] only clear opportunity for physical intimacy during a time it does not feel available to [her]." Williams explains that this desire for intimacy is why dating apps on campus are increasing in popularity. For students, the pandemic is a cause for concern when dating because in-person contact can pose a health risk, and dorm restrictions do not make it any easier.[9]

Graph based on data by Mary Meisenzahl in "Match Group subscribers increase since Feb/29/2020." Business Insider. Aug 5, 2020.

Research before the pandemic had already shown a connection between loneliness and compulsive app use among students. According to a new study conducted by Kathryn Caduto, a doctoral student in communication at The Ohio State University, single people who use dating apps on their phones suffer from loneliness and social anxiety. The user experience was recorded in the article "What compulsive dating-app users have in common," written by Jeff Grabmeier, senior director of Research Communications at Ohio State University. A total of 269 undergraduate students participated in the study. The participants were asked a series of questions to gauge their isolation and anxiety using dating apps. Those who already showed signs of stress agreed more to statements like "I am more confident socializing on dating apps than offline." The results did not surprise Caduto; she says, "[i]t's a problem [she] has seen firsthand. The lonelier users are, the more likely they are to go on dating apps."[7] People with higher levels of social anxiety chose to meet people on dating apps rather than in person. They also preferred socializing with their app matches without meeting face-to-face. Researchers found that users who are depressed are more likely to turn to dating apps for affirmation, which leads to more negative outcomes. Participants also reported missing work and class because of their frequent monitoring of dating apps.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Dating apps offer limitless possible matches at your fingertips, turning an intimate experience into something more like a video game. Online dating can be overwhelming, even daunting. You have no idea what the person you are e-mailing looks like or what they are like personally. Since internet dating starts online, some people share photographs from several years ago, while others do not have such exciting pictures; photos do not always represent reality. I think it's fair to assume, though, online dating has its pros: it's easy, universal, and discreet, but it also has its drawbacks, such as dishonest people or cybercrime. Is one outweighing the other? I think it depends on what you are searching for and what you are looking for. More so, what has been your past dating history? Things move at a different pace in digital reality. Knowing someone online for two weeks may feel like a lifetime, and you may feel ready for a romantic relationship too soon. While the ability to choose how much your future partner goes out, what kind of food they eat, and what type of work they do can sound appealing, you should be more concerned with forming a real relationship. As the industry continues to expand, some experts question whether dating app companies are genuinely interested in making love connections. Or do they want to keep people in an endless, endless loop of searching and matching?

References[edit | edit source]

  1. a b c Anderson, Monica, Emily A. Vogels and Erica Turner. "The Virtues and Downsides of Online Dating." Pew Research Center, Feb. 6, 2020.
  2. Turkle, Sherry. "Connected, but alone?" Feb. 2012.
  3. Lim, Violet. “What Dating Apps and Algorithms Don't Tell You!” TEDxNTU August 2018.
  4. Federal Bureau of Investigation. 2019 Internet Crime Report.
  5. Davidson, Paul. "Romance scams cost Americans $143 million." USA Today, Feb. 14, 2019, p. 03B.
  6. Rivera, Josh. "You may be matching with a bot." USA Today. July 14 2020, p. 03B.
  7. a b Grabmeier, Jeff. What compulsive dating-app users have in common. Ohio State News July 31, 2019.
  8. a b Bridges, John C. The Illusion of Intimacy: Problems in the World of Online Dating. Santa Barbara, Calif: Praeger, 2012. Print.
  9. Williams, Annabelle. "College students are still finding romance in a pandemic, through Zoom crushes and actual dates." Washington Post, Oct. 13, 2020.

Glossary[edit | edit source]

Algorithm: A process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.

  • The algorithms that match various users have become much quicker and more convenient than ever before to find a possible date.

Gratification: Pleasure, especially when gained from the satisfaction of a desire.

  • Do you wonder we expect immediate and instant gratification that comes with online dating? It's because we have websites that date for us.

Interpersonal: Relating to relationships or communication between people.

  • Online dating has altered the way interpersonal relationships are formed.

Pandemic: (Of a disease) prevalent over a whole country or the world.

  • COVID-19 Pandemic has  many singles on mobile dating apps as a way to explore their choices while social distancing.

Reliance: Dependence on or trust in someone or something.

  • Singles are spending more time keeping up with all these applications, earnestly searching for love and unsure where else to look for it. However, users must be made aware of the potential reliance on dating apps.

Representations: The description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way or as being of a certain nature.

  • The way singles represent themselves in person does not always correlate with how others interpret there Dating profiles.

Simulates : Produce a computer model of.

Ubiquitous: Present, appearing, or found everywhere.

  • The most accessible way to meet individuals is through dating apps. However, as dating apps become more ubiquitous, Singles must decide they are getting genuine matches.  

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

On the effectiveness of online dating

On romance scams[edit | edit source]

On the effect of online dating during a pandemic[edit | edit source]

Discussion Questions[edit | edit source]

  • Is algorithmic matchmaking useful or is it a smokescreen to make users feel that their matches are based on fact and logic? Considering that the algorithms of many social media seem to include variable-ratio schedules of reinforcement to addict us to use their services, how do we know that dating algorithms work to fulfill the best interest of customers?
  • How does swiping through hundreds of eligible profiles affect our experience of romance? Is this shopping approach to love exciting or chilling?
  • Is it ethical or even desirable to hire a dating assistant to manage one's online dating experience?
  • Are the intentions of dating online pure? It can be an exciting and enjoyable way to meet potential partners by exploring the world of Internet dating. You may quickly discover, however, profiles are not as they seem. When dating online, singles have to be aware of potential red flags and scammers.
  • When it comes to modern-day romance, the 21st century is now hitting its height. The handwritten love letters will no longer exist, and going out into the real world to look for love is gone. With the current coronavirus pandemic, how will it impact online dating?

Stop Scrolling and Listen to Me

Stop Scrolling and Listen to Me: The Psychology Behind Social Media[edit | edit source]


Since the release of Facebook in 2004, the use of social media has increased enormously, and so has the threat to the emotional and social well-being of teenagers. As sociologist and psychologist, Dr. Sherry Turkle discusses in her TED Talk, “Connected but alone,” there are ways in which young people's reliance on technology is changing their relationships with each other. She argues that each of them is becoming increasingly disconnected from each other, both physically and emotionally, as they spend more time interacting with their devices; at one point she says that "No one is listening” anymore and “everyone is lonely but are afraid of intimacy."[1] These statements highlight the serious impact that social media can have on young people's relationships with others. How so? Teenagers, for example, do not listen to each other anymore, either due to a lack of attention or because they do not care about each other, and so, they are encouraged to create a personal bubble or a safe space where they can be whoever they want without fear of judgment as they don’t trust others. With this in mind, to what extent can the overuse of social media affect teenagers' cognition and social relations? This paper argues that its frequent usage changes how their brain functions and modifies their social behavior so that they cannot live without the permanent interruption of social media. As a result, teenagers may experience several noticeable changes, such as a sense of loneliness despite being physically present with others, anxiety about others’ perceptions of them and a constant need for acceptance or fear of rejection, and sleep disorders, as they spend so much time scrolling through their social media feeds late into the night.

The Negative Effects of Social Media Overuse on Mental Health[edit | edit source]

Although social platforms can be a positive resource to connect with others, there are exceptions where they disconnect people by stealing their attention and making them irresponsive. In fact, a team from the Department of Life Science and the Zlotowski Centre for Neuroscience at Ben-Gurion University conducted a study that examined the relationship between cellphone usage and its potential negative effects on human and social cognition. They found that constant engagement with social media, text messages, and other platforms can lead to changes in how people think, remember, and interact with others.  Some of the changes they refer to imply a decrease in mental health, wellbeing, and appearance of patterns from other disorders. Also, they cite other authors who explained the repercussions in mental health due to this relation such as experiencing low emotional stability and self-esteem, chronic stress, depression, and disruptions in sleep patterns.[2] Teenagers are increasingly exposed to a variety of content, including bad news. For example, they may see news stories about mass shootings in schools. This exposure to bad news can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety and increased stress levels, as teenagers may start to worry that something similar could happen to them or their loved ones. The spread of bad news, or even fake news, can trigger these negative and overwhelming emotions.

Social Distress

When they misuse social media, they can create significant negative effects on everyone in their surroundings, as they can amplify their insecurities and pressure them to conform or to fit in. As science writer for the American Psychological Association, Summer Allen analyzes in his article “Social media’s growing impact on our lives,” there are gradual changes of early exposure that social media is making to distinct aspects of a young mind, such as: cognitive development, face-to-face interaction, creating own identity and establishing relations. At one point he reveals:

[A] Common Sense Media survey found that 13 percent of teens reported being cyberbullied at least once. And social media can be a conduit for accessing inappropriate content like violent images or pornography. Nearly two-thirds of teens who use social media said they “'often' or ‘sometimes' come across racist, sexist, homophobic, or religious-based hate content in social media.[3]

We can interpret Allen’s findings by saying that teenagers are more vulnerable to harmful content without proper education, supervision, and communication. This can lead to them developing negative behaviors, such as racism, in order to fit in with their peers. As they are still developing their identity and sense of belonging, teens need to learn to identify harmful content and communicate with others about their online activity.

Social isolation

Social media communities are known to encourage mental health problems and eating disorders by creating a lack of self-presentation/identity creation and body image disturbance. According to what scientific writers Pixie G. Turner and Carmen E. Lefevre analyze in their study “Eating and weight disorders,” there is a relation between the use of Instagram and the creation of Orthorexia Nervosa, an eating disorder that consists of eating obsessedly healthy which can lead to a restricted diet, nutritional deficiencies, or malnutrition. As they explain: “Social media use is ever increasing among young adults and has previously been shown to have negative effects on body image, depression, social comparison, and disordered eating". Therefore, social media platforms like Instagram can trigger social comparison, which can lead to negative body image and self-esteem. Turner and Lefevre found out factual evidence of the prevalence of Instagram as a beginning source for adolescents to experience loneliness, deception or frustration when they  do not look alike the people they follow, a diminished body image, altered diet by trying to eat like their influencers to achieve some desired image and the dangerous advisements they can  get about food-related content from people without the proper education to do so.[4] Therefore, teens' perception of body image, nutrition, self-esteem, and identity are being disturbed by what is on trend and the content they are exposed to by the people they follow.

Upon the rise of more social media platforms, young people expect to socialize more with others, but the truth is they get lonelier and consequently, they isolate from society and limit their face-to-face interaction, all because the comfort it brings to be someone else. On the other hand, teenagers are so terrified to show their “imperfections” to the world that they hide behind a screen or a filter. As Dr. Turkle discusses in her TED Talk, they are being threatened by a loss in the capacity of choosing what they want and where they want to go. Also, diminished personal introspection is affected because they are afraid to look inside themselves, so they set a wall, a filter that can be changed based on what they want to show.[5] As a result, they are unable to create real connections, do not trust themselves or others, and isolation and loneliness show up. When someone is alone, they choose to be alone to give themselves some time, so it is good emotionally; on the other hand, feeling lonely means they do not have company but also, they are empty, insecure, and misunderstood.

All the above can be expressed in researcher and professor Danah Boyd’s question, “does social media displace teens of socializing or we are displacing them when we restrict them to socialize with others?” (Allen)[6]. It would seem that they unintentionally isolate themselves from society due to fears, overprotection and other factors. At the same time, they are alone together when they decide to stop caring about their surroundings and get immersed in a personal virtual world while being physically with others.

Strategies for Regulating Social Media Usage[edit | edit source]

We have seen many negative consequences of social media overuse, but they vary depending on the person. For example, if teens check social media first thing in the morning and see something that upsets them, it can set their mood for the rest of the day. They may become angry, irritable or even depressed. This is because social media can be a breeding ground for negative emotions. Another example of this is feeling tired after scrolling through social media newsfeed all night. Therefore, it is truly important that everyone start to self-reflect about how their time management is and ask themselves why they are doing things and what keeps them motivated. By doing this, teenagers can recognize bad habits so later on they can reset goals and create a purpose (one that matters) for the things they do and use to make changes that guide them towards keeping that good workflow.[7]

For these reasons, when young adults become conscious and recognize these red flags in their relationship with their phone and social media and also are aware of the many losses it creates, they can, therefore, develop strategies to overcome them. The Center for Humane Technology, a non-profit organization whose focus is on exposing the negative effects of social media and other attractive technologies that steal young adults' behavior and thoughts -among others-but also pursues a change in society and provides helpful resources have put together some ideas that can help teens reclaim control over themselves:[8]

Family playing a board

Turning off notifications

So, they will not be interrupted at important moments.

Remove, manage, or log out of toxic apps

They promote misinformation, hate content and addiction (if they did not notice it). Experiencing a few days without media can be very healthy.

More critical less outrageous

Selectiveness with the content they choose to follow, more educational, inspiring, less outrage and polarization. Taking a break before arguing or criticizing someone, because whatever they do or say can be used against them and others.

  • Establishing limits

Taking control of the moments when they use their phone. Creating strategies that keep them the farthest from technology, exchange phone use with other activities.

And finally, reading, reading a lot: journals, magazines, books, comic books, whatever but read.  

(“Take control of your social media use;” “Tips to take control of your tech use”)

In conclusion, overuse of social media can have a negative impact on teenagers' mental health and social behavior. It can diminish cognitive development, limit the ability for face-to-face interaction, and disturb their identity formation and self-esteem. It is important for them to be aware of the harmful effects of social media and to take steps to protect themselves and others from its negative effects. They can do this by identifying harmful content, educating themselves and their peers about its dangers, and using the strategies mentioned above to reduce its impact.

Time to reflect[edit | edit source]

It is important for young adults to reflect upon their daily activities and motivations in order for them to enhance their learning system and behavior.Therefore these questions are made for that purpose, to reflect about the power social media has over young adults life.

Pictofigo - Idea
  • How many time do you spent daily on social media? if you know so, have you checked the screen time app in your phone?
  • How much do you know about social media usage and its effects?
  • How do you feel while being in social media vs doing other activities?
  • To what extent do you feel social media influence negatively your life and biased your decisions?
  • When was the last time you had a real conversation?

Further learning[edit | edit source]

If you are interested in this topic and would like to know more about it here are some recommendations on the topic:


  • Sherry,Turkle “Connected, But Alone?”, In this TED TALK, American sociologist Sherry Turkle Examines our current relationship with technology and how it is affecting the deepness of our face to face interaction and how it is killing empathy.
  • The social dilemma This documentary explores the impact that social platforms have over our lives, such as, how we think and what we choose to see. Also, it exposes the harmful content they have: Misinformation, polarization and mental health issues among others.


  • Speaking of psychology: How social media affects teens’ mental health, Psychologist Jacqueline Nesi from Brown University discusses the negative impact of social media among teenagers, if it should be banned for them and the political restrictions that are being developed to get social media out of their hands.
  • Center For Humane Technology: Are the Kids Alright? Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt and his coworker psychologist Jean Twenge reveal alarming statistics regarding self-harm and suicides rate among teens involving and increased social media use and a comparison between Generation Z and Millenials.


  • Youth Toolkit This guide created by Humantech proposes a safer way to navigate through social media and reduce its impact with self-awareness exercises that can be used by anyone who seeks to learn more.
  • Infographic: The Dark side of social Media This infographic created by humantech exposes the harms of navigating through social media, how to identify its source and shows strategies to overcome this situation.

References[edit | edit source]


  • Ssjun
  • Labrat21
  • TRainez
  • Spongebob is cute

  1. Turkle, Sherry. “Connected, But Alone?”. March 2012.
  2. Hadar A, et al. Answering the missed call: Initial exploration of cognitive and electrophysiological changes associated with smartphone use and abuse”, PLOS ONE, 2017
  3. Allen, Summer,” Social media’s growing impact on our lives,”, 2019.
  4. Turner, Pixie G. and Carmen E. Lefevre. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa.” Eating and weight disorders: EWD vol. 22,2 (2017).
  5. Turkle, Sherry. “Connected, But Alone?”. March 2012.
  6. Allen, Summer,” Social media’s growing impact on our lives,”, 2019.
  7. Center for Humane Technology, "Take control of your social media use.
  8. Center for Humane Technology, "Tips to take control of your tech use., 2021.